A lot of people have taught me a lot of things.
My father, or papa, taught me to do anything for my family as a father/husband. And taught me the start of patience.
My nana… Well she taught me the importance of being a family and the wonder in just taking a drive with no real destination.
I had a few good managers who taught me what it was to be a great leader.
And I had some good nerd friends who taught me to truly love numbers and Excel.
But, looking back now, no one has taught me as much as my son.
I met my son when he was 3. He was part of a package deal for dating his mom and was my first attempt at parenthood. His mom and I were together, mostly on, for 6 years. After that I vowed to stay a part of his life since his Dad wasn’t much of one and he and I had grown on each other.
The first thing I remember teaching my son, and I’m quite proud of this fact, was how to build a Lego house. They were the big Legos, Duplos in fact. He came running up to me with a stack of 5 or 6 Duplos, one on top of another. He could have said it was a wand, or a chimney, or a stick. He proudly held it up and said, “Look Josh, I built a house.” This was before I was ‘Dad’ to him.
I told him how good it was and asked if he’d like to know how to build a better house. He was excited at this prospect so I sat in the floor and showed him how to lay 2 Legos next to each other and lock them together with one on top. Rinse and repeat.
We built a simple square house that day.
I remember the first time I reflected back on this day. He was 8. He came out exclaiming he’d made a helicopter. He had the basic shape of the cockpit but no tail, no tail rotor, no landing gear. I asked him if it would help if he was a picture of a helicopter. Pulling one up on Google for him and he spent about 5 minutes looking at it. He understood the purpose of the top rotor and I explained the tail and tail rotor. I also explained the landing sled.
5 minutes he looked at it. And 30 minutes later he came back with a perfect helicopter. Not only that, it was working. The rotors spun and everything. I remembered showing him how to build a simple house, now I couldn’t even keep up.
Now he is even faster. At 13 he can put together a 400+ piece set of lego’s in about 45 minutes. <100 piece sets are about 10 minutes and barely worth his time but he loves them and always adds more parts from his collection to make them bigger and better.
Another thing I taught my son was the love of Star Wars. We watched the original trilogy together a lot and went to the theaters to see the new ones together. At 4 he could tell you all about his favorite character, Anakin, and how he becomes Vader. He can now quote Star Wars, and possibly even better, Weird ‘Al’ songs.
Of course, since his mom and I aren’t together anymore, you can imagine not all times were good. There are a lot of bad points in his life I wish I could erase. Some are big and others are smaller. For instance, when I was first a ‘father’ I was the kind who would come home and say the TV is mine we’re watching what I want. And you need to quiet down please. Go to your room if you want to watch that or play that or be loud.
Now, I want the kids around. I hate that he isn’t here now and feel horrible for wasting some of the time we did have together.
Because, as a child with Aspergers, he taught me more than I could ever teach him. He continued teaching me patience. I mean, a LOT of patience. I’m a very very patient person these days thanks to him.
My son taught me true humility. My son loves birthdays and Christmases. He loves getting gifts and enjoys helping pick out gifts as well. He isn’t shy about telling you all the things he wants. And every year I try to get him at least one big gift. One year I was so proud to afford an 80 dollar Bumblebee Transformer. It was about half his size and took him a few days to figure out how to transform. At first there was one part he couldn’t do without help because he wasn’t quite strong enough yet and the rest of it would take him about 40 minutes to do. But he loved it greatly.
And of course I buy big Lego sets. But this last year, for Christmas I was about to be fully homeless and had no money. When you are really poor, everything you see is something you can’t have. Worse than that, everything your son asks for is something you can’t get him.
And for my birthday, we didn’t have money to really go out and do anything. And the last day I was able to see my son this year, before moving to take a job in another city, we could only sit in a motel room and watch TV and play with his Halo figures.
But this child, this kid who loves gifts and having things has never felt bad when someone couldn’t get him something. For Christmas he wanted me to worry about me. For my Birthday he said, “At least you get to hang out with an awesome son like me.” And on the last day I saw him he said, it’s ok, I just want to be with you.
All the months after that when we would talk I’d have to have the heartbreaking conversation over and over that I didn’t have the money to come and see him and he would say, “well, it sucks that I don’t get to see you, but at least you have a job now.” And he’d tell me to make sure I had food and a home.
The other night I was talking on the phone with him. He is living even further away now with his nana. She had him out shopping for clothes when I was talking to him and at one point he pulled the phone away and said something to her. He then got back on the phone and said, “Nana was trying to show me a shirt and I told her, hey, I’m talking to a guy I don’t get to talk to very often and he means a lot to me, way more than a shirt so just give me a minute.”
His bluntness levels are spot on.
This Christmas, I may not be the wealthiest person and I am still scraping by after starting my life over again. But I am getting my son some gifts. From last Christmas I feel like a Rockefeller (Or a Gates, for you younger readers) with talk of people asking me what I want for Christmas and a fiancee who is excited about getting her kids gifts, decorating my house, and helping get my son gifts. A child she has yet to meet.
My son has taught me patience, humility, kindness, understanding, tenacity, frustration (he is a kid, after all), caring, and most of all, true unconditional love.
Happy ThanksTweeting Son. I miss you. I love you. And I will talk to you soon… but not now ’cause it’s like 3 in the morning.