A Facebook photo from an old friend ambushed our lives this week, and it came at a coincidental time of growing up.
It’s a photo of me from my days at Buffalo’s Town Boys Club, where I was king. (Or at least the adults in charge let me and my pals think so.)
I was 12 or so in the photo, sporting a blue flannel shirt that rockers Eddie Vedder, Kurt Cobain and Axl Rose would copy some 10 years or so later. That’s how king we were at TBC.
And in staring at me 30-some years ago, I laughed because I was essentially staring at my youngest son, who is now the same age as me in the photo.
I could not even announce the moment to the family. Facebook beat me home. They were laughing when I got there. My mom even called.
Gratefully, she had “friended” me on Facebook. She, too, was stunned at the resemblance. I had to remind her she should not be, as she’s seen all of us grow up.
It’s good fortune to grow up.
We sprint to school, then to practice, then to life; pick our battles; win some and lose some. And then we’re old.
I don’t think we savor enough, the reward that is simply just to grow up.
Some don’t get the chance.
We’re amid a change of seasons from fallen leaves to fallen snow. Our lives are a perpetual change of seasons. And we’re living it now at Franko Estates where we have front-row seats to three boys.
At times, the changes affect them; at times, it’s on Mom and Dad.
This week, we shaved an upper lip for the first time.
There was some fear of this first.
“I don’t want to bleed,” I was told. In fact, the shave had to be on a weekend to allow time before school to heal — just in case.
So we lathered up; angled the blade; puffed the lip ...
And struck blood.
Knowing there was prior concern for this, I was quick to make it no big deal and had a “rub a little dirt on it” tone.
And all was well.
There was a between-hockey-games team breakfast recently that my oldest wanted dropped off at.
“I’m going to get a ride back to the rink with my teammates,” he told my wife.
For years, that line has always meant a mom or dad was there, and they were the ride back to the ice rink.
This time, my wife called in a panic.
“The ride back is actually his teammates,” she said in that same kind of spousal breathlessness reserved for moments like “Will you marry me?” or “Mr. and Mrs. Franko, you have a son.”
We checked off the probables:
It was daylight; they had to be back at the rink soon; and it was an important game, thus they’d be unlikely to screw around.
And we also went to the place that parents go in private: His parents weren’t raving lunatics around the rink, and the driver was always a good kid in the lockerroom.
And all was well.
Not all episodes cause real panic; only a dose. It’s even better when the dose of panic is on the offspring.
Each of the boys has a flimsy 99-cent wallet they’ve had for years. It holds whatever wealth — earned from chores and gifts — that we let them hold onto instead of bank.
One of those wallets has been in my car’s glove compartment for five months. I left it there, figuring it was just a couple bucks, and let he who’s missing it speak up first.
Five months later, my oldest popped the door and said “Oh — there’s my wallet.”
I lectured that he must not have cared for it as it’s been here for five months. He mumbled something back that I can’t recall.
I was then left mumbling when he pulled $70 from it.
We’ve obviously been slipping with how much wealth we let them hold. Growing old also provides wisdom, and he who’s older often has more of it to use.
He unfurled the money as we were leaving a game and pulling into a drive-thru for food.
He was tucking the money back in the wallet and tucking it into his pocket when I said:
“Keep that out ...”
His head whipped several times around like Wile E. Coyote as an anvil was about to land on him. The only thing missing was a camera for my kid to frown into just before the anvil crashed.
“You’re making me pay?” he said. (I swear I heard his voice crack.)
I’ve been trying to diet for, oh, 14 unsuccessful years.
This day would be unsuccessful, too. There wasn’t a super-sized item I did not get.
The intercom voice then whistled “Dixie” to me:
“Do you want any dessert?”
I looked at my kid, whose lips pursed in different contortions. Like Ralphie in “A Christmas Story,” I think he wanted to launch an expletive. I said:
“You’ve not missed $70 for five months. You won’t miss $15 for lunch.”
It was a pretty cheap life lesson, and a chance to score one for the parents in the game of growing up.
I did not order dessert — for my sake; not his.
And, again, all was well.