The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Rocket Man and Boy

I took Jason to a wonderful hobby shop on Saturday, and bought him his first Estes rocket. I wanted a rocket that would be easy to build...but not too easy. One where he would have to take steps one at a time, see the progress, become and overcome frustration, understand the value of planning and cooperation, have opportunities for me to get "angry" (yeah, right) with him when he makes safety errors or doesn't follow directions...ah, the possibilities are endless.

We built it in about four hours and Sunday afternoon took it to the park. The first park was closed. We drove to his new school, and there was no open space. The third park we went to was perfect. We set the rocket on its platform, attached the igniter to the engine and put in the plug, attached the ignition wires, and tested the circuit by pushing down the safety key. The bulb lit brightly.

He was so excited he could hardly contain himself. While Tananarive took photos and film, we had a count-down: "!" and I let him push the button. Oh MY! I'd forgotten the sheer pleasure of watching the rocket zip up, SWOOSH! Keep climbing two, three, four...five hundred feet! Trailing a snake of white smoke...then clear air as it soars...then the secondary charge popping out the parachute, followed by a spiraling descent to Earth and a light, lovely landing.

Jason was popping out of his skin with joy. We did it again, and then after some free play time, headed home. That night, tucking him into bed, he asked me the sweetest question I may have ever heard.

"Your Daddy wasn't there to teach you, Daddy?" He asked.
"Not much, no." I have no memory of my father throwing a ball with me, teaching me to read, helping me with homework...nothing. He was a good man. He just wasn't there.
"Well, then," Jason said, heavy with happy fatigue, "How did you learn to be such a good Daddy?"

The lump rising in my throat almost choked me. I wanted to run out of the room, but didn't. Jason deserves to see my tears, my heart.

"I just ask myself what I would have wanted," I said. "You're teaching me how to be a good Daddy."
"And you're teaching me how to be a good son," he said.

Now that was a fine day. It's a good life, if only you decide to care about the right things.

1 comment:

Shady_Grady said...

Beautiful. Thanks for this.