A Hero Rises

They say coincidences happen all the time.  Non-random acts, happening at the same time.  Such events amuse us, and sometimes amaze us.  So much so that we attribute meaning to these occurrences.  But sometimes these events create something unexpected.  Something that no person could have expected even if they were to expect coincidences to happen.  There is, at times, an alignment of coincidences so unique, so bizarre, that they defy natural explanation.  What should we expect from the following ingredients?

  1. A mother working with ancient DNA of extinct dinosaurs on the day of her ovulation.
  2. A careless lab assistant in a hospital who let a bit of a virus escape which activates previously inactive DNA.
  3. An unsuspecting nurse who picked up this virus while passing the lab assistant in the hall on her way to a birth.
  4. A solar eclipse.
  5. A sudden increase in the cosmic radiation from space due to an unknown alien presence.

And then a child is born.  A strange growth appears on his back, vestigial tail, and big feet with hardened claw like toenails.  The doctors and nurses are horrified and aghast at what they see. The mother, however, is determined to love her child, with that inspirational, unconditional love we all hope to have in our lives.

The growth on his back turns into a dorsal fin, his tail grows quickly and develops spikes.  His feet become weapons, and their large size and sharp claws also allows him to move swiftly over uneven terrain.

The child’s heart is still human, and like all humans full of dreams and passions.  In this case, for construction.  At the age of 3 he dons the hat that would define him for his life as he becomes:

DINOSAUR SHARK CONSTRUCTION MAN!!

Capable of building on land or water, and with predatory instincts he would become the wealthiest construction contractor in the world.  When he isn’t building, he fights crime on any Earth surface with lightning fast swimming and running speeds no human can accomplish.  Dinosaur Shark Construction Man could have become a menace if not for a loving mother, who Dinosaur Shark Construction Man still turns to in dark times for advice.

If you see Dinosaur Shark Construction Man, he is a friend, you don’t need to worry.  Unless you’re a criminal…then BE VERY AFRAID!!

Advertisements

To My Son: Year 3

Dear Son,

1470670647167It’s such a cliché to say, “I can’t believe you are already 3 years old”.  It’s amazing to me how life can be boring and routine and pass so quickly, and that alternatively life can also feel full and eventful and do the same thing.   As I look back on this year with you the beautiful moments you have brought to my life seem innumerable and in that sea of amazingness I struggle to think of memories that really stand out.  Somehow it’s the totality of the change that strikes me this year.   Maybe it’s because there doesn’t seem to be as many “firsts”.  Well that’s not strictly true, but they seem different than ones in your first couple years.  It’s more like this year is about things you could already sort of do, but now you can do infinitely better.  It has been still a joy, of course, to watch you get so much stronger and agile, but it doesn’t stand out as strong in my heart.  However, maybe the problem is that your firsts this year are much more related to your cognitive abilities and it’s hard to pick out the exact moment it happened, because it seems to get stronger so incrementally, yet the moment when I really become cognitively aware of your development seems sudden.  For instance, this year you started making connections between objects and shapes and likened them to things you already knew.  Like seeing 4 upside-down plastic cups next to each other reminded you of Lego, a song that wasn’t Indian but had Indian drums made you connect it to Indian music, having intention in what you draw beyond just the fascination of making marks on paper.  The best part of this year is how your imagination has taken off.  The scenes you play out with your toys, doing different voices and scenarios.  I think I could listen to you play like that all day.  You also became completely bilingual this year.  Your English was first and we were worried about how much Polish you would be able to speak.  But eventually we could tell that you were recognizing the differences between the languages and who spoke them.  Then, what seemed out of the blue, you started speaking Polish while your great grandmother was here, and now I think you speak Polish better than an English.  It is truly a marvel for me to see because I find the grammar rules so hard to learn, and you simply show why children are superior at learning languages.  This past year has in many ways been the story of your voice, and your talking fills the air like music.

