McFadyen’s Musings: The last boy
By Bill McFadyen
It marked my third trip into our hospital’s delivery room. I figured the second one would have been my last. My wife had other ideas and used a leverage that I had come to find irresistible in those eight years of marriage.
There we were again.
My favorite OB-GYN in the world determined it was past time for this little fellow to join us, and he scheduled delivery for
November 1. I remember looking at my wife at the annual Halloween party and thinking of pumpkins.
His final hour in the womb was blessed by his mom’s singing. She lay in the bed on some really overpowering injected medicine wearing foam headphones connected to an iPod or whatever was 2002’s soon-to-be outdated music delivery system. The medicine was designed to mask some of the pain of a difficult delivery, but it served also to eliminate inhibition. Thus, our soon-to-be second son prepared to join us while listening to his hostess sing “Loving in an Elevator” by Aerosmith.
It makes sense today, given that this past winter he achieved his second all-conference status on the Cape Fear High School swim
team. Somewhere close to birth, he took off in a burst of freestyle and swam through his own umbilical cord. At the end of the only tense delivery I witnessed with my three children, my good man the doctor held the knotted cord in his palm and told me to feel blessed because had it cinched any tighter, the perfect little life squirming on the delivery table could have been badly damaged or even worse. William Hudson McFadyen arrived into the world having already used one of his mulligans.
He made his first starring role a few weeks later. He was Baby Jesus in the live nativity at church.
As a little fellow, I remember Hudson’s love of Pokemon cards. He lorded over them competing against each other on the floor of
his bedroom. They had names like Charizard, Blastoise, and Zapdos. He played it so often and for such long stretches that I told him he was going to turn into a Pokemon and that when he did, his Pokemon name would be Hoosan. It stuck. Then, Hoosan turned into
Hoose and that is how you will find him in the contacts of my phone today – Hoose.
All of that world-conquering led to his becoming the defender of the universe that was our backyard. Many times Susanna and
I would take an inventory of children in and around the house. The answer to, “Where is Hoose?” became “Outside killing bad guys.”
At first, I tried to play too. I would mimic his karate kicks and judo chops in an effort to help beat back the invaders that I thought I too
could see, but I was not welcome in that world of his. He would call an abrupt cease-fire and disappear inside. I became a stealthier observer of the magic of the mind of our child. While still visible from the back porch, he would walk through the backyard issuing some silent challenge to the enemy. By the time he would get to the pole barn and below our line of sight, he was in full-fledged Bruce Lee mode, slashing at and chopping down his foes. I would sneak from garden shed to hedgerow, watching intently, wishing that I could come to his side in his time of battle, the vestiges of little boy still in me wanting release so badly, so as to help him win.
He was smart from the beginning. School was easy. We moved him to Vanstory Hills Elementary School in second grade. It was
my alma mater. I had grown up a short par-4’s distance from where we parked the car, and I had told him so as we drove into the circle to
park. Hand in hand, we walked to the front entrance for our first visit. Any angst I felt at his occupying a seat in a new school with new people quickly dissipated. “Daddy,” he said, “I bet all the teachers here know me as soon as they see me because I look just like you did when you went here.” Yes, he did, and if they did not know him when he arrived, they did when he left four years later.
One day he got into Susie’s van in car line and said that Ms. Thomas, the assistant principal, was going to have a baby. She was a favorite with the students and with us. Susie was animated at the news. “That is great, Hudson. When?” Hudson replied, “I don’t know but it must have happened last night because she wasn’t like that yesterday.” Back in Eastover, there was middle school band, the wrestling team and the A honor roll. Then at Cape Fear High school, there was marching band, the swim team, lacrosse and the A honor roll. There came a driver’s license.
Six days later, he used another mulligan in a car accident from which everyone somehow walked away. God bless that well-built ’93 GMC pickup truck. It was a hard and fast lesson that has not been repeated. When marching band lost its luster, we made a deal that he could trade out if he put the time into his Eagle Scout quest. He achieved it a few days prior to his 18th birthday.
During the frustration of the COVID shutdown, he showed up on the docks of Strickland’s Portion Pak on Sapona Road and put in an application. They pay him an hourly wage, and he works about 20 hours a week. I guess I am glad they did not call me before hiring him, because I would have paid them to take him, if only to get him out of the house and out from in front of the computer.
His foray into the working world has been indescribably productive. It has provided interaction with people he would not have known otherwise. It has required him to be timely. To work weekends. To make deductively reasoned decisions on the merits of working
hard. A few days into his job, he came home saying he had pulled cases of crinkle-cut fries from the freezer every day he had worked.
“Dad, where do all those potatoes come from?” So, he has witnessed visual examples of the macroeconomics of farming and distribution. He will leave for Raleigh this August. He will be wearing red, joining the Wolfpack. As Susanna and I look at it today, we are elated for him. When he is actually gone, when we are driving away from his dorm in a few months, we will be elated still. We will also be returning to a house occupied by just us two – an empty nest.
In the think tank that is my shower, it occurred to me last week that when Hoose graduates from high school May 28th and
begins packing for life away from home, I will have accomplished the bulk of what I vowed to do when Susie and I contracted with each
other for a family. There is so much more that I want to say to all my children and even to their children. But at 60 years of age and being about three-fourths done on the actuarial charts, I have knocked out the bulk of the hard work. I am self-satisfied.
I do hope that when we drive into the garage after setting him on his path that I can slip down to the pole barn and entice the invaders into at least one more friendly battle.
I will wish, though, that I too had my liege battling them by my side.
Bill McFadyen can be reached at email@example.com.