My son often likes to help me around the grill, which is kind of strange because he won’t actually eat anything that’s cooked on the grill. I tried cooking some peanut butter on the grill one time, but I’ve been forbidden from ever speaking of that incident.
So it was no real surprise when he wanted to help me grill some hamburgers and hot dogs on Labor Day.
We got the charcoal lit, but not without some trepidation about just exactly how high the explosion from the lighter fluid might be.
The fire began to settle down, and so did we, father and son sitting next to each other, me sipping an iced tea.
We sat in silence for a while. Comfortable. Content.
“Dad, do you think I’d make a good dentist?” my son asked.
I told him of course he would. He was smart enough to do it, and his literal and direct bedside manner would . . . well, he’s smart enough to do it.
There were some reservations on his part. “I’m not sure. I don’t know if I’d like to have my hands in other people’s mouths.”
I didn’t think it would be that bad, I said. It would just be part of the job. Then I suggested that instead of a dentist he might become an orthodontist.
“What do they do,” he asked.
They’re the doctors that put braces on people’s teeth, I explained.
He wasn’t sure about that one either. We sat quietly for a few more minutes. I worked on the fire, trying to get it just so before starting to cook.
“Dad, what’s it like being an adult,” asked my son, now on a completely different topic.
Hmmmmm. How do you answer that one? In fact, I hadn’t really thought about it.
Basically you just work and pay bills and take care of kids, I said jokingly. But I instantly wished I hadn’t because I could see how serious he was.
It’s good. You get to do things that you like to do. You get to visit friends and go places . . .
“But I already get to do all of that,” he pointed out.
Hmmmmm. He had me there.
But you get to do other things too, I said, much like a used car salesman trying to gloss over a few minor dents to make a car look a little more appealing to a hesitant customer.
You get to do work that you want to do, work you enjoy. And you get to have a family.
We returned to the quiet as he digested all of that.
It was time to put the burgers on, and again, we sat in silence, the only sound the sizzle of meat on the grill.
I couldn’t think of a better way to spend Labor Day weekend.
My son then broke the silence. “Dad, when you’re in your seventies, will you tell me what it’s like to be a granddad?”
I’d love to, I replied. And honestly, I couldn’t think of anything that would make me happier.