We leave for Annapolis, Maryland, Saturday! This will be a conflicting emotional trip for us. We bought four tickets to Washington D.C., but only three returning tickets to Seattle. We will leave Aaron behind to embark on his own adventure as a new Midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy. He is starting a life apart from us. Even though we know that children growing up and leaving home is the inevitable natural course of events in life, we are still trying to accept it. We are very happy for him and extremely proud. I just cannot believe that the day is almost here when he will be going away. I will greatly miss his presence around the home. Ironically, he is leaving the week after Father’s Day.
He has been my “Little Buddy” for 18 years. I remember when we brought him home from the hospital. We were new parents without a clue as to what to do with our new bundle of joy. We put him on our bed and just stared at him transfixed while he slept.
For all of the mistakes I made along the way, I am sorry Aaron. After all, you were my first go around at being a father. You were the prototype, son 1.0. I have tried to do better with son 2.0, Elijah. Hopefully, you will only remember the good things I did.
Some of the bad things will fade from memory in time, or with some professional counseling. I am sorry for the time that we woke up in the middle of the night in January freezing because the heat went out. We rushed to your crib worried that you were a frozen popsicle. Luckily, you were sleeping soundly despite the sub-zero temperature, or at least too cold to cry.
There was also that time that we took you camping in the mountains. You rolled off your mat in the night. Mom panicked when she could not find you in the dark. Again, you were sound asleep on the cold tent floor. I guess you built up a tolerance for the cold growing up.
I remember the time that you snuck out of the yard gate. I assumed you were quietly playing in your sand box. I was wrong. I saw the open gate and frantically chased after you down the street. You streaked in your diaper two blocks before I caught you. You giggled the whole way back home. Yes, that was a very funny prank on your dad. Good joke.
How many miles did you ride in your pack on my back? There were many times I felt like a Nepalese sherpa. You got heavy! I was relieved when you could hike on your own. I was even more relieved that you didn’t try to run off anymore. Either you got faster of I got slower.
I took you to your hernia surgery when you were just five. I sat next to you as the anesthesia took effect. As you drifted off, I had the worst feeling in my stomach that you would not wake up again. Thankfully, you did, groggy and a little loopy. Even though you don’t remember much about the operation probably, I do. It was one of the longest hours of my life.
Yes, I made you walk back to the car when you fell off your bike. How was I supposed to know that your arm was broken? I did fix your bike though. Luckily mom was more medically inclined and suggested we take you to the emergency room. I learned that kids’ bodies heal faster than dad’s consciences.
I really appreciated your help coaching the swim team. I picked you up right after kindergarten and took you to practice. You did a great job imitating me. You really got my style down. My swimmers followed your every word. I think, however, that you made them do more push-ups then me and I never did get me whistle back.
You loved for me to chase you through the castle at the playground. We would spend afternoons playing tag. You were very understanding and patient when I gave myself a concussion hitting my head on the low beams. It would not have been as bad if had I only done it once instead of three times.
I was so excited to take you to your first Cub Scout meeting that I forgot you really didn’t know anything about Scouting. I am glad that you played along. We have had some great memories in Scouts. We built a few champion Pine Wood Derby cars! I was extremely proud when you earned your Eagle Scout. I did note, however, that despite being the parent who went on all of the camp outs, including the rainy, cold ones, you thanked mom first.
I taught you how to use power tools. I am sorry that you had to see me cut the tip of my finger off on the table saw. I was trying to show you what not to do. I hope you were paying attention. At least I now know that you really don’t like the site of blood. But, you know your way around an emergency room. How many times did we go?
I taught you how to drive too. Ok, allowing you to drive on the open road without a permit or formal training may not have been my brightest decision, but you quickly learned how to do it. You may borrow mom’s car when you’re home from the academy by the way.
You eagerly listened while I taught you how to swim, fish, camp, build models, play chess, tie a tie, shave, and properly wear a suit. I hope those skills come in handy some day. I tutored you in math, science, history, English, and a host of other knowledge. You even listened to me tell old navy stories and get on my political soap box at times. Despite my help, you did very well in school.
