Today, Buddy, this would’ve been it. THE. BIG. EIGHTEEN!
I started this letter last night–after I left Denver to find an obscure bar in a small town so that I could think, and write. Without initially knowing where I was going, I ended up finding this old country-style Saloon in a town called Nederland.
It was perfect.
Natural wood timbers throughout, tinny-sounding speakers overhead pelting out Bob Dylan, Merle Haggard, and Don McLean overhead. Everyone that walked in was greeting by name, hugs, back-slapping, and catch-ups on how their week went.
As the only outsider, I camped out at a booth in the corner with my laptop open while typing away in WordPress, basking in being an unknown entity in a bar where everyone else is anything but that. It would’ve been a fun place to take you for some Dad / Son time.
Realizing today you’d be 18, and “officially” an adult male (becoming a man is something very different than just turning 18…) also makes me reflect on my own stage in life. Everyone is out of the house and into orbit, and now I feel really solo…
It’s a great feeling and sense of awe watching your kids grow into the next stage of life. It’s also a bit lonely, too. At least every week, I have the thought that I wish I could go back and do it all over again.
Royce is finishing up her junior year at Colorado Christian University, and is doing such great work: volunteering (even went to Guatemala last summer) and studying so incredibly hard–countless hours, far more than I ever did–and is super involved in her church. She has such a heart for God.
Zoe moved out in July after graduating high school and is going to an Academy in California to become an Esthetician. It makes me so unbelievably happy to see her find something that she’s super passionate and excited about. And that kid, not only incredibly hilarious but so encouraging.
I’m so proud of both of them. They would have absolutely adored you as the baby boy in the family.
If you were here and sometime around your Birthday, I’d take you on a drive to the mountains for a weekend of trekking to a cabin where we’d have some “Hey Levi, so you’re becoming a man…” talks and Dad / Son time.
I’d share with you a lot of the mistakes I’ve made and try to give you some insights about how you can (and should try your best to) skip the stupid, careless, reckless, and selfish things I’ve done over the years.
We’d talk with you about finding your purpose. To try not to get distracted by worldly things, many of which are roadblocks to achieving your greatness.
And I’d encourage you to invest in people and relationships–especially a spiritual one with God, someday a romantic one, to continue building your family ones, and to be sure to develop great relationships with other men. As a man, there is something especially epic about hanging out with other dudes. Some of my best memories from the last year were from connecting with some great men I’ve known over many years (along with some new ones as well).
Of course, we’d also binge watch the TV Series “Friday Night Lights” where I’d probably have picked up, or created, some cringe-worthy (but perhaps a badass) Dad-version of “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose” for our ‘lil family. This was my and Zoe’s favorite show. It would’ve been so fun to watch it with you, too, and then watch you play sports and see life through the experience of a teenage boy (though I also had the gift of watching Royce and Zoe play sports for many years as well, and it was incredible).
Since starting your Birthday letters, I’ve spent far more time writing about you than I ever have speaking openly about you. It’s been cathartic. That this is my last Birthday letter to you is something I’ll miss.
It is a strange experience of getting to almost have something, only to have that taken away, so that you never got to experience it–apart from all the mental maps of what it could have, or would have, been. Of course that’s how I feel about you, but there’s nothing unique to me about that experience. We’ve all had it in some form or another, usually many times over.
In my last letter, I’m mostly grateful and a little bit sad. And quite a bit suppressed. There’s so much more that I want to write and say, but, I’ll save it for the book. This may be my last Birthday letter to you, but it’s not my last writing. Every year I say I’ll get the book done. One of these years, I’ll make that true (the picture with Royce and the book “I love you Levi” is a kids book she found and bought for me…so adorable).
A year after your birth I was having breakfast with a guy I knew from my business world who had lost twins shortly after birth and he asked “So, how are you doing with it now?” Since I knew he could relate, it was easy to lay it out and say “Honestly man, it’s not getting any better. It kind of just, is…”
He looked at me and said “Yeah, ten years later…me too. That’s kind of how it goes. I don’t know that it’ll get any better from here on out, it’ll just be different…” And so now, for me, on your 18th Birthday, I don’t know that it feels any better. It just feels different. I’m good with it. Even grateful for it.
“It” being all the hope and excitement leading up to your birth. All the aspirations of having a son and another dude in the household, coupled with all the longings and dreams I’ve had for you since.
In some ways, through this, I got to experience life vicariously through your spirit and what I envisioned it would be. I also got to experience life differently, especially by getting some extra enjoyment out of seeing a Dad interact with his son (an ongoing theme I’ve shared before).
Last Sunday I was running around Sloans Lake in Denver. One of my favorite scenes that often stops me is when I see a Dad and his son doing some activity together. A week ago, it was a Dad and his son on a baseball diamond. He’s pitching to him, coaching him, teaching him how to stand in the batters box, when to square up, “keep your eye on the ball all the way through until you see the bat make direct contact…”
Sometimes I watch for 30-seconds. Sometimes I get lost in time.
But nearly every time I go on my way, I feel a little bit better. As if I got to experience what it’d be like to be a Dad to a son, even if it’s in the most remote and distantly vicarious and interstitial way. And everytime I leave that scene, I say the same thing to myself…”Man, that Dad has no idea just how lucky he is right now at this moment and how badly I’d love to trade spots with him for just one game of catch.”
It is not always, maybe even often, what we want. But I trust that it is usually, maybe even always, what we need as part of The Great Plan. And I’m good with that.
So, Levi, Happy 18th Birthday, big man…
I know I would be so proud of you today.
It would be incredibly epic, right now, in ways that I can’t quite express, even if for just 60-seconds we could somehow eclipse time and space in a supernatural way that would give me just one chance to give you a long hug, look you in your eyes, and tell you how much I love you and how proud I am of you.
Wishing you the best day today, and that somehow, in some way, these letters make it over to you.
Love it. No matter what.