Sunday, September 24, 2006

Happy Birthday, Sam

Today Sam is turning 21. Yesterday evening, we realized that he had already turned 21 a few hours earlier - he is in Prague for the semester, and is visiting Krakow for the weekend. He is 7 hours ahead. As I write this, at 6:30 in the morning, he may be visiting Auschwitz on his birthday. It seems like only a few years ago that we threw him a nifty party with a Star Wars theme, and gave him Legos.

I excel at focusing on the positives of growth, change and life experience for my children. Others ask whether I feel like Sam is safe in Prague (or New York), and they ask the same about Ali in New Orleans. They're fair questions, but they come at me from a direction I tend not to look. Sam and Ali are where they want to be. They're smart and reasonable - they'll take care of themselves. People asked the same question when we sent them to the Kansas City public schools, and we have no regrets.

Sam's childhood has now ended, both here at home and 5,000 miles away from home, where he is seeing the land my mother's family left generations ago. They never returned home; Sam will return before Christmas. But we won't be giving him Legos, and he won't wear Star Wars pajamas on Christmas morning.

It's been fun, and I know it will be fun in the future. I will be a superb grandfather, when called to that role. I don't ask that the clock be turned back, or that Sam give up his NYU dreams for a UMKC reality. This is all what I've wanted and dreamed for him - I could not be more proud and happy and excited. Truly.

But a part of me is wishing I could go upstairs at this early hour and see him sleeping peacefully, soon to wake up with wide-eyed excitement about a birthday with a single digit. I would really like that. And sitting here, in the same dining room where we celebrated those birthdays, it almost seems possible. It almost feels like the time has not really passed, and that they are both nearby and children.