10 October 2006

One is the loneliest number...

...unless you're at a band competition.

My son Tiger's marching band received an overall score of "1" at last weekend's Lake Martin Invitational Band Tournament. That, of course, is top score ... 2 is middling ... and I don't even want to think about 3. Fortunately for all the bands present (damn near half the high school marching bands in Alabama), there were no 3s doled out. Out of three judges, two of 'em gave the Elmore County High School "Maroon Machine" band a "1" -- the other one, alas, copped 'em a 2.

Eh, he's probably the dentist who voted against Trident. Screw 'im. What's important is, ECHS got an overall 1. And best of all, the percussion section (of which my son is part) got a 1. I was fortunate to be sitting next to him as the results were announced ... and the elation on the kid's face!

Backtracking a few weeks: I had the pleasure of seeing the kid in action at a football game back in mid September, and I had the even higher pleasure of observing a sight I hadn't seen in many, many years: my son, grinning and cutting up among friends. Tiger is so obviously in his element, especially within the band clique.

After the game, I was waiting in the car outside the band room, and when he got into the car he began gushing about some of his bandmates, who were then staging an impromptu drum recital outside the band area. Then he said five words that made a grown man cry:

I'm so happy here, Dad.

He didn't have to tell me; I could see it all over his face. He has nothing but great things to say about his friends in the band, about his band director ("Mister V" they call him), and the school in general. Geographically, it's 28 miles from his old school, Capitol Heights in Montgomery, but in my son's attitude, temperament and overall state of mind, it feels more like 28,000.

He even feels comfortable in his new hometown of Eclectic, Ala. ... even though the closest thing to fast food is Subway, and his three favorite eateries -- Burger King, Chick-Fil-A and Whataburger -- are all more than 30 minutes away. For a 14-year-old, that's saying something.

We had a wonderful time heading southward toward Troy with a (very) late-night supper at Whataburger on the way down. His tastes in music are beginning to tread into classic rock, and has discovered stuff his Dad has known and loved for many years. Lately my son and I have had some great fun together ... his sense of humor has suddenly blossomed into a thing of beauty: fun, dry, acerbic and sarcastic! Yet, there's no disrespect anymore. I ask him to do something, and there's little resistance (there'll always be some; my son's a teenager, after all!).

Simply put, I love being around my kid again. My son can sometimes drive me into fits of laughter just with the way he'll say something.

Compare that with that a year ago. Last year, Tiger was borderline "goth" -- carrying a big chip on his shoulder, full of darkness, bitterness, poor grades, slipshod attendance, and doing everything to alienate himself from just about everything in his life, Dad included.

It's remarkable what a year, a change of location, and my ex-wife waking up and smelling the coffee can do. And even more so when this all occurred largely at the suggestion of Josiebelle's sister, who lives in Eclectic! I have to give the real credit here. It's my ex-SIL Laurie who pulled some strings and helped get him into the band. And that's no small feat, given he practically burned his band bridges in 7th grade at Capitol Heights (blame spread: 45% Tiger's laziness; 20% environment; 35% band director is downright mean and intimidating, and did not return phone calls and e-mails to Dad ... sorry, I don't think much of "teachers" who won't respond to parents).

If the initial plan (getting him over here to Effingham County - ironically, another ECHS!) had happened, there was no way I could've gotten him into band. Band is what is driving my son's passion right now, and I believe I'm witnessing the birth of a real "band geek."

Seraphim and I could've given him a better environment, a great school and a stable life (not to mention a cleaner, more orderly house). But Josiebelle, with Laurie's help, has given him two out of three (sorry, but Josie's new house looks just as trashed and decrepit as the one back in Montgomery) ... not to mention something else: a second chance in band, which has relit my son's passion for making music ... and with it, lots and lots of friends!

And while my neat-freak Mom would disagree - I think that's vastly more important than the look of one's living space.

Thank you, Josiebelle. And double thanks, Laurie.

Please continue to pray that this keeps up. I want nothing but a good, fun and happy high school existence for my son, something I didn't really have.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "Proud Dad" Gleck

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