Yesterday my son, Aaron, turned 17. He and I, his mom, his sister, his brother in law and his niece went to eat at Chilis (he had his fav. country fried steak w/corn on the cob) then he and I and his mom went to see the new Batman movie (very long and incredibly average). Overall a very enjoyable evening to say the least.
Yesterday was an odd day to be sure. On one hand, having your youngest child turn 17 brings to the surface a certain degree of meloncholy as it speaks to your ever present mortality. On the other hand, and to a larger degree for me, the day allows me to take personal inventory of all the reasons why I never hesitate to acknowledge,, publicly or privately that I'm Aaron Spring's dad. I understand, mind you, that being a P.E. teacher/basketball coach for 15 years doesn't mean much except to say that I am in the "kid business". What that boils down to is that i have, do and will see every type of child imaginable in my occupation; from the truly horrible evil child (which would make me an absentee father if it were my child) to the wonderful adorable child (see: Brady Bunch and/or The Cosby Show) and everything in between. Having said that, I must say that my son is as close to the latter as any son could be and still be believable. Now he's certainly not perfect by an means. His room is a disaster (FEMA wouldnt know where to begin or as Mayor Nagin would call it "the mother of all rooms"), his grades are average at best (his main goal is to complete 4 years of high school without reading a book---and he's halfway there) and the next time he cuts our grass will be the first (he says he only feels motivated to help "old people"--i'm not sure what to do with that!). What he is, however, is as kind and good-hearted a person as i've ever met. He is constantly reaching out to those that he feels need his assistance; whether its the aforementioned elderly person, another child being bullied or otherwise mistreated or a friend going through hard times and needing a shoulder to cry on. He's always stepping up for other people which makes me proud. As for me, i've always tried to judge people by what they have to offer on the inside; the rest of it is kind of random: rich or poor, thin or fat, tall or short, smart or dumb, ugly or beautiful, etc. But the most important measure of a person, in my mind, is the quality of their heart -of their soul. Will their lives touch someone and make them smile? Will they leave this earth a better place than how they found it? Have they made a difference? I believe my son will be able to answer yes to those questions when its all said and done. I say that because of the unsolicited feedback I get from other people; whether its adults or other young people he's come into contact with. Without exception, when they see me or hear my name, they ask me if I'm Aaron Spring's dad and when I say yes, they have a grin from ear to ear as they regale me with some tale of how he was their child's friend or their student or whatever and just want me to know "what a great kid he is". I tell you if you've heard that before you know what I mean when I say there is no better feeling in the world- no higher praise- no greater rush- than to hear that said about your child.
I hope its many many years down the road but if i'm destined to draw my last breath tonight, i do so at peace knowing that no matter what the fates have in store for my son, he will go through his life loving and being loved in return. And if its not tonight(hopefully), I know one thing for certain: when he and I are walking through the mall and someone sees me and Aaron and says "Hey are you Aaron's dad?", I can, without reservation, plant a smile on my face turn around and say" Yes I am !!!"