The Best Years

Posted on 05.13.08 4:16PM under The Everglades Room

Mom was still at work, so dad was the chef tonight. Their ten year old was fresh from a day with big ups and downs, his life lately getting more complicated, almost by the hour. Suddenly, he had to contend with adult-sized scheduling problems, fighting for some time to just be, when he wasn’t busy scaling mountains of homework, rushing to and from timed-to-the minute play dates, practicing the right slouch and picking out the right hat to look good to a certain girl, all the while dealing with a difficult teacher as he navigated the icebergs of life in fourth grade. Oh, and two or three times a week, there was the drama of trying to throw (or hit) a strike with men on base in an insanely competitive little league.

While they ate, the dad remembered fourth-grade as the year when everything had gotten more complicated for him, too. It was the year when the work got serious, the in crowd seized power, the weaker kids got picked on, and some days were an improv version of “Lord of the Flies” (which he hadn’t yet read). But mostly, fourth grade was the year he’d had Captain Queeg for a teacher, barking orders, inspecting shoes, locking the door and causing a chronic illness whose chief symptom was an elevated temperature from the application of hot water to foreheads and thermometers while moms were out of the room.

The son hadn’t yet lost the sweet, unspoiled openness of childhood, but it was under threat, and the dad knew it would be gone someday. It seemed like the boy knew it, too, when he took his plate to the sink, turned around and said, “Dad, I was thinking. These might be the best years of my life.”

His father, unnaturally inclined to find the flaw in the diamond, didn’t take this as cause for rejoicing, but a suggestion that the best years would soon be over and it’d all be downhill from there. “No, no,” he said, unintentionally raining on his son’s parade. “The best year of your life is always the one that’s just beginning.”

Realizing his father had already gone too deep into his comment and pulled it inside out, the son replied, “I just mean, like right now I get to just be a kid. I get to play and have fun. Like today, when I could just go outside with you and we could play ball and stuff.”

“Aw, bubba, you’re gonna make me cry,” said the dad, unable to hear in this anything but his own mortality. “I’m sentimental like that.”

“Me too, a little, I guess,” said the son. “I was thinking about it last night, when I was going to sleep. It made me cry a little, too.”

“I understand,” said the dad with a sniffle. “I’m loving these days. Wish it could be like this forever.” He paused, then said, “Ten or twenty years from now, who knows? You’ll be busy with college, a career or teaching kids of your own to play baseball.”

“Yeah, that’s it,” said the son, happy to get even a little bit closer to what he’d meant.

“And I’ll be shaking my cane and saying, ‘when I was your age, sonny, we played this game with a stick and a rock,’” continued the dad, not quite able to make this a dialogue that wasn’t about him.

“You won’t do that, will you?” asked the son.

“Most likely,” said the father. “But you’re sure enough right. These are the good old days.”

“Don’t start with the old songs, dad.”

“And no matter what, no matter what happens, I’ll always be with you.”

“Come on, dad.”

“Just look over your shoulder, and I’ll be there.”

“Now you’re the Jackson Five?”

“You know what I mean.”

“Do you have to do this?”

“Do what?”

“Turn something nice into how you’re gonna be dead someday?”

“Well, no, now that you mention it. Let’s start over again.”

“Do we have to?”

“Not really.”

“Good,” said the son. “Can I have dessert?”

“Cookies and cream or rocky road?” asked the dad, smiling as he opened the freezer.

* * *

Alan H. Rolnick has practiced law in Miami for twenty years and has appeared in numerous high-profile cases. His first novel, Landmark Status, received such ecstatic reviews he wondered if his publicist had scandalous pictures of the reviewers in her safe. Alan consults on legal matters for the entertainment industry, provides trenchant social commentary in any medium, and is Executive Producer of the independent film Canvas. To learn more, visit or e-mail

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