And then, like that, he was gone…..

IMG_1531

Last night I did one of the hardest things I have ever had to do… 

I left my son at college. 

Hold on you say: THAT is one of the hardest things you have ever had to do? Through all your life experiences, work related and personal, all you have had a hand in or dealt, that was one of the hardest things you seriously have ever had to do??? 

Me: yes..

Cody James Franceschi was born on July 11, 1996. He came out with the cord wrapped around his little neck and an interesting shade of purple illuminating his hue. After 30 seconds of delivery room panic he was placed in front of me. The moment I held him, I swore I would never leave his side.  I didn’t care if he grew up a monstrous felon, I would never, ever leave this boys side.

and I haven’t… Until now.

Having children is a cruel fucked up joke! You spend all this time planning, preparing, and making lists. You swear to all within range he will be better than you, raised properly and through due diligence turn 18 and head off into the world a well rounded individual due to those 18 years of unwavering efforts. The little bundle of joy arrives, you hold him and instantly this macho, puffy chested, kick a puppy bravado melts away.  

What was I saying about being tough, having a firm hand, kicking his ass out when he is 18? Boogie, boogie boo! What a sweet little man; is he cooing? Did he just make a pee, pee? YES! MY BOY JUST MADE A PEE PEE!!! HE IS A GIANT AMONGST MEN, A LEADER OF THE PEE PEE FREE WORLD!! LOOK NURSE, LOOK! NO OTHER LAD HAS PEE’D SO FAST AND SO WELL IN ALL OF YOUR CAREER! RIGHT???

You bring him home, don’t sleep for nights, but one look in their faces and its all ok isn’t it? Over the first couple of years there are more sleepless nights, something like 5,000 dirty diapers that need to be changed (didn’t know you held a degree in waste water management did you) snotty noses, first trips to the doctor, and the crying, oh my goodness the crying; and thats just you 10603680_10204623672698324_6162773971597865019_naround midnight in the fetal position on the floor, let alone the kids whimpers. 

Things move along, they go to school, make new friends, have parent teacher conferences, a few teacher, teacher conferences that you might find out about later, and in the middle of it when you are struggling to help them with homework because lets face it, your college education is out the window; unbelievably after all this you can barely function at a fifth grade level! Then what?? You and your spouse come up pregnant again! Whoopieeeee!!! Oh well we got this now so whats one or 3 more over a 10 year period. Right?

Middle school comes and you watch his heart break over a girl who moves away, you stay tough, tell him she wasn’t the first and she wont be the last. Spend countless hours sharing tales of the heart and the woe involved hoping he can glean some valuable information. But he remains strong and yearns for her anyways. He does date a few other girls, but lets face it, you always remember the first girl you liked. 

IMG_0522We begin to see his excellence arise as he comes home with awards, both scholarly and athletic.  His whit becomes sharper, his laugh is developing, a voice changes.

Then one day he is in high school and you are left wondering how this happened? Four years, you have four years left with what was a, 9 pound bundle of joy just yesterday. Thats plenty of time right? Yeah, four years is a long time so all is right with the world. 

Four years of 0 period, cross country, band practices, the fair, raising pigs, FFA, homework-tons of homework! You look around and it feels as though life is spinning out of control! His dry whit has now formed an attitude which in reality is his testosterone testing the proverbial waters. He becomes an avid bow hunter, loves

taxidermy, duck hunting and fishing. He is running at a 100 miles and hour and so are you! Helping coach his team just to spend more time with him, meeting more kids you think are awesome and their equally awesome parents. You keep trying to make his hobbies a priority but with three others at your beck and call, all in their early stages of adolescent development those moments he held your sole attention are becoming harder and harder.  He gets his drivers license and a hunting dog, then just like that it begins…

He slowly starts heading out without you. He doesn’t need you anymore to get him out to hunt, fish or mountain bike, and you being the ever busy, trying to be all to everyone dad let it happen.  

