For the last six days our house was graced by the presence of my erstwhile son Tiger.
This would've been the first time he's been over here by himself since last June. Spring Break didn't work out due to a short-lived job, and at Christmas he did come visit as usual, however the spotlight was 'shared' with our nephew Boogie.
Anyway, the kid was here for nearly a full week, and there was some good fun, like what we called our "family fun day": an afternoon of mini-golf and bowling for Memorial Day. Tiger won the mini-golf game, and over three games of bowling, I won two games of three - Tiger the other. While I enjoy bowling, I truly suck at it. My form is embarrassing, that much is true (Seraphim captured a nice AVI of it on the digital camera ... sheesh!).
FFD continued with board games, but with just my son and me. Sera had some cakes to work on. Thanks to a good luck of the tile draw and some good plays on his part, my son beat me at SCRABBLE. It was a competitive game, and he pulled it off toward the end.
But MONOPOLY was another matter. Despite the kid having achieved the grand poo-bah (Park Place & Boardwalk and hotels on both), I had a few other 'developed' monopolies, and he managed to land on 'em one time too many. I also had the Mediterranean/Baltic pair -- I always buy those, gleefully wallowing in my status as a slumlord (Once, after he paid the lofty $450 hotel rent, I said "And you'd better brush off all those cockroaches before you leave, they're hotel property.")
I enjoy MONOPOLY ... memories of games with my brother, and playing for blood.
Games were fun, and we watched a couple of movies in the process, too.
My son is now into game shows, would you believe. Most of the time, GSN was on in his room (he doesn't get that channel at home), and one evening I turned him on to some long-lost shows via a bunch of classic TV goodies I'd gotten in a recent trade. He got to see what the original Hollywood Squares looked like. That, and High Rollers -- man, the look on Tiger's face when he saw Alex Trebek circa 1979, jet-black curly-q hair and moustache and all!
Oh, and he couldn't believe Chuck Woolery ever could've hosted Wheel of Fortune. But he did. The original host, most of you remember (Sajak took over in 1981). He agreed with me that Woolery was the better of the two. And that Susan Stafford - the original "letter-turner" - looked far better than Botox Vanna. But he loved High Rollers.
Family fun. Yeah. Which brings up the reality of things today, and the happiness and sadness I feel at the same time. Mostly happiness.
My son is quite popular in his band clique. On the way over from picking him up last weekend, his cellphone rang no fewer than four times, each with different people. "Sorry, I'm with my Dad in Georgia for the week", he said each time. I almost hated taking him away from all that. But Tiger wanted to come over as much as we wanted to have him here.
A lot of his idle time was spent IM'ing with friends. Okay, mostly 'friend.' As in, 'girlfriend.' "Punkk" is the special girl in his life, and he was like any 16-year-old would be when fronted with a week-long absence from his S.O. It wasn't a moping he felt - just missing her a lot. Glad to be visiting, but ready to get home to see Punkk.
Thinking back and comparing my life at the end of 10th grade to my son's life at this point ... he's doing much better than I was. For that I'm very, very happy.
Happy for him and his life. As his Dad I'm no longer a major figure in his world. We miss each other and say as much, and we still keep in touch via MySpace, although the truth is that Dad has segued to the background.
The days of active weekends in Alabama together are pretty much on their way out. It's gone from every other weekend at the beginning, to every three weeks for a long time, then once monthly, and it's now moving toward every six weeks or so. As I see it, I've done my "duty" as a Dad by the frequent visits over there as he's grown up. And I've never thought of it as a "duty"; I wouldn't have had it any other way. Tiger can say whatever he wants about Dad, but he can never say I wasn't there. I'll still be there, too, although he's now at an age where he'd rather be with friends. And you know what? I'd rather him be with friends, too.
So why do I feel sad?
The house is empty. Too empty. I enjoyed having my kid around, even if he was messaging with friends. Walking into his room after he left and seeing an empty can of Mr. Pibb in the trash depressed me. Tiger was here.
I'm glad I feel this way, too. Tiger and I both survived a very rough patch a couple of years back when he was extremely unhappy at his school in Montgomery. Combined with early-teen rage, and - yes - attempts by my ex-wife to manipulate his feelings toward me, and there were some visits in the 2003-2005 era where I didn't get all depressed after he left. No, it was more like "Good riddance. J-belle, he's your problem now." One Summer (2005), I even took him home from Rincon a day early. I'd had my fill of his attitude.
I remember back then saying how much I missed feeling sad. So, yes, I'm happy to again feel sad. If that makes any sense.
Plainly and simply, I'm elated for my son. While the visits might now be less frequent, Tiger knows I'm always here when he wants to talk.
He's growing up into an amazing person. And I couldn't be prouder.
Ciao for niao.
--Talmadge "Empty Room" Gleck
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