First Cup

First morning cup, brewing before dawn,
the son packing up his bag, ready to go
back to his Sunday job, to school—
more tests this week, only a month left
his first term in a real college.

His face lights up, his words all about campus
and classes, and the brainy discussions and lessons—
him fitting in, getting into his groove, finding his way,
living his dream we talked about so often.

Finding his path, in so many ways, now
footsteps steady on university sidewalks,
exploring the library, coffee with new found friends,
conversations rich with ideas and challenges.

We talk, me reaching to offer a tidbit of advice, of support
before he gets back at it, this new life of his,
me, wanting to be fatherly, yet not wanting to push,
me, proud of his sure steps, his confidence, all of his success.

Him, now fully a man, both feet firm on his chosen path,
him, moving forward, not knowing where he will travel
yet, happy with the idea of his journey, his idea
of who he is, and who he is becoming, at last.

Dad work now nearly done, this son has found himself,
his wings strong, finding the updrafts,
soaring, towards the sun
of his newfound happiness.

First cup now drained, he fills his car mug with his second,
heading towards the door, and turns back
hugging, one last time, and then
he is gone, down the road, moving on with his life.

The house, quiet now, without his voice, without
him playing the guitar, his singing in the shower,
his eyes twinkling as he speaks of his new life,
he goes down the road, leaving me with
a second cup and wet face.

Neal Lemery 11/10/2013

Stepping Back

I get pretty involved in the lives of the people I mentor. I worry about their grades in school, how they are managing their lives, if they are taking care of themselves, and making good choices.

We talk a lot about all that, especially the “good choices” part. Their lives haven’t been marked by a lot of good choices, though if I was to lay blame for that, most of the blame would fall elsewhere. If you don’t have good role models, and you don’t have some solid, compassionate people at your side, life gets harder to navigate through.

And, sometimes I give advice. I like to think it is just commentary, or, to be polite, “direction and concern”. But, really, it is advice.

When I do that, it is always a good idea to be asked. Micromanaging someone else’s life, or being the co-dependent fatherly type isn’t my style. I don’t have the energy for that, and, besides, I’m pretty busy just trying to manage my own life. I don’t do “rescue” very well, and the big lessons in life are best learned by experiencing the consequences of one’s own decisions.

Granted, if I see you head towards the cliff and your foot is on the gas, I will be moved to open my mouth and speak my mind. I might even grab the wheel for a bit, until you are headed away from the pending apocalypse. Still, I prefer the diplomatic approach, and I use “suggest”, or “what are some other options you’ve thought about”.

But, tact and being politically correct aren’t always my guiding forces, and I tend to speak my mind, especially when I see someone I care about heading for the cliff.

And, I might even step back, and let them come close to their cliff, and get their feet muddy in the quagmire of their actions. Good lessons are often taught when you are up your ass in alligators, deep in the swamp.

Not that I want my buddy to get chomped on by the alligator, but that swamp offers some good, solid lessons. It has for me.

Stepping back. Maybe it is the time of year for that. After all, people are taking a summer break, and various organizations, and schools, have shut down for the summer. The usual frenzy of meetings and activities has slowed quite a bit, and I find the calendar to be blissfully empty of a lot of the usual activities. People are taking care of themselves, going on vacation, taking a breath. They are letting go, and letting the world go on a bit without them at the helm.

And, as the young men I worry about start stepping out into the world, flapping their wings a bit, and testing the winds of the adult world, I need to let them go, let them fly out near the abyss on their solo flight. They will be stronger for taking that flight on their own, stronger, and a bit wiser. Haven’t we been working on that, getting them ready to fly?

Isn’t that the goal of all this, to build strong men, able to fly on their own, to bear the consequences of their own decisions?

Not that I don’t get to worry, and fret, just like the mama eagle frets when that fledgling steps out of the nest and catches the air, to fly free.

Neal Lemery, July 19, 2013