Another thing starts to happen as well. You trust him.  No accidents, no tickets, he is where he says he is going to be, comes home when he says he will be home, takes care of the house for you while you are gone, and stands side by side with you when building fence or the barn, or fixing something all without you asking him. He doesn’t have to do it, he particularly doesn’t care for the ranching side of things, but he wants to because its valuable time he is sharing with you, without making it a big deal. He has befriended a wonderful man through his mom who owns a kennel and a 3 year friendship, work equity relationship arises. This man (Steve) teaches him how to train bird dogs in exchange for work. He takes Cody under his wing and treats him like a son. A father couldn’t ask for more.IMG_0828

He still leaves the shop a mess, and forgets to mow the lawn occasionally, drives his mom and I crazy while exerting his unrequited knowledge on occasion, but he is always there at home. You watch him branch out into training and boarding his own dogs. His love for canines, all canines is amazing, they all flock to him without question and he can get them to do pretty much what ever he wants. “Thanks again Steve.”  He idolizes you, your training abilities, knowledge of classic cars, guns and stuff. Every boy should have that one adult that is not his dad or mom to look up too. Just so they know dad/mom aren’t completely full of shit. 

End of the year parties, graduation, kids you both have watched from 5-18 all still friends patting each other on the back happy to have finally finished high school.  Its an amazing time, filled with laughter, high hopes, and the prospects seem endless. What college will they be accepted too, what branch of the military are they joining, where is the Tech school they are attending. The conversations are inspiring and so fun to listen too.. You smile, proud of them all, feeling like they are your kids as well. An accomplishment for sure. 

Then it happens.

10609422_10204634313644341_3340436890841587264_n

You arrive one Thursday morning with another family to move him into his dorm. He is rooming with a life long friend. The son of one of our closest friends, so it feels extra special. The 10550937_10204634312364309_4595586460827221397_nexcitement is palpable, the boxes are torn apart, belongings placed carefully around the dorm. Then it hits you just a little, this is THIER room. Not a room in your house, not a void of space for which they can hide and try their best to avoid following the rules. This is THIER room.  It is perfect. It smells like 30 years of boys who came before them, the carpet and tattered dorm furniture are mid 80’s at best. But they have arrived, 18, adults and out on their own 5 1/2 hours from home. They are free!

I am proud, so very proud of the man Cody has become or is still becoming. I am overwhelmingly proud of all he has accomplished through his tenacity, his mothers help and besides my fumbling self. 18 years ago I felt I had all the time in the world with this boy, now as I sit and write this, my head is filled with every single wonderful thing we have done together and as a family. His brothers are going to miss him so, Parker idolizes Cody and Jake has really needed his guidance this last year. I have not seen them yet to see how they are handling this huge IMG_0717change in our family dynamics. But even with all the memories, the family time, the brotherly and sisterly bonding. I feel like I may have missed out on some things.  

And this is where raising children becomes the cruelest of jokes. I have also come to realize, he doesn’t need me anymore..

Oh I will always be his dad, he will hopefully call me for advice and want to talk now and again. But he no longer NEEDS me. It is devastating and crushing my heart….  

Here is the second cruelest part of the joke. 

Somewhere over the last year, he became my friend.  I didn’t realize it until this morning when I was making coffee and he wasn’t there, strolling out in his shorts or PJ bottoms. You see pretty much every morning I am home he walks out and says; what’s up pop? Then has a cup of coffee with me and we talk about hunting, or guns, or cricket (his dog) or the fire department. We talk like two grown men as opposed to a father and son. 10394559_10204636401056525_8503219086095135140_n

My friend has also been there every evening to say goodnight as both of us are always the last to go to bed. I took it for granted, and today I realized short of school breaks the first year, then trailing off as he gets his own place next year and develops his own life, he will no longer be there or here or what ever the case may be. He wont be stopping by the station anymore to say hi and hang out for a while between school or practice, or asking if we can go fishing, hunting, shooting bows, another series of events I assumed would always be there. He wont be around anymore to save my bacon when things fall apart schedule wise around this busy ranch. He is grown, we fostered him, loved him, guided him, argued with him and now he has succeeded and is gone. My son, my friend, is on his own and the silence within these four walls this morning is deafening. 

So many asked yesterday if I cried?

Well I am glad to say I held it together, that is until this morning when I tortured myself by walking to his room ( a reflex response to our daily coffee routine) looking in, seeing only his hunting dog, lying on the bed, sad, wondering why Cody’s truck was here, I was home and Cody was not. It was more than I could take; she doesn’t understand whats happening, the boy who slept alongside her everyday for three years since adopting her, is now gone and I cant explain to her why or that he will be home in a few months or that she will move with him next year when he gets his own place. The emptiness of the room became the emptiness within my heart, knowing he will never truly live here 100% again. This will always be his home but no longer will he reside within its walls everyday, something apparently I have taken for granted for 18 years.

So there I stood, shoulders slumped, no Cody lying on the bed, room half empty of his belongings and a sad dog who had surrounded herself with her favorite play-toys. 

I balled like a baby…….. 