You followed me around as I fixed things and made home improvements. Someday, you might do the same with your son. Try not to use the vocabulary that I accidentally taught you, sorry about that by the way too. Admit it, the wood flooring that took us three weeks to complete looks good. You can also confidently say that you know how to use a plunger and what a stud finder is for.
You helped me build my kayak in the cold garage after work and school for six months too. That was the best Father’s Day present ever. When it was finally finished, I paddled you all over the place so you could see starfish, sea anemones, sea lions, fish, and more. I must apologize for leading you on. I hope you don’t mind some of the wild stories I made up about pirate treasure and Indians as we explored the coastal waters.
I know that most kids want toys and stuff for their birthdays. We believe that experiences are far more valuable. So, I know you might have wanted that X-Box instead of the flying lessons, but you can say that you flew a plane before you drove a car. Even though I arranged it, I will now admit that I was very glad that mom went with you the first time you piloted.
How was I supposed to know that building and launching all of those model rockets would foreshadow your future aspirations? We had a lot of fun though!
If my Navy stories inspired you to consider the Naval Academy, I am sorry about that too. I never tried to pressure you into anything, but instead inspire you and fuel your dreams. I took your desire to fly and become an astronaut seriously. I did not ever dismiss it as a mere child’s dream. If others do, remember I always have total confidence in you. So, I am sorry to push you to strive for more than just ordinary. Someone has to be first on Mars anyway.
We disrupted your life and dragged you to live in foreign countries. I loved watching you explore castles, museums, cathedrals, mountains, jungles, and beaches all over the world. Your face lit up when we went looking for the mythical burial chamber of Merlin in England. I think you had some good times. You learned a lot if nothing else. You know how to navigate your way around some airports, train stations, ferry terminals, and highways.
Maybe sometimes I did live my life through you. I always wanted a hobbit hole. Now we have one! I recommend a tree house or swing-set for your children, much easier. Mom could use it as a garden shed now that you are grown-up? Not!
I sincerely appreciate watching Monty Python, Mel Brooks, Blues Brothers, and Leslie Neilson movies with me. Unfortunately, my warped sense of humor may have rubbed off on you. You can watch dramas with mom.
I really did try to not embarrass you in front of your friends in high school. I only cheered at your cross-country and track meets when no one was looking. OK, I bragged a little too much at times. I tried not to mention you during my veteran’s speech at your school, but failed. Next time you will be able to give the speech because soon you will be a fellow veteran.
Just because everyone knows that you are my son and doing amazing things does not necessarily mean that I talk too much about you. They somehow find out. Ok, maybe I am a little proud of you.
So, after all that and more please tolerate some last advice.
1. Just like the Cub Scout motto, always do your best. The last person you want to disappoint is yourself. It is better to reach for the stars and fail then to never try at all. You can live with failure, but quitting stays around.
2. Never give up on your dreams. Most people do. Live an extraordinary life. After all, you only get to do it once.
3. Do not give up your heart to easily. The right person will come by someday. Trust me, you will know her when she comes. That is why your mom and I are still together.
4. Always live the Scout oath. Corny maybe, but trusted wise words. Look at all the famous Scouts, they can’t all be wrong.
5. Pick your friends wisely. You will be defined by them. Remember the old adage, “It is hard to soar with eagles when you surround yourself with turkeys.” Turkeys get eaten anyway.
6. Remember your family. We will always be here for you no matter what. Where ever you go, you will always have a home. Your little brother will miss you too, even though he denies it now. You will miss him also. Trust me on this.
7. Believe you have a purpose in life, and work to discover it. This one thing is the cure for almost every problem. To quote the Bible: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”
8. Life is a journey, not a destination. Enjoy the ride.
9. Never stop learning. There is more to know in our world then you could possibly ever remember. You cannot max out your brain.
10. Lastly, from Shakespeare, “To thine own self be true.” I only plagiarise from the best.
You can count on me to dispense more advice and wisdom whenever you need it, whether you ask or not. You are and will ever be my oldest son. I am extremely proud to say that. Thank you for letting me be your father.