It was the kind of exchange that might have appeared in fiction, except it was real life.
“I almost didn’t recognize you. That beard is thicker than I expected, you look like an Orthodox rabbi.”
“Good to know that I made an impression upon you and I am just another face in the crowd.”
“You know there are some Orthodox rabbis here, so it is not completely ridiculous to say that.”
We both nod our head and laugh, moments later we go our separate ways.
A Face In The Crowd
He is 16 now and it has been a much more challenging and harder year for him than the transition I made when I was his age.
Most of the time our relationship has followed the same path it always has and things have been very smooth and easy between us, but not all.
There have been moments during this last year where I have wondered if it would be easier to try and break steel doors with my fist.
Times where I questioned all of my parenting skills and wondered if maybe 16 years of winging it had caught up with me.
Maybe this was like that time in college when my political science professor told me I had written one of the finest papers he had ever written but it didn’t matter because I hadn’t answered the question.
“Dad, do you think people see you?”
“Some do, some don’t. Sometimes I am nothing more than a face in the crowd to some people. It only bothers me when the people who should see me, who supposedly know me act like they don’t. But I don’t always respond or acknowledge that.
Sometimes they just get busy.”
The conversation continues and we dig into all sorts of stuff. I tell him that a lot of things get easier as we get older and more comfortable with who we are.
I am not sure whether he believes it all or thinks I am just saying stuff parents say, but I don’t mind.
When I was 16 I didn’t believe everything my parents said either.
All I Ask Of You
There is a moment that jumps out at me, a memory of a discussion about girls and some questions he asked.
He wants to know if a girl has ever yelled at or me or called me names.
“I am not asking about mom, but what happened with other girls?”
I laugh and tell him I have been called every name you can think of. They have told me I am crazy and that I am a jerk.
Yelled and screamed at me because of things I did or didn’t do, said or didn’t said and sometimes I did the same to them.
“What happened after that?”
“Sometimes they spun 180 degrees and told me they didn’t mean anything they said and told me they were just angry and sometimes they didn’t.”
That is as much as he needs and I tell him if he is lucky he’ll get an “All I Ask Of You” relationship.
I remind him again that life is a balance of luck and action and that relying upon action is smarter than luck.
Later on I’ll go to sleep and think about stories about people who lived parallel lives but never crossed paths.
I’ll stare at the ceiling and think about how I appreciate being able to wander through public places as just another face in the crowd and how if I got be truly famous I would miss that.
Intermixed with it all I’ll think about the challenges of the recent past and some of the current and mull over how to best take them on.
Sleep will come relatively quickly but not before I wonder how 16 years passed by so quickly and ask myself what else I can do to help clear the path for him.
I won’t do everything because he won’t learn but I can do a bit to help him stay out of his own way and avoid making some of the mistakes I made.
Or at least I’ll try, because in this case I am not just another face in the crowd.