People tell me it's his age.
Frankly, I don't want to hear it.
My son Evan turned 19 on September 5th.
I miss him. He didn't go anywhere. He's just living his own life, in his own world.
But I miss the two-year-old, the six-year-old, the 19-year-old and everything in between.
There are days when I anguish over the lack of a relationship with him. There is so much going on in our lives that we are both missing out on. He's too young to realize that life is all too short and I'm too old to understand why.
Evan attends college locally and lives with his mom across town. He works for her at a restaurant she and his stepdad own.
Some will immediately think, "Oh, divorced dad" and all the labels that go with it.
The truth is I was an incredibly active parent in raising Evan. He gets along wonderfully with my wife, and we have photo albums full of great memories. But he suddenly decided he didn't want to come out one Saturday and recreated his life to fit. It's not the "Cat's in the Cradle" story line. He simply has other priorities.
So, from whatever moments we have together I glean all the little things that mean so much to me. Like panning for gold, I shake it all down and look for the glitter.
I was returning from a speaking engagement last week. I was exhausted from the energy I spent in that room during the two-hour presentation but needed to get home immediately. We were getting ready for a weekend along the New Jersey shoreline.
Halfway into the ride, I phoned to check my messages.
I found gold.
"Oh, Hi. Dad, listen...can you hear it? I hope so. I'm standing in the ocean. Listen...We decided last minute to go to Wildwood. Uhhh, I wanted to call you. Okay. Bye."
In the middle of his life, in the middle of his world, he stopped to call me, because, well because I love the ocean. He remembered that. He thought of me. He called.
I saved the message. I listen to it a few times a day. I still have it and I plan on recording it so that I can remember the glitter of that golden moment.
I called him immediately...after I stopped crying.
I said, "Evan, I don't know if you'll understand this. I don't get to see you and you don't call often. But the fact that you called me...well, the fact that you thought of me because you were standing in the ocean...that was more important to me than a hundred conversations we should have had. I love you!"
I told them we were coming to Wildwood that Sunday. Then jokingly I said,"Place a big X in the sand and when I get there I'll look for it."
On Sunday when I arrived at the beach I called him.
"Can you hear it?" I said. "I'm at the beach."
"Did you see the X?" he said.
I laughed. "No, I didn't."
"Dad, I dug a big one in the sand at the bottom of the steps next to the boardwalk in front of the Shore Plaza Hotel," he said.
"You're joking, right?"
"No, I'm not. It's a big X about five feet wide."
My heart skipped a beat.
"I'll look for it." Figuring there wasn't even a chance of finding it, I said, "If I find it I'll mark a big O next to it and you can look for it next year. I love you!"
"I love you too," he said.
Sure enough, faded and worn from two days of sun and wind, there next to the steps, was a big five foot X.
It's hard to explain, but I felt connected to him again. I could remember playing in that sand with both my sons. I could see myself standing there admiring something that they created with a little water, a lot of sand, and even more imagination.
I knelt down next to it and running my hand along the lines, I cried and laughed, not for him, but for myself.
My wife Marianne took a picture.
Yes, I placed a big circle next to it and took another picture, one for my scrapbook and one for my gold collection.
Thursday, as we do every year, we celebrated three family birthdays together at a local restaurant. September 2nd was Marianne's birthday, August 30th was my beautiful daughter-in-law's birthday and September 5th was Evan's.
At dinner Evan handed me a picture. It was of the cross he dug in the sand.
It might not seem like much to you, but it was like gold to me.
Cross my heart.