Sunday, January 24, 2016
To Cade at Sixteen
It seems like yesterday that I was sixteen. No, really. It seems like yesterday. I'm so much the same as I was, then, and I can't say if that's a good thing or bad. Both, I guess. Most things are good and bad. DP says that one of our greatest challenges is to see things and people for what and who they are: good and bad. I am good and bad, and so are you.
As your belief system shapes up to look differently than mine, you've worried that I think you are bad. I know this only because you told me, your longing for my approval so palpable in that moment. I wanted to say things that would feel kinder than the truth, but having lived just long enough to know better, I didn't. "I can't pretend to be happy that you don't believe what I do," I said, "in part because my belief system guides me in making decisions. But I think you're bad and good just like everyone else, and I will love you in and through your bad and good. I will love you no matter what you say, or do, or believe."
Then I sort of choked (or gasped) and said, "What if something happens to me? How will you find me, again?"
We stared at one another, our mouths agape, and cried. It was a terrible moment, but it was beautiful, too. There was no heat in it. It felt as if we were forehead-to-forehead over a divide, or perhaps as if a tightrope were running from my hurting heart to yours, never mind the canyon below.
What I want to say to you at sixteen is that I want you: the real you, whoever that is and whatever that means. I don't want the you that you think I want unless it's the real you. I don't want the you that I think I want unless it's the real you. I want the real you more than I want other (possibly more pleasant or less complex) versions of you because what's the point, really, in knowing someone if you don't really know him or her? I'm not encouraging bad behavior, here; I'm encouraging authenticity. I'm saying that if I'm going to love you no matter what (and I am), I want to love the real you.
The real you is going to change. I could cry, and sometimes do, for all that I didn't (and don't) know, raising you. You're halfway through high school, and I'm just now starting to figure out some very vital things. Maybe this isn't uncommon; maybe most people are well past their child-bearing (and possibly -raising) years before they get much sense about them. I'll guarantee you that I've messed some things up. At this point, I see more of my mistakes than you do, but that may flip with time. I promise: I'll talk with you about whatever you want, whenever you want.
The real you is going to change, but it isn't. I love my friends from high school as much as ever; in fact, I wager that I love them more than I did when I was sixteen. My capacity for love has grown. To say goodbye (or see you later) to Jason Hatfield still hurts more than I can say.
Life is beautiful and terrible. Things and people are bad and good. I do not hope to be beautiful or good so much as I hope, always, to be yours.
Happy 16th Birthday, Son.