Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Glory, Glory Hairllelujah!

I got a haircut today, which isn’t the least bit remarkable. What set the moment apart was the conversation I had with the lady who has been cutting my hair since back when I actually had some.

See, later in the day, my son had an appointment with her. She said she was looking forward to seeing him because it had been a long time. I said, “Yes. That’s true. The last time he had a haircut, you cut it.”

It had been three years.

He kept his appointment, and this is the first thing that happened.

Twelve inches of his self-described “magnificent mane” was bound in a rubber band, splayed forlornly on a table. Why today? Who knows? I don’t even think he does. He just said it’s time for a change.
It’s pretty dramatic. I have to admit I’m happy about it, even a little emotional.

I really didn’t expect him to get his hair cut that short. I would have been happy with shoulder length, to be honest with you. My whole thing with him has been “Look, it’s okay if you have long hair. Just get it styled or something so it looks like you’ve done it on purpose.” But with uncharacteristic dramatic flair, he had redefined himself with one clean cut.

What about the mane? It is bound for Pantene Beautiful Lengths, which ” encourages women and men to grow, cut, and donate their hair to make real hair wigs for women who have lost their hair due to cancer treatments.”
So, there’s something else to be proud and pleased about.

Um, hold on. Does this mean it will be three years before he gets another haircut?

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

My Family's Ever Expanding Universe

For about an hour this weekend, the family was reunited. Our daughter made a quick dash home from college. I had plans with her brother to see an IMAX movie about the Hubble space telescope, so she and her mother jumped into the car and we all went together.

It was nice to sit quietly, the four of us together, to share an experience. There was a lot to think about as the film unfolded, and afterward we engaged in a brief discussion about our place in the universe. Then he went on his merry way, busy discovering a new world of his own now that he is 21 years old.
Our daughter is flush with excitement about her life at TCU. She is effusive in the expression of her contentment at the school. She might have come home a day earlier, but there was a high profile on-campus event she didn’t want to miss. The Horned Frog baseball team, ranked #1 in the nation in most preseason polls, opened its season with a weekend series against Kansas. She said, “Everybody was going. I couldn’t miss it.” From the looks of things, she was correct. The stadium was packed with a record crowd.

Even though it’s February, it was unquestionably a beautiful night for baseball.

While at home, she was determined to take advantage of a rare 24 hours of peace and quiet in order to get some serious studying done. She planned to spend some time alone in her room, free from the din of dormitory distractions and the ever-alluring siren song of fun with her college friends. We left her at home on Saturday evening, so we can’t say for sure if she studied. I suspect she spent some quality time with her cat and her TiVo.

Meantime, we parachuted into a local coffee house where we hoped to get a glimpse of our son’s secret life. Some of his friends were providing the evening’s entertainment and we stopped in for a listen.

The music was lively and well presented*, but the best part was meeting several people about whom we’ve heard stories. He’s running with a talented, attractive crowd and that’s encouraging.

We were thrilled when one of our daughter’s closest friends, home for the weekend from LSU, came to the house to spend Sunday morning with us. I grabbed the girls in an extended group hug and said, “I don’t want to hang onto you so long that it starts to seem creepy, but I never want to let you go.” We sat around for most of the morning and listened to them swap stories as only two close friends who are having concurrent but disparate young adult experiences can.

Then, shortly after lunchtime, our daughter was gone again, headed west into the Texas sun to reunite with the people who populate her new world.

I don’t know what the look on my face said, but my wife silently approached me and just hugged me for a long time without speaking.
It sure is quiet around here.

It wasn't so quiet at the coffee shop. Here's some of the lively and well presented music:

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

February 15, 1990. 5:57 pm 9 Pounds, 3 ounces

Today is my son’s 21st birthday; I suppose that means he’s a man. How do you weigh the truth of that notion? He exhibits many man-like qualities, but still has so much to discover about how to bear the weight of manhood.

There’s plenty to admire about this young adult my wife and I have nudged along. He’s fiercely loyal. He stuck with one girlfriend for more than four years, from ages 16 to 20. When he got a job in a downtown office building, he didn’t want to walk away from his pals at the pizza place where he had been delivering and making dough for a couple of years. So, he worked both jobs for a while, trying to squeeze college classes into the cracks in his schedule. He remains close to two neighborhood friends who have, in fact, moved into an apartment in the same complex where he currently hangs his hat.

