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My son was away from home for two weeks recently and when he returned I could have sworn he was little taller.

Rory went on vacation with his friend’s family. He spent a week at their condo in Florida and then attended the national Christian school fine arts competition at Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C.

I missed him like crazy. I had nobody to play with. Diane refused to play catch with me in the back yard. She wouldn’t play h-o-r-s-e or four-square.

For two weeks, everywhere I looked was a reminder that he wasn’t there. There were no socks lying on the living room floor. No dirty dishes on the coffee table from the night before. There still was plenty of food in the cupboards and I could open the refrigerator door without seeing his skinny butt coming out. And I saved a bunch of money on medium French vanilla iced coffees extra-extra.

But it was quiet, too quiet. There was no bickering with his 18-year-old sister. Gone was that annoying high-pitched whistle he emits while walking through the house. I had the clicker all to myself and still found myself gravitating to his favorite TV shows: MythBusters, Survivorman and Cops.

Rory is finishing up his junior year at Trinity Christian School in Concord, N.H. He’s starting to look at colleges. He’s talking about joining the military, maybe the Reserves, maybe the U.S. Coast Guard. He’s thinking about majoring in criminal justice. He’d like to be a cop.

A youth pastor at our church is a police officer in Hudson, N.H. He’s made quite an impression on Rory, whose dream of becoming the first left-handed shortstop in the major leagues is becoming less and less of a reality. I drive by the parks and town and see the younger kids wearing their oversized baseball uniforms and ill-fitting helmets, and I want to turn back the clock to when Rory was playing for coach Mike Poitras and hit a scorching line drive through the coach’s legs during batting practice. I can still see him diving to his right, making a stab, getting up, pivoting and throwing the runner out at first by three steps.

I think the thing I missed the most when Rory was gone was his friendship. We still have the father-son relationship working and there is still the unspoken fact that I am the authority and there is a line he cannot cross, but as he has matured, he has become my friend. I confide in him and he in me. We talk about stuff we don’t talk about to other people. We know each other pretty well. We can anticipate each other’s moods.

There are even times when the roles are reversed and he’s actually looking out for me.

“Dad, should you be eating that? Didn’t your doctor say your sugar was high?”

We talk about girls. I tell him how I met his mother (in church, by the way) and what traits drew me to her. I hope he’s taking notes.

The house was emptier without Rory for the two weeks he was gone, just as it was in February when his older sister visited Paris for a week. It gave Diane and me a small taste of what it will be like when we officially become “empty-nesters.”

Kathleen has had her driver’s license for more than a year. She graduates from high school in June and each day it seems that she is exercising a bit more independence. Rory will get his license soon and the same thing probably will occur. It’s the way of life. I’m bracing myself.

Meanwhile, I look over at Diane and refresh my memory, recalling all the wonderful traits that drew me to her in the first place.

Dennis Shaughnessey’s e-mail address is dshaughnessey@lowellsun.com.

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