In the days I spent pre-writing this column in my head, I’ve tried — unsuccessfully — to come up with a better intro.
Better than going all the way back to when our 15-year-old son was born — five-and-one-half weeks early. He woke us in the middle of the night, and after a panicked phone call to our doctor, my wife and I were sitting, bleary-eyed, in a room at Bayfront Medial Center in St. Petersburg.
It was April 26, 2008; Lyric wasn’t supposed to arrive until June. We were supposed to have another month and change to prepare. And with all the naiveté that comes with being a first-time parent, I was sure I would have been prepared given that extra time.
But within hours of arriving to the hospital, we met our beautiful, tiny boy. He had a head full of hair. And dimples! Somehow, when I held him, he felt both too light and like the weight of the world — all at the same time.
Then, I made the mistake of blinking.
BEHIND THE WHEEL
Sometime between his 14th and 15th birthday, Lyric changed from looking like that baby boy at Bayfront Medical to the handsome young man he is becoming.
But, as he gingerly let his foot off the brake for the first time, I caught a glimpse of my boy.
Wasn’t it just yesterday that we were hoping to get 40 milliliters into his tiny body? Wasn’t it just yesterday that he and I worked together to become the baby swaddling champs of the Southeast?
How, then, is he behind the wheel? And what’s more: How is it possible that he has to adjust the seat because he needs more leg room?!
The day before, Lyric was sitting inside the DMV at West Oaks Mall, smiling at a camera for his learner’s permit photo. He beamed with pride as he held the card in his hands for the first time, snapping a photo of it to text to his buddies.
“Whooaaaaa,” he exclaimed as our family SUV idled forward.
“OK, now touch the brake,” I said.
We lunged forward as the car froze in place. We both laughed.
“I told you — it’s kind of sensitive,” I said. “Don’t worry: You’re doing great.”
Over the next half-hour or so, we snaked through our church’s parking lot. I advised him on everything I could — turning, parking, stopping, signaling. He touched all the buttons and levers as I told him what each one did.
I reveled in the moment — over-exaggerating praise as he almost made it into a parking spot or completed a right turn without hitting the curb.
I didn’t take as many photos as I did in the days we spent in the hospital. And I suppose that’s one of the reasons I’m writing this down: I don’t want to forget these moments.
When Lyric was done for the day, we switched places and went on home. I’m quite sure I was beaming at least as brightly as he was when we told my wife how great he had done.
“It’s just like playing ‘Forza,’ isn’t it?” I joked with him.
COMMITTING TO MEMORY
When my wife and I became parents, we always knew we weren’t raising kids. Rather, we were raising adults.
But Lyric is fewer than three years away from that, and there are plenty of days I question whether we are succeeding. Every day, there seems to be more lessons — more things I forgot to say. His questions are getting harder to answer. Life is getting more complicated.
Just like how nothing could have prepared us for becoming parents to a newborn, the teenage years also are throwing us for a loop. Gone are the days when we had all the answers. So, too, are the days when a hug or bowl of ice cream could make everything better.
But, in their places are the moments when an entire auditorium falls silent as Lyric performs a solo piano piece. Or when, for his birthday, he chooses to dress up for dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steak House with his parents. And much too soon for me, it will be when he walks across the stage to receive his high school diploma.
Lyric was a tad more comfortable behind the wheel when we went out driving the next evening. Already, his accelerating and braking were smoother, and we even crossed the street into the parking lot of his former elementary school. And with cones blocking the way, he had to execute a three-point turn, which he did to perfection.
“That was amazing!” I screamed. “I couldn’t have done it better myself!”
The sun was quickly setting, allowing dusk to pull its curtain over the parking lot. We turned on the headlights before he crossed back over into the church parking lot for a few more minutes that this dad is desperate to remember.