We moved our youngest son Colin into his new apartment last week. He wasn't feeling well at all, so we pretty much did it for him. It's is a great set up. We love his roomie. Devin will be close by - in the same set of apartments. It's all good. He'll be back from time to time, but he'll also probably always have an apartment of his own now to call his home. He is literally between two worlds.
We left his room upstairs a bit of a mess when we moved him out. The door is off the hinges so we could move out the couch, the usual grunge that builds up under the bed was there. He had quickly sifted through some of his stuff from the many years of living at home and took some with him. I was up there today doing some of my own sorting and cleaning and dusting.
Getting into the corners, going through the bookshelves, sweeping and making piles of things to store, things to give away, I came across some artifacts of Colin's life, the little stuff left behind. There were marbles and paper clips, mechanical pencils - his writing tool of choice. There was a three or four year stack of MAD Magazines along with some Guitar Player mags. There was loose change, a die, one of those Barrel of Monkeys monkeys. There was a guitar pick that had been chewed, an old GameBoy game. There was his stash of Yughio cards in a little wooden box. He LOVED those when he was a kid. There were notebooks he had written in and lots of old high school notes. There was a Buzz Lightyear ship and a Valentine letter from an old flame. All of these were small mementos of his life here with us. Music. Games. Toys. Correspondence. School. His stuff, you know?
Of course there are a ton of pictures on the hall walls going up the stairs to his room. Pictures of Colin and Devin from the time they were little babies to fairly recent ones. There was this one that stood out to me. It wasn't in a frame, just out there on the shelves among the other detritus and memories. It is a big black and white image. Colin is about 4 or 5. He has his arms around the neck of Sasha, our lab. They were both such young puppies then.
Now Sasha is quite old. She has dodged the bullet a couple of times and her time left with us is short. She limps and doesn't have the energy to take a walk more than to the corner and back. But she is happy. Old. But happy. But in that picture they both were so very young and full of energy and their lives were stretched out far before them. And looking into Colin's young sweet face, his sincere smile, his loving energy - made me miss him something fierce. There was an ache in my chest I hadn't felt in a while. He'll be back. I know. But it won't be the same. Not for him. Not for us.
Another artifact I fond was a letter I wrote to him when he was a senior in high school. At that time he was looking college square in the face. The letter was for a cool church project his youth pastor Trevor Miller asked us to pull together. I got a little teary reading that little time capsule of my thoughts. It was just another reminder of how lucky I am to be the dad to these wonderful boys (young men).
It feels a little weird writing you a letter. You haven't moved away and I see you every day. Not a day goes by when we don't talk. Even when you or I are out of town, we pretty much speak every day.
At the same time, writing this letter is important. You don't write that much correspondence on paper, most of your contact with people is fairly instant. But there is something about writing letters that is, in some ways, more intensely personal than a text, or a Facebook message, or even a phone conversation. It is so much more intentional, so careful, so crafted. It's kind of like writing a song. If you write something and reread it and it isn't what you really mean, you rewrite it. Only what you really want to say is left there, if you take it seriously.
I don't really have a list of things to write about. While I just said that letter writing is very careful, there is also the opportunity to let your mind wander, to simply turn from one idea to another. So here goes.
When your mom and I were growing up together we knew that someday we wanted kids. Someday turned out to be a long time for us. And, of course, by the time someday got here - we couldn't have kids. We just assumed, you know? How wrong we were. So, after a couple years, Devin came our way and suddenly all was right in the world. Figuring that we wouldn't be able to have any bio kids, and having no more sense of pressure about our own bio clocks, we loved as a triangle. Just the three of us at the end of the day, just the three of us hanging out, playing baby games, diapers, cardboard books, stroller walks, Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers.
The triangle worked for us too. It was satisfying knowing that we were going to raise someone who could change the world. We just never worried - and, of course, that is how you came to us. While Devin came in a flurry of motion, selling our condo, moving, legal stuff, in the back of our minds worrying about his mom potentially wanting him back, the crooked attorney who might try to get him from us and arrange an adoption for a rich client - when we found out that we were pregnant with you, there was no worry, no hurry, there was this laid back feeling that, yeah, our bodies worked the way they were supposed to, that God and fate and the angels saw that we were indeed deserving and could use another mind and body to feed and to feed us. And you have. More than you know.
I will not recap your life, I just want you to know how much I love you, how much pride I have in who you are and who you are becoming. You think deeply about the world, our creation and purpose, about social justice and politics and righteousness.
I am proud of your creativity as well as your intellect. one is so much less without the other. In the short time you have played guitar you have eclipsed me. In fact I am sure that in some ways, you are twice the musician I will ever be. You will never know how much I admire your burning desire to teach yourself music. From drum instruction to the intense concentration on guitar, your work on keyboards, to the casual play on the ocarina and trumpet and bass. You have a gift.
I admire how much you think beyond your little world and your willingness to look and out at the world at large. Many kids your age couldn't care less. If it isn't within their sight, it doesn't exist, or if it does it is too much bother to think about. You do care about others. It is one more thing that makes you different. Special. One more reason I am proud.
You know me. I can't give all these plusses without some wishes. I write these wishes for you as a man who knows I am far from perfect. I have made many mistakes, and will make many more. But being this old, and having the benefit of many more years of hindsight, and being someone who loves you more than you could ever know - I hope they serve you.
Read more, act on what is right and wrong, never stop being creative. Everyone makes mistakes, learn from your mistakes, avoid making the same mistakes again. Dream on. Use your gifts to leave this world a better place.
I never told my dad that I loved him until he was dying. I think we showed each other, but we never said it. That was just our way. But honestly, I think it was wrong. It is good to hear those words spoken. And it is good for the soul to say them. We missed too many opportunities. If I have missed many opportunities with you I am sorry.
Know that I love you, Colin.
As I read over my old letter to Colin, it seemed very much like a prayer. As the years go by I hope and pray that our little guy with the Pokemon fascination and the need for precision and the desire to make beautiful music finds his place and his purpose, that he can make himself and others happy.