My wife took that photograph of my son and me on the left (if you are reading this on my blog). He was about four-years-old at the time. As any father would, I love that photo as it captures so much of what I’d like to think being a dad is about. My son, obviously worn out, on my back — and the joy that it brings me. To me, it’s a photo that says love more purely than the word conveys it. (I must say, however, in my household, the word “love” is said regularly. We don’t take for-granted that someone knows — without saying — that we love them.)
That photo was taken, in children-growing-up-time, about two weeks ago. Translated into real time, that’s about 14 years. Yesterday, my son (like his sister, three years ago) graduated from Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, Mass. I wrote about the school two years ago after the sudden death of one of the fondest members of its faculty. It is hard to describe the emotional bond my children — and through them, my wife and I — have with Deerfield.* It is a special place and community. My children’s minds and lives have been expanded greatly by the privilege they had to attend Deerfield and to live and study with some of the most gifted, talented students and teachers I can imagine.
High school graduation is one of those events that not only mark the milestones of a person’s life journey, it’s one of those pinch-yourself parent moments, as well. My daughter, the organized and focused one, was already on top of things when she started high school. Our son, well, let’s just say, he did a lot of growing up over the past four years. He grew about ten inches from the time he entered the ninth grade until the time he finished the tenth. The frontal lobe of his brain grew a similar amount during that period.
As my brain’s frontal lobe is probably similar to that of a tenth grader, I’ve easily related to the whole “teenage boy” thing. My wife, on the other hand, is too rational to appreciate the challenge presented by the disconnect between a teenage boy’s brain and his actions. Fortunately, on those things that matter in the long run, our son exhibited temporary sanity and was fortunate to be at the right places when the wrong times came along.
More importantly, he’s a guy people turn to in both times of trouble and joy — he is the definition of the word friend. His rapid wit is disarming — and charming. His encyclopedic knowledge of totally random stuff never ceases to amaze me. The way he can be both the cool guy and the sensitive guy baffles me, as well. His musical ability — which he displays too infrequently these days — is a testament to both his talent and years of hard work.
Can you tell I’m proud? Relieved, yes. And proud.
*The second book (he’s about to have #28 published) written by Pulitzer Prize Winning author John McPhee was The Headmaster, published in 1966, a profile of the Frank Boyden, Deerfield’s legendary head of school who over the course of a 60-year career, transformed the 18th century village school into one of the nation’s premier prepatory schools. Forty years after his death, the influence of Boyden still permeates the campus community. Despite radical changes in the school, most notably, it has been co-ed for nearly two decades, Boyden’s name and thoughts are still evoked constantly, a testament to his life, character, leadership and ideals. (Coincidentally, on my flight to Deerfield last week, I was delighted to read an article by McPhee in the New Yorker. )