It is “school time” again and a recent conversation with my son, Nicholas, reminded me AGAIN of just how independent he has become. Telling me about his upcoming move to Boston, I reflected on the passage of time and pulled from my writings, something I wrote 11 years ago this week when I took him to Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. I hope you enjoy it.
What do you say to your first-born when you realize that from this moment on he will no longer be living with you? He will come and visit and even have extended stays, but in all reality, he will never again live with you.
While fighting back tears and hugging him with a lingering sigh at the airport, I decided I wouldn’t have it any other way. He has not only graduated from high school, he has graduated from needing his mother and me on a day-to-day basis. Only a sickness born of pathetic, selfish love would have it any other way. His time had come and grieve as I will, Nicholas David, our first-born, is now a man, maturing and moving into the future without need of our daily attention and direction.
But before I left him, I did have a few of those “I need you Dad” moments. Besides the obvious, like needing me to pay for his tuition, room and food supply for the next 4 months, I lifted and lugged his collection of college freshman paraphernalia up to the 3rd floor of Mamie Mell Smith Hall, a rather odd name for a male dormitory. Finally delivered, we began our onslaught on the obvious.
Not unlike when he was 8 and we moved into his new room at 620 Hill Road, he took care of putting up his toys and I pushed and prodded the more practical items. He wired his window to the world, a newly purchased Dell computer, while I made his bed. Standing among the mostly empty boxes, I asked a question I had asked at least a million times. I said, “Is there anything else I can do for you?” He pointed to a tall, skinny box in the corner, yet unopened. I must admit I had seen it but carefully ignored it.
Written on the side of the box, were the words that strike fear into every mechanically dysfunctional male since the beginning of time—“Assembly Required.” It was a small, but ominous looking multi-purpose bookshelf. I took a deep breath and knelt down beside it, not sure whether to pray or to pretend. I decided to do both. I prayed for yet another chance to be the all-knowing, all-powerful Daddy of his early years and I pretended to be the ever-confident, ever-mechanical Fix-It man of my forgotten years.
So, I began my rarely traveled journey to the land of “required assembly.” Not having made this journey with regularity and even less success, I started with a very non-male-like thing. I read the instructions. What did I have to lose? He wasn’t watching!
Looking back on this moment, I am convinced these instructions were written for every mechanically dysfunctional father trying to make one final installment on the indispensability of parents, in general, and fathers, in particular.
I needed no tools and even less coordination. “Assembly Required” completed, I stood by the bookshelf and announced to Nicholas my accomplishment. He smiled his approval and I swaggered with fatherly pride moving it to the corner it would occupy for the upcoming semester. It was a glorious moment for this mechanically dysfunctional father!
Looking out the airplane window on the way home, I smiled remembering the satisfaction this father got out of being with his son while working on and satisfying a worthy goal together. And then I felt the smile of God. A smile born out of his desire to be with me, work with me and realize a worthy goal together.
My hope for you today is a simple one. Do a practical thing that helps another person and then bask in the smile of God. We really can (do a simple task that helps another person) and God really does (smile on our efforts)! Thanks be to God.