Happy 8th Birthday.
This is my fifth letter in the series. The fourth one isÂ here. Third one isÂ here. Second one isÂ here. And the first one isÂ here.
When I sit down to do this every year, I never start by knowing what I’ll write. Today is no exception. I just try to go with my heart on it.
As the years have passed by, the annual communication from friends and family slowly faded on your birthday. Last year a handful of close friends and family reached out to me on March 26th to send a text, email, or call and just say hello. And I knew one year it would happen. I just didn’t know when.
Today was the first time in nine years that nobody reached out to me.
And I’m alright with it. Really, I am.
The omission of people reaching out doesn’t make me sad–life goes on, I completely get it. This is what’s supposed to happen, in fact I was surprised people remembered for as long as they did.Â It’s just that, well, today the chasm felt even more apparent. The real pain is that I don’t have you here, which is sometimes desensitized by distractions. All of those are temporary, and to some degree they keep me from dealing with the reality and sadness of your not being here. That I can’t see you. That I can’t talk to you. That I miss you.
Today I get to deal with it. And that’s okay.
Sunday night we celebrated your birthday, wrote you cards, and watched some sports we thought you’d have enjoyed. With very few exceptions, I’m not a sports fan anymore. And it just dawned on me, that perhaps some of my distance originated nine years ago around the time you left. I’m not sure if there is a tie. But I know there’s enough different about me now that you’re not here.
Everybody misses you terribly. Zoe sat in my arms at the end Sunday night, and we were two peas in a pod–both of us are generally more than restless, but that night we just laid there and talked about you and the things that remind us of you. Mom, Royce, and Zoe all say hi. And we all wish we could give you a big hug.
Some years I’ve told stories about the family or detailed our events. Today’s letter, however, is one I wanted to write between you and me.Â If God could’ve loaned you to me today for a few hours, here’s what I would have done (note, I wrote this in the context of it being just a father/son day, but what IÂ reallyÂ would’ve wanted to do would be to have a family day with you):
I’d take you to the Ocean.
On the way, I would stop by a Starbucks. I’d show you how to properly customize a drink order, with a degree of being extra particular. Afterwards, we’dÂ go to the grocery store next door, and grab some coconut water, kefir, and kombucha. Because those that know me know I usually have 3-4 different drinks going at the same time.
We would drive together in my car, and I would tell you all about my affliction for Mercedes Benz’s and show you little things like design, construction, and how they’re built. It wouldn’t be based around material vanity, it would be a chance for me to share you something that I dig, to teach you little things, and how you can learn about excellence through the observation and experience of great things that other people have built.
I’d make you sip my coffee. You’d spit it out. I’d then convince you to try Kefir. You’d probably hate that too. The coconut water would be a toss up. And I wouldn’t even subject you to kombucha. But I would have secretly bought you a hot chocolate as well, and after you were done entertaining my little “Hey, okay Levi, taste this one now and let me know what you think!” I’d make sure to give you something that I know you’d really love.
On the way, I’d ask you 1,000 questions. Probably, after the fifth question, you’d be all impatient and say “Dad, seriously?!?!?!” But I’d still ask anyways. I’d do my typical “okay okay, just wait one more question…” However large your impatience would be as a Raz, I can assure you, my tenacity to keep asking questions would be stronger still. Another Raz tendency.
I’d want to hear about what you love, the things you think about, sports you enjoy, what you have learned, what you want to do. I’d want to get to know you for who you are, and how you think. We would talk, share stories, and laugh. You likely have inherited my silly laugh. Which sometimes becomes uncontrollable, though most often at my own jokes since I find myself quite hilarious. So, clearly, you would find me equally hysterical and witty, And I you.
We’d arrive at the Ocean and I’d park the car. You would start getting out, and I would watch your little hands pull on the inside handle and I’d realize that it would be the first and only time I’d ever see you do that, because, after all, I’d only have you for a few hours. You would get out of the car, and shut the door, and I’d sit there for a few seconds alone with a tear streaming down my cheek. Happy.
We would walk the beach together. I’d make you take your shoes off, so you could feel what sand between your toes is like. And I’d put my arm around you, and tussle my hand through your long hair. Because, of course, in California you can’t have short hair. And not by the Ocean. Especially if you someday hope to be a surfer.
And during our time on the beach, there are just a few things I’d want to be sure to do:
Show you how to throw and catch a football. Yes, I know Tom Landry is up there in heaven with you as well, but you’d just have to tolerate my instruction as well.
Ensure you know how proud I am of you, and how grateful I am for you. As strange as this sounds, there is a creation of you that I understand and extends far beyond the few hours you were alive. I don’t expect anybody else to understand this, but I’d want to make sure that you knew how much you changed my life. And how very proud of you that I am. Will always be.
And, finally, I’d want to make sure you know that I love you unconditionally. For who you are and nothing else. There are very few, if any, times I have ever felt this in my life from another person. And none that are enduring. Unfortunately, I think this is the case with most people. I would want you to know what it feels like to be loved no matter what. Regardless of whether you loved me back. Irrespective of how you looked. Despite what you may be, or may not be, good at doing. I’d want you to know I loved you just for you, exactly the way you are. Because I do.
I’m sure the hours with you would fly by; and since I won’t get the chance to share this with you in person, I hope that you can somehow get the message. Not about the Mercedes Benz. Or the customized coffee. Or even how to throw a football.
The one about how much I love you.
No. Matter. What.
Thanks for coming into our life. Even if for such a brief time. I miss you terribly. We all do.
Happy 8th Birthday Buddy.
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