img-20160612-wa0000Ultimately what stands out the most is how much you’ve become a person.  Gone is this little human I loved on what just felt like a biological level, but I feel like I actually know you as a person now.  Your personality shines, and I can begin to define you as having certain personality traits.  And I think you can do the same for me.  You also know me, and what I’m like.  We are father and son, sure, but we are also people learning about each other and growing together, and I love that.  So what is that personality that you are developing?  Well you are sweet and loving.  You are kind and you like to share.  You show concern for others including the cats.  You don’t throw tantrums, and you don’t get mad when other kids take your toys.  You just sort of stand there a bit stunned and wonder what is wrong with them. What’s most amazing about you is the humor you’ve developed.  You love to make people laugh, and you do a pretty good job of jokes for a kid your age.   A large part of you seems to be built on silliness.  Almost too much sometimes, because you can get unfocused from the task at hand.  It’s hard for us to not laugh sometimes, even though you are misbehaving, because we know a laugh from us only encourages you to carry on with your silliness!  But if being too silly is the worst trait you have as a toddler than I think we are pretty lucky.

To share with you an example of your silliness you decided one day to call my lips, pimples.  You touch my lips and say “I likes your pimples”, and then I touch your lips back or tickle your ribs and say “I like your pimples”.  You respond back saying, “No, I like yours pimples!”  This goes on for far longer than it should.  It’s complete nonsense. But it’s also sweet because you started playing it I think just because you liked touching my lips.  You often just put your fingers on my lips when you come into our bed and are still sleepy, or just before you fall asleep at night.  As a father we generally don’t get those kind of attachments with a breastfeeding mother to choose from.  I don’t know, there is just something deeply personal when there is just some simple thing about you that brings such comfort to another human being.

Also I am really happy that you like Mr. Bean so much.  It will make me feel less guilty about indoctrinating you into British comedies.  Pretty much the only way I am freely willing to indoctrinate you. 🙂

1456361504503Part of the reason why I want to write you these letters is to also let you know who I am at this time in my life.  Of course as much I feel you are getting to know me, there is so much more to go.  This year has been a tough one for a lot of people, but mostly because of how it has ended. Poland has become extremely restrictive, full of prejudice, religious fervor, and heavy nationalism.  It is one of many countries that have and may go that direction yet.  But Poland is your mother’s country and where she still has friends and family.  So it’s personal.  And the country we live in has taken it’s turn in that direction as well.  As hard it is to let greed win, it is much harder to accept that the world seems like it’s about to get a lot unkinder.  And as a species, we haven’t been the kindest bunch even in the best of times.  This age of information and global activity, breeds a heightened level of awareness to all our species is capable of, and as a result quite a lot of fear.  As I said, we aren’t always the kindest.  I hope that this is all just a pull back on the elastic that propels us forward.  Of course change happens slowly, so it may be a long pull back before we go forward again.  As we are now able to look around this world even more than before, we are starting to realize that there is quite a bit of suffering and we haven’t been very good stewards of the planet that sustains us all.  It’s a heavy burden to bear.  People deal with it in different ways.  Some better than others.  I am not sure why this really is.  Maybe it’s just the willingness to admit mistakes and try something else.  Maybe ignorance really is just bliss.  But I’ve always felt that at some level reality slaps you in the face no matter what.   I’d always rather just address reality come to terms with it.  Perhaps I’ve just had a kinder reality than others, so what do I know?  The point is that your life may be a greater struggle than your parents had for most of their life.  What I can tell you though is that whatever the future holds, I will always show you the light that is in this universe, the wonder in your world, and what’s best about humanity.  I’m going to make sure that even when I’m not there, you will look out with your senses and know there is beauty there.  Even if it is small, hiding, muted, or repressed, you will find a way to bring it to others, and have good and pure moments of joy.  Even if they happen more sparsely than I have been fortunate enough to have in my life.

