Wednesday, January 26

His Father's Son

My youngest son looks just like his dad. A few days ago I was sorting through some of my husband's things, going through the little chest that holds some of the things he'd saved from his younger days, because someone in the family asked to have copies of a few of the photos he'd stored in there. As I sorted I noticed a couple of old high school wrestling photos. In one, Keith is looking up from the mat and a little toward the camera, and the face in the picture belongs to my youngest son. I knew the youngest one looked like his dad, but I hadn't realized how much. His hair is curlier, but the rest is almost an exact copy.

My oldest son takes after my side of the family. He's blond like I am, and stockier than his dad, with a rounder face and glasses. Still, he's his father's son.

When I met Keith, he hadn't been out of the military for long, and his language was a little salty. One day shortly after we met, he decided that he needed to develop a better vocabulary. And so he did. To say the change was overnight wouldn't be much of an exaggeration. He had some slips, but the incidents I can remember could be counted on one hand, and almost all of them involved sudden intense pain.

The last of those slips happened when my youngest son was a toddler and not yet speaking more than a couple of words. Keith was hanging gyp rock, I think, when he directly and forcefully hammered his thumbnail. Although he kept a certain nasty word mostly under his breath, he did use it three or four times. The littlest son heard it, and for several months after that, whenever he worked with his little Fisher-Price tool set, the hammering and drilling would be accompanied by the repeated use of the same bad word his dad had used, as if uttering that particular expletive was just something that automatically went along with the use of tools. For Keith, seeing his young son mimicking his behaviour was the final cure.

When he had been teaching for a couple of years at the last school he worked at, one of Keith's colleagues said to him, "You know, I don't think I've ever heard you curse." Keith told this to me after supper that day, while we were drinking coffee together on the back deck. Quietly, and only to me, as if he were afraid to be too proud of it or make too much of it, but I knew it meant a lot to him that someone had noticed.

In November, my oldest son moved to Vancouver, driving down the highway in his newly restored Landcruiser. He started out in a two vehicle convoy with someone who was the brother of a friend of his, who was also moving south. John was at least ten years older than my son, but he was much less experienced with driving in general, and winter driving in particular, so it seemed that it would be better if he drove with someone else, especially with someone who had a vehicle with 4-wheel drive and a winch and a full tool-box.

Five hundred miles down the highway, 150 miles from the nearest town, on the evening of the first day of the trip, something went wrong with the newly rebuilt engine in the Landcruiser. My son says that the moment he heard the awful sound, he knew his engine was toast. He was right. He was forced to leave his cruiser parked on the side of the highway, and ride into Fort Nelson with John in his car. In the end, things worked out for the cruiser, but it took a whole lot of work and a whole lot of money to make things right.

When Andrew was home at Christmas, he told me something--non-chalantly, as if he were afraid to seem too proud of it or make too much of it. On the way to Fort Nelson, he said, as he rode in the car with John after his engine went, John kept looking at him and saying, "I can't believe you only swore once!"

Yep. He's his father's son.