Seeing my oldest son among his tribe fills me with joy
A columnist celebrates his son's first performance as a paid actor
My youngest son, Caeleb, and I made the 500-mile journey from our home in New Mexico to Alpine, Texas, last weekend to see my oldest son, Julian, in his professional theater debut. We drove there on Friday evening and returned on Saturday; on Sunday morning, I had to summon every ounce of energy in my system to preach the two regular services offered at my church. To say the weekend proved chaotic is an understatement.
Having Caeleb by my side helped make the journey more enjoyable, though, as we talked about life, theology, and everything in between. Sometimes I stare at him in amazement as he forms ideas regarding religion and other issues that I expect from a seminarian or other people learned in the field.
As we neared the theater Friday, I felt an adrenaline rush from getting to see Julian act in the musical “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” Both of my sons live with hemophilia and have overcome many challenges to get to where they are today.
As Caeleb and I watched the show, Julian made a dramatic entrance and sang a soul-filled gospel ballad that brought down the house. As a musician myself, I sat in disbelief at my son’s voice. His high notes rang like bells as he soared into the stratosphere. I felt pride as I witnessed his passion for performing in front of a live audience. Tears fell from my eyes; it was an honor to see his place of joy. This career, performing, is where he finds freedom.
At intermission, Caeleb turned to me and said, “Dad, Julian is a terrific singer.” I thought carefully before responding. I wanted to acknowledge the truth in what he said while also reminding him that he, too, has talents to offer the world.
“Son, you’re right,” I said. “Julian is a great singer, but you are a wonderful artist. I love to see both of you in action.” He smiled, seeming to accept the compliment I offered.
After the show, Julian met us to celebrate at a nice restaurant. We laughed and discussed parts of the performance that had stood out and secret stories the audience didn’t know about.
As Julian shared his thoughts, I was reminded of my first experience as a paid theater employee. He and I each had strong reactions to the first show of our career, and many of them sounded eerily alike. As I told Julian, I could still remember the smells of the rehearsal room, the start of the first performance, and the friendships I made as a newbie in the group. While I no longer perform professionally, all the incredible memories from the start of my stage career still fill me with joy.
I looked at Julian and told him that I felt proud of him and was glad he’d found his tribe. I also said that I knew he’d find more opportunities soon, and he assured me that he reviews a subscription daily to find auditions.
While sitting with my sons, I couldn’t help but think of the rough road ahead for Julian. He can’t just rest on his laurels, unfortunately; he needs to find a new job and consider his medical needs. That’s because his hemophilia requires that he take expensive medication to help prevent spontaneous internal bleeding episodes, so he hopes to find a more secure position that offers health insurance. I suggested he find a way to make a steady income and possibly find appropriate coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace. With his medical concerns, he must remain covered.
However, I backed off regarding his next steps because I didn’t want to spoil a wonderful evening. My amazing sons and I had a moment of respite and enjoyed one another’s company. Our night was one of celebration as we laughed and joked until the wee hours of the morning. As our time ended, we hugged and gave thanks for the beautiful gift of love that we share as a close family.
As Caeleb and I turned to leave, Julian said, “I want you to know that I love both of you, and I’m thrilled that you came to see the show.”
I hugged him, looked into his eyes, and said, “Son, I never stop giving thanks for you.”
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