From time to time I pause and remember one who some years ago “emptied” my nest as he left home to begin his transition from being my “little boy” to becoming a man. From Oklahoma to Alaska, there is today, quite a span of geographic distance between us. Although I do miss him, I feel, with his work and family commitments, respect for him, when he chooses to devote his time to those near and dear to him. I am grateful for the words in Ecclesiastes 3: “To everything, there is a season and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven….”
As I grow older, I find I am ever so thankful for the memories of my son’s growing up I hold in my heart. It wasn’t always easy; but then, life isn’t always easy either. Thus, I invite you to eavesdrop as I again read this letter, imagining my grown son, sitting across from me at my breakfast table. Perhaps it may inspire you someday to pen similar words to your son.
My Dear Grown Son:
As quickly as time flies by, it will soon be four decades since I first held you as a 6-lb., 13-oz. bundle of joy in my arms. How fast you changed into a toddler, merging even more quickly into a little boy, later escalating into a teenager, and finally fulfilling the goal of becoming a man. In all of those seasons, there were times for planting, harvesting, building, crying, laughing, mourning, dancing, embracing, keeping silent, speaking up, loving, and feeling peace. Further, each season came the creation of memories and changes for both of us.
Pausing for a moment to reflect, I am reminded of one milestone in 1984—our 3,600-mile journey from Arizona to Alaska—a milestone that would impact my outlook for the rest of my life. The items which would not fit into your little black Mazda RX7 and the car top carrier had already been boxed and air-freighted, awaiting our arrival in Fairbanks. Riding with you and serving as your map-reader, I had a number of hours during those 4½ days to think about the past and wonder about the future.
We captured the beauty of the present that Mother Nature provided us on that scenic drive through northern Arizona into Utah, on up into Idaho, and over and up across eastern Oregon and into Washington. Somewhere we truly did see the “Big Rock Candy Mountain.” The 700+ miles a day rolled by quickly, and we soon were in the Black Spruce forests and on the packed gravel roads of Canada, heading across the Yukon territory, as we continued our northwest trek toward Fairbanks.
As you were driving, in my parental reflections I mentally reviewed many of the images I was in the process of placing into your own photographic album, as a forthcoming Christmas gift. How I treasured again those memories. Yet there were some things photographs could not capture—that firm foundation of quality ideals. It was at that moment I realized this was my season of letting go, cutting the apron strings, and allowing you the freedom to pursue your own inner happiness, as you would soon be accepting new responsibilities.
Still, regarding my role as a parent, I asked myself the following questions. Had I, by my example, truly given you quality instructions for life? Had I shown you when some activities evolving around us were fun or had we both taken life so seriously that the fun element was missing? Had I had an empathetic, listening ear and watchful eye during your growing up years?
Within you, had I instilled enough strength and courage for you to continue in your life’s leadership role, fitting in and being accepted? Yet, in my heart, I knew the answers would only come in time, as you experienced growth. And this experience—growth, I knew, came in many ways—even in letting go.
Not too many years after that we both experienced more changes and losses in our lives, as I went through my divorce and we mourned the loss of your beloved Granddad. Among my treasures is a very simple card you selected and sent. You acknowledged your understanding and feelings of hopelessness in being so far away from me during that difficult time. Yet, you still offered your words of encouragement and caring. You simply said, “Mom, Just wanted to say I love you and that I am very concerned for you. If you need anything or someone to talk to…just let me know and I’ll be there for you. Love, Duane.”
Today I reiterate those words back to you. As a parent, I’d like to share in your joys and shelter you from life’s difficulties, but then you would not experience growth. Yet, often I do think of you, even though distance separates us. Further, I would ask that if I have not met your expectation of being a perfect parent or have grieved you with disappointment, that those shortcomings and disappointments be forgiven. Finally, as you are now a parent, take time to listen once more to the strains and words of the song by Harry Chapin, Cats in the Cradle.
Feel how very much I care. Feel my forgiveness. Feel my positive energy. Feel my love and peace. Feel how I hold you in my heart, saying, “You are my beloved Son.”
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