SACO — For almost 30 years, I have been blessed with the privilege of making my home in Saco. It is here that I have raised a family, learned to love and learned to allow myself to be loved and learned to be a father and a family man.

Living in a small town means being a part of the community. It also means getting to know your neighbors, your priest, the postmaster and the mayor. I am rather proud of the fact that I am on a first-name basis with all of the above.

One Thursday night last month, I was preparing to go to the annual St. James School Band Concert at Saint Joseph’s Parish in Biddeford.

This year’s annual concert had a rather unusual and special meaning to me. I was not a spectator but a member of the band. It’s been a long time since I played the trombone, but this special night I played with a vengeance and fire that any big band or jazz enthusiast would admire.

In the beginning of the year, my son wanted to quit the band (for a lot of reasons only a 12-year-old could fabricate or mastermind). I told him that under no circumstances was he going to be a quitter. I remember hating band in middle school, and I didn’t want my son to have a repeat of my childhood.

So to counter my son’s dislike of the band, I went to the band director and volunteered my services. Our deal was going to be that I would come to school every Tuesday morning and play with the band, and for my son’s part, he would not quit and give up.

Therefore, I was going to show him that the band was as “cool” and as much “fun” as playing hockey or lacrosse. Well, maybe not as fun as hockey or lacrosse, but hopefully, he might enjoy the band all the same.

As it turned out, that Thursday night’s experience brought back all my old fears and anxieties of stage and performance fright. At the beginning I worked up a pretty good sweat, but by the end I had settled down and miraculously made it through the grand finale. As I looked across to my left, I noticed one other lone father playing with this group of children.

When the concert was over, I glanced at my son on the drums and he gave me a wink and a smile. As I walked off the stage, the band director high-fived me, which led me to believe that my playing had been adequate and not quite as bad as I had thought.

In the end, my volunteering was worth the effort. This was a memorable experience that I had with my son that most fathers don’t have or would not choose to experience. This experience, much like being a hockey dad (getting out of bed at 5 a.m. on Saturday to drive my son to practice), has made my life rich and rewarding.

I am sure that when I am at the end of my life, I will look back fondly on my days as a middle-aged man playing with the St. James School Band. Cheers to being a band dad!

Charles Thompson is a resident of Saco.

– Special to the Telegram