1475702319255I suppose that parents must often question themselves in how they are doing as a parent.  I know I certainly do.  The truth is that I still feel like I have trouble relating to you.  As you get older it is very aware how much you are watching, listening, and learning, and I feel like I should be teaching you more.  Maybe I’ve just spent too much of my life talking to college students, that trying to explain things to a toddler feels hard.  And often I just feel I’ve aged past the point of remembering how to access my own inner child.  Your mother does not have that problem and I am so thankful that you have that amazing woman in your life.  I just want you to know that I am trying and that at the very least I can say that you are getting no shortage of love and affection from me.  I love the hugs, the kisses, the holding you on my lap, and the cuddles when you crawl into our bed in the middle of the night.  By the way, maybe that’s the best part of you talking now is that you can say “I love you”.  I suppose one could say that you are bound to say such things after hearing it so many times.  But I can tell that you are also beginning to understand what love feels like and there is no dishonesty in your expression of love.  In fact, it’s quite the opposite. There is a purity in it that I think we adults lose sight of sometimes.  Not that the complexity of love isn’t wondrous as well, but sometimes I think we over think it, and let the fear of vulnerability override the freedom and joy our heart could be experiencing.  And while I still have no idea how I would manage if something were to happen to you, it is a fearless love I have for you, because I know that whatever turns life may have, there is no value in holding back the love I feel for you.

img_20160512_114307These past 3 years of your life have been amazing for me.  I wish I really had the words, but maybe there are just some things in life you have to experience and words simply hold no value.  My greatest hope for you is that you get to love someone as much as I love you.  Happy 3rd birthday my son.  Thank you for making me feel lucky, even in 2016.

Love,
Your Father

Mango

IMG_20160401_191926 (1)I’ve loved mangoes ever since I can remember.  For me they are by far the tastiest fruit out there.  Love probably isn’t the right word, but it’s the best I can do.  I remember when I was young boy, my dad would cut up fruit for us to eat on Sunday mornings, and it was a real treat when mangoes would be in season.  He would spend a lot of time cutting, and end up eating little.  Very often I would eat an entire big mango in a sitting, and as the last piece was given to me I would express some faux-guilt about eating it all and my dad would look at me and say “don’t worry son, I’ve eaten so many mangoes in my life that you could never catch up to me anyway” and happily give me the last piece.  He did grow up in India and I am sure he did have a lot of mangoes.  Maybe to him it was like an apple.  But I don’t know, if I had mangoes as readily available as apples I don’t think I would crave them any less.  As I got into my teens, still every bit a mango fiend, and thought about someday sharing mangoes with my child I questioned my ability to be so generous.  I mean sure I’d share, but give all of it to him?  That’s not possible.

So here I am a parent and mangoes are in season and my son just loves them.  And I am happy to say I know exactly how my dad must have felt.  It makes me so happy to see that joy of being able to taste sweet, juicy, and wonderful fruit.  I cut away, and feed him as many slices as he wants.  I feel grateful that I am able to give him his heart’s desire in the form of fruit (knowing that such fruit would be a luxury for many families) and I even think to myself how many mangoes I’ve had in my life, and maybe it’s not as many as my dad, but I’m happy to let my son try and catch up.  His joy is so much better than a mango.

IMG_20160513_093359It’s easy to get caught up in giving our kid the things we didn’t have when we were children, but thus far it seems a far more spiritually fulfilling experience to share with my son the things I did have that brought me joy, because I know what it feels like, and I can connect with him in a way that I couldn’t by simply giving him something I didn’t have.  And if we feel positive about the people we are now, maybe those things you missed out on aren’t quite as important in the end.

Parental Ramblings

Dedicated to my toddler who I am watching for the 3rd day in a row on my own.  For the first time.  Mothers are awesome, but being a dad should be talked about a lot more.

“Get out of the bath!”  Child is speaking gibberish.  “Do you want to get out of the bath?” Gibberish continues.  I guess he doesn’t want to get out of the bath.

I’ve reverted to an early civilization barter and trade system.  “If you eat two more pieces of cucumber you will get ice cream.  Two, just these two.  Look they aren’t even that big”.

