On Friday, my son Dylan and I were planning three days of one-on-one time.

“Jack and Mommy will be gone,” I say. “So it’ll be just you and me.”

He nods, smiling. “Yep.”

“So what should we do?”

Dylan thinks about it. After a while, he offers, “Puzzles?”

“That sounds like fun.”

Dylan grins. “And Caltrain rides?”

“We can do that. What else, do you think?”

Dylan pauses. Finally, he whispers something I can’t hear.

“Say it again, honey.”

He covers his eyes and smiles. This time he whispers just a little louder. “Donuts.”

dyl_chim3.jpgWhereas my 6-year-old Jack might prefer a trip over the hill to the lighthouse, or bike riding at Stanford, or a hike into the nearby “wild,” I am finding that Dylan is quite happy just sitting with me at Donut Delight on Laurel Street in San Carlos and munching on a chocolate sprinkle, or riding Caltrain to nearby Palo Alto, where we buy a “fireman book” and get grilled cheeses with fries. Alone, without his big brother around, Dylan chooses to have Daddy help him build a little town out of blocks and Lincoln Logs. When he accidentally knocks over some of the blocks, he turns and says, softly, “Sorry, myself.”

Yesterday, after pancakes at the Depot Cafe at the San Carlos train station, Dylan wanted to launch his new rocket. I had given the rocket to Dylan and Jack for Christmas, having believed the statement on the box that assured, “READY TO LAUNCH!!!!”

At the park, I realize it is not “ready to launch.” It is ready to be assembled.

Dylan stands and watches. “Daddy, my brain is telling me to play with the rocket.”

“Not yet, honey.” I squint at the microscopic ignition instructions.

An hour later, our fingers numb from the cold, my knees stiff from squatting, we count backwards from five. At “zero,” Dylan pushes the red button, and the rocket fires off the launch pad with a loud crack and some impressive hissing. It streaks into the sky. A family playing touch football stops to gaze skyward. Dog-walkers come to an abrupt halt. Dylan stiffens with excitement, then squeals. The rocket reaches about 1,200 feet, at which point the nosecone properly disengages from the fuselage and the parachute wad slides out. People cheer.

The applause stops when the parachute fails to deploy. Suddenly, “Daddy’s Christmas gift to the boys” has become a free-falling object of destruction that is plummeting back to earth, gaining speed at an alarming rate. Someone from the football game yells out, “Houston, we have a problem.” Dylan jumps up and down as the rocket plunges into the upper branches of a distant stand of trees, which is where is hangs tonight.

Today is my last one-on-one day with Dylan. I think we’ll do some puzzles.