One Success

This past weekend we moved our youngest son to Massachusetts to be with the woman with whom he has fallen in love. She has a good job, life, and her family there, and Zach felt free enough, root-less enough, to go there to a start a life with her. When he announced his pending move on Facebook he said, “After living in VA for 17 years I never felt like this was truly home for me. As hard as it may be at times to move so far from my parents I’m looking forward to this next chapter in my life with you Kristen. In just a few short days I’ll be moving to Massachusetts for a fresh start with the woman I love and an opportunity to create a place with her that I can call ‘home’.

His mother was a bit upset about this. I pointed out the number of times that we have moved, that this is the third state we have lived in, and that we have moved at least twice in each state. His time in Virginia includes college and living on his own in a couple of places. Settled is not something he has been. Thus, making the decision to move 700 miles away was not such a big deal for him.

Zach is just about everything I hoped he would be growing up, save that he’s not much of a rebel against authority. He practices a bit of rebellion every day, but it is rebellion against the mundane trivia of laziness and incompetence that he encounters. He doesn’t tolerate stupid very well either. Given these things, he is a loud, confrontational rebel against unqualified authority, which exists in great quantity today. Maybe this is really what I wanted.

He got far less attention as young child than he deserved or probably needed. He could self-manage from a young age and so we let him. His older brother consumed our time and our lives. Zach is a bit embittered by that experience and still carries a lot of the anger he developed, Melinda suffers from PTSD, and the scars I have run deep. Someday I may write about that experience, but it won’t be easy to do nor pleasant to read. Raising schizophrenic child rarely has a happy ending.  Despite the family dynamics of chaos and stress, Zach is very much a success.

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Zach, 9, at Dinosaur National Monument

The trip to Massachusetts was anything but uneventful. Just about an hour into the trip we had to flip the kayaks (13 foot long plastic sails) that were mounted on the top of Zach’s jeep. With tops facing outward, they were catching way too much wind. Shortly after lunch, Zach led us on a wrong turn that put us on a two-lane road up a snowy, icy mountain – not the ideal route for the 4,000lb U-Haul  rolling brick I was towing for him. Just hours later in Pennsylvania we came upon traffic at a dead stop on the highway. Zach took the adjacent exit and Kristen texted “Got off.” We stayed on the highway, not knowing she meant “get”  until later. It was just as well, as they had a pretty crazy route that was wicked enough for them and not suited for a car towing a rolling brick. Eventually we got rolling again, passing the two crashed semis, and then our driver-side wiper blade broke. Time lost finding a replacement, getting further behind them.

About 82 miles from his new home, his beloved Jeep broke down. He stopped, called me, we talked, he started checking spark plug wiring, and called our mechanic friend. Ten o’clock on a Friday night, temps in the low teens, and winds blowing around 40 miles an hour. He’s told he can probably limp on in if he takes it easy, listening to only five of six cylinders firing. Sometime after midnight he makes it, a little over an hour ahead of us.

Zach was stressed. He told me later, “Kristen got to see all of me that night. The entire range of who I am. From relaxed to the most intense I get.” He tends to function well under pressure, but the stress can eat at him for awhile. But he was ready. We’ve done so many road trips, we are at home on the road. Melinda I talked about our move to Oregon in ’94. We rented a U-Haul truck and auto trailer for my little pick-up and she drove her Nissan. James rode with her and Zach road with me in  “that big noisy truck.” We had adventures on that trip. Zach loved riding in that truck and it is probably why he loves trucks so much now. As he thinks about perhaps replacing his Jeep, he has noticed a used Ford F250 with a snowplow at a little dealer near his new home. “Dad, it is just about perfect. I think the backseat might be cramped, but it will be big enough for a carseat or two.” He’s thinking ahead and comfortable with the future.

The picture above is from a trip the summer before we moved to Oregon. A three thousand mile loop from Keizer, OR to Joplin, MO. We visited Crater Lake, Dinosaur National Monument,  the Cottonwood Pass,  Santa Fe, St. Louis, the Field of Dreams (Iowa), Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Devil’s Tower, Yellowstone, Grand Coulee, Multnomah Falls. And a bunch of places with unfamiliar names. It was a glorious trip for the three of us, camping in some beautiful places. Nine year-old Zach loved that trip. Camping at Devil’s Tower under a full moon was pretty cool.

Camping. Zach and I have done a lot of that. Between Scouts and our personal trips, we have almost a year of camping, since his first camping trip at the age of two. Road trips two and from the camping sites (or fishing or hunting) where invariably Zach would spend the return passed out in the passenger seat. I have lots of pictures like the one below of him sleeping spanning eight or nine years. I included them in a photo album I made for him and Kristen at Christmas.

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Zach is my son, my golf partner, fishing buddy, and an all-around good guy to have around. I’m going to miss him terribly, but I am so damn happy for him. And so very proud.

Even with memories like this:

Me: A colleague in DC is telling people, including the Governor and our Secretary of Ed that I am a “National Treasure.”

Zach: (without missing a beat) “Why, because you are old as dirt and hard to find?”

Yep. I’m gonna miss him.

Be nice. It won't hurt either of us.

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