This is a story about the number-one priority in my life — my 16-year-old son, Max. He certainly keeps life interesting for this old man.

This has been a year with a lot of firsts. Perhaps the biggest is Max got his driver’s license. That’s enough to give me gray hairs. I’ve watched him get his first taste of freedom. For the first time since he was born, I’m not able to constantly watch over him as he makes his way through life.

I think I have taught him right from wrong, to have an open mind and to listen to all sides of an issue before making up his mind. I hope for the best as he makes his own decisions; so far so good.

The biggest surprise to this point has been his choice of politics. He followed me in my political leanings — conservative.

Max, who faithfully watches Glenn Beck on TV, informed me that he would love to go to Beck’s Restoring Honor rally on Aug. 28 on the Lincoln Memorial steps in Washington, D.C.; that it would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

I hemmed and hawed, not really wanting to go to D.C. in August. Too hot for me. But I caved and said why not. We could make a time of it, go early and do touristy things. I love the Smithsonian.

Max’s biggest concern? He wanted to see the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution. “Period!”

“Where in the world did all this come from?” I thought to myself. We made reservations and lots of arrangements. As the date got closer, I actually tried to talk him out of going.

“Are you sure you want to go to this event,” I asked.

“Please, Dad, we have to go,” he always replied.

For once, I was glad he convinced me of something.

We drove down on a Wednesday evening, making it to our destination — an Arlington, Va., hotel — late Thursday morning. Max brought his “U.S. Constitution” book, saying he was going to get Glenn Beck to sign it.

“You’re dreaming,” was all I could muster to say about his grand idea. Getting a shuttle to the local Metro, we rode into the big city to start our experience. It was fun to see Judy Garland’s shoes from “The Wizard of Oz,” and Archie Bunker’s chair from “All in the Family” at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

We made our way to the National Archives, just off the National Mall, to see the most famous documents in the nation’s history. I have to tell you, walking into that building and seeing the murals of our founding fathers made chills go down my spine.

The vision that these men had to try this American experiment is beyond many imaginations. We made our way through the maze of corridors and finally to the entrance where the sacred documents are kept. It was dark and, of course, we could not take photographs.

The documents are in small vault-like enclosures covered with thick protective glass. These documents were written in 1789 — 221 years ago. The paper is cloth-like and the Bill of Rights is getting hard to read due to fading. The domed room’s walls have painted murals depicting our founding fathers at various gatherings. To say the least, it was inspiring and emotional. Think about what these men set out to do. I left the building choked up.

The area was abuzz with other people in D.C. for the same reason as us — the Restoring Honor rally. I have never been around such a large group of people. Everyone was polite, cordial and going out of their way to be respectful toward others. It was as if something was coming over the country.

The next day, my son and I went to the Lincoln Memorial to watch preparations for the rally the following day.

We stood off to the left of the stage area adjacent to the Vietnam Memorial. Max spotted a fellow by the name of Dave Barton, a regular guest on the Glenn Beck show, who has an extensive collection of U.S. documents.

Max said he was going to get his autograph and made his way to the back of the staging area, where he started his long wait to speak with Barton. I followed and stood with my son, but I have to tell you, it was hot in the sun. I told Max I was going to sit in the shade under a nearby tree.

I was in that spot for about a half-hour when people started getting excited. All of a sudden, Glenn Beck walked right by me with his security crew. “Well, isn’t this something,” I thought, and made my way back to Max to tell him that Beck had arrived.

“I know, I know, Dad. I will get his autograph.”

“Stop dreaming,” I told him. “These guys do not have the time to stop and do that for you.”

As we stood along the back fence to the staging area with about 40 other people, Max hollered to Glenn Beck, “Please sign my Constitution book.”

I was getting a little embarrassed, but a woman came up behind us and suggested starting a chant to see if we could get his attention. So people started chanting, “Glenn Beck,  Glenn Beck.” Well, it got the attention of one of his photographers, who came over and took a bunch of photos.

Before he left, he said he would get Glenn to come over to say hi. “Hmmmm. Well, we’ll see,” I thought to myself.

After a long wait, I could not hold out any longer. I told Max I needed to use the facilities at the Lincoln Memorial. I hurried back, but the crowd had dispersed and Max was right where I left him.

“I take it Glenn left,” I said.

“Yes, he did. But look at what I got,” Max said, showing me Glenn Beck’s signature in his book. Max was beaming with a grin that went from ear to ear. He told me all about how it happened, then laughed at me for being in the bathroom when he got the autograph.

I was disappointed that I had missed what was surely one of the highlights of Max’s summer and I didn’t capture it with a photo.

But fate was alive and well that day. First of all, there had to have been about 50,000 people on the mall that day. Our goal was to go to the U.S. Capitol, the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Library of Congress, an ambitious day, to say the least, and one that involved a lot of walking. We made it to the Washington Monument, about a mile away from the Lincoln Memorial.

Some rally volunteers were setting up cooling and information tents with tables and chairs. Max and I took a seat under one of the tents. While I rested, Max went to the Washington Monument to see if he could buy a ticket to go to the top.

I was sitting at one of the tables looking over a map and several people stopped to ask me questions, to which I could only reply, “I’m just a tourist and can’t really answer any of your questions, but I can show you my map.” People got a laugh and I enjoyed talking with everyone who stopped.

A couple stopped and asked me a question. “Really, I’m just a tourist and I know nothing,” was my reply to them.

“You look so official sitting there under the tent with a map out,” they told me.

Well, we got talking about things, and about the rally and how exciting it was to be there. I learned that the man had left Czechoslovakia in 1968, and now lives in the U.S. Max then returned from his attempt to get tickets and sat down beside me.

The woman looked at my son and asked, “Aren’t you the boy who got his booked signed by Glenn Beck?”

“Yes I am,” he proudly proclaimed.

“Well I got a picture of it happening,” she said.

She took out her digital camera and showed us the picture she took of Max having his book signed by Glenn Beck. I was flabbergasted. I explained I had taken a bathroom break and didn’t get a photo of it. She had me write down my e-mail address and said she would send the photo when she returned to her home in Florida.

What were the chances of us four people running into each other almost an hour later, about a mile away with at least 50,000 people walking around the mall that day? What were the chances?

I am happy to report that the woman, Lynn Cox of Florida, did e-mail not one but two photos of Max getting Beck’s signature. I cannot thank her enough.

In the next column, I will write about the rally and the miracle that happened right in front of my eyes. This certainly was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Mark Nickerson is a retired Maine State Police Trooper who lives in Unity.