Happy 6th Birthday Buddy

Third letter in the series. My first one is here, and the second one is here.

Dear Levi,

I’m flying home from Dallas the day before your birthday as I start this letter; I was born in Dallas, you know, and it’s a great state to claim as ones birth since I think Texans appreciate this more than any other State. I’m sure by now you’ve met quite a few peeps from all over the world up there, including those from Texas, and yes, kiddo, I know many Texans can be loud, boisterous, and overly proud of their heritage. But they’re also my people. So hang with them, you’ll find they have a lot of heart. But I bet in heaven, it’s probably hard for the Texans to continue to proclaim, “Everything is bigger and better in Texas.” That’d be awkward to be saying that, then turn around and see Jesus standing above you tapping his finger and clearing his throat.

It’s strongly familiar that I write to you as I’m flying and looking outside at 30,000 feet with cumulus clouds spanning miles in the foreground of a soothing blue sky. Some of my best memories growing up were of me and my dad flying around in a little private plane he had, and I adored going to the airstrip with him to wash it, watch him do some mechanical work, or to simply go for a ride on what felt like a magic carpet. With me, you’d have to settle for a commercial flight—I don’t think I’ll ever get my private pilot license at this point (though I started when I was 21 and had enough time and no money; now, the opposite is true). But you’d enjoy flying with me all the same, traipsing through the airport, seeing all the sights.  You’d probably even find going through security as an adventure.

This year, my friend, is the year you’d start playing football. And even though it’s just March, we’d be getting ready now. You’d be so little, engulfed in a dizzying array of pads, protective gear, and a helmet too big that it would be weeble wobbling all over your little head as your little legs churn as you run. We would spend more time getting the gear on and off you, than you would actually spend time playing in a game, but I’d love every minute. I’d have you out in the yard, doing little drills and making you sprint and tackle–as well show you how to catch a football, which despite the teasing you’d hear from my College football buddies, I became moderately good at doing. And I’d probably secretly be hoping that you would grow to be 1″ taller than me, a few 1/10th of a second faster in the 40 yard dash, with a few lbs more muscle mass than I was in high school so you could really compete in the big leagues, at least some strong D1 stuff.

Instead, today, I am listening to Nicki Minaj sing “Moment for Life” which somehow is adding to my sadness, whilst sitting here just hoping you were with me–under any circumstance. And even if you couldn’t play football, we would do other things that you and I would be good at doing. Like making fun of the other kids playing football. 🙂 Sorry, that was wrong, but that thought did enter my mind for a second. No, instead, we’d do the stuff you could do, and we’d find your gift and pursue it wildly. Like we’re trying to do with Zoe; she’s super talented at all things, but she just wants to cook and create stuff. And while I want her to be disciplined, I care more that she finds and develops her gift so the challenge is to try to do both without stifling her. So we cook a lot. 🙂 And Royce has so many gifts, but even the stuff that she’s only “okay” at she is ferociously determined. I’m sure there are a few things that I’d push you to develop if you had the talent, certainly football being one of them. But I’d also dig whatever your natural gifts were–even if it were limited to Croquet and Knitting, though those activities aren’t the best for a hyper-type-A personality. I’d adjust.

I feel better just writing your birthday letter today; yet I’ve also let you down. I know you know, but your book isn’t done. No excuses my friend; it’s been a wild year, but I am still plugging away. Stay patient with me, and I’m sorry I’ve missed my committed date of having it complete—and I won’t promise another date until I know I can honor it. But I’ll keep working on it.

Normally I give you a bit of a family update; this year, it’s a bit too complicated for me to write, and I’m sure you know enough. We’re all good, though it has been far from an easy year.  RoZo and Mom say more than hello. And I know it’s hard for all of them not to be able to see you on this day. Mom thinks about you ALL of the time. 🙂 This afternoon we spent some time in honor of you at the house. RoZo wanted to go and get helium balloons and tie cupcakes to them and send them off to you in heaven. And while a part of me thought this is a charming and magical idea, the pragmatic side of me is contemplating the potential consequences of a cupcake hurtling down towards earth at 50mph. We went with emotion rather than logic today, and off went the cupcake with six balloons. You can guess who picked out the football balloon. RoZo selected the rest. The kids want to send stuff to you so badly, and see you even if just for a minute.

I really miss you. A lot. Perhaps it looks like I’ve gotten on with my life and often forgotten much about you. But it’s not true. My heart aches for you. And I wish you were here, with me, right now. You’d think I were a cool dad, at least for now, finding me entertaining, funny, strong, confident, and dependable. You would look at me and proclaim things like “You’re the best dad in the world!” But as time would go on, and as years pass, you would see me for who I really am. A mix of some good attributes, but plenty of broken ones as well. But for now, I’d be quite perfect in your innocent eyes. Which would be very cool.

Today, I wish I could see those little blue eyes and what I know would be a mischievous smile with lots of cackling and laughter throughout the day–merciless teasing of your big sisters, who are pretty good at dishing it out as well. Little dude, I miss you more than you know. And this very day, my only prayer would be that JC takes you on his knee and somehow reads this letter to you.

There are probably too many snapshots of my life that I’d like you not to see, but today I wish you could see me and my eyes as I wrote this birthday letter to you. Then, with just one look, you’d know just how much I love and miss you.

Happy Birthday, buddy.

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6 Replies to “Happy 6th Birthday Buddy”

  1. Rich, another touching birthday letter about sweet Levi. It made me cry. You are such a wonderful father and inspiring person… I’m proud that you’re my brother. I know you can finish the book, and I’m here to support you through the journey. xoxo

  2. Rich, not sure if you remember me from Oxyfresh. I am always inspired by your blog and have always been impressed by you, Erica, and those beautiful girls of yours. I wasn’t aware that you guys had been through such an experience until now. Thank you for sharing such personal moments with us and once again you have truly amazed me. I am touched by your birthday letters to Levi and the way your family honors him. He is a beautiful angel watching over you guys and I bet he loves his balloons and cupcakes! Your book will be great! Thanks for sharing and my prayers are with you and the family.

  3. Hi Alisha, of course I remember you! Thanks so much for stopping by and reading/posting, your comments are so encouraging. Stay in touch!

  4. Hey JoJo…here is lots more that I want to write to you, but for now I’ll leave it as a simple thanks. Okay, and I’ll add that I’m so proud to be your brother, and that it’s been such a gift to be on East Coast to reconnect with you. There are a few redeeming qualities to New Jersey. 🙂

  5. oh, i couldn’t stop at just the coat story… i kept going. i’m so glad i did, but now sitting in tears. levi was a name in contention for colby,(he was born on 5-01,01, at 5:01, i.e. “levis 501’s”) and he is determined to add it legally to his name. think i’m gonna have to get on that. great job you guys did in honoring him.

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