“If you don’t brush your teeth, your teeth will hurt and fall out.  Do you want that?”  Child responds “Yeah”.

“Yes, you can press the button!”  I say it excitedly, he gets excited.  It’s a great moment.  But then daddy forgets and presses the button instinctively. Child goes “Waaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh! Me! Me! Me!”.  “OMG I’m sorry daddy forgot. No I am not bringing the elevator down again so you can press the button. “Waaaaaahhhhh”.

“You just spilled chocolate milk everywhere…lets get out of those clothes.”  Spill cleaned up.  New clothes are put on…first sip…more chocolate milk on the clothes.  Seriously?

I was thinking we always love how we sound when we sing in the shower.  His voice just babbling words as he plays with his bath toys is so meditative.  These little sounds reverberate and are so peaceful.

“It’s been a good 6 weeks since he peed his pants, that’s really good for his age, so it was bound to happen on my watch.

I just spent 15 minutes doing some pretty sweet Charlie Chaplin moves to much delight and applause.  Charlie Chaplin was in pretty good shape I have to say.  It is at this moment I also realize that I will most definitely tire of doing it before he is tired of seeing it.  Laughter will become tears.  But even so, the laughter is worth it.

I look in awe as he just eats 3 whole oranges one after another.  He definitely won’t get scurvy on my watch.

IMG_20160510_134800So you’re just going to eat the rice and the noodles and nothing else?  Glad I spent 20 bucks on Chinese food.

The most important thing to tell everyone about his trip with daddy to the zoo was that there were no giraffes.  Admittedly it was also the thing he was most excited to be seeing after it was announced he’d be going to the zoo.  Still it was an hour there and an hour back, we could start a little more positively.

He’s having a sort of drunken low fade into sleep tonight.  Like he did when he was about a year old.  He’s be sweet and affection and babbling to himself in fits of drunken light-heartedness.

I say “I love you” and he says “I do too”.  That’s the first time he’s said that to me.

My son, my one

Dhyan_faceOnly now do I know what purity is,
Free from the dilution of life,
And yet I’ve never seen anyone so full of life either,
With you I am at a mountain lake,
Where “civilization” is not in its vocabulary,
With you I am at an amusement park,
Teeming with joy, fun and smiles,
Lost in a moment, in a day that we hope never ends

I dreamed last night I was crying,
From a love that made each cell in my body,
Vibrate to the point I was changing phase,
And the liquid poured out of me,
Just as your sweet little kisses poured over me,
Your smile and laughter bathed me,
Like particles of light in the morning sun,
Dancing on my skin to a timeless symphony.

You remind me that I am mammal,
Not animal in the way that people usually mean it,
Not primitive or violently struggling to survive,
But natural, wild, inseparable from this world,
Your head nestles under the curve of my neck,
I can feel the warmth of your blood, pulsating,
Flowing with mine, in tune with the beat of Earth’s heart,
The ebb and flow of life enveloping us both.

There is a closeness that no force can destroy,
It may stretch, it may tear, it may hurt,
It persists even through the veil of death,
No matter the physical distance I know,
There will be moments where we look for each other,
And in those moments we will find each other
For I am responsible for you, and though you don’t know it,
You are responsible for me too.

The world is wonderful to you right now,
I know it’s not going stay that way,
The pain in life percolates through the bliss,
But that does not mean that bliss disappears,
Above those clouds there is always the sun, the stars,
The weather changes, but that does not,
I promise to never fail in reminding you of this,
For it’s because of you, I will always know beauty.

Broken

I know a while back I posted a blog about public defenders and how it inspired me to be more proactive in my community and vowed to do some volunteer work that I had been putting off until the “right moment” in my life and just do it.  So in case you didn’t know I successfully completed the training and wanted to talk a little bit about my experience so far.  I guess there will be two separate parts here, one in regards to the system itself and one specifically about my case (which I can’t get too specific about).

