Unimaginably, the day has arrived.

I am now the parent of a man.

Well, OK, kind of a man. Mannish boy. But still. Today, Couch Teen turns 18. I have another couple of years before I can call him Couch Man, and I fervently hope that by then he will no longer be Couch Man or Basement Man or Hey Mom Can I Have 20 Bucks To Go To The Movies Man.

I took Birthday Man out to lunch today with his girlfriend, College Teen, to the very nice Purple CafĂ©. We all ordered the lunch special with fancy salads and sandwiches, and each ordered a different bizarre soda to drink: rhubarb, kumquat, and lavender. Mine tasted like soap, the gf’s like shampoo – only B-Man got anything resembling sweet and drinkable. We had a very nice conversation, jovial and peppered with quietly-uttered vulgarisms and salient stories of college life, and I watched my son’s face as he laughed and raised his eyebrows and pulled skeptical faces, like I do. His gf, an intelligent and patient tiny thing with an amazing haircut and fabulous clothes, really really likes him. She got him an MF DOOM vinyl that he was most impressed by, and handwrote him a 2-page letter in neat, even print, that I did not read and don’t really wish to. That is between them,
heartbreakingly sweet in a way.

I remember feeling not very happy about turning 18 myself. I was a few months from finishing high school, and the weight of adulthood overwhelmed me. But for that day, I didn’t think about what kind of adult I was going to be, or what the world expected from me. A few friends came by with a homemade chocolate cake, a paper bunny hat, and a 6-pack of Heineken for me, and I ended up with the cake all over my face and mildly buzzed. My parents bought me the lovely tobacco-brown Ovation deep-bowl acoustic guitar I wanted (and still own), and after my friends left, I marveled at how nice it felt to play, so much better than the crappy Yamaha I had started out with four years before.

Like I did then, like I still do in many ways, my son waits for an answer to come to him to tell him what direction to take next. He and I are so similar in so many ways, heartbreakingly sweet in a way, heartbreakingly sad in another. I tried in these 18 years to tell him, hey buddy hey hey do this do that listen to me because I know stuff, but…well, you know. That was my job, sure, but it is his job to take it and decide what to do about it, something or nothing. It is my job to navigate these new waters in our relationship, not always easy when I am still a parent of two much-younger children. I feel like I have a lot to learn, and also a lot to gain.

In a few minutes, I will head back home. The family plus gf will once again have the taco dinner Couch Teen has requested for his birthday for many years running now, all the fixin’s put in little colorful bowls on the counter. His grandma FedEx’d him his favorite Key Lime Cheesecake for dessert, and I bet she popped a Franklin into the card she sent him, too. He will get some clothes, a little book on photography, and a new iPod touch. He will be happy, and I will watch his face and try not to cry at how fast the time has gone. Eighteen years ago tonight, I held an 8-lb. baby in my arms in a Denver hospital; tonight I serve him gringo tacos in Seattle-ish and bought him size 32/32 pants.

Heartbreaking. And sweet.

Last word goes to MissSeven:

MissSeven: (clutching a handful of Double Bubble gum) I love (birthday brother).

Me: Well, that is very nice.

MissSeven: I’m going to give him my gums. (pauses) Not the ones in my mouth, I need those to hold my teeth in.

Me: (huge smile)