The planned blogging activity today was some quick coverage of the Roger Simon book signing/blog dinner last night, with complements to the various bloggers who attended and their intelligence and quick wit, etc. Then I was going to sit down and finish something for the 4th of July to put up tonight. As Patio Pundit notes in his good comments about last night, plans change. If you've read my stuff for a while, you'll know that I have three sons by two mothers - they are 19, 17, and 6. For the last five years, they have been the primary focus of my life. Biggest Guy, as I call him, is spending the summer here, back from his first year in college at the University of Virginia. He's been back for a month, but our respective work schedules and all of the 'back home social activity' that he's been engaged in kept us from spending any time alone together, until today.
We had a bunch of errands to do together, which involved a lot of time in the car, which as is usually the case with the two of us, turned into a fairly serious set of discussions about how each of us is doing. When I asked him how he was and commented that he's been pretty reserved, he explained that he's been contemplating things. He's been thinking about science and business, and whether those will make him happy right now. I explained that this was a pretty normal state for a 19 year old, and wryly added that certainty would be something he would give up on much later in life. If not those, I asked, what? The military, he responded. He likes to fly (he has about 15 hours in gliders), and he's also interested in the Air Force PJ's. His Grandpa Charles was a General in the Air Force - well, the French Air Force - and maybe he feels a legacy there. We talked about it some more, and left it that he wasn't thinking about dropping out of school, but that he was going to look into ROTC and other things that he could start doing in Fall when he gets back to school. He'd made up his mind, he explained to me. He asked what I thought about it, and how it made me feel. I told him that intellectually, I thought it a good thing for two reasons: First because, given who he is, I think that issues of masculinity and of 'an adventurous passage' that he could point, to are extremely important to helping him cross the boundary between boy and man. I've known that those issues have always been important to him, from the time he was a small, smiling boy. Second, because we live in parlous times, and each of us has to pay our dues. I've never felt lessened by the fact that I did not serve in the '70s. But I also have never felt the level of threat that I feel today. If I believed as I do and I was 19 today, I don't doubt that I'd share his thoughts if not his actions. Emotionally, I'm more than a little stunned, and I have a number of contradictory feelings that I'm going to be trying to assemble for a while. Obviously, I am damn frightened. One of the forces that has driven me to want to deal with the political/ military issues that we face right now Right Now is my absolute desire not to leave them behind for my children. I've always been achingly aware that I have two teenage boys, and I know very well what wartime could mean for them. And I'm proud. Surprisingly it's a mixture that has only a small part of hand-over-the-heart-and-sing-the-Anthem pride, and a very large part of pride in a young man who can look for what he wants, decide on it, and choose a path that even he admits appears dauntingly difficult. And do so, as he explains it, because it meets his needs - not mine, or his mothers', or anyone else's. He told me that he feels that it will take him toward becoming the kind of man he wants to become, as opposed to the kind of man that he'll become if he just waits around. Over the next few days, we'll see how the moms take it. I'll connect him to some of my military and ex-military friends, and I'll trust that they'll help guide his decisions and thoughts with a healthy dose of reality. Obviously, he's not shipping off anywhere except his job at a local restaurant today. Nothing in what we've discussed is certain. But he's a pretty determined fellow, and now it looks as though he's put his foot on a path where I can't guide him. And by doing that alone, he's taken some large steps toward being the kind of man he wants to be.