SONS AND FATHERS. AND BOYS. His sister never went to the emergency room.
Gaines went to the emergency room so much, three different shifts knew his name. Before he was 4, he almost hung himself once, almost poisoned himself three times, had me in an ice bath to bring his temperature down, and had his mother give him mouth-to-mouth running to the car while I tried to find my keys and pants.
His sister never wrecked anything.
When he was 4, Gaines climbed into our Volvo, got it in neutral, and gleefully rolled it into the neighbor’s back porch. He would later total that Volvo, rip the bottom out of my Lexus running over a bag of cement, and do three spectacular donuts in the middle of I-40 on the way home from college in his Camry, blowing all four tires, and ending up in the median up to his axles in mud and pointed the wrong way.
He comes by it honestly.
I ripped the bottom out of my father’s 1965 gold Barracuda backing over a post, planted his 1967 classic Camaro in a neighbor’s front yard after losing it in a turn, and spectacularly totaled my mother’s Valiant convertible, another car and the boat and boat trailer it was pulling.
His sister was never called to the assistant principal’s office.
Gaines had been in a food fight at White Station, earning a one-day suspension and a command performance to appear with me the next morning in the assistant principal’s office. As we sat in the outer office awaiting penitential rites, a coach walked in from the hall. He looked at us and said, “Conaway, the last time I saw you, you were in the assistant principal’s office.” As the coach walked by, Gaines turned and whispered to me, “Dad, I don’t know him.” “Son,” I replied, “he wasn’t talking to you.”
As I said, he comes by it honestly.
And another one has joined us. Gaines Alley Conaway, Jr., was born October 28 at 12:33 p.m., checking in at 9 lbs., 11 oz., 21 3/4”. Like senior, junior has a cute, smart big sister and experience and odds dictate that she will grow up into a responsible adult, while parents keep their fingers crossed that boys will ever grow up. Wives wonder that, too.
I’ll just say this to my son about his son:
He will remind you of you, and scare you to death because of it. He will make you proud, so proud it’ll catch in your throat and well up in your eyes. He will think you know everything, and then nothing, and then a little something after all. He will, if you’re lucky, ask you to be his best man, and, if you’re even luckier, turn out to be the kind of man, husband and father Gaines, Sr. turned out to be.
Welcome, Gaines. You’ll be a handful but you’ll be loved. And that, too, is a legacy.
I’m a Memphian, and, boy oh boy, here we go again.
Dan Conaway is a lifelong Memphian, longtime adman and aspiring local character in a city known for them. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.