Forgive me, please, if I get very personal here for a few paragraphs. Nearly 18 years ago, my life changed forever. The depth and nature of the change was as profound as it was positive. I became a father.
My son, David, was a slightly premature, very small, colicky baby. He screamed for about four months without ceasing. I remember long nights sitting in the rocking chair in our basement apartment reading a book and singing Christmas Carols to David (he was born in November). Meredith and I were both in school at BYU at the time and I was working, so it was a bit challenging--but so worth it.
I remember walking around campus with David. Meredith and I would meet frequently and switch off, handing David from the one who was going to class to the one who was going home. Sometimes he came to class with us. I remember pushing him in the stroller to a class Mere and I had together. I remember swimming with him one night in a P.E. class.
We were at BYU for the next 25 years. Just kidding, it was only 7 or 8, it just seemed longer. While I chipped away at my B.A. and then M.A., David took his first steps, said his first words and hit all those milestones.
The funny thing is that once the colic ended, he's basically been maintenance-free. David has been affectionate, considerate, and calm ever since then. I've joked before that he's sort of an instant kid--you just add water and he raised himself.
David inherited his mother's intelligence and study skills. He is very bright. I would tell you what he got on the ACT but I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. He is self-motivated and self-disciplined. He took every advanced, honors, or AP class he could at our little country high school and he succeeded brilliantly.
David was the Valedictorian this year. Here he is in his bling. I should add that there were two more sashes he wore around his neck but we didn't want to pay the extra fee to keep them.
With all his medals and cords I thought he looked a little bit like a Monty Python parody of a 3rd world country's military dictator decked out for graduation.
David is headed back to BYU in a few days. Back home, in a sense. He'll walk on the same sidewalks his mother and I used to push him. He'll swim in the pool where I gently bobbed, clutching him tightly to my chest. Perhaps he'll have trick-or-treaters show up to his dorm.
David has worked full time this summer at McDonalds. It was not exactly fun but as always, he approached it with an uncomplaining work ethic and no drama. He earned a good scholarship and now he's working to earn money to pay for his housing and food. This is the story of his life. Hard work.
Last fall, Meredith and I watched a BYU football game on tv. When the marching band came out at half time, playing the fight song, we both got teary and said, "Next year that might be our David!" We were right. David will be going out to start marching band camp.
The melancholy I feel as my firstborn prepares to leave us is keen and sharp. It is beyond difficult for me to imagine our family without him here. Lately, I've been tearing up in the most random places and at the most random times. When did we decide that as soon as your kids got to be fun and independent and self-maintaining--essentially a net gain to the family--they'd leave. I am not sure I like this!
And yet, the melancholy I feel is equalled and surpassed by my great pride. He is one of the greatest sources of my pride and one of the great joys of my heart. If I am known for nothing else than being David's dad I will have done well. I'm so excited for him--and incredibly emotional as I consider him leaving us. He will leave a massive hole in our family and our hearts.
God be with you, David. I love you.
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