To my sons:
I write this article in the year which marks ten since I lost my own father to cancer. He was, and remains, the greatest man, and almost by default, the greatest father in the world.
I regret that I cannot and have not been that great as a father to you.
Let me try to explain…
I spent 35 years of my life watching the man I called “Dad” be everything in the world to me, to my mother and to everyone who ever experienced him. I didn’t always agree with what he did or how he did it, but he was rarely wrong and I didn’t fully appreciate that until I was well out of my 20s.
I wish I could tell you that a “good raising” results in a good person. But, sometimes bad things happen to good people and sometimes, good people do bad things. I can assure you, I’ve had my fair share of both.
I do think that time has taught me to be better, in all ways, but not without my flaws. One of the most significant of which, has been that I’ve rarely known how to relate to you.
Something bad happened to me when I was a child and even as an adult, I struggle with the effects of that. It took therapy, it took years of self-destruction, and it took people more patient than I to help me through it.
If I have succeeded at anything thus far in life, it’s that neither of you have suffered in that way. To wit, if I have anything to do with it, no one will ever lay a harmful hand on either of you. You are my sons and I’ll do all I can to protect you from what I went through.
It was those events, that in some manner of speaking, forced me to forget or black out most of my childhood. I remember very little. Sadly, when my mother, your “Mula” asks me if I remember certain events from when I was around the age of either of you, I just don’t remember much at all. It’s sad, really. I want to remember what being a child was like so that I can give you some of the fonder memories simply because I did have happy moments as a child, I just don’t recall them. Trauma has a way of making us forget a lot…
To Jackson, my first:
You may never be able to read and comprehend these words but you were born into a marriage that was on its last legs. Your mother and I just were not equipped to continue our relationship further. We didn’t know when we split that you would eventually be diagnosed with autism and while it likely would not have changed the trajectory of our relationship, it did make us want to be better people for you. I have always and will always credit your mother for being the more mature of us both when things went south and remind me, that from here on out, we would always do what’s best for you. She has been a tremendous mother and she has sacrificed a great deal to give you the very best life that you could have. As a result, you are the sweetest, kindest, happiest and most beautiful boy we could have asked for. I will speak for us both in saying, I truly believe you got our best parts. While you may not remember him very well, because you were only three when he passed away, your Opa loved you so very much. He would be so proud of the young man you are today. I am still shocked to tell people that I now have a teenager. Your mother and I love you so very much and you make being a parent a gift every day.
To Sebastian, my last gift to this world:
I have a life with you that I never had with Jackson. I get to be an active, daily part of your life. I get to see you every night when I come home from work. And while we both might be tired from a day of activity/work, I get to hear your sweet voice each night as you head up to your bedroom to say: “Night, night, Dada. I love you.” And it is one of my favorite parts of any day, hearing you say those words to me. You don’t understand this now but you will always, always have to be a support for Jackson. You’re beginning to grasp that Jackson is not quite like you. This will never be a bad thing. You both have this amazing ability to light up any room that you walk into with these magnetizing smiles and bright eyes. Like Jackson’s mother, your mother has done so much to make sure you that you evolve and mature into a talented, charismatic and intelligent little boy. Because I’ve seen it firsthand, I know how hard your mother has worked to give you every opportunity in the world any boy could ask for. We have both tried to work on loving each other and displaying that love in ways that you can grow up in a home as loving and nurturing as the one I grew up in. We love you Sebastian, thank you for making our home brighter and our family bonds tighter each day.
To you both:
Take care of one another. My very best accomplishments, as a man, and as a father, have been to make myself better so that I can, in turn, help make you better. Everything I do for you in this world is to keep you safe, keep you happy, teach you to be better men than anything I was and to protect you from roads I chose to travel. Your Opa saw me through some very dark days and no father should ever have to see his son go through those things, in this life or the next. Some day, I will be able to share stories that help you make better decisions in your own life: to cherish your family, to work hard for yourself and your family, and to make the world a better place to live. This is not an easy world to live in and the things you will value most will take hard work to appreciate. This is okay. Work hard, take nothing for granted.
It is through you both that I am slowly learning how to be the man my own father wished me to be, that he was stolen from this world before he could view it all is a tragedy I can’t adequately express. I know he’s watching over all of us from a better place and a place where he no longer feels pain.
I will always, always try to be the father you both deserve because as the adage goes: you can’t pick your parents. But your parents can always work harder to show you the love, the attention and the life you both deserve to have.