I knew a young man once, a boy really, who at 19 years of age entered into a venture even mature adults can’t handle; he got married. I believe that deep down the boy felt he was making a mistake, but once one starts down a certain path, it is difficult to leave it. I say I knew this boy because this boy was me. It’s hard to recognize him now as I barely resemble him. I’ve often said that the years between 20 and 25 will change most people in a fundamental way. For those whose metamorphosis takes a bit longer to begin, certainly 25 to 30 will alter their psyche.
The young marriage produced a baby, then splintered and dissolved soon after. I spent the next 25 years as a part time father, spending very little time with my son except for summers in Florida when he got a bit older. My son seemed like an ordinary boy in most respects, doing well in school and athletics. His collegiate life began in an ordinary way as well, until he met a woman that would send him down his own path.
Fast forward a few years and my son would travel to Madagascar as part of a study abroad program. I didn’t understand why he would go there at the time and he patiently explained the Madlands had remarkable indigenous species of plants and animals, a rain forest in need of saving and of course, lemurs. He spent two summers there doing field research including tracking the movement of nocturnal lemurs, meaning he was up and on the move all night long.
As an undergraduate he was published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology for his studies of bioacoustic signatures in owl monkeys. He would go on to graduate from the University of Miami with a B.A. in Anthropology. He was given a full scholarship to Stony Brook University where he is pursuing his PhD in Anthropological Studies.
The boy who was born out of a young, misguided marriage of teenagers is now a National Science Foundation Fellow. He received a substantial grant from the NSF this year to allow him to concentrate on his research. I couldn’t be prouder of this remarkable young man. He is clearly gifted, but more importantly, he is the most focused and committed human being I have ever known. My son, the scientist.