October Surprise: Shocking Youth


I don’t know what else to call this. I’ve fudged the date a bit, but for argument’s sake, let’s say that today is the day. It’s close enough.

Today, my son is studying his butt off to maintain his competitive position at a nice private school. One that puts students into *good* colleges. He has a girlfriend and has for probably a couple of years by now. Hell, I never had a girlfriend when I was in high school. I mean, yeah, this and that, but no, not really. He’s tall and good-looking, which he gets from his mother’s side (well, he gets the height from me), and he’s sharp as a whip.

I recall that when I was in high school, I realized that I had a talent for talking my way out of trouble. This is a valuable skill for a kid who also has a talent for talking his way into trouble. One day I was with my HS friends at the lunch counter, and some jock behind me was going on about how he hated bread. “Ugh. Hate bread. Bread bad,” I said, and felt a massive hand clap me on the back of the neck, and it did not let go. Whoops.

I thought about going out for track, but MAN, all that running. I was good at it, but you know … who needs that? And so it went, and I dropped out of school to start my real life — washing dishes at a Mexican restaurant. I made a friend named Erin (a dude) who convinced me not to play keyboards, but to play guitar, based on some dubious logic of his plus his introducing me to the band Rush, for which I am just everlastingly grateful. Rush, Alan Parsons, Pink Floyd, Blue Öyster Cult, and Yes — those have been my go-to bands for decades, although Radiohead and Muse have expanded the space. Ask me tomorrow, and I’ll have a different answer. But this is today.

Today (“today”), my son is day-for-day the same age that I was when I got on a Southwest 737 and headed off to boot camp. You see, having dropped out of high school as a sophomore and having succeeded at washing dishes, I woke up bolt upright in a cold sweat (that actually happens) and thought “I should not be happy that I have been promoted to fry cook!” and set about to change my life. Little did I know at the time how much my experience at scrubbing baked-on cheese from polished ceramics would count in my early military career. Hah! Take that, invincible pre-algebra teacher!

Today (“today”), my son is day-for-day the same age that I was when I headed off to boot camp. His mother has harried him like — well — like a Harrier or something. My friends were either people I had left behind for my new life or people I would meet in that new life. My son has a cluster of friends, and they are thick like rock, superstar overachievers. These guys may change the world someday. I recall my friends who were alphabetically close to me, because in boot camp, they were the only people within whispering distance. Our “company commander” (think “drill sergeant,” but different) used to play the radio while he punished us for the color of the sky, and one day when “Crocodile Rock” was on, it became quite the jape to do the twist (as was the fashion at the time) when his back was turned. My, how witty we were! That came in handy later when I — oh, wait. None of that mattered at all.

I am the king of second chances, no doubt in part because I am the Lord Protector and Defender of the Faith when it comes to blowing first chances. It’s not easy being me, but it sure is fun.

Yet this post is not about me — at least it certainly isn’t anymore.

Today (“today”), my son is day-for-day the same age that I was when I got to boot camp. Oh, how my mother cried. Or so I am told. She never let me see it. I should need her strength were my son to haul out and screw off to boot camp. Perhaps I could borrow some strength from my wife, whom I see in him.

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  1. Kevin Schulte Member
    Kevin Schulte

    Some enter adulthood trudging thru a long valley of near frozen calf deep mud. The length of that valley has many factors. Others seem to suss thru that valley on an express, ear high Travelator.  

    Your son appears to have a ticket for that Travelator and a ring of companions to boot.  Blessed is he ! Good on you !

    • #1
  2. iWe Coolidge

    I love stories like yours, BDB. As long as there is life, there is opportunity to grow and change. And the stuff that seems inevitable does not need to be.

    I am sure you are a fantastic father. Your son is blessed!

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  3. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    I love this story and your writing! Thanks for sharing a bit of your life; I so enjoy learning about others on Ricochet!

    • #3
  4. KevinKrisher Coolidge

    Thanks for sharing that wonderful story! Also, belated congratulations on your promotion to fry cook.

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  5. BDB Coolidge

    KevinKrisher (View Comment):

    Thanks for sharing that wonderful story! Also, belated congratulations on your promotion to fry cook.

    I peaked early.  

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  6. She Reagan

    KevinKrisher (View Comment):

    Thanks for sharing that wonderful story! Also, belated congratulations on your promotion to fry cook.

    Dittoes.  Also cannot help feeling that you passed up real opportunities for greatness in the fry cook/cheese-scraping world.  Do you never regret those lost chances?

    And all best wishes to your son and the family BDB in the future!

    • #6
  7. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown

    Take a chance and sign up to tell your own story. This post is part of October’s group writing theme: October Surprise. Join in with your own expression of surprise, good or bad, mild or great.

    You are invited to play off of “surprise,” “October,” or both. Stop by today to reserve a day. Interested in Group Writing topics that came before? See the handy compendium of monthly themes. Check out links in the Group Writing Group. You can also join the group to get a notification when a new monthly theme is posted.

    • #7