When I carried you, I had no idea who I was or what I was doing. I was twenty-one; only six years older than you are today. It was the first time I remember being scared of anything important. So I prayed for you. I prayed that despite whatever type of fuck up I was, you would be great. I wanted you to take the best that your father and I had to offer and use it to become something wonderful. ”Let him be good. Let him be good. Please, God, let my baby be good.” Him. I knew that you were a boy.
After you were born, I prayed more. ”Please don’t let me mess him up. I’m a mess. Please, let me have this one thing. Please, for all of my wild child ways, let me make him happy.” You were so perfect, I thought the hospital was crazy as hell for letting you leave with me. (You may still have a case for negligence against the hospital when you come of age, but I’ll leave that to your discretion.)
But you were happy and brought light into the room. You’ve always been easy laughter and face-up cards. And you were always so kind. You would hold the door for countless strangers and you doted on your sister even when she ignored you. Even now, your goal is to be helpful wherever you are. Please understand that this is a gift.
This year tested all you were made of. Your leukemia diagnosis ripped something inside of me. Only the third time in my life I was ever scared of anything that mattered. But not you. If you were scared, you did not show it. Oh you cried, but then you pulled yourself together and resolved to win. You had every right to be bitter, snappy or rude. What happened to you was unfair, but you were never short or unkind. I don’t think you know what a joy it was to take care of a person like you. Even on your worst day, you tried to say or do something to make the people you encountered have a better day. If there was a child who was new or afraid, you went out of your way to show them kindness. Beating cancer isn’t what made you a hero. Not letting cancer change who you are is. I wasn’t even sick, and it changed me. You never stopped being the boy with the warm brown eyes and the easy smile. I wonder at everything you are.
I want to tell you that the hard times are over. You deserve that type of promise. You are a good boy. We get sold this dream that when we’re good, life should be fair. That isn’t exactly true. Sometimes it gut punches you over and over and just when you think it has taken its best shot and you’re beginning to recover, it smacks you over the head with a hammer. Sometimes baby, life is just life. I can’t make any guarantees as to what the rest of your life will be. But if what I know of you is any indication, you will face whatever life hands you with character and strength of will.
Another guarantee: you will always have me on your team, whether I am standing back allowing you to carve your future, or helping you up when you stumble. When it’s time to fight, I’ll be by your side swinging with you and if need be, for you. You have my ceaseless prayers. We always talk about how children owe their parents, but we too are debtors. I will always owe you for being the iron that sharpened me.
One day you’ll reread my blog. You’ll be a man, and quite likely have grown to understand the difficult choices I’ve had to make throughout your life. You’ll likely be embarrassed because you’ll think that I lionized you. You’ll remind me that you were far from perfect and list a dozen things you could have done better. I know your flaws son; some of them, better than you do. But I also remember what matters most: that when you were only 14, you stood tall and set a standard for everyone around you. We were able to be strong because you were strong. And for all of your strength, you remained unbelievably kind and true. You’ve taken the best of your father and me and turned it into something wonderful. You are my answered prayer.
I love you, my son. I love you for bringing out the best in people and offering the best of yourself. This year you filled “each unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run.” I look forward to next year’s minutes. You’re becoming a man, my son. Happy Birthday, Tyson.