He started off at five pounds twelve ounces, with an extended stay in the KU Med Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to give his lungs a chance to succeed on their own. It didn’t take him long to catch up and now he’s six feet tall and 150 pounds. My first child, my son, was born sixteen years ago today. My friend, Kelly, asked me today how it feels to have a sixteen year old. I told her that it’s a mixed bag. Here’s why…
I’ve been a parent nearly half of my life. It’s strange to say that because I didn’t envision that happening at all. When I was a kid, my grandma made a comment to me about how life would be when I got married and had kids. I scoffed at her suggestion and told her that I would never get married. I was also self-aware enough to tell her that I wouldn’t have any kids because I didn’t want to have to deal with anyone that would act like me. She just gave me a knowing grin and asked if I’d be willing to sign a piece of paper to commemorate my naive wisdom. She said she’d keep it on hand and give it to me on my wedding day. I laughed and signed my declaration, which she tucked away for safekeeping. Years later, during my wedding reception, my grandma pulled me aside and told me she needed to give me something. She just held out her hand. I had no idea what it was, so I held out my hand and she dropped a slip of paper into it. I unfolded it and read my youthful declaration and she just grinned. I laughed and gave her a hug. And while the marriage didn’t work out, I did get a couple of kids out of the deal. She got a kick out of that, too.
x x x
David Julius. I came up with that when I was about 12 or 13 years old. I didn’t plan on having any kids, but thought that if I ever had the chance to name one, that’s what it would be. “David” came from the fact that I absolutely loved watching David Letterman. Another inspiration was my deceased uncle, who I never met but sounded like a cool guy, Dave Hopper. Also, I really liked the fact that David in the Bible was described as a man after God’s own heart. And as a fellow whose name is “Nicky Jay”, I couldn’t let him get away with a boring middle name. So, I went with “Julius” as inspired mostly by Dr. J, Julius Erving. He seemed like a stand-up guy and he was absolutely beautiful on the basketball court. Plus, “David Julius” just sounded like it fit together.
“David” is a solid name and one that lends itself easily to nicknames. Dave, Davey, David, Davo, Davis. Of course, that wasn’t enough for me. I had to slip one more in there: Little Buddy. I just couldn’t help it. He was just so little and chubby and happy that I couldn’t help but pick him up and squeeze him and hug him and press my cheek against his rotund little cheek and call him my Little Buddy. Some dads go for “Sport” or “Tiger” or “Champ” but I’ve always been a “Buddy” guy. And he’s the all-time best.
x x x
When Dave was about seven or eight, I would tickle him and his sister during commercials of whatever show we were watching. He would laugh and try to get away, but one time, I had him good. He was squirming and wiggling and laughing but he couldn’t escape. In a desperate attempt to get me to stop, he cried out between giggles, “Dad, look! A fat guy in a wetsuit!” Now, I was the one who couldn’t stop laughing.
I asked him, “Where did you come up with that? Did you see something on TV?”
“No,” he replied. “I just thought you would think it was funny.”
x x x
I was dead serious when I said I didn’t want kids who behaved like me. Not that I was a rotten kid or anything, but my M.O. was always about me. One of my greatest joys in life is the fact that despite my genes and influence, David is one of the most caring and considerate people I have ever met. He is fiercely loyal to his family and friends. When his sister was born, we charged him with looking out for her, even though he was still just a little squirt. He hasn’t let me down. When Samantha was just figuring out how to crawl, David would follow her around and make sure she didn’t get into trouble. He would often plant himself in front of any potential dangers (like stairs) and pick her up and move her out of the way if things got too dicey.
He’s always been willing to help when someone needs a hand. When my friends Jeremy and Amanda moved into their new house, David and Samantha were charged with putting felt on the bottom of pieces of furniture so as to not scratch up the hardwood floors. It was a hectic and busy day and when lunchtime came around, all of those helping decided to break and eat some pizza. About halfway through lunch someone asked where Dave was. I said that the last time I checked, he was upstairs putting felt on furniture. I went up and he and Samantha were still dutifully felting everything that had made its way up there. We had forgotten to tell them to come down and they hadn’t seen anyone in a while but they were determined to make sure that they got their job done.
And he’s an extreme lover of animals. I don’t think there’s an animal he’s met that he hasn’t adored. He definitely gets that from his Papa Barry and Great Aunt Vicki. I have a stack of pictures from throughout his life of Dave snuggling with all sorts of dogs. One of the first things he wants to do when he gets his own place is to get a dog. And even the most petulant cats seem to like him. As he gets older, the tenderness he showed towards others as a little tyke is occasionally overshadowed by his quest for independence. But it oozes out uncontrollably when he’s in the presence of someone’s pet.
x x x
It’s a little overwhelming realizing that he now has just about every basic skill that one would need to survive in the world. He still has to rack up some hours behind the wheel before he gets his real driver’s license, but he’s getting closer and closer. He’s an excellent driver for someone his age and he picked up on it very quickly; he managed to become proficient at driving a stick-shift in less than 15 minutes. He has his own phone and, today, his mom took him to open his own checking account. He’s very smart (sometimes too smart for his own good) and has an excellent work ethic. (That is, when it’s something he’s really interested in and motivated to do. Kind of like his dad.) Though it would be tough, you could plop him into the real world and he would make his way. I can hardly believe we’ve arrived at this point already.
I’ve realized that my time with him is short, at least how it used to be. He spends a lot of time with his friends and family, away from my place. I understand how it is but I still miss having him around all the time. I’ve come across a bunch of pictures of him when he was little and I miss him like that. Not that I don’t enjoy him now; I wouldn’t trade the potty-trained version for the little version, but I miss how innocent and cuddly he used to be.
x x x
He’s no longer little and he probably wouldn’t admit it to anyone, but I still consider him my buddy. I’m looking forward to watching him grow and mature and learn, first-hand, some of the things he still doesn’t believe me about. He’s a great kid who is less and less a kid every day and year that passes. I am immensely proud to be his dad. And while this milestone birthday is gratifying and overwhelming and even a little sad, I still love my Little Buddy Dave.