Aug 12, 2015
Hi Mad –
It is a glorious day today – I am wearing new socks, the Mets won last night (while the Yankees and Nationals lost), the sun is shining brightly, we just received a shipment of books which will keep AJ busy and quiet for a few hours and it is August 12 (shhh). Today, so far, is a good day. But mixed with that good is the knowledge that you will be headed off to Israel soon. I wanted to take a few moments to put some thoughts down in a medium which allows you no ability to respond, and I won’t know if you roll your eyes.
Eighteen and a half years ago, you changed me. You turned me from a guy who made poor fashion choices and needed a hair cut into a father: a guy who makes poor fashion choices and is balding but who understands love and worry in ways that he never knew before. I sang to you when you were only minutes old. And, much like you do now when I sing, you cried. It didn’t dawn on me way back then that you would ever have to move away, and I couldn’t possibly have anticipated the incredible person you have become.
Now, you are on the cusp of a huge shift in your life. Sure, we can still talk, email, chat, Skype or whatever it is the young people do these days, but you will be forging a new life, one which does not have me in it all the time. I have been blessed to see you at school every day. Most dads miss out on the connection we have and I thank God constantly that I have had this chance. I only hope that you carry with you the lessons we have learned together and that they inform all sorts of great decisions you make in the future, and shield you from the sorrow in the world around you even when I can’t be there to do so.
Not every day is a great day. Sometimes the Mets lose. Well, most times, but you get my point. Some days will stink and I won’t be there to pick you up. You have done and possibly will do dumb things and make bad calls, but you have to get back up and make things right. It won’t be easy, but you are strong. You are one of the strongest people I have ever met. Also lazy, but primarily strong. You can pick yourself up, and others with you. You are smart, crazy smart. You are insightful, and if you put your phone down, you are also really in tune with your world. You are part of something really big (a family, a religion, a country or countries) and you play a vital role in your world. YOU ARE NOT UNIMPORTANT AND HAVE TO RECOGNIZE THAT NO ONE ELSE IS UNIMPORTANT. You are special – to me and others. You need to wake up every morning, invested in being the special person everyone else knows you are.
So you are on your way to a war zone, to a distant corner of the round world full of challenges and experiences that I never embraced, opportunities that I missed out on and risks that I never faced. And I am proud of you. So, so proud. I am proud of the person you have become and I can’t wait to meet the person you turn in to. Will you stay? Will you come back? I honestly don’t know and there isn’t a single decision you can make which won’t scare the heck out of me. Aliyah or no, college choice, major, job, housing, relationship…every moment fills me with a combination of dread and excitement as I see you growing up and becoming this incredible adult.
I die a little inside every time you move away from me on any level but I live even more when I watch you grow. You started moving away in 7th grade and it was sad and joyous at the same time. Every day since then you have spread your wings a little more and I have been left behind to wallow in my sadness and to celebrate my sense of fascination and fulfillment at your successes. I guess that tension is what being a parent is all about: watching a child get on an airplane and not knowing whether the tears are from sorrow or joy, and the shaking from pride or fear. I will cry at the airport. It won’t be the first or the last time, but I want you to know that some of those tears are absolutely because I admire you and what you are doing. Some are because I will feel an unwelcome emptiness and some are because will be carrying onions. But most will be because I will be carrying a measure of love so overwhelming that it will try to get out through my eyes.
You are on your way to Israel (you have been on this path for many years, a path we encouraged and discouraged in even measure) and I won’t have the chance to embarrass you in front of your friends (though I may sing at the airport, just for old times’ sake). I won’t get to interrogate you about every thing you do. I won’t get to remind you to be careful and make good decisions whenever you leave your dorm. And I won’t have the opportunity to say “I love you” every morning when you get out of the car and every night before bed. I will worry during every waking moment and freeze every time the phone rings. But I will tell people with incalculable pride that you are following a dream and making a difference in the world in a way that is worth bragging about.
Remember please, as you work with those who need your help, as you love those who make your life complete and as you meet those who will make you into the new you, that you are loved by your parents and family and are an incredibly wonderful person, surrounded by people who believe in you and swell with pride when your name is mentioned.