Graduation Day

This week has come and gone, a moment in time a memory for recollection. 13 years of life, tied so closely with friends, teachers, sleep overs, field trips, sporting events and many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I cant believe this day arrived so soon and left in such haste. Your school life started out simple enough; tears of separation, happiness upon returning home from a half day of school. Full days and mounds of homework, new friends, old friends, friends who moved, sadness and joy. Skinned knees, new bikes, scooters, baseball, the park. Swim meets, wrestling, cross-country events, awards, disappointment, contentment and successes.

Days where I felt we were losing you, days were we knew it was all going to be alright and days of unbridled pride watching you do what you do. Time spent, heart-broken, filled with sadness as reprimanding you or having to raise my voice while losing my temper as a last resort secretly brought me to my knees. Reflections of my father I choose to leave hidden in darkness. Time wondering if I spent enough time with you, if you needed me and I just didn’t pick up on it or if you are content with the time we have spent together? Happy with how it has all turned out?

Here we sit third row up, middle section staring directly at a stage you shall soon cross with pride. I didn’t sleep last night, worried I would over sleep and miss the opening of this venue to stake out my territory, claim a prime vantage point for this most important of days. 5 am I rose, fed our animals then slipped off into the morning, ensuring our seating success.

It has been a hard year for our family, we have all struggled, physically and emotionally and you son have not been immune. Yet somehow you kept a level head and completed this 13 year journey all on your own.  I sat staring at that stage, wondering how it must feel for you? What emotions are worming their way through your brain?

This is after all a very special day, no pressure or anything. The 100th class to graduate from Dixon High School, The first in our family to head off to college and thirty years to the day from when your father finished high school. To say I am proud of all you have done, accomplished and survived at such a young age is an understatement. You are my hero son, there is nothing more I could ever have asked for in regards to you.

A friend at work asked if I was going to cry during the ceremony, and of course a terse “no” came quick and fast.  Not losing any man points within the confines of my firehouse, no way! In truth, I didn’t cry, but not because any lack of emotion existed, or due to a hardened soul. Instead my chest was filled with immense pride, for you had done it! You graduated high school, you applied to and were accepted by the colleges of your choice, you asked for help when you needed it and handled any issues you felt you could handle alone.  You son don’t need us to hold your hand anymore and that is nothing to cry about! Instead it is a sign of success for us as parents, it is what this entire journey is all about! Creating, molding, testing, and yes being frustrated with this living being, this boy you brought into the world. Hoping and praying in the end you have done all that you can to ensure when he walks out the door he will do the best he can, stand upon his own two feet and find a world not molded by callous misplaced prejudice, but one molded by his own experiences, using your guidance as a key. Nothing more.

You walked across the stage, the principal read your name; cheers from family and friends erupted and echoed through the stands. Cody James Franceschi high school graduate. A summer lay before you, a weight has been lifted and the relaxation of a job well done is definitely showing across your face. I love you son and I always will. Your mom and I have done everything within our power to help create this person you see in the mirror. We know you have become your own man, but know this. The phone is always in your pocket, we will always be at the other end of the line and just because you will no longer be able to walk out your bedroom door to ask us a question doesn’t mean you cannot find a quiet place and call us, anywhere, anytime. For though we have worked hard to get you to this point, your mother and I have countless reams of knowledge to share with you still. In the end my hope is you will still need us, still feel as though you can ask us anything, whether near or far, what ever it takes we will be there. You are our son, there is no other like you and for that we are incredibly thankful to God! We love you…

Now lets talk about the second week of August when you go off to college.

Wait! What is this wet stuff streaming from my eyes? There is something in my eye! There is something in my eye! “sniff sniff”.

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A fathers love…

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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….

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