Thursday, September 17, 2009

I'm so proud...or Worldguy's WALK IN WISCONSIN

Normally what I did , where I went and for what reason the last several days would be too personal to post. But since I chose to take to world with me I must bare my story on this blog for continuity.

The phrase " I'm so Proud." has rung in my ear for days. My pride is for my son. This tale involves that pride and my unconditional love for my boy. The world went along for the ride.

Last Friday I posted about mending a roof. This has seemingly nothing to do with my son of eighteen years who has taken to be a "traveler" since he came of age. Nor does a six foot inflatable relate to a rotted area on a poorly designed roof, yet that is the start of this tale.

I was tearing a section of rotten roof off the house where I live last Friday when I got a call from an old friend who I have known since my son was an infant. We have worked together, helped each other over the years and seen each others boys grow up. That is when the mantra phrase began. I shared with my old friend my sons path since he turned eighteen and my feelings since my return from the walk for diabetes this summer. While I was gone my son was left with the one rule of no hanging out with friends or " over nighters " at our home. This was to both keep the house free from the sticky fingers of young strangers and give him a sanctuary during my absence. My son stretched that rule and had people in the house all the time and had others come to stay.
"I'm so proud."
I left him with enough supplies to last him over a month that he shared with his guests so after a week the cupboard was bare.
"I'm so proud."
With the income of his part time job he would be comfortable and learn the responsibility of living on his own without the burden of rent. He had wanted to move out when he turned eighteen and my being gone on the walk would be good for him to have a taste of responsible adulthood.
He lost his job.
"I'm so proud."
He sold almost all of my collection of DvDs for food at first, then for money to go on the road with his friends as they pan handle around the country.
"I'm so proud."
Several tools and some extra gear for travel came up missing which he has no notion of how they disappeared .
"I'm so proud."
He broke and lost his glasses twice just before he left town and plans to make a sign a stand by an eyeglass outlet and pan handle a new pair.
"I'm so proud."
My boy was now in Wisconsin sleeping in the streets by choice for the adventure before heading to Washington State to" winter over" with his friend who is in the armed forces and is stationed there.
"I'm so proud."
My friend listened to this and many other reasons of the pride I feel for my only child. We chuckled at the list.
The next mornng I was cleaning the last debris from the decayed area and rebuilding the new wood to set the new rafters for the roof when I recieved a devastating call from the mother of a girl my son had dated until last winter and had some contact with just before he left town. The girls mother informed me her daughter has become hiv positive. I first called his mother who was devasted. I then called one of the group my son was with and told my son what I had heard. He did not believe the news but said he would get a blood test. From his response I could tell he would not act. I struggled with fashioning new rafters for awhile before the news caused me to sit and stare at the sky for hours in thoughts deep. Eventually I came down thirsty and of little good to anyone. No good at all.
Sunday I began with a bit of debris clean up around the side of the house. Still worried I called my son again but he and his traveling buddy had split from his group of four and were on separate sides of Madison Wisconsin. They had argued about the importance of getting a blood test. Have I mentioned how proud I am of my son? I ended the day watching television with the volume loud drifting between sleep and the depression of a parents nightmare playing out in real time.
Monday I was back on the roof making progress after waking at four in the morning to walk Nice. We walked for hours in the dark and when I returned I realized I had unconsciously walked past all the places we had lived during my sons life, including the apartment where we were living when his mother and I were married.Before working I loaded the car with my road gear and put the world in the trunk of the car thinking that if I had to find my son in a collage town I might need a way of attracting some attention. On the roof I was talking to his mother trying to calm her and hope for a call from my son. I could not calm her and the only call I got was from his friends in Madison wanting to know if I had heard from him. I thought I was holding myself together well when I noticed my hand was trembling as I worked. Not a good sign.
By the end f the day Tuesday the roof had a tarp on it, there was no word from my son and I had resolved to drive the five hundred fifty miles to find my son and get him somewhere for a blood test. Wednesday I was on the road. I was most of the way through Illinois when realized I had no idea where in Wisconsin Madison was. I had never looked at a map .
