Wednesday, March 5, 2014
SLICE #5/31- PARENTING FROM AFAR
Son #2: What am I doing for spring break?
I have been asking this question for several weeks, but with only minimal response, "I don't know. I'll let you know."
And now: What am I doing for spring break?
This seems like a conversation that might be easier to have in person, and so I dial his number.
Even though it's been less than a minute since he texted, I am surprised when he answers his phone. Son #2 is not the most conversant guy I know. We talk briefly about Spring Break, about school, and about his new job as a car hop at a fast food place.
I think we are about done talking and I am about to hang up, when K says, "Wait. I want to ask you about something. I mean, I'm ok and school's ok, and everything, but I just want to ask you about something."
My heart beats a little faster. I wonder what he wants to ask about.
"Well, see, there's this guy. A teammate. He's kind of crazy. I've talked to you about him before. He's the one that drags his girlfriend around by the hair."
I do know about his kid. In October, when I went to see K, he told me about several incidents with this player and his girlfriend. He said the kid was abusive. Wondered what he should do about it.
K continues talking. "So anyway, a couple of weeks ago, he and these other guys got drunk and started kicking in doors. And they got arrested and a couple of them are in jail. They've been there two weeks."
My heart beats faster still.
"I wasn't involved or anything, but they want me to put the title of my car up for bail, so they can get out of jail."
I am shocked. "What? Your car?" I don't even have to think about this one. "Absolutely not!" I don't totally understand the ramifications of putting one's car title up for bail, but I am pretty sure it's not a good idea.
"Well that's what I thought. But some of my teammates keep calling and texting me. And the kid's mom even called and asked me to do it. They are saying I'm not a good teammate."
I try to stay calm. We talk for a few minutes about possible ramifications. About the meaning of team. I suggest that K go and talk to the coach and explain what is going on.
And then I think we are ready to hang up again. But then K says, "So I talked to Coach Burton."
"Yeah?" I say. Coach Burton was K's quarterback coach in high school. It was his connection that took K to where he is now. Last I heard, Coach Burton was interviewing for a position at a college in Colorado. He wanted K to apply there.
"He wants me to join the Air Force," K says. "He says I will probably never make it in the NFL and I should just join the Air Force now, so I can start making money."
And for the second time in this conversation, I feel like I have been socked in the stomach. I fight to stay calm. My boys' mental health has been a hard war. I cannot imagine sending them to Iraq or Afghanistan. I wonder if the fragile, hard fought inner peace could survive something like that.
"Really? What do you think about that?"
"I don't know. I don't think I want to do it. I don't want to go to war."
"Well then don't do it," I say, more than a little relieved (and also feeling really selfish when I think about all the moms that actually are sending their sons and daughters to war).
"But I don't know why he would say that. He sent me all the way out here. And now I'm here and he wants me to drop out and go to war. I don't get it."
I don't really get it either, but I try to listen as K thinks aloud for a few more minutes. We talk about the difference between jobs and careers, and careers and hobbies.
And then finally he is done. Tells me he loves me. Hangs up.
And I stand in the middle of the kitchen, holding the phone, pretty sure I missed another page in the parenting manual.