You know, sometimes there are things you should just not write about. This may be one of those things. Not sure, so I’ll judge by your reaction as to whether or not I’ve erred here.
Frank decides he wants to go out for lunch. He rarely makes that request. In fact he’s never made that request, so we go. It’s just me and him. He’s very decisive about where he wants to eat too. You know, that place with the cows and the funny words…
He knows the name, he’s just being a pain because he thinks he’s asked for chicken too many times. Plus the chik-fil-a he wants to go to is the one with the playground in it and he thinks I won’t want to take him there. So I give him two quick life lessons.
Lesson 1: I can eat my body weight in chick-fil-a chicken, and I can do that every night; twice a day if necessary. There is never a time I can’t be talked into chicken and waffle fries.
Lesson 2: I have no issue with the playground joint. It’s fenced in, the only way in is through the restaurant. Our southern border should be so secure. Plus he’s six now, I don’t have to watch him. He can go out there on his own and I can sit in chick-fil-a air conditioning, necking down a box golden fried chicken like objects with alarming efficiency.
But like I always say no selfish deed ever goes unpunished. Well I never say that really but it’s still true. As I’m relaxing in relative quiet, muckling what I’m sure was once a chicken, I look up as Frank is coming back in from the playground. Two things happen. I realize he’s coming in to finish his lunch. That would be the lunch I am currently eating. Whoops.
The other thing? I see out of the corner of my eye a very tall snot nosed 14 year old making for the same door as Frank but going in the opposite direction and moving much faster, fueled by whatever life altering angst he’s currently carrying. The kid slams the door open, sending my 6 year old flying backward off his feet, onto his back.
I am three steps to the snot nose kid before Frank can get up. I can’t decide what I’m going to do when I get there, but I resign myself to the fact it won’t be pleasant for anyone involved but me. As I get through the door and move toward the now pouting teen and what appears to be his parents, Frank is up and jabbering on about something.
It occurs to me Frank is trying to tell me something in a very excited almost hyper fashion. Great, his friggen brains are all scrambled, probably has a concussion. No golf for me tomorrow. It’s my only four hours out of the house. I can’t be missing my tee time cause I’m in trouble for breaking Frank. Now I’m really gonna make Tommy Troubled Teen pay.
But I can’t because my now brain damaged son is jabbering and grabbing my pants. So it hits me, why isn’t he crying? When his sister hits him half as hard he’s inconsolable for an hour. Frank just got catapulted across the playground and he’s extremely excited about something.
I finally heard it and my heart sank. Stopped me dead in my tracks. My anger all but dissolved. I can’t see Snot Nosed Ultra-angst Teen anymore. I can only see the next 15+ years of my 6 year old’s life. I was hoping this would come much later. Hoping I’d have him hooked on golf for life so he would have a safe haven after the first one broke his heart.
Daddy she’s here. She’s here!
Oh son, you have no idea how much I want to protect you from the pain coming your way at some point or another for the next several years, maybe more. I’m not a gambling man but unless this girl is the one you’ll grow old with, I’m betting there’s a few more heartbreaks in your future.
I’m happy you’re happy but I already ache for the ache coming your way. There is no way around it, over it, or past it. You just have to live through it until you finally find your one.
And yeah, will Frank break a heart or two, of course. But right now, the look in his eye, and knowing how his heart works, some girl is gonna crush him. It’s life but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with, for son or father.
I didn’t even know who he was talking about, but I assumed it was someone from his kindergarten class, kids he hasn’t seen since school let out a month ago. I know who she is now and obviously won’t name her. She’s 6 as well so no doubt she can read the drivel I write but I’m guessing she’s not a Frank’s Place follower. No matter, he was so excited she was there he was unfazed by Too Tall Teen knocking him off his feet.
Turns out Frank wasn’t coming to eat, just to tell me; Daddy she’s here!
As he finishes telling me about her he decides he does want some of his chicken after all. Unfortunately heartache came sooner than later. He looks at the empty box and then looks at me. Sorry dude, it’s in my belly. Saying that with the fat man’s Irish accent from Austin Powers movies doesn’t assuage his disappointment.
He was crest fallen. But that was an ache I could fix, and fix fast. A quick trip to the counter and he was eating again in no time. And by no time I mean he plowed through that chicken, keeping one eye on her the whole time. When she ran back out to the playground, off he went. Never even looked back.
I watched him through the glass, another plus of this joint, it was like having your own little kid zoo without the gorilla feces toss. As I watched him follow her around I thought, his little whatever this is may have kept me out of jail. I really wanted to go do violence to the kid, but I had just opened a fresh honey mustard and a chik-fil-a sauce, and Frank left some chicken on his plate, so…
I don’t generally feel one bit of my 48 years. However moments like that, watching my son getting happy over a girl while I eat all his honey mustard chicken is actually better than doing murder. The mind was willing, but the body weak. Apparently I must be getting old.
Jerk weed and his parents leave the place and Frank waves me out to the playground. He is up in the big climbing maze like thing they have and going full tilt. But he stops long enough to ask me if I saw her. Oh Frank.
She went back inside with her family and after ten minutes in the sweltering heat I decide it’s time to go. Just as Frank starts to climb down she comes back out and actually speaks to him. I feel this won’t end well for me.
She says “Come on Frank.” I absent mindedly say at almost the same time, “Hey man let’s make tracks, chop chop.” And this moment will be forever etched in my mind. Surely it’s a memory that will follow me even beyond the grave into the ether.
My 6 year old son looks down at me from this giant kid hive and gives me a look. The look. Then he has to do it again cause I have no idea what he’s trying to say. I resist channeling my mother by yelling at the top of my lungs, “What did you say!” Thus outing any covert messaging he might be trying to convey.
As I bear down to concentrate I realize he’s looking at me, then nodding his head toward you know who, and then back at me. Without using words, and now that I’m paying attention, two bros have just communicated about 8 paragraphs worth of information in two nods.
Basically he was saying pop don’t jam me up here. Can we hang for a few more. She’s right there and talking to me. Wait right over there with the grandparents, I’ll be down in like 10. Attempting to process what just happened I walk to the old people area and sit down. I was conflicted.
Obviously I don’t want to wreck whatever game the kid is running. On the other hand do I really want to be complicit in letting the kid run game? That answer is pretty easy actually. He’s going to fall for who ever he’s gonna fall for, with my input or not. I take solace in the fact he involved me, ever so slightly, in this part of his life.
Playing golf as much as I do invariably I’ll run into people from the other side of the tracks; the rich side that is. Some 30 year old will be running his yapper about some business deal or about being on the precipice of becoming a half millionaire or whatever and I’ll make a joke about my bad life choices. You don’t join the military for the money. That statement gets truer and more apparent after a 22 year hitch.
But as corny as it must sound, even though I’m almost 48 and he’s only 6, seeing my Frank get goofy over a girl restores my faith in my life choices.
Well except for eating about 10lbs of fried chicken like pieces. I paid dearly for that life choice later on.