Sixteen Redux

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There you are, in the big chair, half curled and snuggled up against me. A tangled clump of hair covers part of your face.  You’re somewhere between wake and sleep listening to Goodnight Moon and my made up stories of butterflies and rainbow fish. You are warmth to my perpetual chill.

There you are, lying sideways asleep in the bed. Crumpled sheets draped over you rhythmically rise and fall with each breath. You are eight or nine years old? The stillness of this tableau a striking contrast to your boundless energy and movement during the day.  I stand, a sentry in front of your door making a silent promise to protect you always from the darkness. All the while fighting back my own fears. Fears of the randomness of the fates that even a father’s love sometimes cannot overcome.

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Sixteen

I remember sixteen years ago…

Your first night on this earth. Your first night in my life.  Swaddled up and cradled in my arms, I walked the quiet empty hospital hallways for what seemed like hours.  My thoughts racing, disorganized from exhaustion but fueled by my new parental responsibilities, about the future that lied in front of us!

I remember your room, barely ready, still with the smell of fresh paint from your fish mural.  The crib that stole days of my life to build, that you would sleep all of a few hours in.. (not in a night..but in your whole life), lay waiting in the corner.

I remember the unspoken fear shared by your mother and I, as we drove through snow and cold, to your first doctor’s visit at the cardiologist. And the tears of relief we shed together when we found out everything was going to be alright.

Sleepless nights pacing the hallway on Buckingham, trying to lull you back to sleep, messy  baths in the sink, blocks to be knocked down, backward crawling and tentative first steps forward.  The tantrums and meltdowns are a sleepless blur, but not the night both of us screamed and cried in the midnight darkness, desperate for you to sleep. Sensing my tears, you stopped your own and gently kissed my lips laying down next to me in the bed and finally resting your body next to mine.

Cubs games at Wrigley Field, catching home run balls in the bleachers. Playing little league, turning double plays. Playing catch and hitting grounders in the backyard. Falling asleep in the big chair as I told you bedtime stories over and over again.

Harry Potter is no longer on your bedside table having been exchanged for an iphone and laptop computer. You have traded in your baseball mitt for a water polo cap and pajamas for hoodies.  You no longer playing with Thomas the Tank Engine but ask for the keys to the Jeep Wrangler.  And along with these changes come the new challenge of trying to relate and connect to a teenage boy.

Although I often find myself  frustrated over your teenage thought process and decision making, leading at times to raised voices and harsh words, I recognize that I too infrequently tell you how proud I am of the young man you have become.  Of the adversity faced and battles won.   Watching you, at the concert the other night, taking in the sounds of a musician I started to admire when I was not too much older than you are now,  I realize we have far more in common than I often appreciate.  And although not a “perfect” child, you are the perfect son.

Happy 16th Birthday Madison.

Love, Dad.

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jeep madison and jeremy photo (4) photo-1 photo-2 photo-3 photo-4