From Chicken Soup for the Father & Son Soul

Thanks to the Dragon

I am a recently divorced dad with a fourteen-year-old son. As with most dads in my position, I don’t see my son as often as I’d like to. My father died when I was young and I have few memories of him. As a result, my relationship with my son is the most important thing to me; however, with teenagers being what they are, I don’t always know what’s going on inside my son’s head.

When Alex was about five years old, we lived briefly in California. His mother was in the Air Force, and this was her first assignment. I worked a couple of part-time jobs and, as a result, had some time off during the week. I often took him to a park we dubbed the “Dragon Park” because there was a concrete dragon character at the entrance.

In addition to the dragon (which all the kids played on), the park had a vast playground area with lots of playground equipment to climb on, through, around, and more. Alex always looked forward to going to the park and hated when it was time to leave.

These days, I see my son twice during the week and then on the weekend. One weekend, he told me about a project he had in his English class. He was to write about a place or time in his life that was important to him and how he felt about it. The feeling could be positive or negative.

“So what did you decide to write about?” I asked.

“I wanted to write about the Dragon Park, Dad,” was his reply.

I had thought he would’ve chosen someplace that we had traveled to, like Japan or Hawaii, and asked him why he chose the Dragon Park.

“These were the times when I felt the closest to you,” he answered. It was all I could do to hold back the tears until after I got back to my apartment.

When I got home, I went through the boxes of photos that I had taken of him over the years. I came across one of him with a big smile on his face sitting on that dragon. I took it to a photo shop, had it enlarged, and bought a frame for it.

That following Thursday, I went to see him. As he opened the door, I handed him a wrapped package.

“What’s this?” he asked.

“Go ahead and open it,” I said.

He ripped off the paper and held the framed picture in his hand. He looked up at me without saying anything.

“Those were some of my favorite times together, too, son.” At that point, he wrapped his arms around me and gave me a big bear hug.

With everything involved with being an adolescent, going to Dragon Park with me was the memory he drew upon for his assignment. I used to worry about what memories he’d have of me after I’m gone, but not any more.

Dave Quist

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