I've always been a bit of a late bloomer. I suspect it was the 21 days past term I went; the fact that I arrived late into the world, that late would become my lifelong shibboleth and war cry.
I was always behind in school, suffering from not only poorly developed ability to focus on anything but reading great books, but interpersonal skills with the opposite sex--I badly wanted to snog, but couldn't make the quantum leap from basic conversation to make out to save my life. Instead I stumbled along, wondering which organ had been broken and where, and how I was to bridge the great gulf to ever have sex with anyone in adulthood. Point of fact, I made out with a girl, and this is no lie, for the first time in college. COLLEGE! Her name was, and probably still is, Amy. Her last name eludes me at the moment, but I can still remember our first kiss--I with lips puckered (and probably a squinty debonair look on my face which I'd figured was passionate) kissed her open mouth. Her teeth to be exact. Our relationship was all about kissing, there was the terrified talking which I interspersed between the smooching; I was wondering if was doing it right, and rather than straight out asking her if it was working for her, I made conversation. We snogged for a week solid, fogging up the glass of her green Dodge Neon every night after classes, for seven days solid in my stepfather's driveway. My mom slept inside, unknowing a tiny romance of one was budding out in the drive.
Amy broke up with me, and I later found her father (a nationally syndicated author, Joseph Walker...there's her last name!) had published an article about "promises we couldn't keep" or something along those lines, about us and our dating. He'd called me "purple and passionate" and may have even alluded to me being gay (something about how she wore overalls often and I'd told her they were really great), to this day I am not sure; I must go dig out the newspaper clipping, I am sure it is in a box somewhere. Now, to be totally fair, I did have a couple of gay friends. I never, ahem, followed their lifestyle, but it apparently confused her enough to fall for another buddy from one of our shared classes. At least that is how it seemed to me back in the year 1997, twelve years ago. In five more years, that will be half a lifetime ago. With the way they seem to pass like the sweet sound of an alto sax in a window while walking, those five years are next to nothing.
Thankfully God has a plan for all of us, and I learned a little bit about life and where I wanted to be. This involved stumbling about for a number of years, dating and learning what to say and what not to say, how to be respectful, how to truly love. I daresay I made enough mistakes to fill two lifetimes, and this thankfully resulted in no children conceived out of wedlock, or addictions to chemical substance. The end result (as of 0335 on May 13th, year of our Lord 2009) I stand before you all a strangely learned, albeit via the dusty back road route, man. I am a husband of seven years, a father of a soon to be fourth child, my third boy. I work as a manager over nearly two dozen people, and I know how to relate to them. They vary in demographic from Uber-nerd computer gurus, to close to retirement chaps who worked on computers while I was still a gamete. Yes, that strangely awkward yet earnest eighth-grade boy in hand me downs who wore his sister's Guess shorts to school one time (thinking they were obviously heterosexual enough to pass, silly me), is now a manager of some 7 years. He makes three monthly car payments (well one is a motorcycle, just to be fair), and is the epitome of a hard working red-blooded American male. I take out the trash. I mow the lawn. I hug my babies, I wash the dishes, I fold laundry.
It just took a little while to get here.
I suppose this story is not unique, and if another person or another 2 million persons have lived it out, then so be it. But this is my story, and as such I have claim on it.
I am grateful to God for the way he has allowed me to learn things at my own pace. I am grateful that the boy who was so unknown to himself can be fully understood by the man. I am grateful to the mother who carried me those extra 21 days, and who still to this day sees the potential residing in these five feet seven inches of clay. I am most grateful to the woman who I married, Melissa, for not being my mother. Not because of conventional thinking in that regard, but for being herself--her strengths, her drives, her passions, her honey-do list. She is my soul-mate, if one can believe in such things--it is to me as if God knew she was coming, and had to shape the boy into the man so he would be deserving of such a one.
And again, for that, I am most grateful to Him.
Thank you God for allowing me to take the back road and grow at my own pace.
And in closing, lest you think I am about to be translated straight up through the heavens (I did say I do laundry after all, what woman doesn't love a man who cleans stuff) to the nearest cloud and harp, let me advise you I still fart. I still get ear and nose hair. I have my father and grandfather's bushy eyebrows. I still have moments where I feel downtrodden, and I still get frustrated at a busy work day. I still hate poopy diapers (I tell my daughter she shouldn't hate anything, but I should make an exception to my lecture and mention that poopy diapers are fair game), I still hate cleaning up vomit (and will append that to the lecture list). I still struggle with wanting to go to church when it is 0830 on a Sunday.
But despite all this and more (much, much more), I am grateful for this life oh God. Thank you my Heavenly Father for each experience in life. Thank You for allowing me to make it in my own way, and guiding me, stubborn man that I am, to my wife and kids.
Finally, I can gladly report that my kissing prowess, which developed at such an atrophied pace, according to the only woman who matters in my life, is pretty damn fine.
And that conclusion is a pretty good one