Junior’s Great Adventure, or when Harry left home

By  Harry Mcavoy, Catholic Register Special
  • April 30, 2007
My oldest son, Harry Jr., recently decided it was time to leave home. Last June he had graduated from high school and had chosen to take a year off before starting postsecondary education. The months since have been somewhat tumultuous, but nothing too extreme.
Recently Harry contacted my wife"s family and asked if he could visit them in Cincinnati for a couple of months.  

I was happy to hear that he had settled on a plan, even if short-term. As tough as it is for an 18-year-old to figure out his direction in life, it is even more difficult for his parents to watch. Parents grit their teeth when they observe,  €œSon, weren"t you on that couch watching television when I left for work this morning?" I once said to my wife,  €œOur boy must have missed the part in the Prodigal Son story, where the son takes his portion, but then leaves." She appropriately reprimanded me.

My wife"s family will be good for Harry. The uncles will teach him a bit about the construction business and the aunts will provide tender loving care. Grandma Rose will oversee the whole operation that I have dubbed  €œJunior"s Great Adventure." The time away will also give the lad an opportunity to explore his faith with people who take faith seriously. As a Catholic parent, it is a great comfort when the extended family shares your love for God and Catholicism. I am sure there will be many debates around Grandma Rose"s kitchen table, but there will be no confusion about the priorities of God, family and service of others.

As Harry prepared to leave I gave him the big picture advice about being respectful and pulling his weight. I told him to recognize the world is full of good and bad. It was a little like Jesus" advice to the apostles recorded in Matthew,  €œBehold, I am sending you like a sheep in the midst of the wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves."   I sure hope the lad was listening.

My wife on the other hand drilled much deeper with her advice, touching on everything from good manners, to good hygiene, to how often to call home. In fact her final marathon pep talk continued right up until we arrived at the Bay Street bus station in Toronto.   Her final words, as I recall were,  €œI love you, and don"t talk to strangers."

In order to keep the bus ride as short as possible we agreed to let Harry depart on the 1 a.m. bus headed for Detroit. After a bit of back and forth with his mother, we also agreed to say our goodbyes in the van. The van door slammed closed, my wife and I sat in silence and watched our son, loaded down with his bags, walk toward the bus station.  

Just before Harry reached the station door, another youngster quickly approached him, grabbed one of his bags and hurried into the bus station. Harry disappeared in pursuit. I remember for a long moment staring in disbelief.  

As quickly as the apparent act of thievery had occurred, Harry appeared in a station window holding his bag and speaking to the other youngster. We learned later that we had witnessed a new version of the downtown squeegee kid who appears out of nowhere, cleans a car"s windshield and than sticks out his hand for payment. In this case the young man had grabbed Harry"s bag, took it into the bus station and then wanted money.      

Saying goodbye to our son, having him travel far away and watching what appeared to be a mugging gave us good reason to second guess Harry"s trip. Then, as I so often do, I leaned on my faith to give me comfort, and it came. I remembered an expression,  €œwherever life takes you, God is already there." God, who loves my son more than I can ever imagine, will be with Harry wherever he goes. I believe.      

(McAvoy writes on family issues in the Toronto area.)

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