Watching Him Go

Edwin Lyngar considers the “flaky” upbringing his oldest child had, with him for a single father.

I drove Eddie, 18, to the airport to catch his flight to Air Force basic training this week. We picked up his ticket, and I bought him lunch at the airport. He wolfed down his burger in about three minutes, and we walked to security. He gave me a big, firm hug, told me he loved me and got on the plane to make his own way on the planet. I almost didn’t make it back to my car before I broke down.

I’m only embarrassed to cry, because I pushed him so hard to go. I thought he needed to get out and find something to do with his life, and he always wanted to join the military. It took him six months to get his paperwork in line, get a physical, and finish the process of enlisting. I cajoled, poked and pestered him the whole time to get it done and get going, but then when he left, I cried like a pussy. I’m tearing up just trying to write about it now.

I was far more broken up than I ever expected to be. I have five kids, and they are all special to me, of course. But, Eddie is the oldest, and I often feel more responsible for him. I raised Eddie by myself for much of his childhood. I raised him as a single father from when he was nine to twelve years old. When I got remarried, Eddie was too old for my new wife, Joy, to exert much say, although he grew very fond of her in our years together as a blended family.

Eddie was my first child, and he was sadly often my test kid. I dragged his poor ass to church until he was six, during my temporary and ill-fated attempt to find religion. As a member of the armed services myself, I also dragged him all over the country until he was nine, living on the East Coast, in San Francisco and just south of Oakland before ultimately settling back in Nevada

I wasn’t able to hang onto his mother who fled the scene early, leaving me to raise him and his toddler sister alone. His little sister doesn’t remember much from the days of me dating when I brought home sometimes bizarre women, but Eddie does. He even had a crush on a Japanese woman I dated for like five minutes. He talks about it once in a while to this day.

I made the most mistakes with him, did the most wrong. He went through the weird shit with me, sometimes like he was a miniature roommate. He was there when I wasn’t ready to be a father and worse when I wasn’t very good at it. I was only twenty when he was born, and the saddest part is I had so little patience when he and I were so young together. He was a child, and I was barely a man. I feel responsible for his early, flaky life.

Despite all my mistakes, he’s one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Other than his slightly clumsy (and resultant destructive) streak, I have nothing at all to complain about from raising him. It would be ironic if all my other kids turned out to be assholes, and he ended up as the only decent person, although I think all my other kids will be wonderful adults too.

As a parent, you want your child to grow up and move on, but lucky parents get the long goodbye when kids go to a local college or university or perhaps who bounce back after some time away. When your kid joins the military, he’s just gone, and I’m surprised how hard it was to watch him go.

In the car on the way to the airport the day I dropped him off, he tried to thank me for everything I’ve done for him. He was formal and sincere, obviously having practiced what he wanted to say. I told him that I appreciated the sentiment, but he didn’t have to thank me. It was my job to raise him and support him and give him everything he possibly needed. I only wish I could have done a better job.

 

Read more on Mixed and Step Families on The Good Life.

Image credit: DVIDSHUB/Flickr

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About Edwin Lyngar

Edwin Lyngar is a writer and author living in Reno, Nevada. He graduated from Antioch University in 2010 with his MFA in creative writing and also holds an MA in Writing from the University of Nevada Reno. His essays have appeared or are forthcoming in the Bellingham Review, Ontoligica and RoleReboot. He blogs about parenting, family life and writing at www.edwinlyngar.com and is in the process of finding a home for his first book, a memoir, titled Guy Parts.

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