I think you were proudest of me when you saw me boxing.
I remember that day pretty clearly. You showed up to watch, not saying a word. I sparred with a guy about my size, but a little shorter. We were a good match up, honestly.
He slammed me with an uppercut that rocketed through my guard and sent me back a step. A smaller guy would likely have been knocked off his feet.
It was exhilarating; the crowd gasped.
I couldn't help but laugh, it was the most fun I'd had with my clothes on all week. I was genuinely elated.
I think it worried the kid that I laughed when he punched the shit out of me.
I think that's what made you proud.
When the round ended, we were both bleeding and gasping for air. In the end, it was declared a draw, if it had been an actual match and not a spar. It didn't really matter who won, what mattered was that we were learning an important skill.
Those formative afternoons with those other young men and that generous coach who invited us to his back yard, those were the building blocks of a career for me. No, I didn't become a professional fighter, but I became a professional unafraid to fight.
You and I both built careers around that philosophy.
When I was just a little kid, you used to instruct defensive tactics at the same academy I attended the year you died.
So many of my instructors asked how you were doing. You hadn't worn the uniform in over twenty years, but they knew my last name.
"He's well, I assume," I said with good humor, waiting for their inevitable follow up question. "He died back in February, so I hope everything turned out in his favor after that setback."
A couple of them thought it was the funniest shit they'd heard, but more than one looked at me like I had three heads.
I think you were proudest of me when you saw me boxing, but I like to think that maybe you'd have been proud to see me build a career teaching where you once taught.