We woke up this morning to find that the wind had lifted one of the fence panels separating us from next door and had deposited it on the grass. These panels are about 6 foot by 6 foot, and given the torrential rain, which had thoroughly soaked it through, I could barely lift it off the grass.
I left work early to see what I could do and quickly realised that the only thing I could do was ring my son on his mobile and ask him to leave school early (he has a free period last on Monday of Week 2) to help me. He came straight back and bounded into the task with enthusiasm. However, we failed. The concrete pillars into which we have to slide the panel are also six foot high, and trying to support a sodden fence panel in gusts of 35 mph proved beyond us: it was like a very heavy sail. As another squall came in, we decided to put the panel at the side of the house and leave it for a few days.
My son reflected on this after we had cleaned ourselves up and said we should wait until the weekend: he could his bring two of his friends around and if two of them raised and the other guided, the panel would slot back in without a problem.
I asked what my role would be in this plan: "you can open us a can of cider each after we've sorted it out" he answered, with a grin. "You're not really tall enough to do this." He and his friends, all of them 17, are all pushing six foot and haven't stopped growing, so he has a point when talking (down) to his 5' 8" father. Then he added: "And I don't want you hurting yourself, either."
The torch has been taken: I don't remember passing it. But the idle, slovenly, unthinking, uncaring, incurious, ungrateful, teenager who grunts at us across the breakfast table showed himself to be the considerate, thoughtful, strong, resourceful, young man his teachers tell us about on Parents' Night; one who has thought how he and his friends will accomplish the task that he and his father won't manage; one who doesn't count the cost in advance but sets to with a will; one who is happy to take on a brutally hard bit of manual work without complaining, before, during, or after.
My son, and I'm proud to be his father.