JACY 20

Advertisements

A fathers love…

1625643_10152082369752523_250436104_n

Nine days until life comes to an end.

Ok not really, but when I ponder the ramifications of this emotional moment in time, nine days from right now; it feels as though a portion of my life, one held so closely to my chest will inevitably come to an end. My heart is breaking, even though my exterior is strong, even though I show no care in the world towards the upcoming moments, even though it is how things are supposed to be and even thought this is what we have prepared for over a very long period. Like a sliver you hardly notice at first, time passes and it slowly augers into your skin a little farther with every movement until eventually you can’t help but notice it, notice it’s agonizingly minute annoying pain. Then a week maybe two, it’s in far too deep to do anything now. It is beginning to hurt.

July 11 1996

A baby boy was born into this world. He was pale, screaming, shivering, with 10 fingers and ten toes. He was perfect. Six months straight he screamed, six months straight he cried, I swore I would never have another child; this was it for no adult should endure such torture as this child provided for six long months! Then one morning I awoke to find we had slept the entire night! Oh it was a glorious feeling, an entire night’s sleep, no rocking a child for hours on end, no midnight cup of coffee and long car ride to reignite his sleep filled head, no sir, all night long just me and my sheets all bawled up into one!
Jumping out of bed in a panic! Heart rate busting through my chest! Scared to death as I acknowledged the real reason sleep had been with me all night long! Rounding the corner into the nursery, Bear my Rottweiler by my side nervously barking, I was expecting the worst! Oh how the imagination wanders in a matter of seconds when fear is involved! Smothered by his own pillow, SIDS death, head wedged in between side rails of our crib. The evil of a first time parents fear (especially a firefighters) was reigning king upon my psyche! Yet standing, pajama bottoms on, dog by my side eyes gazed upon this infant jail cell, there laid our boy, happy, pink cheeks, cooing. All was right with the world.

He never cried at night again.

Just kidding, but after those first six months Cody James Franceschi never made a huge 321613_2371954104839_641442329_nfuss over anything again (ok except for saliva). YES there was a small period after a biology class where he learned about saliva that an unexplainable debilitating fear overtook his body and every time he felt saliva forming in his mouth he thought he was going to die! It was hilarious!

Growing up he remained fairly quiet, studious, with a shy charming way about himself. He traveled through elementary school with many of the same struggles as most children, Sixth grade being the hardest for him; un-organized, frustrated with his grades, but somehow he just became quieter, figured people out and what they needed from him. Cody began to read nonstop, anything and everything he could get his hands upon and he grew. He played sports; baseball, basketball and once he entered Jr. High cross-country his athletic course was plotted.

We slowly watched this quiet child develop this wickedly dry sense of humor that many of his friends enjoyed. During jr high I realized he was the Ferris Beuller of his group. On campus talking with teachers and other students it became rapidly clear there wasn’t 200116_1004284233947_3369_nanyone who disliked this kid. No fights, no quarrels, every social group knew of him and not one person had anything bad to say. He was and is; “a righteous dude”
He became interested in hunting, fishing and archery. Cody remained surrounded by a very core group of friends including one he shared the very same birthday. In eighth grade he was voted male student athlete of the year, it was an amazing moment, but our Cody downplayed its significance, just like he has downplayed every single activity he has excelled at since.7525_1231633557538_3887792_n

High school held no surprises, no serious troubles with his studies, no girl problems to speak of, he continued to run cross-country, eventually making it to state his sophomore year, then again his Junior year only to give his spot away to a very close senior friend stating; we were so close in time, I ran for him earlier in the year and it just seemed right, it is his last chance ever to go to state and run. I have a chance to do it next year. I have 1962732_10203278372304070_1868046438_nnever been prouder of my boy than I was at that moment. He traveled to Haiti with me that year on a mission trip. Watching this boy become a man before my very eyes, kind and gentle with the locals, yet labeled by the Haitian people we worked with as:” the boy who works like a man”. At a meeting with the local town’s people one evening we held a question and answer period and one of the men stood up and wanted to know in a very aggressive voice why Cody never spoke. It took some creative wording on the part of our interpreter to calm this man’s emotions as we suspected he felt it was disrespectful to not speak or engage in such meetings. But we all stood strong that Cody was just shy. Once the village figured this out to be the truth, is when Cody’s work ethic became one of much discussion. The men accepted him and all of them wanted to work alongside my son.
During his senior year he was voted team captain and he did a very good job. Boosting people’s spirits and quietly, silently with his dry sarcasm, saying just the right thing at the perfect moment to get the very best out of someone. He also ran his personal best at every cross-country event, but as he improved so had many others across the state and in the end, he went to state, but only to support the two runners who made the cut. He was proud of what he’d done this year on the XC courses, but Cody’s pride is a silent one and once cross-country was over, it was over and out of his mind. On to the next challenge life will bring. 217942_10151147319311649_1513114350_n

