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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

About A Boy Who Became A Man

Today my son is 22 years old. As his mother, his last birthday was a bit harder for me than this one. I didn't reflect on his natal anniversary so much as a philosophical event. I thought of it solely as the day my baby became an adult, speaking in the chronological sense, of course. Now, a year later, I am a bit more reflective on the life of my last-born, and I realize that he became an adult so much sooner than his years would imply. He's had to deal with some very difficult life situations that I'm sure might have brought some grown men to their knees.

If I were to look at a timeline of the Grommet's life, I would say that this young person became a man many years ago, as he stood next to me at my father's casket and held my hand, and squeezed it tight, as I cried my heart out. Could it have been the loss of three grandparents all in the same year? Even I barely made it through that. Or maybe it was when AFTER a hockey game, a disgruntled member from the other team, cold-cocked him from behind, knocked him to the ice and continued to strike him with his hockey stick until refs and parents pulled the kid off of him. Bry's only response to the kid was; "Why?" Maybe it was that instead of getting angry, he decided to coach PeeWee hockey for two years so that those kids would learn fair and honest play instead of unleashed aggression.

When I think about events in his young life that speak volumes about who he is, I can't help but think about the loss of someone so dear to him, the mother of a friend, and helping that friend through such a terrible, debilitating loss. He stood by her, through her mother's illness, through her passing, through making arrangements for her funeral. No 16 year old girl should ever have to do that, let alone do it on her own because she had no one. Bry was there for her every step of the way.

As my son grew, his heart grew, and even when things haven't gone his way, he has found some way to get through it. This is where the positive male influences in his life stand out to me. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't point out first and foremost that Bry has been fortunate to be raised by an awesome father. I feel like one of the best gifts I ever gave my children was that I chose the best possible father for them. If anyone can be the standard of excellence in parenting to look up to, it is Charlie. However, school wasn't easy for the Grommet, and though he is extremely intelligent, he wasn't always at the top of his game with grades. When other teachers and counselors wrote him off as a charming class clown, two particular men saw the best in him; his Business Academy advisor; Mike Sciacca, and his high school vice-principal; Kirk Bauermeister. They encouraged him to strive for his best, like us, they believed that he could, and they weren't influenced by harmful scuttlebutt. They gave him the respect he deserved and he returned that respect. He excelled in his senior year, graduating with a scholarship. To this day, I am grateful to these two fine educators.

More recently, when his best friend was diagnosed with cancer in their first year of college, Bry came to us and told us that he wanted to quit school for awhile to spend as much time as he could with Jeff. We all knew that he could lose his scholarship, but we also knew that nothing was more important to him at this critical time than being there for Jeff. When the opportunity came to take a full-time job which would allow him to choose hours that would give him the benefit of taking full advantage of Jeff's off chemo treatment time, he jumped at it. These days, every decision he makes is dependent upon his ability to be there for his friend. With full confidence in Jeff's recovery to full health, he tells us that school can always be made up and he has no regrets in the decision he made two years ago. Nor do we. In fact, I couldn't be more proud. That is my son. That is who he is. Hardworking, diligent, determined, trustworthy, fiercely loyal, and eternally hopeful.

These are but small snippets of the many, many things that make me proud beyond measure. We talk often about the detours in life and how the decisions you make along the way can make you or break you, if you allow them. I think this last-born of mine, who can aggravate as well as delight, who makes us roll with laughter until we cry, and sometimes causes Charlie and I to shake our fist in the air, has been a man for more years in his life than he was a child. I am so proud of this man, and so grateful that he calls me Mom.