I knew Jake from a young age. His father, Scott, and I grew up together. We were in the boy scouts together, went the to the same middle school, and even roomed together in college. Scott had been there through it all. Through thick and thin we had each others’ back and plugged along in this crazy life. It only made sense that when we hit our middle-age years, we’d be next door neighbors. It’s thanks to this convenience that we still keep in contact and are both very involved in each others’ families. Whether it’s family barbeques, graduations, or intimidating any potential suitors that would visit our daughters, Scott was always there. This time it was my turn to step up and provide support.
Scott’s youngest boy, Jake, had always been a bit different. Nothing wrong, at all, he would just always do his own thing. When the kids were out playing basketball or running down the street to a friend’s pool, Jake would rarely go. He’d usually stay back and hangout in his room or work on fixing up his bike. Even when he did join the other kids, he’d be on the outskirts, seeming almost to be observing them more than actually participating in that moment’s conversation. Scott brings it up from time to time.
“You think he’s gonna turn out alright?” he’d question.
“Scott, he’s just a bit more introverted than the other kids. Nothing wrong with that.” I’d comfort him.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right.” He’d give in.
And for a while, I honestly thought I was.
Jake started acting odd. He’d leave home early and wouldn’t show up till dinner. His parents noticed and would bring it up, but he’d just shrug them off saying he had schoolwork and club meetings. Scott seemed okay with this explanation.
“I mean, I wanted him to go out and be more social, I guess this is what I asked for.” He would offer when I asked him how he felt about Jake’s behavior.
If Scott was okay with Jake’s drastic change, then I was too, but something seemed off. What could make a kid go from being a loner to someone who just can’t seem to be home anymore? So, I followed Jake to “school” one morning. Maybe it was a little extreme, yes, but you gotta do what you gotta do, and as predicted, school was not his destination.
Jake pulled into an alley behind the local auto shop and hopped out, strolling through the back doors. I won’t lie, countless thoughts came into my mind, and yes, drug dealing was amongst them. I decided that I was going to talk to him after “school.”
I waited until Jake parked his car in the driveway before I approached him.
“Hey Jake, I was driving past the auto body shop earlier today, and I saw your car around there. You have car troubles, bud?”
I saw a look of realization come across his face.
“Your dad didn’t mention anything to me; I thought I’d see what was going on,” I pressed.
Jake looked at me with a sigh.
“Look, you can’t tell dad, but I’m considering an apprenticeship at the shop, and I’ve been coming in before and after school to get tips from the shop owner.”
“Why is this a secret?” I wondered after a feeling of relief swept over me.
“I just don’t think he’d let me…he’s a lawyer; mom’s a nurse, I feel like mechanic isn’t the best title to have.”
“Jake, I thought you were dealing drugs.” His laugh soon joined mine.
Jake and I talked about how being a mechanic was not something that he should hide, especially from his dad. I assured him that Scott would want Jake to do what would make him happy with his own life. In fact, I told him about my friend who had a successful shop two counties over. This friend was passionate about cars just like Jake. He even got his wholesale dealers license and made an entire business out of it. At the end of the conversation, Jake was convinced that his dad would respect his career choice. My job was done. That is, until the next family misunderstanding.