I am sitting here on my flight from NY to Phoenix in row 7, just a few rows behind that infamous opaque curtain that covers the elite first class. I gaze up there where they get to eat Caesar salad, herb steak, and cheesecake for lunch, while I munch on the chicken I took from home and a bag of grapes I am traveling with. I don’t mind it. I have been upgraded to first class a few times, and while it was enjoyable, I don’t miss it.
What does come to mind is a regret. I see the people up there smiling, sitting comfortably in their wide seats, and getting pampered by stewardesses that are actually nice. It bothers me that Andrew will never have that experience. It bothers me that my son will never have the chance to be one of those who are pampered in first class. I know he would have enjoyed it.
What else has he been cheated out of? What else do I think about that he never got to do or see? Where didn’t he get to go? What did he forever miss?
He never got to Israel or Italy – and I know he wanted to go to those places. I know he wanted to go with Todd and Jeff to Israel – he talked to Jeff often about going with him one day. He wanted to see what so many people had so much faith in. He talked about going to Italy with Dorothy and Nicole – he wanted to see Bonefro, where Grandma is from, and share in her memories of her times there. He never got to go to either place.
He loved snowboarding. He went every chance he had when he was at school. He went to Vail more times in three years than most skiers go in a lifetime. He boarding every mountain there as well as the back bowl – where only the most skilled boarders dare to go. He loved Vail, and I got to experience it with him many times as well – it is some of my best memories with him in the recent years – especially the times Nicole went with us. When we were there he talked about going boarding in the summer up in Canada. He talked about going boarding in Italy and the Alps, maybe being dropped at the top of a mountain from a helicopter. Again, these are things he never got to experience – he only got dream about them. And those dreams are gone now.
As we all know, he loved to drive. He loved to drive his Jetta and absolutely loved to drive his six speed RX-8. Windows down, sunroof open, stereo wailing away, wearing his cool Ray Bans and his ski cap. He would have Eminem or some rap artist playing, but not too loud – he liked to hear the motor running and the sound the tires made against the pavement. Thanks to one of my closest friends, Andrew also got to experience driving an amazing Porsche. What a smile he had and exhilaration he felt. In that instant he knew he wanted one. He could feel that was in his future. All of a sudden he had a goal he wanted to achieve. We also talked about going to driving school in CT together – where they teach performance driving – emergency handling, high speed turns, handling spin outs, learning how to corner better and to really take advantage of what his Mazda could do. But once again, he was cheated. We both were.
We were also supposed to play in an adult hockey league his last summer. But his broken hand prevented that. It took away our father and son time – it cheated us both. Luckily we did play in a few games together the prior summer, and I will cherish those memories. Andrew said I was too slow on the ice, and I couldn’t shoot – like I needed my son to tell me that. He said if I stand in front of the net, he would pass me the puck so I could score. I am not sure if that worked or not, but at least he tried. I see so many other dads from my adult league playing hockey with their kids, and I know I am being cheated out of that. I see the pictures of them together on Facebook, huge proud smiles on their faces. And I will miss that. Maybe Nicole will let me play on her team one day.
I look in his room at what he did have. Bracelets he made at the farm. Wrist bands from the cruises we took. An armrest from his high school auditorium. Some broken hockey sticks, trophies too many to count, and I smile at those things. I smile at what is there, what he left behind of his experiences.
I know he loved going to the farm. He had such good farm friends that meant so much to him. He kept everything he ever made at the farm to remind him of the good time. This past summer, our farm friends made Dorothy and me a scrapbook of pictures of Andrew, and notes from those who knew him at the farm. It means so much to us to have that scrapbook. We know how long it must have taken them to make it, and we appreciate it, we look at it all the time.
He loved to spend time with his friends in town, by the woods, or in a parking lot nearby. Just hanging out. He would sit out there with the same people for hours and hours and talk about the same stuff over and over again – all the while with no shoes on. I guess the no shoes was an Andrew and Wally thing.
I see his paintball markers (guns). He had pods, and masks, and bags, and all the other accessories that he needed to play for hours. Back in school, he and a bunch of his friends would go to Park Lane, where there were dozens of unexplored acres and they would play all day. They would break for lunch and grandma was always glad to make something for him and his friends, or we would have pizza brought in, then back to the paint.
He also has the ticket board I wrote about before. How many kids his age go to experience The Who in concert – not once but twice. We all go to see an unforgettable evening with Meatloaf in the front of a very small venue. He went to numerous Jets games, Rangers games, playoff games, World Series, NBA Finals, and so on. He was a certified Scuba diver at thirteen and we dove all over the Caribbean – together – especially with his sister and mother.
There are so many things to smile at in his room. I have to learn, as so many others have, to treasure what he did get to see and do, to treasure what he treasured, and to know he had a great life.
So I look up in first class, and I know he never got to experience that. But what he did experience was amazing. What Dorothy and I were able to give him during his lifetime makes us happy. Now I can close my eyes, take my nap, and know that for the few short years that I had him, I gave him whatever I could.