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The feeling is indescribable; so carefree and full of faith. The angels soar right through these fluffy clouds, opening up the golden streams of hope. Never does it rain or snow. Sunshine is all around and frowns are rare. No more day to day problems and issues. No more traffic, cholesterol, bills, damages, pain, disagreements. I don’t miss the gravity, although, nothing could compare to the life down there. Nothing could compare to the life I had completed and achieved. The life I had lived was a life of love; love for my wife, the love for my son, and now the life of my grandsons. My son truly was my life, my greatest accomplishment.
Atticus. The name just fit perfectly at all angles of this Bermuda triangle my wife, Alicia, and I were to be lost into upon this fast-pace rollercoaster ride of a newborn baby boy. Atticus, meaning ‘father-like’ really hit home for me, knowing I never wanted my son to have the sort of relationship my father and I withheld. His heart of grey concrete was wearing him down day by day. The illiterate fool was too stubborn to put aside our differences and allow me to help him overcome this chronic sickness he had been fighting. As for Alicia, the name sprouts from her Greek roots as Atticus is the surrounding area of Athens. For the most part though, the name Atticus had inspired mine and Alicia’s interests. My students are well aware of my obsession with the story To Kill a Mockingbird. Due to Harper Lee’s classic novel I was reading the day I had met Alicia, the woman I knew I just had to be with for the rest of my life, this particular name was just right.
Small hands, small nose, small fingers, and small toes all resembling mine and hers were to grow into a man’s one day. His petite eyes could barely open. First gaze into this world is magical yet only memorable to those who brought this blessing here today, March 21, 2003. From this point forward, I could only imagine the fun we were to have together. Sox games, playing catch out on the lawn, taking off the training wheels, showing him how to catch his first wave, teaching him to drive, and then perhaps prying the occasional beer from his adolescent drunken hand. It was bound to happen, boys will be boys. He’ll experiment, I’m sure, but I was ready for that. I couldn’t wait.
“Mom, really, it’s not a big deal! You can leave me alone now.” Atticus slams his bedroom door.
“Did you know about this?!” Alicia shrieks as she throws a Trojan at me.
“...know about what?” as I look down into my hands.
“Is this for us?”
“No you moron. I found it in Atticus’s pant pocket when I was doing the laundry. Take care of this, NOW.”
I followed my orders and did as she said, I took care of this. I stepped into his room then pounded the door covered in posters of star athletes and musical artists behind me. I had a stern look on my face, harsh eyebrows and all. I could tell he was embarrassed about having the talk. Just from the way he couldn’t look at me, in the eye nor my direction; staring at the floor he remained silent. It was clear as day, its not too comfortable talking with your parents about condoms. Alicia had wanted me to punish him, but for what, safe sex is such a crime? It had come as a shock to both of us, Atticus is only 14. But on the other hand, we’re not exactly idiots; this day had to come eventually. Late nights on the phone and supposedly going to the library after school to catch up on his so-called studies, clearly there was a girl he neglected to tell us about. Questions were sure to arise.
The phone rings, it was Atticus’s school. Seeing that number show up “Amesbury High” is never a good sign. But the worst however, what I hate most about school phone calls, are the ones you come home to. When a voicemail is left on the machine the recording will get you going and anxious, with its slow monotone pace. All you want to know is what happened forget about all the time, place, day, JUST TELL ME. Then you come to find, it was just a tardy or an absence. This phone call, though, went further than the average voice recording. I answered with a nervous pitch when I said “hello?”
“Hello. May I please speak with Scott Chaisson, father of Atticus Chaisson?” the secretary asks.
“Yes, this is he. I am his father. Is there a problem?”
“Everything is fine, Atticus is fine. He just had an altercation with another student.”
“Fight?! Oh no... I’ll be right down there.” I had scampered away from my desk of papers with agony and frustration. How could he be so stupid?
When he was younger, fighting was never the answer; we Chaissons are not violent people. Then as the years went on, he began to realize that, from his eyes, a real man can never walk away from a fight. At his age, sixteen, it’s hard not to be sucked into the teenage waste. With the movies, that noise of what he calls music, and the ever so lovely stereotypes portrayed on MTV all help affect his decision in when the right time is to knock someone else’s teeth out. Whatever the reason, this was not going to be a good day for him. As a kid, hearing your parents discipline you, you think “I’ll never do that to my kid.” Or “I’m going to be the cool Dad, never suck the fun out of anything.” Times likes these can change that state of mind, there has to be consequences at some point. And if he was thinking I was going to be brutal ... he should only be so lucky after his Mother hears about this one.
