I looked over to catch my son and his friend tossing kettle corn in to the air and attempting to catch it in their mouths. They were laughing, cracking jokes and clearly enjoying themselves as they waited for the hockey game to begin.
My fears had been proven unfounded, and the Zambonis were still laying down fresh ice.
Maybe fears is too strong a word, but I had concerns how this night would go. My son’s friend lost his father to cancer the day after Christmas. And before you think that I possess the kindness and sensitivity to provide a night of escapism for this young boy you should know Kim is the one who made it happen. All I did was provide the transportation and kettle corn.
It’s a wonderful sight to see your child genuinely connect with a friend, and that’s what I saw tonight. They shared the same jokes, finished each others sentences and even joined in the “Portland sucks!” fan chant after the Thunderbirds scored their third goal.
On the ride home, I asked my son’s friend to tell me about his brother, who I found out earlier, is a Marine serving in Afghanistan. The reverence in his voice told me how much he admired him. He went on to explain that his sister had recently joined the Naval Academy.
“It’s just me, my other sister and my mom now.”
As I drove along the Green River that connects Kent to Auburn, I listened to this 8-year boy share details about his father. He spoke with a confidence and pride that belie his age. I suspect that having to deal with a personal tragedy this young age tends to accelerate the maturity process.
I thought back to my father helping me sculpt my pinewood derby when I was eight and wondered who will do the same for him? Who will show him how to grip a curveball, throw a spiral, or talk to him about girls in a few years? These things have a way of taking care of themselves is what I tell myself.
The game went longer than I’d anticipated. I hoped his mother would understand, but we weren’t far from his home now.
Given his brother and sister’s military service, I asked if he planned to serve when he got older. He didn’t answer immediately, and I wondered if he’d heard me.
“I’m going to join the Army because my dad was in the Army.”
We pulled up to his home, and Lincoln walked him to the door.
As I waited in the car I thought to myself how it was a good thing I was the only person sitting in the front seat tonight.