The picture you see on the left is about twenty years old. It features a younger, thinner version of me and my then 5 or 6 year old son. The picture on the right was just last spring – I was having a beer with my son at the Great Canadian Brew House.
I remember stepping into the photo booth at the old Penhorn Mall in Dartmouth Nova Scotia where I lived at the time, though I honestly can’t recall where on earth I got that ugly shirt from. I imagine we’d just come out of the cinema because Shane and I saw a ton of movies when he was little. I would have been about 27 at the time – I’m 48 now.
It’s been a long road for my kid. He’s experienced a lot of upheaval in his life as I tried to sort my own life out. He’s been living out here in Saskatoon now since he finished high school and up until yesterday, he worked at my company as a sheet metal apprentice.
On Saturday his life is about the change forever. He’s joined up to serve in the Canadian Armed Forces and his basic training starts next Monday. Three months of drill, inspections, physical training, more drill, more inspections, weapons handling and of course marching. Lots and lots and lots of marching.
He’s 25 now – he’s been through a rough couple of years as he struggled to find his place in the world. He is well liked at my company. He does very good work on everything from installing gas lines to heat runs for furnaces. (He installed the gas lines in my own house to our kitchen range and my beautiful, amazing, fabulous Weber barbecue outside on the deck) He’s a hard worker. Resourceful. He’s respectful and he has a good heart. He’s an excellent catch for the right girl once all the smoke clears from basic training and getting himself settled at his unit.
We talked early in 2015 about his joining up. As a veteran, I told him the facts as I saw them: the military isn’t for everybody but the best people I ever knew, I served with. I suggested that after surviving basic training, he would be more confident, more independent – he would become a changed man. And of course a regular paycheque, free health care and a regimented life has its benefits because you are part of something bigger than yourself. Serving in the military changed my life when I joined up at age 17. It gave me the confidence achieve whatever I set my mind to. I think it will do the same for my son as well.
His flight to boot camp leaves in 48 hours. I’ll be driving him to the airport with all the best wishes a father can offer and the confidence that comes from knowing he’s going to succeed because he’s got a good head on his shoulders and a strong work ethic. I’m proud of him for joining up because a lot of people his age are adrift in life and their work. I’ve seen it first-hand. I think this will give him a clear direction and a hell of an opportunity to shine. Once basic training is over, he’ll be spending the better part of 2016 at CFB Gagetown learning Heating, Air Conditioning which is better than me when I joined up: all I was qualified for was the infantry.
So go kick ass, Shane. I know you’re going to do your old man proud. They might even have sriracha sauce at the mess hall. Onward.