Wednesday, October 06, 2010


paulandthecrystalballOnce upon a time, the dividing line between childhood and adulthood was clearer. A boy became old enough for "the long pants," saving his knickers for the golf course. A girl could add high heels and silk stockings to her staple of bobby socks. Then came the distinction known as "adolescence," its incumbents known as "teenagers." But lately there has been another transformation, particularly with the American male, as the interim that is adolescence extends beyond the age of eighteen.

After all, if The New York Times says it, it must be true.

[A] young man hangs up his new Ph.D. in his boyhood bedroom, the cardboard box at his feet signaling his plans to move back home now that he’s officially overqualified for a job. In the doorway stand his parents, their expressions a mix of resignation, worry, annoyance and perplexity: how exactly did this happen?

It’s happening all over, in all sorts of families, not just young people moving back home ...

I considered this as Paul turned twenty-five years old today, at 5:17 in the afternoon. Earlier today I visited his grandparents. No, they hadn't heard from him yet. He had already given up competing in the Air Guitar Championships this year, for the opportunity of a lifetime. It wasn't long ago that he would brush opportunity aside. But about four or five years ago, something happened, something that would change him forever. It was an epiphany of sorts, as though going from "seeing through a glass darkly" to the clouds parting and the light coming down, to seeing the path all too clearly. And so, Paul continues his second year as an Interactive Media and Game Development major, at one of the finest art schools in the known universe, the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).

I had urged him to call Grandma and Grandpa with the news he had, the news that was already shared with the entire "twittersphere" (if that's what it's called). I actually tried to call him while I was at the house, at a time that I should have known he'd be in class. He texted me back with the usual reproach, and the concession to unfinished business. He's gotten used to my impulsiveness, or at least I hope so. For his sake.

Paul has more yet to learn. Like how parents never really let go of their children completely. How I still see the two-year-old to whom I gave the business end of the kite at the Washington Monument, then just stepped back about twenty feet. Then there is the six-year-old who followed alongside his Dad through the streets of Georgetown, when he wasn't the star player on the soccer field. Or the eleven-year-old who proudly earned his black belt in American Kempo.

He probably tries not to remember the fourteen-year-old who didn't want to visit his Dad anymore. His mother would go along with the charade, in total violation of a custody agreement, the defense of which was a lost cause in an inept domestic court system. Through his escapades with drugs, alcohol, and stealing his mother's car, nobody cared what Dad thought about anything, only how Dad could bail them out. Mom had to find the attorney for the court hearing. It was only fair that the old man pay for it.

But that didn't happen. Sending a check the first of every month eventually became the only "right" a father would have. Still, that father waited for a seventeen-year-old boy to come to his senses, and call his Dad, hat in hand, from a rehab facility. That was when the son was ready to have a real father in his life again.

Jason Young considers the root causes of the alleged extension of adolescence in society, with an eye towards a remedy.

We all have opinions on this subject. Regardless, a lot of the Millennial Generation is adolescent minded people who need us to walk alongside them toward adulthood. I recently read this startling statement, “This kind (extended adolescence) of pattern is far more likely to bring down a civilization than to build a new one in its place. Civilizations require adults.”

Indeed. They also require the family, the building block of any civilization from time immemorial. Such a family consists of a mother and a father. Certain exceptions can be made when circumstances forbid such an arrangement, but it is precisely because they are exceptions, that a civilization can hold together. There is a point when a young man realizes this, as he endeavors to become the change he wants to see in the world.

Paul is in Atlanta now. SCAD has a campus there. He has a job tending bar at an establishment in Midtown. He will stay in Atlanta for another two-and-a-half years. From there, he is likely to head to the West Coast, although it is my hope and prayer that he will find an opportunity closer to "kin and ken." Whatever happens, it would appear that he will not venture alone, as nature has taken its usual course, and he and a certain young woman have found one another.

Which brings me to that announcement I wish to hell he'd get on with.

“Make it so.”

1 comment:

the Egyptian said...

congrats old man, May they be happy and bless you with grandchildren, you need many to love, (give and receive) I can see that in you. now you and Sal need to "get er done".

I know that step in your mid 20's, if my wife had known me in my late teens and early 20's she'd ran and never looked back, She has been a blessing from God and I pray that you receive the same in your life.

good to see you the other day, When I pulled in my drive I saw this blue box stop at the intersection and the first thing going through my mind was "what the hell is David doing out here, can't be", serendipity I guess