“Sorry, Excuse me, pardon me.”
The two of us, Alicia and I, squeal to find a seat at Atticus’s High School graduation. I had made sure to get stronger prescription sunglasses especially for today. Smiles on a camera are no comparison to the emotions and beauty of witnessing such visions. “It’s hot as hell out here,” Alicia murmurs while looking out to the crowd around us, of proud parents everywhere fanning themselves off with their programs under this muggy June sun. First, the mayor was to speak, and then the chorus plays a tune along with the band, valedictorian blah blah blah... yea whatever, just get to the graduates, come on. And there they were, the red and white gowns, pouring out onto the football field to retrieve their well earned seats that have been waiting for them, 12 years now. Trumpets never felt so good to my ears. Video camera in hand, I was eager and ready to hear the names for the class of 2022, and watch as my son obtains that diploma, his golden ticket out of here and onto a whole other world.
The mouth of opportunities was watering, waiting for him, to taste his youth. Ready... set, go. Watch him hurdle the obstacles of this life before him. There goes his line! “Danny Carson, Billy-Ray Cartsfield, Mercedes Chadwick, Atticus Chaisson...,” Principal Jenkins announced. He then raised his arms in accomplishment, and gave a game winning smile of a Red Sox champion or that of a Patriot dynasty football player over to his mother and I, there was my boy. He lifted the world at that moment in time. He lifted up my world and that of his mother’s, as he took his first steps into the rest of his life. No longer was he a child. He had ended but only the first chapter of his novel of years to come. Of course we’ll still worry when he goes out on his own and if he will either throw away all the hard work and efforts made by him and this family, or will he gain great success? We had carried high hopes that we raised him well.
We walked into the humble home. Grasping my cane I looked around and soaked it all in. The house was a dodger blue with white shutters and picket fence, the typical dream home you could say. He and his wife, Sarah, had moved in 4 years after they had locked eyes on one another. The beach wedding was beautiful on that wondrous day, straight out of the movies, August 25, 2034. Two years after that, had come along their first child, Jake. Later, another six years had flown by and just like that was another baby boy, Louis.
Stepping onto the brick walkway he had cemented into the ground himself, entering through the doorway and looking inside the years of hard work, the years of struggling to get where he is today. I had fixed my eyes upon the fireplace where photos of the boys were overflowing. I see his high school diploma, being just one of the very proud moments I will never forget. Next to that was his graduation plaque from Princeton. One of Atticus’s all time dreams was to go to Princeton and become a doctor so he could one day afford a home such as the one I’m looking at now. Just another wish, dream, desire had been achieved, checked off this to-do list we call life.
Today is my birthday. I am now one hundred years old. The thief known as cancer had taken his mother away from me some ways back. I had yet to recover, up until just five years ago when we reunited. Not two or three, but four generations stand over my grave, reminiscing and wondering, “Where are we, this point in our lives? And how did we get here?” Looking down at Atticus, he mourns on this day knowing both his mother and I are gone for our time was up, the hourglass had run out of sand. However, we are content to know that he made us proud, and that he is what made our days worth living.
Life consists of these ups and downs upon the rollercoaster of fear, of excitement, of birth, of death, of love and hatred. Always scared and nervous, waiting in line you can feel the anticipation rising. Not sure that you’re ready, you take your seats and strap yourself in hoping to push through, and it’ll be over in a matter of 6 seconds flat. But then you realize by the time the breaks screech at the end of that last loop… it was one hell of a ride, let’s go again.
“Just like that, you’re six years old and you take a nap.
And you wake up and you’re 25 then your high school sweat heart becomes your wife.
Don’t blink. You just might miss your babies growing like mine did
Turning into moms and dads, next thing you know, your better half of 50 years is there in bed.
And your praying god takes you instead.
Trust me friend, 100 years go faster than you think”
… so don’t blink.” - Kenny Chesney
Scott Carlton Chaisson
Beloved father, husband,
Admired and missed by his many students
May 17th, 1969 – October 12th, 2064