This morning I was heading out to go to a local farmer's market and asked my youngest two if they wanted to go with me. They informed me that they were busy making a fort with blankets. My oldest was getting ready for work. My 10-year-old was still rolling around in bed. That left my 13-year-old. At first when I asked him to go with me, he kind of groaned like it was the last thing on earth he wanted to do at that moment. Then I told him that there were lots of chores and whoever stayed home was going to have chores to do. I hinted that the one that came with me would likely get out of a little work. That sealed it. He got up and got his shoes on in record speed.
The drive there was mostly quiet. I asked a few questions. I asked about who he was texting. Most of my questions were obviously annoying. He's at the age where he's parents are just generally annoying. I don't hold it against him. I was there once.
I ask him if he'd like to go to the pool or beach one day soon. He sounds excited at first, then backs off. I ask him why. He says he doesn't like to go to the pool and wear swim trunks. He says he thinks he's chubby. He's 13. He's 5 foot, 4 inches. He's not as thin as his big brother. But at around 115 pounds, he is far from overweight. I shake my head. If he was a girl, I'd really be in trouble, I think. Since when do normal-sized boys get so self-concious about that stuff? It makes me a little sad. We got there and shopped a little. He didn't have much of an opinion on anything. I offered to buy him a baked good. Asked if he wanted a cookie, a chocolate croissant or a muffin, he just shrugged, "Whatever."
I was perusing the last couple vendors when he asked if he could go back to the car. I was snapping pictures for my food blog and he hates it when I pause to photograph things. Back to the car he went. I felt a few drizzles of rain and ran off to the car a minute later.
On the way home, a song by Jason Aldean came on and I told him it was one his big brother liked. I said I was happy that his brother had this sudden musical change of heart and has decided in the past few months that he likes country music in addition to all the metal rock stuff of my childhood that he favors. Then....my 13-year-old informed me that he also likes country music. I've never heard him listen to country. I suspect he was just going with the flow and jumping on his big brother's bandwagon. I got excited and started to question him on which artists he liked, what style of country music he liked. He couldn't answer any of my questions. I said, "Well, do you like the old-school country or the twangy stuff or pop country or the country rock stuff?" "There's a difference?" he asks. I tell him that Taylor Swift is more the pop country. That "All Summer Long" is a good example of country rock. That Johnny Cash is old school country. "Huh? Taylor Swift is a country singer?" he says. "Um, yeah," I say. "We just listened to a Taylor Swift song. This is the country radio station."
We continue to drive. The start of the storm we just drove out of seems to be hanging over head. The sky is dark and the winds pick up. I spot an American flag flapping against the dark sky and pull over. I want a picture. His eyes roll again. I snap a couple shots and get back in the car. The radio is playing a song I love. Garth Brooks. Unanswered Prayers. I sit for a moment. I don't drive. I remember.
I tell my son that his uncle, who died before he was born, also loved the song. It reminds me of him. "That's the uncle that my middle name is after, right?" "Yep, it is," I answer. I could elaborate and tell him more, but my eyes are filling up and my voice is cracking. He can tell. I listen to the lines. Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers. I just stop for a moment. And I listen. And then I drive off thankful for a few moments with my teenage son.