I remember being terrified. Not of the pain so much, though that certainly frightened me. The terror, though, came from my feelings of total inadequacy. I wasn't old enough to do this. I wasn't mature enough to know where to start. What if I didn't love it enough? What if I didn't know how to meet its needs? What if I dropped
it? I was so unprepared. We didn't have parenting classes in those days. I knew how to change diapers and prepare bottles. I had done enough babysitting to know I could handle bathing and dressing and cuddling, but this
? This was so much more. This responsibility was so awesomely huge, so much bigger than my clumsy skills could handle.
Sonograms and scans were not the norm at that time. I didn't know the gender of the child I carried. Everyone in the family had an opinion. I wanted a girl. I didn't want a little image of me. I wasn't looking for a pretty little doll to dress up in frilly clothes, or a daughter with whom I could one day share makeup and wardrobe. I wasn't biased towards girls or against boys. My feelings rested on something much more fundamental. A girl would be easier to raise without a father to help. What did I know of little boys? I didn't know how they felt or what they wanted or needed or thought. Yes, a girl would definitely be better. I had some experience with being a girl.
Then I met you. What I had thougth I wanted was forgotten. I knew that this was perfection. This was what was supposed to be. This was as right as anything has ever been from the beginning of time. This was the part of me that I had never known was missing. My beautiful and amazing son.
There are gaps in my memories of my own life. Time periods that I just don't recall in any detail. But I remember your teachers and your friends, and what places they filled in your life. I remember which ones you genuinely cared for and which ones you merely tolerated. I remember the few years of Cub Scouts and the many of Little League. Zoom and Speed Racer and The Fonz. The years that rushed by too quickly and that one that was so terribly slow. The coaches and friends and Brother Rowden and Alan who stepped in for those things that a boy needs a man to share. Woven through it all, the love of sports. The endless statistics, the rosters, the jersey numbers, the trading cards. Of course it was a sports biography that finally convinced you that reading was something more than an assignment to be completed by Monday. My favorite portrait is still the one above. You sit relaxed, confident, groomed and neatly dressed, LSU laces clearly visible in your shoes. The epitome of you-ness.
The miles between us now seem so vast and cause an ache in my heart. But the ache is a small thing because I know that gap is easily bridged. It is heavily outweighed by my pride in the man you have become and the joy I have in knowing that you've built a happy life for yourself. I love the boldness you've shown in making your own way and choosing your own path. I've forgiven the girl who broke your heart and I hope that you have, too. Grudges are too heavy and ugly a burden. I love the "best friend" woman who now shares so much of your life. I'm touched that you worry about me being way over here alone. Those are choices we've both made, so don't allow yourself to regret them. I love the card, inscribed in your hand, reminding me that I will always be your first Valentine. You are mine, my son, because I never really knew what love was until the day that I met you. The day I knew I would never drop you. I think we've managed it all pretty well.
Happy Birthday, my son. I wish you love and happiness and fullness of life.
Labels: family, life, love