...while reading Karin Slaughter's "Fractured," I ran across a passage on page 247 that caused me to stop, re-read, and burn the next twenty minutes lost in thought.
"...Will wondered if he was remembering what it felt like to hold his son's hand. Was that the sort of thing father's did? At the park, out in public, fathers and sons were always playing ball or tossing frisbees, the only contact between them a rustle of the hair or a punch on the arm. This seemed to be how dad's taught their boys how to be men, but there had to be a point, maybe early on, when they were able to hold their hands. One tiny one engulfed by one big one. Adam would have needed help crossing the street. In a crowd, you wouldn't want him to wander off. Yes, Will decided. Simon had held his son's hand..."
Earlier this evening, under somber skies threatening of rainfall, my wife and I were in attendance for our oldest son's Spring Concert. A sax enthusiast, he'd been practicing for weeks on what he self-proclaimed as being his biggest show yet. He refused to go into details with us, his obvious goal to allow for the element of surprise as his gift for Mom and Dad.
Okay, so we played along.
The show began without a hitch. As is surely the case with most 7th grade bands, the majority of tunes are for the most part recognizable, with the occaisional hiccup here, a random out of sync toot over there, an errant tweet from the back row, but nothing overly obnoxious, (although I did manage to spot a retiree turning down the volume on his hearing aid,) and every song worthy of applause.
Then the surprise.
Following the second song, a hush settled over the crowd as my son, dressed in khakis, a polo shirt, and those butterscotch wavy locks hovering over his eyes as is the going trend for young men these days, stepped forward, front and center upon the stage. His band teacher, a smile curling his lip upward, slipped behind a piano sitting off in the shadows.
The lights dimmed. I held my breath.
The piano's soft keys began to hum. Then, without any cue or hesitation, my son curled his fingers around his golden alto sax, and began to play.
Teacher and student. A spring melody. His very first solo.
I heard no tweets. No toots or huffs. Every note timely and on cue. Three full pages of music, played without a hitch.
My wife's grip around my arm, which had originally been cutting off circulation, relaxed. I found that I could once again take a breath. And throughout the final chorus, together her and I simply listened to our son and his memorable song.
The melody complete, he lowered the instrument from his mouth, flipped back his curly bangs, and managed a smirk, his gaze finding mine in the crowd. A crowd steadily rising to their feet.
And following the performance, and a gracious and teary-eyed hug from his mother, I approached my son, hand outstretched.
He's grown like an unattended summer weed over the past year, his fingers nearly as long as mine. As I embraced it, the size of his hand reminded me that adulthood was on his doorstep.
And I thought back to when he was young. He earned his share of hair rustles and playful shoulder knocks for a base hit or a first down snag on the forty yard line, but he also got his hugs. And he was allowed to hold his father's hand. A gesture of kindness and support whenever needed.
On this night, my son returned that gesture. His way of saying thanks. And I couldn't imagine a better way of showing it.