Friday, May 14, 2010

It Is Closer Than You Think

1998 was a long time ago. How long ago? Long enough ago that the jig was not yet up for Messrs. McGwire and Sosa and the Maris family did not yet know just how badly they had screwed over again by Major League Baseball.

It was long enough ago that the older of my two young adults - who at the ripe old age of 25 shall be tomorrow morning among those receiving her Master's Degree at Seton Hall's Graduation and Hooding Ceremony - was still a child. She was 13 years old and in the summer of '98 (when the "Big Mac/Sammy Baseball Fraud Fest" was in full bloom) was getting ready to enter the 8th grade. It would be a lie for me to suggest that 1998 - when viewed in that manner - seems to have been a lifetime ago. Truth be told, it feels more like five or six.

1998 is not a year - or a concept - about which I think often. But driving home from work last night, flipping aimlessly around the radio dial, a song came on that made me think of it. And made me smile. It made me smile because way back when in '98, Suz and Rob were still of the age that the Missus and me were on the right side of the cool/not cool divide. If you are a parent and your kids have already passed through their teens then you now the phenomenon to which I refer. Up until a certain age, you are the focal point of your child's universe. He or she wants to do all that can be done with Mom or Dad. Then, almost overnight, you become persona non grata. You are but an answer to a question that you hear so often you think if you hear it one more time it will make your ears bleed, "Can you give me a ride to.....?"

While living through it as a parent it is often hard to come to grips with - hard to fathom why you who were once the Sun have now been relegated to a status normally reserved only for Pluto. Once you get through it you realize that it was merely an inevitability and that for your child to continue his or her journey on the path to adulthood, there had to be a point in the journey where they moved on not without you but apart from you. And if you manage to maintain your cool through it and not read too much into it then you get the reward on the other side. Your child passes through that portion of his or her life and upon continuing the climb to adulthood while looking back over his or her own shoulder at childhood rediscovers you.

Way back when in 1998, when our two were still on line waiting their turn to get aboard that dark ride, the four of us used to make it a point to try to go to the movies every Sunday night. At that time, I played softball in a men's league in Nutley in which all teams played doubleheaders on Sunday afternoons. On my way up to the first game, I would swing by a theatre near our house and buy tickets for a night-time performance of whatever movie we wanted to see. Over the span of those few summers we saw our fair share of popcorn flicks including Independence Day, Con-Air, Twister, Face Off and Deep Impact. There were others as well but being dumbed down and numbed by time and age they escape me presently.

Well, not all of them perhaps. Last night driving home from work I heard one of my all-time favorite cheesy movie soundtrack songs from one of my favorite guilty pleasure movies and immediately it brought a smile to my face. It took me back in time to when none of the hairs on my head or whiskers in my beard were gray and when Margaret and I were the proud parents of two elementary school-aged children. And I thought of Rob and how much he has grown up in these past twelve years and the mark he has already made for himself. And then I thought of the little girl then who is the young woman now upon whom tomorrow an advanced degree shall be conferred in a discipline that is beyond my limited ability to fully comprehend. And I thought how damned lucky I am to ever have been invited along for the ride with these three.

And it reminded me why it is I live my life on less than 5 hours a sleep every night. Harder to miss things when you are awake.


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