I just got off of the phone with an old friend, Fred, we talked about the old days when I use to hang around with his son. He mentioned that everyone in the neighborhood thought I was an only child. I basically was since my closest sibling is seven years older than I am. By the time I was twelve all of them were moved out of the house. It was like having four aunts and uncles instead of three brothers and a sister. Our relationships are still like that for the most part. I have developed friendships with each of them which are closer than those of any I have with my aunts or uncles.
It then occurred to me that my son is in the same position. His sister, due to circumstances out of Deanna's and my control, is 8 1/2 years older than he is. The one key difference I see is that their relationship is truly a loving one. They also play, wrestle and argue much more like brothers and sisters do. A friend of mine, Drue, noticed this and commented to me about it "As much as your kids antagonized each other their affection still shined through. I'm impressed how patient and loving they are. Most don't learn that till much later in life if they are lucky!"
He nailed that right on the head!
But all of that is for a future post. Today's post is all about my son Alex!
All but one of my older siblings have children. The distribution of the sexes of my nieces and nephews worked out a bit funny. You see my brothers had girls and my sister had all boys. All of them tremendous people and I am proud to be their uncle. The pattern continued when my daughter was born in 1990. That all changed on November 11, 1998 (Veterans Day). On that day, our son, Alexander was born. We had broken the pattern. His Grandfather was so pleased, there would be a male to continue the Young name (no pressure son)!
day (except for the baby part). As I expected, he was nothing like his older sister when she was a baby. Not only because he was a boy but that his
personality was much like his mothers (I nicknamed my daughter Junior). As a boy he was timid and not aggressive like other boys. As a child I was very aggressive and physically active both in and out of sports. Alex was none of that and, I have to admit, that bothered me somewhat. I would mention it to Deanna and she would just dismiss me saying it was no big deal. Of course, as usual, she was correct. This didn't mean that I did not love him any less. It was just that I had always dreamed that if I ever had a boy he would be the captain of football team. Like most dads who played the game but I am so glad he never played football now. One thing my wife got him into was tae kwon do and he was pretty good at it. He was the youngest kid who could jump up and kick other kids in the head (they wore headgear). In tae kwon do you get extra points for kicking the head of your opponent and he would win tournaments by doing so. Then one day he decided he wanted to play soccer. Yes! I played this game as a kid and I loved it! I coached my daughter on several teams and I was very excited to see him show interest in it. I then soon realized that I hated coaching boys. Alex was a piece of cake it was all the other kids I had problems with. Boys may be better soccer players but they are also a pain in the ass to coach. That is just my point of view. Alex still was not overly aggressive but he showed potential. He is extremely fast and has good hand eye coordination. Making him a natural goalkeeper, the position that I specialized in as a kid. But at times he was very timid and would not challenge players coming at the goal he was protecting. The times he wasn't timid he was a stellar goalkeeper. He could stop
shots that I doubt I could've stopped as a kid. By now he was about nine and I had accepted that this was how he was. And I was proud of my little boy!
A disclaimer here, soccer is an extremely physical sport worldwide. Only in U.S. recreational soccer is the sport taught as non-contact. Nothing in the rules says you can't have contact, it's just frowned upon.
I informed the boys that as long as they got the ball they could bang their body into the opponents. Much like this opponent had done to them all of the first half. I told them that the big kid was not used to being slammed into and that he would become quite timid after the first few contacts. I then looked right at Alex and told him to do the same as keeper. His eyes then grew wide and I knew that he understood it. Needless to say we shut them out the second half and scored three goals to tie it up and almost won the game at the end of regulation. That big kid had no idea what hit him let alone the rest of his teammates. They had never been played so physically before and Alex led the way as goalie. More than once he took the ball away from players as they tumbled over him and rolled on the ground wondering what hit them. Then the game went to penalty kicks. The other team was very skilled and made all five of their impossible to block shots to our teams four. I remember sitting on the sidelines watching that last kick go by Alex. He just laid there not moving as the other team celebrated. I sprang to my feet and ran to him. He still hadn't moved when I got to him. He had a look of failure on his face as I picked him up in my arms and cradled him. I looked him in the eyes as I smiled and told him how proud I was of him. I then carried my boy to the sidelines. I had always been proud of him but that day he stepped out of his comfort zone for his teammates as much as for himself. Sure he would feel the bumps and bruises for days to come but he had laid it all on the line and that's all any athlete can ask of themselves.
Alex played soccer until just recently when he fell in love with the sport of longboard high speed downhill skateboarding. Talk about stepping out of your comfort zone! Not just for him (at first) but for mom and dad too! Imagine watching your baby flying by you at 50+ miles per hour on a stick with wheels! Thrillingly-terrifying! He told me he feels alive and at peace when he's downhilling. Just the road, the wind and his thoughts. That is called "being in the moment!" He has also become quite the downhill high speed trick slider. He even has sponsors.
how that happened. I was more of a lover back then but the other boys wanted to fight over the girls they liked. Even if the girls didn't like them in return. When I moved to the town of Villa Park, California I was still very timid. Many of the neighbor kids didn't like me and I wasn't very good at sports in the beginning. That started to change right around my 10th birthday when I started to grow, became more aggressive and much more athletic. I played every sport there was and even became somewhat of a daredevil. I would climb the tallest trees and, along with my friends, I would hike 1 to 2 miles into the storm drains beneath Villa Park to catch bats so I could release them at dark. I even skateboarded but not to the extreme that Alex does. It's unreal how our early childhood years mirror one another. The difference being that he is far smarter and more driven than I was at his age.
What I have failed to mention, up to this point, is his academic achievements. He is very intelligent. He had a 4.0 GPA in middle school. It dipped to 3.7 after my diagnosis but who could blame him. He has starting to rebound in high school. He applied and was accepted into the International Baccalaureate program at his high school but then declined it in favor of the schools engineering pathway where he is excelling.
Along with all that he should be achieving his Eagle badge within the the next year with the help of our good friend Tim. Eagle rank is the pinnacle of years of commitment, self sacrifice and character development. A very small percentage of boys reach this level of Boy Scouts.
When a family friend showed me this he thought I would be upset by the comment and the profanity but I wasn't. I was touched and I would rather my son speak up about his feelings. As for the profanity, I say Fuck ALS too! It's robbing him of what he needs most right now and in the years to come. Besides, when I was his age, I didn't give a damn about my dad and I would have never done for him what Alex has done for me.
I am trying to lead by example since my diagnosis. I want my kids to see that life is worth living one moment at a time. Pictures and video are great but you don't experience life looking through a lens. Sure you can capture the moment but unless you feel the warmth of the sun, coolness of the snow, The sound of the breeze or the taste of the air you don't experience life. I tried to demonstrate this on our recent trip to Europe. I know Alex got it because we spent most of our time together just being in the moment. Sure he took over 2000 photos but he also took the time to live and feel the moment. He is learning to seize the day and I hope that he attacks life forever. I hope he goes and travels the world, meets a wide variety of people, loves his family and lives life to the fullest!