When my kids were growing up, I didn't really dream of them becoming president of the United States, or changing the world with Nobel prize-winning research (although I've always believed -- and still do -- that either one of these kids could change the world.).
My dream? Having my kids call me in my older years and say, "let's go to a ballgame."
How tough would that be? Every dream can be dashed and I have to admit at times I thought this one would be too. My oldest son had an illness that kept him out of school in the last few years and at times I wondered if he'd be able to survive on his own. The youngest son always seemed to be ready to snap the leash and never look back.
Kids are like that and the moment you realize that they're not going to grow up to be president, you begin to think it'll be a great thing if they just stay out of prison.
Give a parent a brain, an imagination, and the ability to project the future, and they'll screw it up every time. Ask me how I know.
My oldest son moved out and onto his "own" more than a year ago and I spent a few late nights looking to the southwest (he moved to Richfield) sending my "Dad messages" by telepathy. My youngest son moved out not long after graduating high school earlier this year. And just like that, I had myself an empty nest and a telephone that didn't ring, and a bucketload of guilt that when I moved out of my house after high school (and off to college), I didn't go back home or call more often. When you're 18, 40 miles seems like a long way away.
But a funny thing happened, son #1 enrolled himself in community college; him with his 145 I.Q., to get his various computer and networking certifications. And when an internship opened up in the information technology department of Minnesota Public Radio, he applied for it and -- on his own -- got it. I work at MPR, but I had nothing to do with it. And I told him that mentioning my name around MPR is as likely to get a door closed in your face as it is to open one up.
My best day in 30 years in the radio business. The day my son called me from his cubicle and whispered, "I feel like an adult." And in the months since, from what I can tell, he's become a valuable member of MPR. I hope they hire him fulltime sometime.
He stops by the newsroom once or twice a day and I think, "how good is my life?
I also begin to realize why my Dad, a successful insurance agent, tried to get me to take over his business as he neared retirement. For a time I did work with him and I was OK at it, but fathers-and-sons often don't mix well and radio came calling. I'll bet the day I started in his business was one of the best in his career. I'll bet the day I left was not. Kids.
Son #2, currently the youngest EMT and first responder in Minnesota, is also in community college (by the way, community college is simply the best bargain in higher education as near as I can tell) to get higher certifications and become a paramedic and whatever comes after that.
This week, he started with the Allina Health System, operating a unit that transports people to and from hospitals. He stopped by MPR yesterday, in his EMT uniform, parking his unit at the front door and like my other son, looking every bit the young man I dreamed he'd be.
I showed him around the new MPR digs and eventually he and his brother connected and then his brother started showing him around the MPR digs, paying particular attention to the technology that's all around the buidling that he can explain, but which sounds like another language to me.
In minutes the two of them were hopping from place to place as I began to fall back, and watch my two boys in my workplace, one being proud of who he's become, the other becoming prouder. And occasionally I'd stop to introduce son #2 to an MPR exec with the words I love more than any other -- for either boy: "this is my son."
Later, as they left to go grab something to eat together, it was hard for me to remember that these were the same two kids that occasionally tried to kill each other.
Last night the phone rang. It was son #2 asking me if I wanted to have dinner at Mickey's, a famous diner in downtown St. Paul (you may remember it from The Mighty Ducks), that neither one of us has ever been to.
So today, after I finish the newscast on the Current, he'll swing by, we'll grab son #1 and my boys and I will go to dinner.
"At Mickey's," I said to my wife this morning, noting that it's not exactly Kincade's.