What exactly am I doing?  Well I am a Court Appointed Special Advocate (or CASA).  This is a program that exists in many counties across the nation, and in certain cases of child neglect or abuse the judge assigns a CASA to the case.  My role is to interview the child, parents, foster care, child development specialists, doctors, teachers, etc and then try to compile a report for court hearings that happen every 3 months so that I can make specific recommendations for the child (or children I represent) in court.  I try to make recommendations in the best interest of the child.  This sometimes can be towards reunification with the parents (or parent) or sometimes away from the parents.  The key is to make those recommendations based on as much evidence as follows.

After my first training session one of the volunteers who I had sat next to, when we walked out of the session looked at each other and were thinking the same thing and he said to me before I could say to him “I can’t believe they have volunteers doing this.”  So if it seems unbelievable to you, this is one of the first things I learned:  We really don’t love children as much as we say we do.  The full-time workers of the program say that it’s even hard to get donations for abused and neglected children.  I came in with some pre-conceived notions about Child Protection Services or Child Youth Services taking away children from good parents and getting involved in the private lives of families unceremoniously most of those notions have melted away.  Children services have to act when a report is made, but for the most part I see them dealing with such reports that are unsubstantiated fairly.  That’s not to say that there isn’t mistakes made.  I also learned that it’s a civil service job, and there are no specialized qualifications to do it.  It doesn’t pay particularly well, workers are often overloaded with cases, and many just use it as a stepping stone to a better job, so there is high turnover, meaning that few of the workers are very experienced.  So mistakes are made, and there is some incompetence, but is this their fault or the fault of a system that isn’t treated as important as it should be?  Just like with public defenders, attorneys that are supposed to represent the children in court are also overloaded.  In our county there are 3 lawyers trying to represent 400 children.  It is not possible to do your job well under such circumstances. I’ve learned that despite bad things you hear sometimes about foster families most people who do foster care are phenomenal people and make a big emotional investment into children they may care for, for up to a year and half and will not get to keep them.  I can’t imagine going through that myself.  Many foster families do end up adopting the children for that very reason. I’ve learned that federal child protection laws didn’t happen until the 70’s and that the very first child abuse case was tried under animal protection laws.  The obsession over the rights of the unborn continue in this country while those that are born are overlooked.  I am convinced that if we put our compassion into making sure that every citizen was treated humanely, abortions would drop at an alarming rate.

The case I was assigned is a sad one, although perhaps by far not the worst.  And I guess it goes without saying that any case of child abuse or neglect will be a sad one.  I can’t describe the case in a high enough detail so that it could be recognized so I will simply give vague details which I am sure are not uncommon.  We have one child just over a year old, we have a father with a criminal past addicted to heroin.  We have a mother addicted to heroin who went into early labor while on heroin and had a newborn baby going through withdrawal symptoms for opiates.  A baby who would later die at the age of 8 months due to an accidental death.  We have parents who are not married.  We have parents who do not have their own home, their own phone number.  We have a mother who does not even have a job, and a father who is just trying to make ends meet.  Neither of them have enough money to support themselves let alone children.  There are many who may already be judging these parents, and I do not disagree that there is a reason that their children were taken away from them.  This is not a mistake.  This is not government overreach.  This is making sure a child has a safe environment to grow up in.  Addiction has taken them, and they cannot seem to get out of it.  They have made less and less visits over time with their remaining child, and at the last court hearing didn’t even show up.

