Before anyone looks for me to write about a big sports memory in this column like previous ones, let me warn you this piece is nothing like you've come to expect from me.

This reflection has no sports reference whatsoever. So, if that turns you away from what I am about to write, please excuse me.

Sports have been a big part of my life but not the only part.

I've said goodbye to too many people who have left this earth way too soon and said farewell to friends who moved out of the area.

Moving away does not kill the communication like it did in the past, but it will never replace a good ole face-to-face meeting. It will never replace being able to join each other for a movie or a trip to the pond to catch some fish.

Eight years ago I embarked on a new venture when I decided to be a mentor in the Big Brothers and Sisters program. The experience has been eye-opening way more than I could ever have imagined.

But as with all things, my being in his direct presence came to an abrupt end this week when his family moved out West.

Words cannot even begin to describe just how much I have enjoyed watching my "little" grow. My full appreciation for that wasn't realized until this week when I was looking for some things before our last dinner together Thursday night.

What made me stop and think was that I came across a couple of photos of him I completely forgot I had.

I came across a photo from the first Christmas party at The Rink when he was in second grade and he barely filled out the chair from where his photo was taken. The next one was from a year later with the both of us at Bowl for Kids Sake, and standing next to me the young guy barely came up to my waist.

The photos from other years were found. Each year he was closer to looking me in the eye.

Now, at 15, he's doing just that. They scary part is that it looks like he's not done.

My little was not a sports nut like myself, however, he did attempt to join in some sporting-type activities over the years. They just weren't his cup of tea.

Instead, he found music — specifically chorus — and was dedicated to learning that craft. He also was very adept at chess, having played on tournament teams where he had a stellar record in one-on-one competition.

Although our interests were different, I was happy to see that personality-wise we were very similar. He had a respect for others and showed my wife and I respect whenever he visited our home.

The other trait I was happy to see him develop is in how kindly he treated others, especially those younger than him.

So often older kids get frustrated with the younger ones. They refuse to remember how it was when they were that age. Or, worse yet, they feel they have some sort of rite of passage to treat the younger ones awfully because they may have received similar treatment at the same point in their own lives.

I am proud to say that was not how this boy acted when he was the "big" kid in the room. He was that "cool" big kid. He was more concerned with having fun rather than using his age as means of intimidation.

Of all the things he did over the years which made me proud, that was the biggest.

I write this not to try to take credit for this. I believe it was just a natural trait, and when I recognized that, I took it upon myself to make sure that skill was honed.

I mention it because this was a major reason I wanted to continue to be a part of his life. If there was anything I could do to support whatever he cared about, I was willing to do my part to help him fulfill any goal he set.

My hope is that someday we again will be in each other's presence. I look forward to hearing from him when he settles in and hope we stay in touch as he continues in a  new school and experiences any new opportunity that may come his way.

Although I look at our parting with some sadness, there is a part of me that is prideful. He thanked me for all the lessons I taught him over the years.

But the fact is, he taught me more than I ever taught him. Someday if he decides to mentor a youngster, he will realize that same fact.

Until we meet again my young friend. Do me proud like I know you will.

DiFonzo is a writer with The Herald.

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