An ode to a wise son

Published 7:03 pm Friday, October 30, 2009

I am not going to tell you how old he is because he might not want you to know. So, I will just tell you that on his birthday next week, the last number will have a “zero” behind it and he was born as Dwight Eisenhower was going out of office and John F. Kennedy was coming in. You can figure out the rest.

His name is Ken. He is my son. He is also my best friend. I’ve not asked him, but I suspect the feeling is mutual. That is a great thing to be able to say about a father and a son.

We are at that point in our lives where we value the other’s knowledge. His calls are more likely to seek my views on the current state of politics and financial matters, and mine tend toward how to make my computer do something it won’t do for me, but will for him.

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We have had a few disagreements since he became an adult, but not many.

We have too much respect for each other. He is proud of what I have accomplished in my career. I am proud that he is a school teacher. (He teaches science at Woodland High School in Bartow County.) He thinks I should slow down and enjoy my golden years. I think he worries too much about his work and that telling me to slow down is a little bit like the pot calling the kettle black.

We share a few traits. We both have a temper and can be impatient. We both think church is where we should be on Sunday morning (although I need it worse than he does.) And we both dote on our grandchildren.

We are different in several respects. He enjoys working in his yard. I enjoy watching someone else work in my yard. He is intellectual. I am instinctive. He is kind and thoughtful. I can be meaner than a yard dog. He can hit a golf ball a mile and a half. I would like to hit a golf ball straight, forget the mile and a half.

As a teacher, he is having a positive influence on young lives in a way that I never did in my corporate career. That is why I get fried when I hear people criticizing school teachers. I know the good he is doing and how hard it is for him to do it because of all the stuff he has to put up with from a clueless governor to out-of-touch bureaucrats to second-guessing critics—none of whom are worthy to carry his grade book. Still, he soldiers on because he knows he believes he can make a difference in this world. Good for him.

I have always been in charge. In charge at home. In charge at work. In charge of every committee on which I ever served. If I run it, things will go as they should. That attitude changed forever the day my grandson and Ken’s nephew, Zack, died suddenly while training for the Atlanta Marathon. That was the day I realized how little control I have on the things that really matter.

I decided to quit writing this column because I lost my confidence and didn’t know what to say any more. Nothing made sense. We are not supposed to outlive our children and especially our grandchildren. After several weeks in a fog of grief and despair, I got a call from my son. “Dad,” he said, “it is time to get back on the horse.” In other words, it is time to get back to the column and back to work. It is time to understand that life goes on. It was the best advice I could have received.

You hear people say that you look smarter to your kids as they mature. The reverse is also true. You find out that your children become a whole lot wiser than you are. While having his vain, know-it-all father admit that publicly is perhaps the greatest gift I could give to my son, I suspect he has known this for years.

Happy Birthday, Old Timer.