The warm red evening sun cast a dark purple silhouette of a large oak tree over the thin cut grass. In the tree there was a small wooden platform, if you could even call it that. Three crude wooden planks were held together by only a few nuts and bolts. At this point all it was is a broken promise. When my son Noah turned 7, I discovered that he wasn’t going to be the little boy I had always envisioned him to be. When I saw him for the first time in the hospital, in my head I could picture the very first years of his life. And I was there for every moment. I helped him up when he took his first steps, I pushed him when he first rode his bike, and I even built an entire Lego city with him when he was 5. But, over the years, I have discovered that it isn’t just the big milestone moments that count.
My wife loves birthdays with a passion. Growing up all I did was get together with my friends, and we would hang out and eat microwaved popcorn. But my wife believed in no such party. According to her, if we were going to celebrate at all we should have a blowout. And thus, on my sons 7th Birthday, everyone who had ever spoken a single word to Noah was shoved into our small living room, their gifts filling up two closets and half of the bathroom. I had not known what they were, but I could guess. Some power rangers, maybe a football or two, and probably in there was a card with some cash from people who decided not to put any effort into a gift at all.
That was when I decided to set myself aside from all of those people. I decided to build a treehouse with Noah as sort of a father son project. I remember telling him the next day that I wanted to build a treehouse. He practically bounced off the walls. He wasn’t even this exited when I told him we rented a sweet at the Mets game. We went outside and after we had put on only 3 planks to secure the structure to the tree, when it started pouring rain. Noah really wanted to stay out in the rain and finish building, but it was raining very hard. “We’ll get to it tomorrow sport,” I remember saying. “Ok dad,” he said. Just like that.
We never finished that treehouse. All because of one phone call, and a bad decision. Later that evening I got a call from my office. Our old executive had just quit to go work at a film production company leaving no one to manage our large company of over 70 employees, and I was the next qualified employee to take his place. And so, I had to decide between a large promotion, or spending my sons childhood years with him. You see, if I accepted the promotion, I would be going all over the country to our other branches, and having conferences with rival businesses and negotiating, and subsequently making a pretty decent amount of money. Being the young naïve man I was then, I took the offer, with barely a thought.
Since that day I didn’t give the treehouse much thought. I was barely in the back yard. In fact, I was barely home at all. There was always a plane to catch, or bills to pay. if Noah noticed that I wasn’t around as much, he didn’t mention anything. He wasn’t very social at all. From then on he decided to shut out all of his friends and became very introverted. He turned from a happy little boy into a busy high school student. For the majority of his time, he was either in school or studying.
I came home one day. I had been on a business trip, successfully trying to promote a new product. When Noah was little he would always run to the door and give me a big hug as I walked in through the doorway. When I walked in, he wasn’t even in the living room. “Janice?” I called, “Where’s Noah?” She looked at me and shrugged, than gestured towards Noah’s door.
“Hey!” I said to Noah as I walked in through the door.
“Hey dad,” he said, not taking his eyes off his laptop screen.
“How’s school?” I said.
“Fine,” he murmured. For five seconds there was a very deep silence, penetrated only by the clicks of Noah’s keyboard.
“Hey,” I broke in, “I have been thinking, I haven’t been seeing much of you lately, so do you want to go to the Mets game on Friday with me, as sort of a father son outing.”
“Umm,” he said, “I don’t really want to go.”
I was surprised. “Really? You always loved to go to the Mets games when you were little.”
“Well dad, I hate to break it to you, but I’m not a little kid anymore.”
“I just thought that you would love to go and I bought these just for you…”
“Can you please just leave,” he said “I’m kind of busy right now.”
I got a lump in my throat. “Sure. Whatever you want man” and flashed him a smile. “Well, if you change your mind, the seats are right behind home plate. Well, I’m sure you can find them. You are all grown up after all.” I put the tickets on the bed and stood up.
He turned his gaze sadly downward, but resumed typing away as I sadly trudged out of the room. I really thought that he would want to go. I was looking forward to spending time with him. I had already bought the tickets. They were very good tickets, but the whole reason I had wanted to go to that Mets game with him is so I could spend some quality time with my son. I walked outside to the fenced off back yard, now filled with the warm rays of the setting sun. I sat in the large, empty lawn chair, and thought about the last 8 years. I realized, that I had been away for more than half of my son’s life. I needed to spend time with him. But what else could I do? I he was pushing me away, after so many years of reaching out me. Calling me when I was in a conference, asking if I would make it to his soccer game. I always gave the same response. “I’ll try my best,” but I never did.
I sat down in my hard plastic blue seat. The warm summer sun shining on my face, and the air smelling like roasted almonds and peanuts. I was sitting right behind home plate, with an empty seat sitting right next to me. The sky was a brilliant blue and I had a front row seat of my son’s favorite baseball team. Well, I guess it wasn’t his favorite team anymore. I sighed and ate a few peanuts. We would always sit right here when Noah was little. One time, we went to batting practice before a game, and one of the players hit a foul ball .It flew into the air, and landed softly into the glove of my son, who happily sat upon my shoulders. He ran home and told everyone that him and daddy caught a baseball at a Mets game. That was the most recent time we sat here in these seats. Since then we’ve been to one game, when Noah was 10, but we sat up in a sweet, and had not been able to catch a ball at all. I remember him asking if we could go down to where we used to sit. And I lectured him about how he needs to appreciate what he has rather than what he doesn’t.
A loud roar from the crowd woke me up from my memories. The Mets had hit a home run. Yay. I don’t feel as overjoyed as I used to. It’s just not the same without Noah. But I guess I deserve it. Especially because I haven’t been around at all for 8 years. I ate my last peanut.
"Hey dad,” said a familiar voice from behind me. There stood a young man holding two dough wrapped sausages. “Want a hot dog?” he sat down next to me, right as the batter hit a foul ball toward the stands in our direction.