I found Madison by the end of the day and found myself driving around this city of a quarter million people where most of the people I saw were wearing backpacks! I was looking for a needle in a haystack with no idea where to begin. I knew only that my son was downtown. I decided to park and walk to get some sense of the hot spots where I might find street kids hanging about. It was about six pm and the downtown metered parking spots were still full. I saw an open spot and parked.
After I parked I got Nice (the dog) out, put on my hat and shoulder bag determined to find my boy however long it would take. Nice and me walked to the corner that was no more than twenty yards from where we had parked. At the corner I noticed that dank smell off crusty teenager who has not showered. The street was full of young kids, some were students and some looked like they had been out on the street for awhile being tan from dust as much as from yhe sun. At the corner were large concrete flower pots and Nice sniffed at it. I thought he was about to relieve himself when he 'hit" on a scent. If you have a good tracker type dog you can tell when they pick up a scent. He pulled me across the intersection to the opposite corner, turned to the right and when I looked up and saw my son and his friend sitting on a bench. Nice ran up to him and I could see he unerstood why I had made him ride all the way there only stopping once for gas. I could hardly believe my eyes, I had found the needle in the hay stack.
My son was happy to see me and Nice. He asked what I was doing there. Was I back on the road on another walk for diabetes? I lied and told him I missed him and wanted to hang out with my boy...My pride overflowed.
After awhile my son asked if I could get a hotel room so he could shower and check his body that was covered with poison ivy. He had spent a few days in some woods with some road kids and got infected after wrestling in the weeds. I got a room and he took a long shower before falling quickly to sleep. In the morning we had a good breakfast and I found a place t get him a blood test.
At the clinic I worried while he was in the back. I prepared for the worst. They had said the test took ten minutes, I waited almost an hour. Finally he came out with a smile,. They had tested him three times and the results were negative. Words can not express my relief.
We then drove back into the city so he could find his friend. I stopped about a mile from the capitol and inflated the world. To drive that distance without making a positive out of it seemed just wrong. After a couple blocks I told my son I would catch up with him later. I then walked around the state capitol and then to the lake were I sat relieved at the news while enjoying the scenery. I worked my way back to State street where the action was. The world fit right in at this disneyland for street kids, college students, home bums, and locals who shop and dine at this strip of shops and restaurants. I found my son with a group of crusty boys. They were gathering change for beer while I talked with students and locals about why I was there. i was honest and told everyone of what I had done this summer and why I was there. I would then point out my son and chant " I'm so proud."
My goal met, I left my boy to his. To try and get him to come back with me was a waste of time and I had no desire to stay and "hang out" so we hugged and said good bye. As I rolled up the street to find a good place to eat a black unmarked police car rolled alongside and the commander inside asked what in the world I was doing. I quickly told of my journies this year and told her of why I was there, she nodded in approval that I had come so far to make sure my "traveler" was healthy. I told her where I had parked and she told me to be careful of the buses and bike riders and to enjoy my dinner. Madison is a good place . After my meal I walked and talked my way to the car, pulled the plug and put the world in the trunk.
On the ride home I listened to Jackson Browne, The Pretender. One song hit home, Your Bright Baby Blues.
I made the trip to Wisconsin an event. Worldguy has chalked up another state. That makes ten states we have walked in. Forty to go.
Now I am back to the long neglected roof at home.
I am so proud...


Cathy said...

OMG, Erik. What a relief to not just find your son, but to hear that he doesn't have AIDS.

As you know, I don't have any kids (at least that I know of). I can't imagine what's been going thru your mind.

You are the best dad in the world. What other father would drop everything to go looking for your son in a different state.

What a blessing you are to your son.

Love ~ cathy <--Dewey's mom

Play Pal Charlie said...

When I saw you in Kansas City, you seemed almost flippant and uncaring, but I am realizing through your writing just how knotted our perspectives and paths can be. I feel deeply sorry for judging you that way. You have inspired me more than once (oddly enough for someone who I had about 1 minute face time with). Thank you for being so open, honest, vocal and courageous; it means a lot to any growing person.