Daddy's Bear Goes to College
Lulu and I have been taking turns weeping for the past two weeks. She’s been pulling her weight more than I have, but now that my oldest boy Harrison is leaving for college today, it’s my turn to catch up. It seems just like yesterday that the Bunny Rabbit, as we used to call him when he was a baby, was traipsing over the grass to kindergarten. As our oldest boy, as we conceived him when we were 13, he grew up when we were poor and living in different spots every other year chasing jobs. Born in Houston, preschooled in Boston, kindergartened in Austin, grade schooled in Denver, summered in Australia, brought to manhood in San Antonio. The boy is well-travelled.
We were the first of our friends to have a baby, and I remember being in my early 20s and sometimes lamenting that we couldn’t go out as much as our friends did every weekend. Back then, when he was cholic and his diaper was dirty and we were exhausted, I couldn’t imagine a day when I would be so sad that he was leaving.
My first employer, Joe Huggins of Houston Distributing Co., told me before Harrison was born that he’d buy me a Cadillac if I named him Houston Distributing Schuhmacher. To say I was tempted was an understatement. 1. Because I knew Joe was serious and he was good for it. 2. Because I would sell it immediately and use the proceeds to fix our leaky roof. Luckily for Harrison, Lulu refused, and we sold that house with the leaky roof on a sunny day.
Just about every night for the past two weeks we’ve been meeting our friends with freshmen kids going into college at our favorite local Mexican joint to have a “farewell” dinner since they are all leaving on different days. The wives all cry at every dinner. The wait staff who no speakey de engles think that we’re either a very depressed lot or the food is terrible. Last night we got some levity when the daughter of a friend said she was heading off to the Colorado School of Mines. Lulu, who was educated in Europe and so doesn’t know a lot of U.S. stuff, asked innocently, “Oh, they have a school for mimes? As in…” and she did the classic mime-in-a-box routine. The girl was speechless. “Uh, no, it’s more of an engineering school…” This sent us into apoplexy.
What makes me most proud of Big Bear is his ability to easily make friends across the spectrum of people – jocks, nerds, emos, punks, dopers – didn’t matter, Harrison made friends with them all. I respect that trait in anybody.
I’m so proud of him. It brings to mind, or mime, a previous post about Puff the Magic Dragon: “A Dragon lives forever; but not so little boys. Painted wings and giant's rings, make way for other toys. One gray night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more. And Puff that mighty dragon suddenly ceased his fearless roar. His head now bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain. Puff no longer went to play, along that cheery lane. Without his life-long friend, Puff could not be brave, so Puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave.”
It’s true. The little boys we knew suddenly, quite miraculously and with no notice, grow up and are no more. Our little boy is gone, replaced by a fine young man. Oh but I do miss that little boy. He was so sweet. I miss the way he’d run home from the school bus every day and leap into our arms. I miss the way he worshiped bulldozers, and later trains. I miss when he was a baby, and on Saturday mornings to give Lulu a rest I’d put him in the back of my car and drive around Houston for hours listening to 90s music, I miss teaching him to shoot roman candles at the age of two, I miss his little one piece jumpers he’d wear, I miss wispy soft blond hair that always smelled of a mixture of milk and wet puppy, I miss his wide-set baby blue eyes, I miss watching him play baseball at the fields. I miss a lot about that little boy. About 12 years ago, when I was on a trip to Chicago, he left a voicemail message on my office phone because he was so excited that he got a home run. I remember listening to that message about 20 times that night. I had saved it for years, but finally it accidentally got erased. I would give anything to have that message back. So full of excitement. I wish I could go back to that time, cancel my trip, and be at that game.
But now he’s grown up, and now we’ve done all we can do, and he must go forth and face the world on his own. But not matter what happens, he’ll always be Daddy’s Bear.
Big Bear giving pointers to Baby Bear
Saying goodbye to his brother.
In simpler times.