The Last One

I dropped Sam off at rugby practice yesterday. He’s 15 now; 6’ 2”, 230 lbs. He towers over his mother and me, we who argue over which one of us is 5’4” and which is 5’ 5”.

What does the future hold for kids like Sam?

At the marching band banquet last week, he was honored as “Most Improved Musician,” and he brought home a 3.6 GPA report card on Monday.

It’s clear he’s finding his feet (size 13, by the way), and it won’t be long before he has me dropping him off two blocks away from the place he’s going so his friends don’t see him getting a ride from his parents. This is my fifth child-raising experience. I know the drill.

I get a little misty knowing he’s the last one. Those tears dry up quickly when I recall what is still ahead--fender benders, break-ups, career changes, detective work to figure out what he’s getting away with--all the regular stuff you all have dealt with before, just like me and the wife.

But unlike my first four kids, who are a whole generation older than Sammy, I don’t know what lies ahead for the boy.

He’s going to move forward in a world where there are more unmarried households than married. He is a Caucasian male growing up in a country where that population is fading in number every year.

The automation in the emerging world allows him the grace of playing video games in his living room with friends from all over the world while lying back in an easy chair.  He can look in on the war raging on the Gaza strip or get opinions on why the Cleveland Browns lost again.

In some perverse way, that automated opportunity gives those stories equal weight, as both of them are at his fingertips, seconds apart. The source of the cheapness and numbness of our youth is not hard to figure out.

Anyway, he’ll scope out colleges someday soon through that same Internet, likely figure out some part of his career choice online and, if he doesn’t meet someone by the time he’s ready to settle down, he’ll just post his photo and bio on a dating web site and meet someone to spend the rest of his life (or a couple of years) with; divorce lawyers are most likely already available online now, too. “Press one for an annulment, two for irreconcilable differences….”

But Sam is an “old soul” like me. He loves jazz and swing, is a sap for old black and white movies. He clearly has a poet’s heart.

He made a paper flower that unfolded into a heart for a fifth-grade crush one Valentine’s Day long ago. She scrunched up her nose and said, “Ewwww, I hate boys!” and he took it pretty hard; came home, made a big chocolate milk, watched a couple hours of cartoons and didn’t try anything like that for several years after.

Ron reflects on raising the last of his children.

But he still talks about it as one of the defining moments in his life. Sensitive people give the world hope, you see.

Because the world needs dreamers, and I think that’s what’s missing most of all. So Sam may be the “last one” for me to raise from pup to adult, but maybe the first one for me to vest the thought that newer, faster, stronger is not always better.

That romantic heart of his will be the seed that’s sewn that may save his whole generation. Not just in him, but in all the kids who have that sentimentality and awareness that some of the old stuff was pretty good stuff.

So as this holiday unfolds, be sure your kids are getting plenty of stories from Grandma and Grandpa. Haul out the old photo albums, not the ones that have been loaded to DVD or the ones that are online--the ones that you turn the pages and old flower petals and theatrical programs fall out.

And what about you? Have you told your kids stories about your life? Your fears? Your trials and failures? They need that history. They need to build their own foundation of stories as their home base and touchstone of “Things That Made Me Who I AM.”

If we don’t preserve what was, how will we ever expect them to modify and challenge what is or what is about to be? So easy for us to talk about the new generation going to hell in a handbasket, isn’t it? Well my friends, what are we doing to prevent it?

Thanksgiving seems an appropriate time of year to set a trend such as this. Wishing you the best.

Ron Ciancutti is the Purchasing Manager for Cleveland Metroparks. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at