In February of 2002 my life was utter shit. I'll spare you the details (for now), but will tell you quite seriously that because of the pain that had amassed over the years, I thought daily and seriously about taking my own life. It was bleak, it was relentless and it was intensifying each day.
In March of that year not only was the darkness gone, but I was surrounded by such an amazing light that I could barely remember what pain felt like. That month Sandi and I became a couple. She was (and is) perfection. My salvation. The thing that was missing in me for nearly 40 years. I had a hard time imagining my life could get any better.
In March of 2003 my life got better. Thomas came.
I was in the delivery room, holding Sandi's left leg as she pushed. I stared in awe as his head glided out. As the doctor turned him slightly to align his shoulders, our eyes met. Mine was the first face he saw when he came into the world. Nothing has ever come close to moving me as profoundly as that moment. Except every single moment since.
The night of Thomas' birth, St. Patrick's Day 2003, the weather was unseasonably warm. The moon was full and larger than I remember ever seeing it before. I felt so connected to every blade of grass, every budding leaf, every cricket. It didn't seem to me that I'd grown more sensitive to my surroundings so much as they had grown more intense around me. The world seemed to be screaming out to me, thanking me for fulfilling my part in it, and promising me the greatest reward it could muster.
Midnight feedings, diaper woes, panic-inducing mystery ailments and all the credentials folks cite to earn them a place in the parents' club ... they were all there. You file them under "Shit You Have To Do" and you move on. But those moments filed under "Life Altering Shit That Nobody But A Parent Could Understand" ... those moments handily slammed that other file closed. Most nights Thomas fell asleep in my arms in our big leather recliner as we watched Dora or Thomas the Tank Engine. And on the nights when sleep wouldn't come so easily, he and I would drive around listening to music for as long as it took. When we returned home, I would carry him in and put him in his crib, hating how much emptier I felt the second his weight was off my arms. He was (and is) my counterpart. We resolve each other.
Thomas, when I look at you I see me, but better. You are so, so smart. And kind. And beautiful. And funny. And talented. And generous. And sympathetic. And sensitive. You're the best big brother in the world and Ethan worships you. When you cry I want to pick you up and hold you, tickle you and make you laugh until you forget that you were crying at all. And when you hurt I want to find the thing that hurt you and kill it. I would lay down my life for you without hesitation. I would sacrifice anything for you. I tell you this because I know you'd never abuse the knowledge. I see just a hint of the man you will become and I am already so proud of you.
In the past 7 years I've had to unlearn everything I thought I knew about life and relearn it the right way -- with truth at the center. The lessons have been so hard that at times I thought I'd go insane, but Thomas, you're a good teacher. If you learn half as much from me as I have from you, you'll make Buddha look like Slingblade.
Thank you for all you've taught me. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for being perfection. My salvation. The thing that was missing in me for nearly 41 years. I love you so very much. Happy birthday.
"You're my first child. I'll do you no harm. I'll teach you my love." -- Nil Lara