Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Checking Off the Book

My older son wants to be an eagle scout.

He’s got a long way to go. He currently has achieved Tenderfoot rank, the second step on the road to Eagle. The next rung on the ladder is Second Class. There’s two pages of requirements and he’s been diligently working on them. As of this week, he had his remaining requirements down to five. He also had a plan. He prepped for two of his remaining requirements prior to this week’s meeting. As we drove up, he began searching for the Asst. Scoutmaster that he needed to find.

“Dad, there he is.”

“Wait. Let me stop the car first.”

I brought the car to a stop and he was out before I turned off the engine. He got two requirements done, then tracked down the Scoutmaster to discuss what else he needed to do. He got two more requirements completed, leaving him one to go. He should achieve Second Class by sometime in mid-June. (From there, he’ll start on First Class.)

He’ll have his new rank just in time for camp for Scout Camp. He has mapped this out, too. To reach Eagle, he needs to earn 21 merit badges. Twelve of these come from a specific list. He currently has four badges (almost five) with one from the list. At camp, he’ll work on five merit badges. Three of them are from the Eagle List. He also has mapped out three more badges to work on this summer, all Eagle required. In his Boy Scout book, he has checkmarks next to the badges he’s working on with a plan for what to do next.

Before I left the meeting, I ran into the Scoutmaster. I congratulated him on a recent accomplishment in his family. His own son just achieved the rank of Eagle. He was excited about it. He then mentioned his conversation with my son earlier in the evening. He mentioned how proud he was of my son’s accomplishments and what he’s doing to make sure he makes Eagle.

So am I.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Thoughts at a Wedding

Family weddings are fun.

I spent the weekend in Mobile, watching a cousin of mine marry the woman of his dreams at a place called Five Rivers, a state park on the Mobile Delta. The wedding party held the ceremony on a dock while the guests viewed the nuptials from above. A gator swam around in the marshy background, first poking his eyes out, then floating around in the distance while a group of a boaters approached. (Good opening for a movie, but nothing happened, thankfully. However, that sucker was huge.)

After the ceremony was over, we had an absolute blast of a party. The food was great. We danced the night away. When the first party ended, a number of us headed to a second party at a hotel in town that featured a lot of dance music and an Elvis impersonator. (Whether Elvis was part of the decorum or just there on his own, none of us knew.) Then, I kicked back with some of my umpteen cousins and enjoyed a few final minutes with people that I get to spend too little time with. We speculated on when we would all get together again, trying to decide which currently single cousin might be the next to walk down the aisle. Finally, we decided we should get together soon anyway, wedding or not.

However, one of the most memorable things about the weekend had nothing to do with the wedding. An uncle of mine who lives in Mobile has a company that builds floats for Mobile’s Mardi Gras parades. He and his employees spend all year preparing for this annual event. My uncle took us to his float barns (warehouses) to see what was left over from last year’s parades as well as show us what work had been done for next year.

Across from the float barns were some long yellow plastic segmented cylinders that resembled a cross between a long chain of hollow pontoons and a huge earthworm. They were barriers, barriers for the oil spill in the gulf. Like several of my family members touring the float barn, I walked across the street to take a look at the barriers, brushing my fingers across the watertight material. I then stared at the buildings, the full parking lots, and saw how much work was still to be done. The Port of Mobile is busy these days as it is one of the places where efforts continue to stem the disaster.

When I arrived in Mobile and first saw the water, I noted how brown it was. Despite having been to Mobile and having seen the water before, I still asked if it had anything to do with the spill. My uncle reminded me that the color was the result of the churning of the dirt from the five rivers that empty into the gulf. However, it looked like the spill and my body reacted the same way.

Between the dirty water and its effect on me, the yellow barriers, and the full parking lots, I wondered if I now had a better understanding of all the effort being made to contain the disaster

And I can feel the texture of that barrier even now.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


When we moved to Georgia, my mother began bringing various items, from the house where I grew up, every time she visited. These items were leftovers of my childhood, priceless mementos with sentimental value (aka junk my mother wanted to get rid of so she could clean out my old closets and put some space to better use.). These items have found a treasured place in our house (ok, in the unfinished basement). Now, my wife dreams of being able to get rid of these items, too. However, occasionally, these items surface and make their way upstairs. Such was the case this weekend.

It wasn’t intentional.

My eight-year old son is a big fan of the Revolutionary War history. He’ll watch any movie with George Washington in it. Recently, he asked me several times to watch The Crossing, a wonderful movie about the crossing of the Delaware. I spent a lot of time with him explaining the various personalities, particularly one of my Revolutionary War heroes, John Glover.

So, while we were playing ping pong in the basement, my son noticed a board game with what appeared to be Revolutionary War pictures on it. The game is called Skirmish, a two-player game where you get to fight the Revolutionary War. This game made its way out of the basement, where I familiarized myself with directions I’d long forgotten. We counted the pieces. (I was only missing three, which was amazing and something that could be dealt with.)

And then we played.

I took the side of the British forces while my son got to be the Americans. In a take-no-prisoners approach (it’s hard to remember how to lose when you’ve forgotten how to play), the British quashed the American rebellion on Sunday.

My son was not to be outdone. He called me as I was driving home from work on Monday. “Dad, I’ve got the game set up. This time, you’re going down.”

And he was right. This time, the dice and cards fell my younger son’s way and Washington persevered, striking down the British forces. My son was so happy, he danced around the house.

I’m sure we’ll play again soon. In the meantime, it’s nice that my son enjoys the game. History should be fun. It’s great when it is.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Yes...It's That Time

There were many subjects I considered writing about for this post. However, I chucked them out the window.

Because it hit me that, this week, something dramatic happened. I became the father of a teenager.

I remember when that concept first hit me. It was five days prior to my son’s 11th birthday. I glanced at him in the rearview mirror to inquire as to how he felt about the impending day. “Are you excited about turning eleven?”

“Yes, Dad, five more days until I’m eleven. Then only 735 days until I’m a teenager.”

At that point, I turned and focused on the road. It was safer than running off of it. I wasn’t even thinking about two years from then. Only enjoying the now.

“A teenager? You’re thinking about becoming a teenager?”

“Yes, I am.”

I didn’t know what to say after that. What did it say about me? How old did it make me? Last week, I went to his middle school band concert. They played a wonderful show, closing with “We Will Rock You” by Queen. It brought back memories of high school for me when I was in the high school and high school bands played “Another One Bites The Dust.” (Granted, my high school team wasn’t overly successful, so it was usually the other team’s band playing that song, but still it was a memory.)

But I’m not that old, at least not to me. I do have classmates that have adult and college-age children and I wonder how that makes them feel. At least one of my high school classmates is now a grandfather, so I wonder about that as well.

But it’s different when it happens to others vs. when it happens to you.
I know I have several more years to enjoy my older son and definitely more than that to enjoy his younger, elementary school age brother. But realizing that my son is now a teenager makes me think I have less time with him than ever. He’s growing up and one day he’ll move out and be on his own.

Still, there are other worries I have. On that day in the car, when my older son let me know he was only two years away from being a teenager, he added one more sentence. “And five years from now, I’ll be driving.”

I know I’m not ready for that.