Just a little more than a month to go.
Our 17-year-old son will graduate from high school, sleep late all summer long and head off to Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C., in the fall. Diane and I will be empty-nesters, and while we look forward to the next phase of our lives, I’m sure it will be a tearful departure when we unload the van, walk him to his dorm room and get back on the highway.
Rory and his 19-year-old sister, Kathleen, have given us an immeasurable amount of joy. (Kathleen moved to Allston-Brighton with her older stepsister in January.)
The boy has never given me a day of trouble. Seriously, I was thinking about it the other day and I cannot remember one sleepless night. He has consistently pulled down good grades and has even shown up on the honor roll on occasion. He’s picked a good group of friends to hang around with and he has made good decisions along the way. Oh, sure, his room is a mess and he has a bad habit of leaving dirty dishes everywhere, but in the grand scheme of things he’s been a good boy who has grown into a good young man.
I was talking to somebody the other day who said I should write a column about my boy.
“How many parents have the kind of forum you have where you can just get up on your soapbox and brag a little bit?” said my friend, who has three great kids of his own. “I wish I knew how to write a sentence and make it sing. I’d be writing about my kids every week.”
Then another friend was telling me about a co-worker who is engaged to be married. This guy is already looking to pick up a part-time job so he can get out of the house and away from his new wife a couple of times a week. I told my pal that it reminds me of a guy I used to work with who had custody of his two kids every other weekend.
He would moan and complain when it was time for the kids to spend a couple of nights at his house.
“Well, there goes my weekend,” he’d say.
I’d just shake my head and walk away. His attitude confounded me because when my kids were little, I don’t think I could have gone more than a day without seeing them, or at least talking to them on the phone. Now that they’re grown — well almost — there’s e-mail, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. Oh, and there’s text messaging, although I don’t know if I’ll ever master the art of typing with my thumbs.
It was a short 13 years ago when we dropped Rory off at kindergarten for the first time. He had been anxiously awaiting that time when he would be able to go to school like is older brothers and sisters. Diane and I went back to get him around noon. He came walking out with his bag slung across his back and a scowl on his face.
“Wow. Look at him,” I said. “He is not happy.”
Rory flung the sliding door of the minivan open and threw his bag inside.
“Hey, what’s the matter, Bud?” I asked.
He plopped down in his seat, strapped himself in and folded his arms across his chest.
“I still can’t read,” he said with disgust.
I played along. “You mean to tell me you’ve been there all morning and they didn’t teach you how to read? What kind of kindergarten is this?”
During a parent-teacher night at the beginning of the year when he was in fourth grade, I met his teacher, Mrs. Parker. After the meeting, Rory, who was playing basketball in the gym with some other children, approached us as we spoke to his new teacher.
Rory piped in with his teacher standing right there.
“Dad, did you meet Mrs. Parker?” he asked.
“Yes I did,” I answered, as his teacher and I looked at each other.
“Did she like you?” he wanted to know. It was very important to him that I made a good impression.
Diane had three children when we got married in 1989. I had an instant family. Then came Kathleen and Rory. When he leaves for college, it will be the first real opportunity Diane and I have had to be alone since we met. I’m looking forward to it, but man, it’s going to be real quiet around here.
Dennis Shaughnessey’s e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.