The memory was burned in my mind from a time long before he was born. It was the late 90s and I was in China. Another marathon development trip of 20-plus days. A co-worker brought his teenage son with him from the US. To see what his dad did, to shadow his old man. And it made an impression on me.
It would be a few years before we would have a son of our own. And I’ve made countless trips to China since. I guess I was waiting for him to be older. Waiting for the timing to be right. Waiting for some day.
Then an unexpected last minute trip came up for late May. Much shorter than my normal trek since I’d just been over for most of March. But still there were a million reasons not to do it: a rushed Chinese visa application for him, convincing his teachers to allow him to take his finals a week early, missing his team’s lacrosse championship… But nothing that should stand between a father and son’s trip of a lifetime.
So with that, my 14-year old son and I committed. The days that followed were long and challenging, monotonous but magical. I shared with him the faraway place that has too many times kept me from him. A place where I practice my craft with a passion that somehow never wanes. A place that deepens my appreciation for our walk of life and changes me as a person upon every visit.
And he saw what I’ve seen. But his inquisitive mind began to ask questions I couldn’t answer, that I’d never thought to ask. Then I watched in wonder as he found the answers of his own devices. Befriending the Chinese office workers. Dining with the Taiwanese family that owns the factory. Sharing an umbrella on the sidewalks of Hong Kong with our visiting Japanese colleague.
Yes my son finally shadowed me. And somehow managed to cast a new light that will continue to burn.
Happy Father’s Day to all the proud dads.