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Saturday, June 20, 2009


J. Grant Swank, Jr.

I stood at the kitchen window and looked out into the backyard to find my boy there. I had been reading in the living room, but l5 minutes had gone by with no tremors, so I thought it wise to check to see if my tyke was still in the land of good behavior.

He was.

He maneuvered his plastic, red wheelbarrow around the yard. First he filled it with dirt from the fence side. Then he emptied it by the back steps. Then that same dirt was loaded again and taken near the sandbox. All the while, he kept talking to himself. I am sure he was talking over some grand details of construction. That is just the way he is.

My four-year-old looks like he should be in first grade. He does not take after me, for I am his father by adoption.

One of these days, he will have delight in looking down on my weary head. Yet adopted or not, he is my boy--completely, l00 percent--maybe even more so, if that is possible.

You see, I have two wonderful daughters, but I have only one son.

He trots about in his red running shorts and tank top. One would think he ruled the earth. He has lined up on the back steps an empty, plastic pancake syrup bottle and an empty soft drink bottle, both of which he sneaked out of the kitchen. I dare not touch either of them, for somehow they both fit into that construction job.

We returned last week from vacationing on Cape Cod, but my boy did not get his tan from the beach. He is multiracial, and so those smooth, brown limbs come from birth. How handsomely he gestures to his willing subjects lined up by the woodpile. His world is thus far safe from any knowledge of a nuclear age, creeping world starvation, prejudice, inflation, murder and rape.

I left the kitchen window and went back to the living room, wondering what the future holds for that moldable clay.

In a flash, he will be asking for the keys to the car, choosing his own clothes, testing the ropes of parental discipline, wrestling with his own urges for independence, questioning the standards of his father, questing into the realms of the invisible.

I have but a bit of time.

Now it’s a wheelbarrow with a bowl of loose dirt. Soon it will be the motorcycle.

Now it is the confines of the backyard fence. Soon it will be the world.
Now it is the afternoon nap, still enforceable. Soon it will be arguing over night curfews.

I am determined to take advantage of this day to get to know my boy better. I will not allow this hour to be thrown away. At least I have this opportunity to balance fatherly discipline with love.

The battle for the buck will not come between my boy and me. Nor will rat race mania. Not even all those meetings at the church building. Ah, no.
Well, here it comes--another interruption. He stands now beside this typewriter with a balloon in his hand. But this one just burst and now there are tears.

How can I write an article and take care of a balloon burial at the same time?
Easy. My boy comes first. The typewriter will not up and away, but one of these days my boy will do just that.

But right now he is here with me, viewing the remains of a blue balloon.