abuse-stop-child-abuse-28564872-765-540-2But one of your jobs as a CASA is to gather information about the parents and part of that is a little bit of snooping on their Facebook profile.  When I saw pictures of the mother it was clear she was just a child.  Barely out of high school. She had pictures of her with her children.  There were smiles, and genuine happiness.  Pictures like any family might have and they were beautiful.  In notes taken by Child Youth Services workers there were noted about how the mother sincerely said how much she loved her son.  As a child of an addict myself it reminded me of my situation in a lot of ways, although heroin is a much harsher drug than alcohol, that there are two separate truths to the life of the addict.  As I look at the pictures I see the same love that I have in my pictures with my child.  I know they are filled with it at least at certain moments as much as I am.  But a portion of their life, thoughts, and physical actions are also governed by heroin.  Perhaps a bigger portion now.  And as I look at a picture of someone who is a child herself, and who has a mother who is also a heroin addict I have to admit that I cried and wondered what chance did she have but to follow down the same dark path.  Where does it end?  How do we break the chain?  Even as I have compassion for the innocent child to protect them from a life of having heroin addicted parents, who will have compassion for these parents?  Is there any hope for them?  Will they have their lives turned around?  Just 10 years ago the mother herself might have been a case for the courts if anybody had bothered to report the destructive actions of her mother.  There is an ocean of pain out there, and it feels like trying to tear down a mountain with a small rock hammer.  The only answer it seems is more hammers.  I have no idea how to convince people to pick one up.

There are 6 months left before the case comes to a close, likely too little time for the parents to get their act together enough to keep their remaining child.  There are already other family members willing to adopt and give the child a stable and happy home.  The child is just a few months older than my son.  Sweet with a beautiful laugh and I am glad that his odds for a better life have gone up, but I am certain his struggles are not over.  At some point he will wonder who his parents are.  He will have to wrestle with the idea of why he was abandoned by his parents and whether or not there was just something inherently wrong with him.  I hope that he is young enough now to not let thoughts override who he will grow up to be under his new adoptive parents. I hope he will forgive and know that he is his own man someday and is not destined to continue the cycle.  I hope he will know good love.

To My Son: Year 2

Dear Dhyan,

As I sat down to write this letter I’ll admit it was harder to really think about where last year left off and a new one began. From the day you were born to your first birthday was literally a lifetime ago, and yet this second year feels more like a lifetime ago.  You are no longer a baby, you are little boy.  In my letter to you last year much of what I was feeling was based on a profound change of you not even existing to a sudden filling of my heart and my life.  As I look back on this past year the changes in what you mean to me seem equally profound, and it surprises me that love can grow so much.

Dhyan_cuteIf your first year was the story of achievements in basic motor skills, your second year of life is about achievements in social skills and the development of more complex thought patterns. Not to say that your physical achievements still aren’t plentiful.  I have especially loved the development of facial expressions and hand gestures.  Our favorite by far is when you developed the hand gesture for “I don’t know” by throwing your hands up above your shoulders and saying “uhh?”  In this year you have also mastered stairs, started running, climbed a little plastic rock wall at the playground, and danced like a maniac.

Your mother is documenting many of your achievements, but I thought I would reiterate to you for future shame, that your first word was not mommy or daddy, but kitty. A word you said often for about a month and then almost never uttered again as you began referring to all animals by the sound that they make.  I would also like to throw in there for purposes of future praise and absolute pride that you started saying “daddy” several months before you started saying “mama”.  As this year ends you aren’t speaking as much as I expected but your comprehension in two languages is amazing, and you are picking up words almost daily.   I expect that for my next letter I will be recounting many conversations.  I am not disappointed that you aren’t saying more already, but rather just anxious to talk with you, and hear what you have to say.  It’s going to be an exciting coming year.

Dhyan_doughAnother thing I love about this year is the growth of your imagination. You have started interacting with your stuffed animals and feeding them or having your Duplo animals kiss.  You clearly have started creating scenarios for their actions, and while I don’t understand these scenarios in the slightest, clearly you do and that’s all that matters.

It excites and worries me how much more clever you are becoming. It’s something I am sure every child starts to do, when they try to deceive their parents.  Recently you tried to fake sleep thinking I would walk away so you could leave your room.  Of course I was waiting right outside your door and as you peaked out you saw me standing there and gave a little devious smile and went back to bed.  I’m here to tell you that your fake sleeping is absolutely adorable, and also completely obvious.  The fact that you don’t get how obvious it is, makes it even more adorable.  I am sure we will be pitting wits against each other for a good portion of your life under our roof, and I just want you to know, challenge accepted. And truthfully, I’m actually really proud of you for beginning the game already.  It shows you have courage, and I know you will only get cleverer for making the effort.

