Ken Fuson writes a weekly column for a newspaper in northwest Iowa. Please enjoy one of his recent articles:
I’ve told the parents of young children that if they really want to know what it means to believe in a higher power, just wait until they see their son or daughter pull out of the driveway on their own for the first time.
If you didn’t pray much before, you will then.
It’s a joke, but only partly so. There are many instances in which parents are confronted with their own powerlessness.
Watching your child start school. Watching your child holding a baseball bat while a fast-throwing pitcher with no control goes into his windup. Watching your daughter (or son, but I suspect it’s mostly the fathers of daughters) go on their first date.
But none of those compared to the sight of my sons driving a car all by themselves.
My youngest son, Max, 24, has always marched to the beat of his own drummer. Or saxophone player. To call him a free spirit is to not do the description justice.
When he was little, I used to announce, in the living room, “Ladies and gentlemen, Max Fuson,” and he would step up on the area in front of the fireplace and begin talking, engaging in a stream of consciousness that might include stories involving things he was hearing on the television behind him. It never made much sense, but was always entertaining.
This eagerness to perform has stuck. He was involved in debate and drama in high school, and has always been fearless and unself-conscious on stage.
Knowing this, and knowing Max, it didn’t come as an enormous shock when he announced a couple of years ago that he wanted to be a stand-up comic.
(I always had wanted to do the same thing. It wasn’t the comic part that bothered me, it was all that standing.)
I encouraged him, only offering the quite sensible advice that he might want to finish his studies at Iowa State University before launching his career.
But his interest in college seemed to wane with each passing semester. He talked often about moving to Los Angeles, because that’s where his favorite comedians were.
“Max,” I said, in my best “Fathers Knows Best” voice, “that would be like showing up at Yankee Stadium and expecting to crack the starting lineup. There’s a smart way and a less-than-smart way to go about this.”
“I’ll be fine, Dad.”
I recognized those words and the look on his face, because I think I said the same thing every time my father treated me like a 10-year-old, which was most of the time. I was 40 before he stopped asking me if I had changed the oil in my car.
As a parent, I now understand how difficult it is to see your offspring as anything other than helpless dependents requiring your assistance, but it’s maddening when you’re on the receiving end.
After several months, I finally told Max, “You’re right. You should go. You need to find out if this is what you want.”
Only now he had decided to go to Portland, not Los Angeles, because he had a friend there he could stay with and another friend who promised him a job.
I began to interrogate him. What friends? How are you going to get out there? When’s the last time you changed the oil in your car?
“I’ll be fine, Dad.”
If you’re a parent, you know what happened next. The friend who had promised him a place to stay had rented the room to someone else. The friend who promised him a job could only recommend him for a job.
Max could stay with the first friend temporarily, but he was in a strange city with no job and limited savings. It took all my willpower not to say, “I told you so,” but that didn’t seem particular helpful.
Let’s just say my prayer life improved dramatically during this period.
A month later, Max has found a job and some leads on an apartment. He’s honing his comedy act during open microphone nights around Portland. He appears to be doing fine.
I’m still worried about his car, though. I wonder if he has gotten the oil changed.