The New Hat

My son got a new hat the other day. There was really nothing special about it. If anything, it looked like one of the many poorly crafted hats that I had enjoyed in my younger days.

“I picked it for Grampy in heaven, because he liked baseball” he said with a proud smile. I gently leaned in, kissed his forehead and told him that my Dad would have loved the hat. I did this calmly and in full control of my emotions, however, on the inside, my heart was racing, the tears building as my lungs gasped for air and I was suddenly flooded with a swell of memories from my days with my father.

What my son doesn’t know is that, over 6 years later, I do the same thing. It seems that almost everything reminds me of my father in some way or another. Ultimately, it’s the reason I stopped playing fastball, because that’s the thing we shared more than anything else and every time I took the field, after his death, the emotions became too overwhelming.

There’s also my unreasonable love for anything Sherlock Holmes and the sudden instinct to purchase old Hardy Boys books whenever I spot them. There are many other situations I can think of that, good or bad, have me instinctively doing something with no rhyme or reason attached to them. I’m no head doctor, so I’m not about to try to figure them all out but I’m assuming its normal behavior for anyone who has lost someone so close to them.

I thought about how I was distancing myself from the things we shared together instead of embracing them. It’s not that I wanted to forget, it’s just that I don’t want to be constantly reminded of it, if that makes any sense. It’s hard, man. Life has definitely become easier but those last days certainly haven’t vanished from my memory. That said, I didn’t want to return to that anxiety ridden “Why me” place that I spent so much time in. I want to be the story of the guy who fought through adversity and came out stronger on the other side, not the guy who caved to the memories and hurt his own family in the process.

You may look at my son’s new hat and just see a poorly made hat from any department store in the world, but to me, it’s a symbol that I’m doing better now. It taught me that life can go on, even with the heart break, and that my father’s memory will live on in my children even though they never had the chance to actually meet him.

I dusted off my ball cleats last weekend in hopes of making a comeback next season; because I know my Dad would have liked that.

A Letter To My 5 Year Old Son

Happy Birthday

You just turned five.

Every day that passes makes it harder and harder for me to admit that you are growing up. You rode a bike for the first time the other day and I expected that you would need me to follow along side of you, but you just pedaled ahead like a seasoned pro. Luckily for me, the pride over powered the thoughts of not being needed.

Even with your newfound independence, there are still reminders that you are my little boy. Someday you will understand how much it means to your Dad when we are just snuggling on the couch together, watching TV. I would never wish an injury upon you but having the power to make your pain go away just by kissing it better makes me feel like Superman. I also realize that my superhero time is running short.

The way you love your sister makes my heart hurt in a totally amazing kind of way. I had no idea that a child of only five years old could be that much in love with anything, but you prove it more with each passing day.

I wanted to share a few things with you about life, our relationship and the way that you probably perceive me to be, as your father. They aren’t form fitting for everyone but it is the way I feel and I think it’s important for you to know about. I’m sure I will be adding to this list as the years pass but this is what I have for now.

• When I say no to you, I really want to say yes a lot of the time. It hurts my feelings to know that I am hurting yours, but my job as your father is to do what I feel is best for you. So when I say that you can’t play Skylanders after dinner, it’s not because you did anything wrong, it’s just that I want to spend more quality time with you before bed time.

• I may act all cool, collected and sometimes even nonchalant when you fall off your bike, or the time you cut your eye on the dinner table, but inside I am a raging ball of emotional wreckage. I want you to learn about toughness but it takes every bit of my energy to stay calm myself.

• I cried to myself after dropping you off at your first day of school. The message here is that it is okay to cry, whether it is for happy or sad reasons. Being vulnerable does not make you less of a man, it just makes you human.

• No matter what age you are when you read this, do not bottle up depression or anxiety. I did this and it cost me the first year of your life. Please promise me you will talk to someone, whether it be myself, your mother, a friend or professional. You’ll be happy you did.

• I may not always say it but I am always proud of you, no matter what you do. I’m not supposed to over praise you so you’ll learn to want more from yourself but I am happy with you just the way you are.

• Your Mother is the best thing to happen to all of us. I know you don’t like the day care because you have to share your toys, time and family but she is doing it with your best interests in mind and I know someday you will understand how lucky you were. Without your Mom, we would be a lot less clothed, fed and taken care of. So after you read this, give her a big hug for me and then do the same for your wife.

• Family always comes first. I don’t care what happens between now and whatever point you are at while reading this, nothing is more important than family. Write this down somewhere and keep it with you always.

The point of this letter is that I love you and your sister more than I ever thought I was capable of loving anything. There are no words to describe how proud I am of you and everything you have and will continue to accomplish. You may be another year older and you may not need me as much as you did last year, but I will never stop being there for you.

Your Dad had to fight off a few tears while writing this one and I have never felt like more of a man. Happy Birthday, kid. Here’s to many more!

Funny Faces