Cody obtained a driver’s license at 16 and took right to the roadways. My fears of adolescent lead foot syndrome for which I had been afflicted where not to be as friends would tell of seeing my son driving around town to which he was affectionately referred to as: driving Miss Daisy. 424626_4540849645872_1564129365_n

He has wanted to be in law enforcement since 6th grade. One time he met with a family friend who works at UC Davis and participated in career day on campus. Our son sitting with a FBI recruiter at 12 years of age in a suit and tie learning every step it takes to become a member will forever be a story I cherish.

Taxidermy, archery, shooting, raising pigs, riding motorcycles, quads, mountain bikes, wake-boards, off-road skateboards, hiking, are just a few of the things he loves to participate. He is much more adventurous than me, much more assured of his direction, yet leaves conversation about himself locked up like a vault. 59253_1507280874813_2469541_n

Cody will head to Humboldt State University in the fall. He has finally chosen a plan A and a plan B for his education. His major will be criminal justice with a minor in environmental sciences. Plan A; finish the four-year college, obtain his degree and apply for CHP. Plan B; finish the year college and become a game warden.
Either plan sounds fantastic. I am so proud of our son, for years I have touted the strength every man wishes they held deep inside, that unbreakable, solid as a rock man who won’t shed a tear over his son moving on with his life. Walking out that door to the world we tried so hard to protect him from while educating, preparing and hopefully guiding him in the right direction when this moment came.

The day is growing closer.

Strangely as of late I no longer see the man he has become. When he walks into the house, I hear his prepubescent squeaky voice talking to me. His cheeks are round; he’s small and needs his daddy. My heart breaks as I realize how long it’s been since I was able to cuddle him on his bed and help him get to sleep after a bad dream. Stroking his hair while telling him no bad monsters can get past me, I promise! He doesn’t cry anymore when he is hurt, he builds things on his own, fixes things on his own and even though he is messy as hell and it drives his mother and I crazy, he cooks on his own!

He is my first-born; he will always be my first-born! A vision I dreamed of over a 9 month period, wondering what he would look like, who he would become, praying this little life308369_2387626496639_979319657_n would grow to be just like me, but in the very same breath praying to God he wouldn’t. As he progressed, learning from his successes and mistakes there were many restless nights where I was left wondering if I was failing him or leaving him with good advice, solid guidance. Nights spent outside away from them all (there are 4 children total) head in hand sobbing, feeling overwhelmed, disgusted with myself for yelling, screaming like my father had done to me, punishing, demeaning, saddened, worried I was screwing him up permanently. Yet finding solace in showing him it’s ok to admit when you are wrong by apologizing when those moments had gone too far with harsh words.

251527_10150300192451649_2825994_nI look at him, watch his soft emotions change on a dime, from sweet and funny to harsh and jagged, noting the very same attitudes shown from myself at his age. The need, desire to spread his wings and fly, but not knowing how without actually having to leave this home, his sanctuary, his place of solace all alone in his room, beloved dog cricket by his side.
He must go. It will be far away and his mother and I will hate it at first. Overtime it will become easier as our family gets accustomed to his absence. Yet his spirit, his soul will always live in our home. I know the very first night I open his door and he is not there I am going to cry. It will be very reminiscent of when I drove a stick shift for years. After purchasing my first automatic, I spent the better part of a month still slamming my left down to an empty floor. No clutch in sight.

I am pretty sure I am going to spend the better part of a month, shutting a door to an 250602_4091191164691_1963527086_nempty room and longing just to say goodnight while giving him a hug that only he can give back (and if you have had one of Cody’s hugs you know they are awesome). 18 years gone in a flash, a whole lifetime to him, a moment in time that’s come and gone way too fast for me. His father, the most important man in his life, I have stood strong for 18 years, showing him how to hopefully be a good man.
I cried tears of joy when he came into this world, into our house, into my heart.
I will cry tears of joy when he heads off to college and quietly I will cry tears of selfish sorrow for the empty space he will leave behind.
One day hopefully he will understand.
It is a fathers love….

1003463_10201559761982471_492844987_n