That's when it hits me. A moment of clarity. Not some grand epiphany solving all of life's ills, but that brief second when all the pieces fit together in the cosmic puzzle and we get just a wee glimpse of what the overall picture is supposed to be.
Who knew that mine would come in the middle of a Miley Cyrus concert?
Miley is one of the latest teen phenoms to come forth from the Disney marketing machine, rising to prominence through a TV show called Hannah Montana. She has become so popular that a movie was made of the show and she has actually launched a worldwide concert tour using her real name.
So, how, you may ask, did I come to be spending a Friday night surrounded by thousands of screaming little girls dressed like some strange hybrid of Madonna and Britney Spears?
It's simple, really. It's the boy with the shining eyes sitting next to me, his entire attention focused with laser intensity on the spectacle of Miley Cyrus belting out her songs onstage.
My son Harry has been in love with Miley since the Hannah Montana show first aired on the Disney Channel. He has downloaded her music on I-tunes and has posters of her adorning his room, right alongside his posters of Captain Jack Sparrow and the Sharks at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
It always struck me as a dichotomy that he would enjoy action movies, pokemon, soccer and video games and yet still be so drawn to this pop star whose key demographic is young girls. And yet for him there is nothing odd about it or even anything different between liking Miley Cyrus and liking the Transformers movie.
Thus for his birthday, Harry found himself in possession of two tickets to go see Miley in concert. So the two of us climbed aboard BART and made our way to Oakland to see the rock star live and in person.
I wasn't thrilled to be going, just because a lot of Miley's music I'm not too keen on, but I knew it was important to my son that I go along. To show him I support him in what he likes, even if it's something that I don't care for.
But after standing in line after line after line, my mood was dark. I grumbled over the hassle of getting a simple piece of $10 cheese pizza, the ridiculous crowds and the long line for souvenirs.
I tried to keep my thoughts to myself because of Harry. He was ebullient, his smile radiating out in every direction and when Miley took the stage he leapt to his feet, fists pounding the air and let out a whoop that could match the screeches of any little girl there.
Then the music fired up and a wave of sound pushed us back in our seats. The concert was starting and Harry was in heaven. Me, I was thinking I was somewhere a bit warmer.
I clapped, but it was the polite hand slapping one does to appear to be participating, not the thunderous peals we humans are capable of when we really mean it. I don't know if Harry noticed, but I did.
That moment I mentioned earlier? It happened during a song called the "Hoe-down Throwdown." It's a popular Hannah Montana number and calls for a lot of dance moves.
Harry got up and started to try to copy the moves, then hesitated and looked back at me, still sitting down, not participating. Doubt clouded his features for the first time.
To see that worry on his face, like I was judging him for his likes, pierced me to my soul and I knew what I had to do. I had to do more than just be there. I had to be present.
I leapt up, grabbed his hands and rocked out to the song. We looked awkward spinning around in the tight row, but we danced and laughed and did our very best to "throw down" with the best of them. When the song ended, we whooped and hollered and clapped our loud approval together.
As we sat back down, he took my wrist and wrapped it around his shoulders. That's how we spent the rest of the concert. Except when we had to cheer Miley on, of course.
My arm stayed around him on the bus back to the BART station and on the train itself. Fireworks from the Coliseum saw us off and as Harry sleepily relaxed against me and started to drift off he looked up at me with those bright eyes and said, "Thanks for being here with me tonight, Dad."
Someday he won't want my arm around him anymore. Someday he won't care what I think of the music he likes, or the clothes he wears. And a simple "I love you" will be rarer than stardust.
But that night, what I thought of his choices meant something. That I'd taken him to see this silly little pop star meant something. Something important.
"I'm glad to be here," I told him. And I was.
- Geoff Gillette can be e-mailed at ggillette@DanvilleWeekly.com.