There are a number of things that really stick out for me this year. One is your enjoyment in music, and especially percussion.  I don’t know if that will last a life time, but I have been impressed how you have liked to experience different sounds using chopsticks as drumsticks and beating different size drums, different sized bowls and pots, and just other objects that provide a unique sound when struck.  The musical moment that I will never forget though happened in Poland.  Out on the street there were two girls playing a flute and violin and you were enthralled.  You danced while they played, and you clapped when they finished.  I think being lost in music is one of the more beautiful sights in this world and it gave me so much joy to see music touch you in that way.  It is those kinds of gifts that I hope to be able to provide you with more than anything.  Whether you ever play an instrument or not is not as important to me as music being an important part of your life as it is mine.  Through music there are stories, images, emotions, depth of thought, and fun to be had.

There are so many things that I love about you this year that I am just going to list some of my favorites:

  • I love the fact that you want your “owies” kissed by one of us, or if needed by yourself.  I’ve never seen a kid kiss themselves better. I also love that you want to kiss our “owies” better too.
  • I love how silly you are.  When you do something that entertains us, you really ham it up.
  • I love that you don’t just walk, you walk a little more silly. Not that you can’t walk normally, you just like to bop around and walk.
  • I love that you try to clean up your messes (even if I don’t like you making misses) and that you throw things in the trash.
  • I love that you try so hard to be grown up already which just seems extra adorable since you are so young, and often even though it often ends in disaster I think it’s awesome that you try.
  • I love all your quirks, like there is a specific spot in the house where we can only peel oranges, or specific ways we have to use or play things, like when I’m not holding the drumstick to play the drums properly, or not sitting in the right spot while you play.
  • I love hearing you say daddy.

The thing that I love most, is how you understand love in a much more tangible way, which is to say you are starting to understand love as much as any of us do.  I was struck once again with that unique feeling of happiness and sorrow this year when we were leaving Poland.  Your family was waving goodbye to you in the balcony above the waiting area and you were smiling.  It was clear you bonded with your family during our stay in Poland and as I watched you smile it struck me that you were at the beginning of understanding this powerful feeling called love, and then I started to cry, because I knew you were also saying goodbye, and so you would also begin to understand missing, longing, and loss. Such emotions will be very painful to you at times, but I just want you know that these emotions are just a reaction, and the harder the hit you, the more love you had, and  that is always something to be grateful for.

As far as who I am now because of you, I would have to say it’s hard to tell how I’ve changed. I certainly worry more.  I’ve been feeling the weight of the world more this year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of that increased weight is because I want you to have as many opportunities as I had, and I worry sometimes that won’t be the case.  I know though, that to give you the best possible chance at a good life is to make you strong, and that means conquering my own fears and worries.  Because you are watching, and if I can’t do it, how will you learn?  Just like missing, longing, and loss, will always find you, so will worries and fears, but they too are a reaction when you feel you have something very beautiful in your life to lose.  I promise you to always explore the positive with you first, and when pain finds you as it does us all, then we will explore that too.  As I wrote last year, that is hard to not let fear overtake you some times, when you love somebody so much, but the one thing I do know is that when you let fear win, you never truly get to enjoy love. And it is central to my philosophy that love is always to be enjoyed.

People say that the time goes by so quickly with your children, and there is truth to that. But there are also ways to slow it down. Writing this letter has helped me reflect and get lost in this past year with you.  You haven’t become who you are in an instant, but through many small incremental changes, and it has just been a pleasure to be at your side through it all.  It is your birthday tomorrow, and while there is a part of me that would love for you to stay this age longer, I know that’s not possible and I’m just going to do my best to enjoy each day and each new change it brings.

Love,

Your Father