I finished packing my bags for another Detroit Pistons road trip when I saw one of the most gut wrenching sights of my life.
My four year old son Brandon stood guard at the front door clutching the handles of a Winnie the Pooh travel bag. He grew tired of dad being on the road and he thought I needed company. It broke my heart because I’d have to explain to him why he could not come on the trip that included stops in Portland, Salt Lake City and Sacramento.
I told him I was traveling for work, not pleasure. I could not take him to games while I worked. I could not leave him in a hotel room while I covered games for The Detroit News.
I hugged him and explained all this in a rush as I hurried to the car and had to close the door in his face. All along he thought I’d change my mind and allow him to come. I felt like the biggest crumb in the world.
Road trips are fun when you are single. They are not so fun when you want to spend the weekend watching Diners, Drive Ins and Dives on a Friday night with your son or watch him play soccer on Saturday morning.
I felt like I shut the door in Brandon’s face too often while juggling two careers. It is my only regret. I never taught my son how to properly catch a baseball or do a drop step toward the hoop in basketball.
I needed to keep that gravy train rolling for my family. I made a vow while growing up in inner city Detroit that my children would enjoy a better life than me. The sacrifice was not spending as much time with them as I wanted.
It took retirement to square things with Brandon. He never complained because we still did things together. We made weekend trips to Costco where he attempted to eat every sample they passed out. We enjoyed triple D Friday nights and lunch together at his favorite restaurant.
And he loved going to the mall to pick out a new T-shirt or pair of jeans.
After I retired Brandon and I spent plenty of alone time. That’s when my son and I bonded most. We discovered the wonders of an air fryer together. We went to lunch more often and he was my main taste taster when I began smoking meats.
He became my best friend. Having a stroke pushed us closer, but I still remember the terror in his eyes when he saw me laying in a hospital bed. Then there was the time I took him out for coffee. I even remember talking to him on the drive over. The problem was I was in the car alone and Brandon remained at home.
Now I miss my buddy who is in the dorms at Michigan State University. It is really sad making supply runs to campus because of Covid-19 safety measures. We both wear masks. I scream at him through an open window and have not seen his room since the day we helped move him in.
I never hug him or touch him.
My wife Abs told Brandon she worries about me being alone in the house.
“Don’t worry mom,” Brandon replied. “Dads OK. He’s got his air fryer.”
But I don’t have my buddy.
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