He’s always had a stubborn streak. Recently, we watched a video of him as a toddler. He was still using a walker, but his verbal skills were well developed. He had something in his hand and in the video you can hear me ask him to throw it away. He said, “You do it, Daddy.”

To this day, he admits to being resistant to agreeing to certain things just because they’re somebody else’s idea.

He sticks to his principles, even if on occasion his parents think it might be to his detriment. He won’t cut his hair. He refuses to embrace organized religion. Currently single, he seems to have rigid romantic boundaries.

Conversely, he’s an academic wanderer. He’s presently pursuing an area of study that, in his father’s view, is best approached as an avocation and not a possible career. But, he’s 21 and claims to know what he wants. Who am I to argue with him? All I can do is continue to give advice, even if it’s not solicited. Maybe later it will resonate with him.

He’s highly intelligent and a deep thinker.

This works against him sometimes because he has a tendency to overanalyze things. At other times, he can be disquietingly impulsive; so a parent longs for him to find some firm middle ground. He went through a long brooding phase and, as a resolute rebel, seemed to grow fond of being misunderstood. As a father, I am duty-bound to urge him to get along; but not-so-secretly I celebrate his “go your own way” trajectory.

Recently, I encountered a group of his friends. In the course of discussing him, one of them said, “of all of our friends, he is the most upstanding.” I’ve been thinking about that assessment ever since. Isn’t that something to be proud of? He may be thrashing about in academic thickets. His grooming may not satisfy local mores, but he’s thought of as upstanding. His boss, a man my age, calls him a “Godsend.”

On a day like this, it’s easy to be awash in a torrent of memories. You look back at choices you’ve made as a parent: schools, sports, music lessons, camps, babysitters, church, cars, clothes, discipline, permissiveness…conception, pregnancy, delivery, cloth diapers, pets, security blankets , expanding and contracting freedom of choice and movements…and you wonder how you did.

You realize there’s more work to be done, even though he’s a man. You worry, you hope, you dream.

You call, you advise, you urge and occasionally plead. Consistently, I’ve said to him, “All I want is for you to be happy and successful.” I’m not sure how to define either of those words; I think he must do so for himself. He’s smart, funny, sensitive, loyal, hardworking and kind. He loves his sister, his cat and his parents. He has friends who keep him entertained. He’s getting to know himself a little better day by day.

We’re not sure where he’s going, and neither is he. But he’s 21 and on his way. He’s my son and he’s his own man.

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Friday, February 04, 2011

Not Really Frozen, Just Kind of Slushy

I would like to say that winter has paralyzed us with its icy grip, but that just wouldn’t be true. The family home is ensconced in ice and a little bit of snow, but my wife and I both worked a full day.

There was no relief from the day-to-day grind for our son, who also found his way to work and had an elevated view of the slick streets.

For the fourth member of our immediate family, things have been completely different. From her vantage point in frosty Ft. Worth, it’s been a weeklong party. With North Texas encased in some kind of ice prison, TCU has canceled classes all week.

From what we’ve been able to discern, she and her running buddies have made the most of their unexpected free time, particularly at night. She reports participating in "the most epic like two hour snowball war" that kept them up until 8:00 a.m.

They are nowhere near stir crazy. I guess with no classes, on-campus college life takes on a camp-like atmosphere. It wouldn't surprise me at all to learn s'mores have been made during the week. Who needs academics when you can engage in winter weather shenanigans?

While I’m actually relieved that the epic winter storm which is gripping much of the nation’s midsection has spared us any real misery, I admit to feeling a little left out. Aside from taking a little longer than usual to get to work and surrendering to the rare impulse to slip some long underwear under the sport coat and slacks, it’s been relatively routine around here.
My wife has spent the week battling a cough, sore throat and red eyes; so I’m keeping my distance from her.

Frankly, I’m a little bored. The roads are on the brink of being treacherous, so it would be borderline reckless to jump in the car to do something frivolous like go to a movie. So, until she feels better we will just exist like roommates sequestered in the mundane. I hope my daughter’s having fun.

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