Lost Boys, Found Men

Today surprised me. As a society we don’t have ancient tribal rituals of taking down your first caribou or bringing home a coyote. The closest thing we have to a rite of passage is earning a driver’s license.

Today Son #1 drove Son #2 to the DMV, where Son #2 passed his behind-the-wheel test and earned his driver’s license. Two sons lost to boyhood.

I asked if I could take them out for lunch, and the two eating machines of course agreed. We met at Evita’s, a sheet-metal-wrapped Mexican restaurant. I figure that Evita’s must be down-home Mexican food because its menu features dishes that are based on the parts of animals that most people throw away.

My sons like Evita’s because it serves El Gordo, “the fat one.” EL Gordo is a burrito the size and weight of a sledgehammer head. Served in tightly wrapped aluminum foil, their burritos reminded me of Fatman and Little Boy, the atomic bombs that the U.S. used to end World War II. El Gordo is so big that one son asked for a take-out box to bring part of it home.

Not very long ago I would zip up their coats, tie earflap caps under their chins, clamp one under each arm, and carry them through the snow to the car. Then I would wiggle and tug them and their car seat straps till I found a way to make the clasp click securely closed. Now I will hand either one the keys, and he will saunter out to the car and bring home meat—from the grocery store.

My son now has community approval to hurtle down concrete paths at speeds that kill. He is not an adult. He cannot sign a contract. He cannot vote. With my consent, however, he can legally drive from Los Angeles to New York.

In society’s eyes my son took a giant leap out of boyhood today.

While I savored El Supremo and my sons wolfed down Los Gordos, I sat and marveled. I have lost two of my boys and found two young men.

These are tough days to launch into manhood. Son #1 drove 70 miles this morning to apply for two minimum wage jobs. He is volunteering with hospice care until he can land a job or two. How many hundred jobs does he need to apply for in order to land one? I felt sorry for myself at 16 when I had to apply for six jobs in order to get hired.

Son #2 is going to New York this summer to study. No, I am not letting him drive. But he is taking a big step out of the nest.

I am proud of two young men. I am richly, richly blessed.

About Ben Unseth

Executive Director at Project Understanding (2014-2017), social service agency in Ventura, CA
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2 Responses to Lost Boys, Found Men

  1. Pete says:

    As dads, when we “lose our boys”, we worry that they will become “lost boys” instead of “men”. Makes me glad to have a warm intimate relationship with my Creator and Savior. Makes me glad that we (Dad, Mom, & kids) are part of a caring congregation. May your boys become men of God. Hang in there!

  2. A Unseth says:

    I’ll send you one of my “IF YOU DON’T LIKE THE WAY I DRIVE, STAY OFF THE SIDEWALK!” bumper stickers for the car.

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