Gabran’s 22nd Birthday

Gabran James,

I’m still kicking myself for neglecting to take more pictures when you’re home. I always intend to, but then I get so wrapped up in loving the fact that you’re here, and it feels so familiar and happy…I promise to actually get better at this, so that next time I try to find a recent photo of you (or of you and me, or you and Dad) I can, and don’t have to resort to a photo of a letter I’m writing you. And so that I have photos to look at when I’m missing you extra hard, or talking to people (who don’t even know you) about all of your accomplishments. (Yeah, dude. This happens. Almost every time I leave the house.)

I don’t know if I’ve told you this – at least, not directly – but…I am thoroughly impressed by you. I honestly admire you. I admire your commitment to your dreams, your willingness to work, even when it’s just so damned sucky to do so. I admire your ability to remain focused on your goals. I know it’s not always easy. I know that the easy thing would just be to let life take you wherever it takes you…to let the comforts of right now dictate whether or not you get up and do some of the writing you know you need to do, or the coursework you should be figuring out, or the calls you have to make. You seem to understand – in a way that I certainly did not, at 22 – that the choices you make right now, today, can affect all of your tomorrows. That takes tremendous perseverance…a courage of conviction well beyond your years.

I am so fucking proud of you.

Still, I worry about you. Not because you’ve done anything to cause me to worry, and not due to a lack of trust. I worry because I love you fiercely, and no matter how un-fresh you were when I got you, or how old you get, you’re my son, and it is my job to love and protect and encourage and worry about you.

I’ll let you in on something: Your parents, all 3 of us, think about you many, many times a day. We worry that you’re not getting enough sleep, or eating enough fruit, or that you’re working too much, or not getting enough hours at work. We worry that you’ll be short on cash, or that you’re driving distracted, or that someone will say something that makes you feel badly…we worry about heartbreak and breakfast and schoolwork and friends. We worry about all of it because that’s what parents do. That isn’t going to change, whether it’s your 22nd year or your 42nd year on this rock.

As I reflect on your 21st year on this planet, I am left with this achingly futile need to tell you how much you mean to me. I cannot. There aren’t words for something that big. Instead, I’ll tell you this: I know you’re going to fuck up sometimes, baby. We all do. I won’t put you on a pedestal, because the fall is painful and inevitable. You are perfectly, beautifully human. You are perfectly, beautifully flawed…And you are perfectly, beautifully talented and tenacious and brilliant and kind and soulful and hilarious…and, every single day, my respect for and admiration of you gets bigger. I love you.

Happy 22nd birthday.

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