Heathen #2 On Turning 6

Six years ago today, he came barreling into our lives, a chaotic storm of character, panache and humor. Six years and a day ago, I had no idea I could ever love someone as much as my firstborn child, he who craftily stole my heart twenty three months previously. This one, he was scheduled to come into this world on a certain date, and as I’d later learn, he sets the agenda in his world, whether it was arrival out of his mothers womb or the almost European-like pace of his eating; never in a hurry, always over an animated conversation.

But my life was altered yet again that day, in ways I couldn’t imagine previously. For all of the characteristics we see in our children that reflect our own, I still find the original ones the most intriguing and impressive. Heathen #2 has a disarming smile and a charm that allows him to sell ketchup popsicles to women in white gloves when the mood strikes him. I’ve watched as stern and hardened teachers gush like teens when describing their love of him; his refusal to show an interest in having a girlfriend has resulted in all his female classmates blushing when his name is brought up. When he gets off the school bus, or arrives at a local sporting event, you’d think the President had stepped on the scene: he’s all waves and hellos and glad-handing his fellow citizens. Once, I caught him kissing a baby, I’m pretty sure of it. He’s always described as “funny”, “charming”, “loving”, “peacemaker”, “such a ham”, and all these are accurate, I suppose. I’ll have to credit his mother for those traits. I’ve tried to instill sarcasm, pessimism, and a healthy skepticism towards mankind and organized religion, but nothing seems to curb his sense of adventure and optimism towards life in general.

He is my son, and he, along with his brother, are the very best things to have ever happened to me. I’ve never known an unconditional love like this. When his world hurts, I hurt alongside him. When he hits the ball off the tee and shoots me a thumbs up before he heads to first base, I shoot him one back, his smile and sense of accomplishment a testament to the enduring hope of youth. When he asks about a dog I had long before he was born, he always cries at the end of the story, and tells me how much he misses the dog for me, his empathy an instinct, his compassion pure and without motive. His laughter is infectious, his ability to spin tales from the reaches of his imagination something my creative soul envies and admires. Every night, we have a ritual in which I ask him if he knows I love him.

He tells me “yes, Daddy, I do.”

“How much do I love you, son?”

“More than anything in the world.”

“Don’t you ever forget it, son. Ever.”

“I won’t, Daddy.”

He better not. I can’t offer him many reassurances in this world, that it won’t take heartbreaking turns, exceptional highs and unanticipated detours. He’ll go through it all, hopefully, and all that I can offer him is my love, without reservation, always. His safe passage into young adulthood is my responsibility, and it is the one of the few things in this life that I take seriously. I know what it’s like to have conditional love from a parent and quite frankly, it’s a thunderstorm that always lingers on your own horizon, no matter how old you get, how much you can get others to laugh at you. My goal is for my boys to never experience that from their parents. What can’t they accomplish knowing there are always going to be two people in their corners, always got their backs? Go on boys, tackle the world. We’ll be here, for you, for ever.

Maybe when he gets older, he’ll read this and wonder what possessed him to want a mohawk. I hope he does, so that he knows that today we not only celebrate his entrance into this world with carrot cake and swords and musical instruments, but that I’m celebrating an anniversary as well. The anniversary of another day that changed my life forever. I’m so grateful you’re in my life, son. You’ve taught me how to be a dad, how to laugh at the silliest of things. You’ve showed me love, compassion and what it means to be a caring soul. Every single day I’m glad you’re in my life, and today, I nod my head and give thanks for the opportunity to be the kind of father you deserve. I love you son, always.

Don’t you ever forget it.

Happy Birthday, Max.