Before my son was born I used to talk to him, yes, I was one of those prospective parents that talked to their unborn child.  We used to ‘talk’ about a lot of things, about things we would do, imagined scenarios, different things we would do when the time was right.  One of those imagined scenarios as playing midnight basketball, of playing basketball in general.  The idea was born of an event being held in the area during the past spring, an event called the Gus Macker 5 on 5 Tournament.   While talking to him I would tell his mother that he was asking if he could go out and play midnight basketball with ‘Jimmy’, that he wanted to be with his friends.  It was a fun time, filled with anticipation, all the anticipation we hold for our children, born and unborn.  I had never thought I would fall prey to these things, but fall prey I did and oh so willingly I cooperated.

With all the anticipation came thoughts of where life would take him, what kind of life he would have and all those things we would do together, as father and son and as a family.  Once born the thoughts intensified and became more concrete when, while still an infant, we bought him a Cornell outfit, gym shorts and a t-shirt, I still have the outfit and still remember the purchase like yesterday.   It was also during those very early mornings when he woke hungry that I would feed him, yes, typically it was I who got up in the middle of the night to care for him, that I would continue our conversations.  I would also sing to him, always the same song, always Frank Sinatra’s famous “Strangers in the Night’.

With time, and as he grew older, we did more things together, particularly in his first 3 years when I was going to school for my MBA, the time I was a stay-at-home dad.  I took him to the garden I planted, at first in a backpack and then, as he began walking and becoming more interactive, just in tow.  We played in the dirt with trucks, we did many of the things men do with their boys, many of the things we talked about before he was born and during those early morning hours.  It was a wonderful time, a time of anticipation, a time of wonderment.

As he grew he developed differently, clearly expressing some unusual characteristics.  The experts sought out provided a label, the label of Asperger’s Syndrome and with that many things of which we spoke became uncertain.  The Cornell outfit he wore as an infant took different meaning as did a number of other dreams.  However, with time, with the support of some very wonderful people, he progressed, we did things, many things never thought possible albeit some delayed by development.  We did play catch, watched the clouds looking for different shapes and as he grew played with his soaker guns on hot days.  We also took trips, one to London and another, his favorite, to Atlanta, just he and I.  We did so many things, but so many remain, so many more things to do, things to teach him, not the least of which is driving, more hunting and the sharing life experiences.

This past holiday season my son came home to visit, to reconnect with his friends and to just hang out with his dad.  We did different things, one of which he really enjoys, shooting his 22 rifle, I keep for him, at the farm of one of my friends.  He did get some time practicing his driving as well.  He hosted a party with his friends and we talked about my disease, about my likely death, that we may only have two Christmases left.  In preparation for New Year’s eve we went to the liquor store and I heard something very sobering, something, he said he wanted to buy Scotch, something I never liked, for the celebration.

By all accounts the ‘scotch request’ would be considered inconsequential, we are all exposed to different things from many people.  However, it was the source and commensurate realizations following that made it significant.  He told me he first tasted scotch when offered by his mother’s boyfriend, then man she dated prior to our marriage, the man she told me for many years was an alcoholic and abusive and the man for whom she left me.  I suppose in this day and age, with all the divorce in the world, such things are common, but for me it hurt.  It hurt because I recognized that while I’ve done a lot of things with my son, it is the many more for which I may never experience and that it will likely be this man to whom he turns for ‘male advice’.  What I realized with that request is that soon I will be the memory and all those things to which I looked to my father for advice will be lost, likely to another whose character I question.  While previously not considered, the ‘things’ being unspoken losses for which I now mourn.

Happy reading, happy thoughts and happy trails.

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