We're having a graduation party for our youngest son tomorrow. In planning for it, we crossed our fingers and hoped it wouldn't rain. We never dreamed we'd end up having it on the day the earth spontaneously combusts, if you believe all the local news.
It's been three weeks since we became empty nesters. Patrick has moved out and into an apartment with his older brother, Sean. And Carolie and I are left to reflect on the quiet of the empty nest -- a sound which is both joyous and sad at the same time.
Last night at Policy and a Pint, Sean Kershaw of the Citizens League had their new baby daughter in a cradlette; couldn't have been more than two weeks old. I stopped myself before intoning that they should enjoy her because they grow up fast. I didn't want to sound like all the doting old-timers who said the same thing to me when we were lugging babies around.
But I do remember the age when I'd hold each boy like a football and think "I have to remember what this feels like because they grow up so fast." Truth is, you remember doing it, but you don't remember what it feels like.
And when they do grow up, you realize that the series of days that often seemed like they'd never end, weave into years that pass at the speed of life.
Because it's a graduation party, we have to have one of those posters, you know, of the lad through various stages of his life. So this week, Carolie has been in the den, pouring through old pictures and sighing...a lot. I'd look too. But I'd wait until she went to work. And then I looked through them. And sigh.
Both of my kids were just gosh darned cute. They're still cute now in an 18 and 20 sort of way. But nobody can be, you know, cute like kids can be.
So come sit by me, dearie, and let a doting old-timer show you what I mean.
OK, some of these are little blurry because back in the old days we had this stuff we called film. I don't have a scanner so I've taken a picture of a picture. Let's sort of ignore the Robert Goulet look for just a second and agree that the old man has gotten old. But here they are when the nest was full, and a lot smaller.
I like these pictures of Sean and Patrick together. They were brothers like any other brothers and at times they beat the bejeebers out of each other. But I always told them "your brother will end up being the best friend you'll ever have," and I think that's true. This was in our old house in the woods in Sheffield, Massachusetts (the Berkshires). I loved that spot.
See that look on Patrick's face. That's the way he approached life growing up. He started every day racing out the door to take on the world, sure that it was going to be the coolest day ever. And for him, usually, it was. I think he got that from Carolie's side of the family.
This was taken in Saco, Maine on the day before we moved to Minnesota. I'd already been out here working a month and went back home to fetch the family. It was my parents 50th anniversary (I think) so we gave them a weekend at the oceanfront in Maine and had a family reunion before we split up to the far ends of the universe. There was a volleyball game that someone else on the beach was having, and Patrick wanted to play. He's stewing a bit here because they were big kids and he was a little kid thinking he was big enough.
And then he turned 4, which was a birthday I missed because I was in Minnesota working. I don't think there's a bigger regret I have than missing that birthday.
I had the bright idea one Saturday morning (I watch all those do-it-yourself shows) of making suet for the birds. So out came the Crisco and peanut butter and other slimy things, and in went the hands. It doesn't get any better. Just ask Patrick.
Patrick was a good worker and ace window washer.
And then they start sprouting. And off to school they go. Now there's a whole bunch in between here. A lot of baseball. A lot of baseball. He was the best catcher I've ever seen... ever. Because we watched a lot of baseball together, he knew the game inside and out when other kids were building sand castles at shortstop. I remember once he worked out a play when a runner was at third and first. The opposing coach tried a double steal and Patrick threw the ball as the runner on first started toward second and as he threw, the runner on third broke for home. Only, unbeknownst to everyone except for Patrick and the shortstop, the two had worked out the play where Patrick would actually throw the ball, not to the secondbaseman, but to the shortstop who was charging. And the shortstop would throw it back to Patrick for an easy inning-ending out at home.
The place went nuts and as Patrick ran off the field with his shortstop buddy, the assistant coach, who was an idiot, said "don't you ever do that again. We'll tell you what plays to run." Morons didn't faze him much. That'll be helpful as he goes out in the world.
And then one day, I looked up and, well, here we were.
I don't really know how it went so fast. But it went fast. Damned fast.
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