We have lunch almost every week, and last Sunday he took me to lunch. It was just the two of us, our first lunch together since his sister moved to Colorado to sell insurance for Liberty Mutual.
I asked him where he wanted to go and he chose Raising Cane's, the place with the chicken fingers. And he told me he wanted to pay.
We each got The Caniac (6 chicken fingers, fries, coleslaw, Cane's sauce, Texas toast, and a drink), and Sammy asked them to swap his coleslaw for extra bread. I didn't make any substitutions myself, because the cashier was already annoyed with me. When we walked in, she told us to ask her if we had any questions. I studied the menu for a moment and then I scratched my head and said, "what is chicken?"
She was not amused, but then Sammy splurged and bought us both some extra sauce which seemed to please her. The whole thing set him back about $20.
I was very proud of him.
We sat and we ate and we talked like we always do. One of his friends, a kid he's known since they were both little, got his girlfriend pregnant. Sammy said the kid's been acting like a douche, spending money frivolously instead of saving for the baby. First he bought a fish tank, and then he tried to talk another kid into splitting $100 on some weed. Sammy pulled this kid aside, this former friend, and reminded him he had a kid coming. Told him to grow up.
I'm paraphrasing, of course.
So not only does Sammy get credit for not getting his own girlfriend pregnant, he's just a cool cat in general. And then he told me a story about how one friend has a fire pit in the backyard and somebody suggested they drive over to 7-11 or Circle K and just steal some firewood from out front. But Sammy said no, that wasn't right.
And goddamn it if these stories didn't fill me with pride. Here is my son, always a good kid but never an angel, and he's suddenly so mature.
I'm proud of this kid. And it wasn't me, it wasn't his mom, it wasn't our parenting. He got a restaurant job about a year ago and I think these months of being a busboy really taught him something about earning your place in life.
We had lunch again a couple of days ago. He was eating steak shawarma (no tomatoes) and I was eating chicken shawarma (everything) and he mentioned that my mother had sent him a card for his birthday with a $25 check. She can't afford to send him $25 and I know it and he knows it. Rather than send the check back or refuse to cash it, he offered to hand over the money to me and asked if I would use it to buy my mother groceries or dinner and she would never suspect it was her own money coming back to her.
Sonofabitch! This kid has choked me up two weeks in a row with his wisdom and many kindnesses. I could barely finish my chicken shawarma.
My kids have never had the fanciest things or the very latest things or the most expensive things. They had to endure a wise-cracking father who hugged them a lot and made them talk about their feelings.
They never made me walk a few feet behind them when we went out in public, never ditched me at the mall when their friends appeared. I am grateful for these things, grateful for my children.
I hugged my son a lot when I saw him last Sunday. I told him I loved him, how proud I was of him.
I texted him early this morning and finally spoke to him in the evening, after his birthday dinner. We have plans of our own this Sunday, plans that involve mass quantities of barbecue.
Sammy is the kind of kid who wanted to beat me up when I was in high school. I would not have been friends with this jock who refuses to read books. He would not have been friends with the nerdy kiss-ass I was.
But I've tried to be a good dad and he's tried to be a good son and I'm very proud of the relationship we have.