It happened right before my eyes and I didn't see it. How could I have missed it? How could I have been so blind? My son, Brendon, had grown from a little boy into a man. It was his 18th birthday, and we were flying to England, the land of Dickens and Shakespeare, the place he'd wanted to visit since junior high school.
This was our trip; a father and son fulfilling a childhood dream, spending time together without any of his brothers, sisters, or other parents. I was shocked - and delighted - when he agreed to my coming with him. Originally, he was going alone.
The journey ended up being more than a travel adventure. For me, it was a wake-up call and reminder of life's limits, of values and validation, of remembering what's important and letting go of past images and expectations.
While in London, Brendon made lots of decisions, deciding what to do, where to go, and how to get there. He read the fine print on the train and bus schedules; the print that was a blur of small letters to me.
Imagine: my son, the little boy I'd
carried in my arms and on my back, helping me with directions! The same boy I'd had to drag out of bed year after year and used every parental persuasion imaginable to get him to school on time. The same boy I had stayed up rocking to sleep, ran alongside his first bicycle yelling "keep peddling," and holding whenever he got hurt.
His independence and energy in Britain instilled in me a newfound respect and appreciation for who he is and how he now perceives the world.
He was kind and considerate to all those we met
and responsible enough to have the courage to ask for help when needed. It made me proud.
Brendon hadn't always been so nice to be around. He'd gone through isolating, conflicted years, when it had been difficult to get more than two words out of him at a time.
"How are you doing, son?"
"How was school today?"
"What are you thinking about?"
Now, as we walked from one London attraction to another, he was talking up a storm.
"Papa, let's get something to eat. Hey, that looks like a cool play. I read about it back home. Do you think we could get tickets? I'll check at the box office." Returning quickly, he exclaimed, "Bummer. They don't have performances on Sundays and the other days are all sold out. Maybe we can see it when it comes to San Francisco. What do you think?"
"Sure," I replied, feeling the warmth of his words sink into my heart in the midst of a dreary, cold day. "What do I think?" I repeated to myself. He cared about what I thought!
He looked at me quizzically, with a slight smile on his lips and put his hand on my shoulder. "How ya doing? Where would you like to go now?"
Will wonders never cease, I thought. I didn't want that moment to end. He saw us both as adults - as fellow human beings.
And I got the feeling that he realized how much I loved him and always had - even when he could have been called Mr. Monosyllable.
He continues to amaze me. He's working full time, paying his bills, and stopping by to spend time with the family.
When people ask about our trip, it's easy to sum it up in a few words: I went to England with my son and discovered a wonderful man and newfound friend named Brendon.
Gabriel Constans, a father of five children, lives in Santa Cruz, Calif.
Parents: To submit a first-person essay on your own parenting experiences, send an e-mail to: email@example.com.
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor