Plenty of studies show that boys don’t really become men until we are well into our late 20s. Most men I know, and most parents of boys, can pretty much confirm that.
This particular contemplation is on my mind on this date because 26 years ago Alexander Mark Simon came into the world and into my arms. I remember thinking I would never want to let go. Turns out I was right.
He’s large and furry. He has a mop of largely unkempt hair and a big, bushy beard and I wish both were more than a little tidier. Although, I notice a lot of men his age with mops of unkempt hair and big, bushy beards and it doesn’t seem to bother me, so I really ought to recognize it is what some guys do at his age and I should just get over it.
As we learned a generation ago, when we all were growing our hair long, none of that really matters much.
What really stands out about him is joy. When he was little, we called him “Mr. Sunshine” because he was always so happy. Much as he did as a child, he will burst into a room, full of noise and motion and the newest thing that excites him or makes him laugh or has got him miffed in a way that is fun and funny to watch. He can fly high and sink low, but he’s learning how to manage both and that’s a big part of growing up.
It has taken him a while to shake off the curses that constitute the teen years. His mom died four years ago and that’s never easy for anyone. He went through some rough times. Don’t we all? It’s during those times that you work as hard as you can to help him through them, only to realize he has to do the work himself. Along the way, he is learning how to do his own hard work – not just how to start, but how to stay — and that should serve him well the rest of his life.
But what has reemerged is the joy. The way he can fill up a room with noise and laughter and enthusiasm and sheer energy.
He has a wife and a 3-year-old son. It was my honor to preside at their wedding on Halloween. He was dressed as Frankenstein and his wife, Karen, as the Bride of Frankenstein. It is a privilege to watch as they work through all that is involved in being a new family. And it is inspiring to see them work through the struggles facing young families in a place where it is far from easy for young families. It’s more than a little amusing to see my son trying to be patient with his son, who recently discovered how to be uncooperative in that way so unique to 3-year-olds.
And it is more touching than I can say to see him with his own son, holding onto him like he never wants to let go.
At my age, there is more behind me than there is ahead, but it feels fine – like this is the way it’s supposed to be. There is so much ahead of him. Boys don’t become men until well into their 20s.
Anyway, this is what I’m thinking on this particular day. It was a Sunday, right around Easter. And in a hospital room, he was putting up a fuss and someone put him in my arms and I held him and rocked back and forth, trying to soothe him. It worked that day. Over the years, sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. But I never stopped trying.
This column isn’t very political and if you’re looking for the usual political fare, I’ll write another column. But sometimes, some days, it’s good to think about other things and that’s what I felt like doing on this day, because 26 years ago, Alexander Mark Simon came into my life.
Contact Mark Simon at firstname.lastname@example.org