Standing at just shy of six feet tall, the smallest of my children now casts a long and dark shadow over his old man. With shoulder pads, another three quarter inch for cleats, and stiff posture, he smiles down at me from his lofty height. Grinning from ear to ear, this once tiny toe-head beams because he knows he still has more to grow, whereas I will stay as I am, looking up at the young man he has grown to be.
Just days away from his first high school football game, he explodes with enthusiasm. I look over at him on the way to practice and he is fidgety, not in the nervous mousy way of some, but more like a tiger twitching his tail, scanning the horizon for prey, anticipating the attack with every fiber of his being. The muscles along his arms and shoulders ripple under his t-shirt. The hot summer months have tempered and transformed his body from iron to steel.
I watch him as he defends his position. On the "O"-line, he protects the quarterback's right flank as tackle, overpowering defenders larger and older than himself. He is eager to use his power, yet controlled and precise in its application. From novice to starting line, he is learning to master this game one down at a time. Leveraging the experience of each play to improve his performance and provide the teamwork required to move the ball across the goal line.
The transformation has been all encompassing. He no longer looks at our geographic migration as a penalty of life. Joining the grid iron fraternity has made him a part of something bigger than himself. Any time spent away from the field and his teammates is now seen as a deficit. And his past relationships remain strong over the distance courtesy of modern day communications and the knowledge that he is only one hundred and eighty minutes away by rail.
The hours of practice have not been limited to forging steel alone. Where the field of battle may have made him stronger, hours of rehearsing have continued to hone his musical skills into instruments of the finest qualities. He has set his sights on lofty goals and his talent and ambition will take him to heights I have only imagined. As he finds each new pursuit, I look forward to finding other shadows in which to stand.
Graduation from junior high school was both exciting and distressing. The calendar mocked him daily through the months of June and July. August has enjoyed the benefits of his stature and new social network and he is eagerly counting down to the first day of classes. This fall he starts his freshman year wearing his football jersey in the company of new friends with nothing but opportunities in front of him.
One might think to build him up this way is to unfairly set unrealistic expectations. In actuality I expect nothing. I am merely reflecting that at this time I have the wonderful opportunity to be there to enjoy the cool shade while sharing these moments with him. And I know that wherever he goes and whatever he does, I get to look up to see where he is going and he knows I am there taking in the view.