Boy, Bye! 

By Chris Richardson


We leave before the sun shows up for duty, and tiptoe past sleeping family members and yappy dogs.

I pop my daily life-saving pills and wash them down with a swallow of lukewarm tap water.

Forgetting my camera, I backtrack through the gauntlet of the dementia-afflicted, the comatose and the heavy-snoring light sleepers. Not even sure how that works — wouldn’t you constantly wake yourself up?

A strangely crisp southern summer morning greets us outside. I clear off the condensation from my “classic” 1993 Toyota Camry. My son, Xavier, waits beside the 10 years younger car that belongs to his mother.

“Can’t we take this car?” he asks, pleading for a change in mode of transportation.

“We can’t,” I reply, for reasons I couldn’t explain at the time.

I happily take shotgun. His learner’s permit will be tested for the longest stretch yet: Two-and-a-half hours from Charlotte to Chapel Hill for an overnight stay at one of the leading colleges in the country.

I hate road trips. This opportunity to ride, rather than drive, will be a welcome change. Even with the lack of air conditioning, a broken speedometer and two of four functioning doors, we’ll make it there and back with ease. 

After filling our tanks with McGriddles and orange juice, we hit the highway. 

Xavier and I share the same gene for conversation — only speak when there’s something important to say or a joke needs to be made. Otherwise, we observe the silence and let the space do the talking. I’m taking pictures and he has to address it. “What are you taking pictures of?”

“The GPS, and the road”, I reply.

He follows with “why?”

I tell him about “Dad Will Do It” and explain I want to chronicle the trip.

“Why do you need a blog for Black fathers?” he questions.

I can’t even really comprehend his viewpoint — growing up in a world where he doesn’t feel the disparity as strongly as many of us did growing up, fueled with enough positive to dismiss the need for perspective shaping.

I answer, “When the pinnacle of the positive image of the Black father is on trial for multiple counts of rape, we need to control our own image more than ever.” He agrees with a comprehension of the difference between the real world and the manufactured one in which Cliff Huxtable existed. The next lull begins.

Cruising through the Piedmont of North Carolina, the conversation rolls through discussions of artificial intelligence, education financing and the genius (or lack of genius, in his perspective) of the Artist Formerly Known as Prince.

We share a laugh at the antics of Nephew Tommy from “The Steve Harvey Morning Show,” his pretending to be a medical student who needs the wife of the caller to practice pap smears on. I swear there were more beeps than actual words by the end of the joke. 

Outside of Chapel Hill, the meaning of the trip comes to a head. Frankie Beverly crooning “Joy and Pain” describes the situation perfectly. 

My son driving me around. His first overnight college visit. My son leaving me. The goal I’ve been working towards is a little too close for comfort. I know he’ll be successful but I could have done more. He could be better prepared.

As we pull through the drop-off line, flanked by pretty, young and educated women, it becomes even clearer. He hops out of the car, grabs his bags and says, “Bye!”

He’s gone.

This is hard enough as it is.

If only I didn’t have to tell him his mother and I are getting separated when he gets back.

To Be Continued...


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