Today is the last day of school. For students across the district, there is an air of excitement and anticipation. Unfortunately for me, there is a great deal of dread and angst. This will be my first summer without Peyton. My wife Lisa just posted a picture to Facebook of Ian and Emmy on their last day, and it made me think about how difficult this summer is going to be for me.
His district got out last week, so he should have already been with me. For him that meant staying at the house all day playing XBox and loving the fact that his step brother had to go today. Last year was the same thing, but Peyton had to come with me and be put to work to pay off the bill for the downloadable content he wracked up. Right now, I would give anything to have him here complaining about having to do the work.
As I sit here, I think about all the things we won't be doing. He would have gone to indoor skydiving today with Ian to help celebrate Ian's birthday. He would have gotten to complain about having to go to the library with Emmy and me for story time. He would have been arguing with me about whose turn it was on the XBox. We could have gone to the movies, the mall, the book store (he would never leave the Dr. Who display). He would have had the whole family over to celebrate his 14th birthday. Instead, I face the prospect of my first summer without him in 14 years.
About this time 14 years ago, I was pacing the halls of St. Joseph's hospital in Houston. His mother, Jacki had been admitted with preeclampsia when she was 29 weeks pregnant with Peyton. The doctors originally thought they were going to have to deliver Peyton that night. Thankfully for us, they were wrong. He held out for another four weeks, and was born on June 16, 2001, the day before Father's Day. It was the greatest gift I had ever received.
He was small, just over two pounds, but he was a fighter. He spent the first 33 days of his life in the NICU, but he never ceased to amaze the nurses and other staff members with his amazing burps.
Peyton struggled all his life with some of the effects of his premature birth. First and foremost was his size. He always seemed to be one of the smallest in his class, and it never went unnoticed among his peers. He had to wear glasses from an early age, and because of his rough and tumble personality, they were usually the toughest pair of frames his mother and I could find, so they were usually the less fashionable. Most of all Peyton had discolored permanent teeth as a result of receiving pure oxygen as a baby. This was a flaw that the other kids went after with a zeal. They questioned his brushing habits, and made other crude and crass remarks intended to hurt, and they did. It got so bad, that he never showed his teeth when he smiled for his school picutres.
Peyton wanted veneers so badly so that the comments would cease. He was so happy about the prospect of getting braces because it meant that once they were off, he would get veneers. A change in my dental insurance meant he would have to wait another year, so he endured just a little longer. At least he did until that fateful day in October.
Now I sit here and listen to my students talk about all the things they have planned. I listen to teachers talking about family vacations. I even listen to some complain about having to drag their kid to this camp and that camp. I wonder if they know that I would give my left nut to have to take Peyton to a camp, or the dentist, or lessons, or anywhere inconvenient and out of the way.
So please keep in mind that when you are driving across the country yelling at your kids in the back seat, or driving them to the mall for the umpteenth time to "hang out" with their friends, or being begged to go to the latest Marvel movie, or even yelling at them to get their ass off the couch and do something besides play video games or binge watch Netflix all damn day, at least you can.