Next Generation This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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To describe myself as anxious would have not even been close to how I was feeling. It was one of those rare moments when you have the opportunity to experience such a wide spectrum of emotions all packed into one. I knew that in a matter of five minutes I would be embarking on a man’s most important journey.

Responsibilities, along with every other life virtues, were lessons I had learned from my father. Through the nauseating smell of latex gloves and hospital cuisine, I took time to cherish my last minutes of being just a son. I remembered the crisp autumn days when I ran for hours, catching small plush footballs thrown perfectly by my father. It always seemed like with each pass I caught against my chest, he had thrown love with the ball. All my life I had been the receiver while my father quarterbacked me; in minutes I would be taking over that role as the gunslinger.

In a way, the fear of taking on a responsibility so sacred was the reason for the knot in my stomach. I was like a sixth man, who badly wanted to get into the game, but secretly was filled with anxiety each time the coach turned and looked at him. I had received the best coaching in the world in the sport I would soon be playing for the first time. My father had guided me and prepared me my whole life for this moment, and for everything that would follow. He had led me in the most effective way there is: by example.

I stood up from the chair where I had been a fixture for several hours, and walked to a nearby mirror. Instead of seeing my own reflection, I saw my father’s; he had probably looked in a similar mirror in the moments before I arrived on this earth. I could see him anxiously waiting to meet the infant he would forever mentor. I could not help but wonder if the same thoughts had run through his head. However, what weighed heaviest on my mind was whether I had met all the expectations he’d had that day. Had I grown into the young man he had envisioned?

As I looked in the mirror, I apologized to his reflection for all the pain I had caused him, as if the mirror had the ability to hear or respond. My mind provided the answer I was looking for. I heard my father’s voice: “Do not apologize. I love you, son.”

At that moment, I realized how much I was anxiously waiting to meet the baby boy I would forever mentor. I said a sincere good-bye to the reflection, and reached out my arms hoping for one last hug and one final life lesson. I would cherish each one forever, and pass it on.

With the courage I needed from my fond memories of the greatest man I knew, I walked slowly toward Room 146. I was met by a nurse who uttered the words I had been waiting to hear:

“Mr. Czech, I am so sorry we kept you waiting, but there is a woman and a baby boy named Allen who are very eager to see you.”

I stepped into the room, with baby Allen now clutched to my chest, as I had clutched the football so many years before. I turned to the nurse and said, “Do not apologize,” then back to baby Allen and said, “I love you, son.”

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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