Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

Cape Cod

My Sometime Son

It’s Easter and all of my friends have been asking if my kids are home for the holiday. It’s funny. I find myself saying that half of them are here and half of them are away. How can that be, you might ask, that I can have half of my kids home for Easter when I only have three children? How do you have half a kid at home and half a kid away? Well, I guess I should tell you about my “Sometime Son”, Alex.

Some years ago, I think it’s five  now, my kids came home and announced that Alex would be joining us for dinner. This in itself was not really all that extraordinary as Alex had been joining us two or three times a week for dinner for many months. My response was  “great, I’m sure we have enough to eat .” What they said next was really quite extraordinary, however. “Alex is going to be here for dinner and he’s not going to be leaving.” THIS was different.

Alex is one of two boys from what is, by any definition or description, a rather troubled family. It seems that at the time Alex had been bouncing around between multiple homes as his father was working through some legal problems. His father was about to be unavailable to him for many months, and Alex was clearly having a difficult time with not having a single, secure place to call home. Alex was and is one of my son Dan’s closest friends and was also very close with my two younger children, Megan and Randy. My kids essentially decided that Alex would be living with us.

So there you have it. Beth and I had gained a fourth child, a third son. Alex moved into Dan’s room and joined Megan’s sophomore class at the local public high school. Alex lived with us full-time for the better part of his sophomore year until his father once again had a place for the two of them to live. Although we offered Alex the opportunity to stay with us, and although leaving the White house meant changing schools, Alex’s father insisted that he leave us and live with him. Although Alex no longer lived under our roof, he was no less a part of the White family. We saw him for years most days of the week, and we continued to enjoy his company at the dinner table with great frequency. One of the two most poignant pictures that Megan keeps from her high school graduation is one of her and Alex celebrating their shared milestone.

Unfortunately the troubles in Alex’s family had simply been better hidden over the final two years of high school, and once he graduated it became too difficult for him to remain under the same roof with his father. Alex found himself working three deadend jobs in order  to stay in an apartment that he couldn’t afford. He economized on food — the rockhard bundle of muscles that graduated from high school with Megan had turned into something that looked more like the body of an elite miler. We simply couldn’t believe how skinny Alex had become.

Once again the White kids reached out. All three of them took Alex aside separately and told him, in slightly more colorful language, that he was being silly and ridiculous. “You need to quit one or two of those jobs and come home!” And so it came to pass that our “Sometime Son” came home to the White house during the summer of 2009.

When I tell this story I end up receiving all kinds of accolades, comments and congratulations on being such a wonderful person and doing such a wonderful thing. I must confess that this is quite a little bit embarrassing since it was actually my children who were responsible for this; my only contribution was that I didn’t get in the way. Frankly I’m not really sure how extraordinary this really is. If you take even a cursory glance at your family tree you’re likely to find a “cousin” or “uncle” whose lineage just doesn’t seem to have any genetic connection with yours. It turns out that in days of yore this practice of taking in folks who might be a little less fortunate than you was actually quite common. That “cousin” was in all likelihood a 1950s or 1960s version of Alex, a kid who just needed a place to call home, a place to be loved. That  “uncle” or “aunt” was probably his mother or father. I think this probably happened a lot in days gone by, and if I think  if you look just a little bit you’ll probably find that it happens quite a lot even now.

So what’s become of Alex? All of the  “other” White children are either in college or about to enter. Well, toward the end of last summer Alex was still working two of the dead-end jobs. We found ourselves alone chez White one afternoon watching a lacrosse game together. I told Alex that he had much more to offer, that he was much better than what he was doing at the time. You see, Alex is actually very, very bright. He’s at least as book smart as he is “street smart.” If he felt that treading water by doing low-end restaurant work was what he wanted to do at the time, why not do it in a new place? Rather than staying in Cleveland, a city that he clearly had mastered, why not do the same thing in Albuquerque or Anaheim? Miami, or even Madrid? How about college? Beth has assisted about  a dozen kids in their college process. What did Alex think about college?

I asked him about the Marine Corps. For several years Alex  had talked about his desire to be a Marine. It turns out that his grandfather was a Marine, and Alex is very fond of this particular grandfather. Alex had a couple of minor legal issues that would need to be cleaned up prior to enlistment, and I offered our assistance in helping him overcome these if the Marine Corps was still his ultimate goal. After a couple of days of reflection and thought Alex returned with his decision: he’d like to be a Marine. And so on September 11, 2009 (the date still gives me chills every time I mention it) Alex was sworn in as a US Marine, and on February 22, 2010 Alex reported to Parris Island for boot camp.

So there you have it! I am home here for Easter with exactly half of my children. My daughter Megan is home from college and my son Randy still lives with us full-time as he completes his senior in high school. My son Dan, “The Heir”, is finishing up his junior year at the University of Denver, and we anxiously await his first summer here at home since he left for school. And my “Sometimes Son”, Alex, is halfway through boot camp in the swamps of South Carolina. The collective concern that we all feel for him and the collective sense that we will have not one, but two empty seats at our Easter dinner table makes the term “Sometime” seem to be not quite right anymore. We all think about him much too much for him to be only a “Sometime Son”.

It’s Easter, and I miss both of my sons who are away.

8 Responses to “My Sometime Son”

  1. April 3rd, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    Jen says:

    Nicely said. How did Dan and Alex first meet? Sorry to hear you don’t have all 4 kids home for Easter. Hope Alex is surviving boot camp. Has the crossfit training helped him?

  2. April 3rd, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    darrellwhite says:

    Hi Jen! Alex and Dan met through a mutual lacrosse friend and the three of them were thick as thieves. He Crossfitted a bit to get ready in the couple of months prior to leaving. We’ve heard from his a couple of times–sounds like he’s doing well.

    Happy Easter!

  3. April 4th, 2010 at 7:18 am

    Sandy Hurst says:

    Well said, Darrell. You’re right. We have 2 in our high school right now whose families have, essentially abandoned them. And it has ever been that way – even when we were kids. The reasons are many, but mostly just parents who finished parenting before their kids finished being kids. Love you –

  4. April 4th, 2010 at 8:19 am

    darrellwhite says:

    Wow, Sandy, great comment! Thank you. I’ll be stealing the line about “finished parenting before their kids finished being kids” early and often.

  5. April 4th, 2010 at 9:23 am

    Roger Sacilotto says:

    Kudos to you and Beth, not just for opening your home (and hearts) to Alex, but it must be awesome to know that your kids were thoughtful and sensitive enough to do something meaningful for their friend, and that they were secure in their relationship with you to know that you would support them in their action.



  6. April 5th, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    Bob Guere says:

    Very nice, Bingo… the world needs more White’s. Semper Fi Alex.

  7. April 5th, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    Teresa Moe says:

    We too have an “Alex” that has been a part of our lives very similar to your situation. Certain children have a way of attracting others in need into their lives and then embracing them within their families. I am so grateful for all the Alex’s in the world that have strong, loving men in their lives that have become adopted father’s to those teens in need.

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