His father, who was into creative anachronism, wanted to name him Darthtania. yeah, right. I named him Derek.
My father (pictured, right) called him "Oily". Derek = oil, get it? Oh, Dad was a card, he was.
My mother named him Sweetface, and in the tradition of many grandparents, they immediately fell in love.
Swwetfaces' father died when he was 2. As he grew, it was clear that Sweetface was an odd, sweet boy. When he was in kindergarten, the school called me to a meeting where they informed me that he was bright. like, really bright. I was surprised; I hadn't spent much time around small children and I thought all young children could write letters at age 2, and know the name of many of the presidents at age 5. As he got older, after I bought my first computer, I taught him DOS, HTML, and how to calculate cubes and squares.
That seemed to take care of that.
SweetFace once walked over and leaned against me when he was 9, and told me he wished he were like other kids. He even said that sometimes, he was so tired of being called weird that he thought he might even want to die.
When I was able to breathe again after he said that, I told him that weird people invented things, because they thought in a way that nobody else thought. I told him weird was good, but yes, wierd people are sometimes lonely until they found the other, weird people in their lives that were out there waiting for them to meet them. He seemed satisfied with that answer, and began to embrace his weirdness. Perhaps a little too much.
I endeavored to teach him the responsibilities that come with intellectual prowess. He had a paper route. in South Dakota. Meanwhile, he bore the responsibility of being the oldest son of a single mother.
Then the death of his beloved grandmother and a short-lived relationship with an emotionally abusive stepfather took his toll on him, and he became a bright and very angry teenager.
Sweetface skipped Algebra in high school because he seemed to already understand it, and went straight to Advanced Placement maths. By the time he was 15, he had taught himself 3 programming languages. He knew a lot about computers. It was intuitive to him, as it was to me, and as it was to my dad, who was a database programmer beginning in the early 70s.
But. He used that knowledge freely that to violate computing rules at the high school. he was on a quest to prove that he could not be kept out of anything. The kid was sleeping his way through getting a B in advanced mathematics, but failing the entire year of english and history and computer science because, "well gosh, mom, it's just math--anyone can pass math," and, "those other classes are stupid and boring." He was an angry, angry kid and everyone else in the household bore the brunt of it--us, his brother, everyone. He had no appreciation for the rare gift he had up above his eyes, and his boundary violations escalated.
Baboo, who came into his life at age 14, had not been in his life long enough to be a real influence. After his third suspension for computer violations, Sweet Baboo and I reluctantly, after taking deep breaths, pulled him out of high school and put him in the military. It was before we discovered multisport. Maybe if we'd known it sooner, we might have turned him around, as we did his younger brother. There's no sense in second-guessing.
He passed his GED in the 93rd percentile. And then early one morning soon after, the recruiter picked him up at 5 am and drove him away. At the time, I had no idea we were going to go to war against Iraq. It has been a long 8 years with no small amount of worry and guilt, I promise you that.
These haven't been easy years for him. He's had to learn that even brilliant young men sometimes have to be grunts and be yelled at and wade through a mile of crap until they've earned their way in the world. He's learned that just being brilliant isn't any good without boundaries and a work ethic. He has learned that the process of becoming a man is painful, something that I, his mother, could not have taught him.
They marched and yelled the anger right out of him. He grew older, and matured. He seems to be now more like that odd, sweet boy, except now he's an odd, sweet young man. And still really, really weird. And proud of it. He gets out of the Army in May 2010, and has already made contacts with the veteran's liason at the local university to make full use of his GI benefits. They did a vocational assessment on him, and he chose to be a database programmer.
I'll be glad to have him home and get to know him again, my odd, sweet boy, minus the anger.
Sweet face, in his own weird day, has never shown any interest in having a driver's license. He rides a bicycle everywhere. He prefers this. Hmm.
Oh, and there's this: an unsolicited comment that SweetFace's pediatrician made once, a long time ago....at the time, it was meaningless, and seemed like a strange thing to say to the mother of a 3-year-old, but it's stuck in the back of my mind all these years, and especially the last 4 or 5 years, I think about it a lot:
Your son's knees are built in a way that they can take a lot of stress. People with knees like this seem to experience fewer injuries - they make good runners.
Welcome home, Sweet face. We'll have you doing sprints in no time.