Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Making a difference

Yesterday afternoon I received a phone call I never thought I'd ever receive. That I even answered it is amazing, because I've started to turn off the ringer on my phone in the afternoon so I can get some sleep. On the other end of the line was a voice from about two years ago, sounding a little bit older and more mature, but yes I remembered it. I was wide awake in an instant.

"Tommy, it's me, Randy from Chino Valley?"

Shortly after I moved to Arizona my ex got involved with the local Search & Rescue group. That being her thing I didn't really want to get involved and after I met the posse I thought they were all insufferable pricks anyway, but I still wanted to get involved in some way with our new community. I was pointed to the Boy's & Girl's Club of Arizona from a friend in my American Legion post, which had a program similar to Big Brothers~Big Sisters. Not having any children of my own, and hitting my middle thirties I was feeling something was missing in my life.

Soon after I signed up and they completed the background check, they put me in contact with a fourteen year old boy from the town that had similar interests with me. His mom was a recovering crystal-meth addict and was still an alcoholic and really didn't want to have much to do with him. So about once a week we started hanging out, just doing stuff like going bowling, and mini-golf. We went on several camping trips and hiking excursions. I took him on his first fishing trip ever to Lake Powell. We even built model rockets once and launched them in my back yard... Laughing our asses off at my Golden Retriever, Fred charging after them. I think I enjoyed being around him more than he like hanging with me.

When we first met, he was failing miserably in school and getting into trouble with the wrong crowd, but by the time I last saw him he was getting great grades and had even made the highschool Varsity football squad. That last time we were together was a winter camping trip up to the Kibab National Forest. We sat up all night telling ghost stories and eating sm'ores, and as I turned off the lights in my camper and we settled in to sleep, he called out across the camper to me...

"Tommy? You still awake?" He asked.

"Yeah, what's up?"

"I wish you were my dad, you know..."

I couldn't speak because I had this huge lump in my throat. I choked back tears in the darkness and told him to get to sleep.

That weekend was the last time I saw him because shortly after that my marriage fell apart and I moved away.

But somehow he found me. He got hold of my sister, who after realizing he wasn't some spy from my ex gave him my number. He wanted to tell me he was accepted into the Air Force Academy and wanted to thank me.

"Thank me? What did I do?"

"You were there for me, Tommy. You never gave up on me."

I couldn't speak. I could hear the tears in his voice too. He asked if I would come to his graduation in 2009...

"I'd be proud to be there for you, son..."

WE talked for a while longer and said out goodbyes. I sat there a while and just stared at the phone. And felt really, really good. I wiped the dampness from my eyes for the last time and went back to sleep.

Maybe I did do some good for a while. I'd like to think I did. Probably that's the closest I'll ever get to being a father, and you know what? I liked it. And that call yesterday made the time I spent with him worth more than anything I'll ever do in my life.

That call was priceless.

Maybe I should leave the ringer on more often?

Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden


DivineMsN said...

That is a great story! I just got an application to the Burlington County Boys and Girls club (in the mail this week). Stories like yours show how just one person can make a difference in someone's life. You should be proud :)

Bekah said...

That is awesome! Now think of how many lives he will go on to change through the course of his career, or just by being a great guy, like you.
You done good, you done really good.

Anonymous said...

That is awesome! I wish more men like you would volunteer and get involved with children in those situations. People never understand the impact that a man-figure has on young boys w/o father figures in their life.
What a great story.

Lorna said...

Blub!, I've got tears in my eyes here, what a lovely and touching story. You must've felt amazing and man, what a difference that call must've been from the usual vinyl siding guy! ha ha

cantellya said...

That if flippin' amazing! Kudos to you! And to him! I agree with bek, wondering how many lives HE'S going to change. Isn't it great to have made SOME difference? *pats ranger tom on the back*

Lindsey said...

Oh Geez...you're gonna make me cry! That was so sweet!!! I've been thinking about getting involved in a big sister program as well. I'm the oldest of 5 kids, I've got plenty of experience.

Bev said...

I used to substitute teach a couple of years ago when I couldn't find a job out of college. There were a couple of high school kids most teachers would've ignored just 'cause they had a bad look about 'em with their tatoos and baggy pants, but I tried to find something to talk to them about and inspire them to use the talents they have. I'll never really know if it mattered, but I like to think that in atleast showing that I cared, they were encouraged to be better people.

Dirk said...

You must be strutting around now, feeling pretty bloody good about yourself. I would be if I were in that situation.

Ranger Tom said...

Everyone: I'm might damn proud, that's for sure. It's probably the closeset I'll ever get to being a dad, and it feels great!

Becky said...

Kinda redeems the whole Arizona experience, doesn't it? If nothing else there was worth it... being there for that kid was.

Pats on the back from Becky.

The Gray Tie said...

Way too cool. Thanks for sharing the story with us.

Ranger Tom said...

Becky: Yeah, it does... So Arizona wasn't all that bad.

GT: Yes it is... I'll be walking on air for weeks.

honkeie2 said...

Wow, its good to hear there are still some people in this world that are human. So much crap and so few clean spots. thanks for sharing.

Airforce Guy said...

You really did make a diffence Tommy. I'm glad you were there for me!