Too much going on. To take a break. Throw jabs. Get caught up in banter. Especially when reactions are as predictable as I believed they would be. Fear. Oh, the fear. It’s enough to make a man stay home and collect hand outs. Cling to the Bible. Or stock up on guns. All because the way it should be—mapped out in his head over years of ethnocentricity—has got him believing it’s him against the world.
“I’m proud of you,” I said to my six-year-old son. A boy, by the way, who is half-Ecuadorian. Not mine by the laws of Nature. But more part of me than my own arms and legs. Thoughts. Dreams. This writing.
“For what?” he said.
He was on the couch. Watching cartoons. Coming down from a day at Ella White Elementary that I know is harder and more complex than anything I do at my job selling conveyors from a cubicle on 2nd Avenue in Downtown Alpena.
“For being good at school. For listening to Mrs. Hunter. For paying attention.”
He smiled. I picked him up. Kissed his forehead and hugged him.
“Stop,” he said. But then he hugged back. Tight. For ten seconds. Twenty. Then sixty. Maybe more.
“I love you, buddy,” I said. “I’m proud of you.”
“Thank you, Daddy,” he said.
And there is this moment when I’m holding him. When his head is buried into my shoulder and I can feel him smiling that it makes me realize how simple it is.
And listen to the small unexpected moments. Because sooner than later, they’ll be gone.
I cannot fathom how fortunate I am that this boy—a kid who could have ended up a lifetime away at the equator—is my son. That his real dad does not call or visit or even send money. And that there is anyone in this world that would choose to miss out. On his smile. His laugh. His potential. The chance to help something so small in this little town grow. And learn to appreciate things that matter in this big, big world.
Like taking a break.
Even when there is too much going on.
To throw jabs.
Get caught up in banter.
Especially when reactions are predictable. Fueled by fear.
And a man is made by fighting battles that matter.