Then And Now

then and now

This past weekend, we dropped the kid off at the University of Arizona; the place he’ll call home for the next several years.

The entire weekend was like a flashback montage from the movies. I was Rocky, driving down the street, downshifting and upshifting often while reminiscing with all of my memories in crystal clear, cinematic quality. I wasn’t thinking about Drago though. I was thinking about the kid.

He was always smiling. Even as a baby, if he’d just gotten done crying, he was immediately smiling, eyes still glistening with tears. I thought back to seven or eight years ago when he had a crown put on his tooth and he was still trying to smile, though half of his face was numb. It was the face version of the when the Rock raises only one eyebrow.

But my mind kept flashing back to one day that I remember clearly. His kindergarten year was split between schools in Los Altos and Gilroy. (That picture above was taken on the first day of kindergarten in Los Altos.) We moved to Gilroy mid-school year so he joined kindergarten more than halfway through. He wouldn’t show us that he was afraid or bothered that he didn’t know anyone. He just made it work.

We would often get out of the car and walk him to class, but for some reason, I wasn’t able to do so on this particular day. I dropped him off in the drop-off line and he was so casual in getting out of the car and walking to class by himself. He turned around and waved and kept walking like it wasn’t anything. I remember yelling his name. He turned around. And I just waved again. I had no reason to call his name other than to see his smiling face.

It was like that all weekend. Memories, thoughts, reminders. Wash, rinse, repeat.

I’m really good at preparing myself for emotional situations. I know what’s coming. I think about all the things I want to say and do before that day comes, and when that day comes, I’m ready. That’s the way I handled him leaving to school. I thought about what I wanted to say to him, rehearsed it in my head like Jay-Z thinking of song lyrics, and then told him throughout the weekend.

While preparing for this weekend, I remembered to grab a book that he bought me for Father’s Day last year. It’s called The World According To Star Wars and is written by Harvard professor Cass R. Sunstein. The book uses Star Wars to look at relationships, politics, religion, and a ton of other things. It’s smart, thought-provoking, and maybe, just maybe, a little over-the-top.

Right before he bought the book for me, I let him and his brother know that they were now too old to make tired rushed drawings on lined paper, call them cards, and pass them off as gifts. They needed to be thoughtful and creative in their gifting process. And this wasn’t because I necessarily needed anything. They’re just bad at gifting. They’re the best gift receivers you’ll ever see, but they needed some help in the gift giving process.

He gave me the book, I thanked him, and the I put it on my desk and it sat there. He asked me once or twice if I read it and I hadn’t, and it continued to sit. I remember him saying that one of his teachers, who is a big Star Wars fan, said the book was really good. I would eventually read it, but something stopped me from picking it up immediately and reading it.

When I knew I’d be going out to Arizona with his mom to move him in, I decided that was the perfect time to bring the book. But I didn’t want to read it on the way over. I wanted to read it on the way back, after we left him. The book somehow tied that moment together for me, at least in my own mind. It wasn’t even what was in the book, though, there is a great part about the father-son relationship in comparison to Luke and Anakin Skywalker. It was for the mere fact that I was somehow withholding reading it, as if I was waiting for the perfect time. The flight home was the perfect time.

We left for Tucson Friday evening. The kids had previously been in Mexico for a week. Before that, Brian had a trip to So Cal with his friends. And then before that, he was on a Missionary trip with his mom, brother, and others. We didn’t really have a lot of time to spend together before he left. From his graduation, to his graduation party, to now, seems like a blur. Those two and a half months felt like nothing.

I had plans for us on that Friday morning for one last bonding moment. I had agreed to help someone shoot an interview for a video project they were doing. They’re on the East coast and the subject is in San Jose, so they needed some assistance in shooting it. The subject was none other than Big Dave Meltzer. Brian asked his friend Jordan to help us out and that morning, several hours before he’d leave his home for college, we went to shoot the interview.

On the way over there, I had a laugh to myself because he was leading a conversation about what samples were used in certain songs, including Jay-Z’s new song, 4:44. He announced that it was the best produced song ever. Maybe he meant right now. But these were the same conversations I had with both him and JJ back in the day, giving them trivia tidbits about what song was sampled for a particular song they were into at the time. Now, he’s trying to be the teacher.

He and Jordan helped me frame and shoot the interview and I was really impressed with how everything turned out. Brian’s camera shoots fantastic video. Jordan knew how to take instruction as I was texting with the guy we were helping out. And overall, we were just doing something creative, which is right in Brian’s wheelhouse.

A few years ago, I bought a new iMac and gave him my old one to mess around with. I didn’t know if he’d get creative with it, but that was my hope. Soon, he got into video editing. Then he started messing around with Garage Band. He got into it enough to go to a music production/beat making class at Stanford after his junior year. And now, he makes music as his hobby, including making intro music for my podcasts.

I was happy that we were able to work on one last project before he left. We were both in our element.

Saturday was a weird day. It was maybe the longest day of the year for everyone. But it went by in the blink of an eye. We got up early, went to his room to move him in, had to go back to a bunch of stores to make sure he had what he needed, went to a meeting, and then finally grabbed dinner late, only to drop him off after 10PM for the last goodbye. I think Carol made us go to Target five times in less than two days, which has to be some sort of Tucson record.

She had a terrible time leaving him. She’s a very emotional being. She can angrily scream at someone and then apologize and tell them she loves them and then can be laughing about it in a matter of seconds. She runs the gamut of emotions. I’ve always played the middle, like I mentioned, preparing myself for the moment, playing it in my head, and being okay with it by the time it hits. But I’ve had to be that way because I’ve been around a lot of emotional people in my life. I’ve always played the role of being the pillar of strength. I’m sure the kid didn’t want to lose it when we left him either.

I’ve also had more experience leaving both kids than their mom. We’ve always shared custody, but as they’ve gotten older, they definitely see the home they grew up in to be more homely than wherever I’ve lived. Once they started to have their own plans, my weekend days with them were shorter and shorter. I’d still make the effort to visit them on those days, even for a short stop off after the gym to see what they were doing. But I was much more prepared for Brian to leave than his mom was. I had to get used to it sooner.

Then and NowI told him that I wanted to take one more photo of him before we left, which was him waving goodbye to us from his room. To me, it’s our circle of life together; from the time I had to drop him off at kindergarten, making him wave back to me just so I could see his face again, to him waving goodbye to us, while we walk away.

The kid makes life work for himself. I’m just as excited for his future failures as I am for his future successes because his failures will teach him how to succeed. They’ll show his mettle, force him to dig deep and fight for the things he wants. I told him before I left that his job isn’t to make his parents proud. It’s to make himself proud.

The great American philosopher, Coach Eric Taylor once said, “Every man in some point in his life is going to lose a battle. He’s going to fight and he’s going to lose. But what makes him a man is that in the midst of that battle, he does not lose himself.”

College will be a fun battle. It will be an exciting battle. He’ll have the time of his life by learning about life. I don’t need the play-by-play from him. I just need the game summaries, with a highlight (or lowlight) or two sprinkled in.

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