Milestones tough to hear, accept |

Milestones tough to hear, accept

“You have to grow up sometime.”Just like Vail and Avon have been saying to Edwards for the past five years or so, the chronologically inevitable is bound to occur sooner or later. But on this particular occurrence, the verbal transaction was between me and my oldest as we drove around Winter Park in search of a place for him to rest his soon-to-be graduated head beginning next August. This is Winter Park in Florida – not that small ski hill a few miles from here – and we spent four days last week scouring the north Orlando suburb for living accommodations, taking a tour of the film school he was recently accepted to while also jointly admiring the local “scenery.”Scenery can be subjective, of course, as it depends upon one’s perspective toward the scene being observed. So being the proper male tourists-in-arms that we were, we had our first meal at Hooters.The boy (can I still call him that?) could look but not drink, while I could drink but not look (without feeling incredibly guilty, although of what I am still not exactly sure).”College life’s not all just about girls and parties.”Yes, I know, maybe a tad redundant, but hey, this is the young man’s first tangible impressions of college life, and one can never be too prepared.”Don’t be so sarcastic. You never have a second chance to make a first impression.”Again, not too original, but needed to be said as we approached the school for the first time. These are people we are sending loads of cash to in small unmarked bills in order to spark the opportunities of life upon an impressionable teenager. Nothing can be left to chance, if at all possible.”I really miss the mountains.”Whoa, wait a minute. I could understand my son making each of those earlier comments in my direction, but this one crashed over me like a tsudden tsunami (is it too soon for bad analogies?).Yes, he was correct. I do have to grow up, stop looking at girls like an old pervert, and try to cut back on the sarcasm, but hearing it all from my own progeny was completely unexpected at this stage. My oldest now makes me feel old-er than ever.The depth of the statement also let me know that this potential move a few thousand miles away from the only home he has ever known holds more internal fear and anxiety than Kerry and Gore at a Hilary fund-raiser. Eight months before riding into the high school sunset, he’s verbalizing the trepidation that strikes each of us just before leaving the nest. But his brave new world doesn’t look all that bad.Winter Park is to Orlando as Cherry Creek is to Denver – a lot more money with nicer houses but still within shouting distance to the center of an ugly major city.The film school itself is amazing, akin to a fictional Steve Jobs University having a head-on collision with Hollywood and thousands of potential careers shining in the aftermath.The surrounding neighborhoods seem like Bachelor Gulch on Prozac – tons of dough but as much originality as an Adam Aaron preseason e-mail (This will be our best season yet!).So faster than I can say, “Hey son, remember the time when you were 11 and …,” my first born will no longer be living under my roof. Never again will he receive a report card that I can scream, “You’ll never make it into college if you don’t get serious with these grades!” No more will he come home in the late afternoon and I will ask him, “How was your day?” “Tuck your shirt in,” “Take your hat off,” “Close the damn fridge,” “Don’t you have homework you could be doing?” and “Are you going to play that silly game all night long?” will all be statements in our collective pasts.He’ll have his own roof. He’s already been accepted to the school. Daily answers will be difficult from 2,000 miles away. And his appearance, eating habits, study habits and choices of entertainment will be his and his alone at that point. Ouch.My wife and I have done the best we knew how, and the future is now up to him, not us.”You have to grow up sometime,” was repeated once again while driving around the streets of Winter Park, only this time it was for real and intended to make a valid point. As before, it was pointed squarely in my direction.Looking straight into those maturing eyes, for a moment all I saw was the innocent 5-year-old child who did his best to stretch his little arm around my shoulders one particular afternoon a dozen years ago, not understanding why Daddy was crying uncontrollably on the edge of the bed, but not needing to. Grasping at my shoulder with the most sincerity he could muster, he had said, “Don’t worry, Daddy, it will be all right.”Back in Florida I swallowed hard, but looking straight into those maturing eyes, I knew when to listen to my son. The man was absolutely right, once again. I gently reached over and squeezed his shoulder.”Don’t worry son, I’ll be all right.”A father needs to understand when it is time to begin letting go.Richard Carnes of Edwards writes a weekly column for the Daily. He can be reached at poor@vail.netVail, Colorado

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