I never had a son. It wasn’t for lack of trying. Three times I stepped to the plate. Three times I delivered – or my wife delivered – a girl. I used to tease Lacey (my last-born) that her nickname was “Strike Three.” (She knows she was really a grand slam, so just chill, all you people with the arched eyebrow.)
I never had a boy, but girls attract boys. For a good while, Ashley (my firstborn) was in the new-boyfriend-every-other-day club and that was fine with me.
Then, it happened. This skin-and-bones kid showed up at my house and introduced himself as Andrew. I didn’t bother trying to remember the name. He’d be gone in a day or two.
But he wasn’t.
In fact, it seemed he was coming around more and more, and this caused me no small consternation. Before long, the talk turned serious. The “M” word was bantered about and Dad was not about to sit still and do nothing. I waxed eloquent time and again about the folly of moving too fast. There was plenty of time for that.
The day Andrew Woolgar (yes, “Woolgar” – amazing, I know, that a kid with the surname Strother could find a beau with an even odder one) asked to speak to me in private will forever be etched in my memory. He was nervous, but not afraid; humble, but not overwhelmed…and that bothered me, to be honest.
He slipped his hand into his jeans pocket and produced a ring.
“I want to ask Ashley to marry me,” he announced. “And I would like your blessings.”
“Well, you don’t have it. Put that thing back in your pocket and forget it.”
“I can’t. I love her.”
“Fine. Maybe you can give her the ring and call it a promise ring or something, but that is NOT an engagement ring.”
I went on to tell him, in less than polite tones, that if he were still hanging around in a couple years, and I doubted he would be, then maybe – just MAYBE – we could have this talk again.
A year later, I proudly walked my gorgeous daughter down the aisle and gave her hand to the man who loved her too much to be run off by a crazy, sharp-tongued, white-knuckled dad. She became Mrs. Andrew Woolgar.
I have a son-in-law.
Andrew enlisted in the army. He became a scout. Then he became a dad.
I have a grandson.
Ty David Woolgar is four years and four months old. His daddy has been a soldier at war in Iraq for more than half of his life. While I soak up the pure joy of having my grandson around all the time, his daddy bravely kicks in the doors of would-be terrorists and assassins. While I teach my grandson how to throw and catch a ball, his daddy spends his days in combat gear under the desert sun, keeping Freedom’s lamp burning.
Not long ago, Andrew called to talk to his wife and son. Before he hung up, he asked to speak to me. We talked about when he would be home and the things we would do. I told him to keep himself as much out of harm’s way as possible. He promised he would. Then, he said…
“Love ya, Dad.”
I have a son…and he is an American soldier.