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Dear Caleb (A Letter to My Son)
Many years ago, I was inspired by an article published in Life magazine by renowned author Tim O’Brien. It was titled “Letter from My Son” and expressed O’Brien’s views (for him) in the aftermath of the birth of his son, Timmy.
O’Brien is perhaps best known for his 1978 novel “Going After Cacciato,” for which he won the National Book Award. The New York Times said of the book, “Calling ‘Going After Cacciato’ a novel about war is like calling ‘Moby Dick’ a novel about whales.” I was an avid reader of Vietnam-war era tomes, and “Cacciato” was an excellent look at the war from a vet’s perspective (O’Brien had served in Vietnam).
I kept the copy of Life that contained his “Letter to My Son,” thinking it was something I would like to share with my son or grandchildren. Please remember, Caleb Alexander Ackerley was not even conceived, let alone born. Now that I’m used to putting my thoughts in print (online), I’m inspired to write my own letter – this time to my 4-year-old Caleb. So, here it is:
First of all, I want to tell you something that you already know very well. I love you like crazy. You are the sweetest, brightest, most loving person I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.
You are truly a miracle baby. Your mother was vulnerable during her pregnancy with you and suffered from fibroid tumors; Finally, bed rest for the final three-plus months of your pregnancy. We regularly trek to St. Francis Hospital for stress tests, which means making sure you’re healthy. Let me tell you: not only were you healthy in the womb, you exceeded expectations.
Since we first found out you were on the way, we’ve been talking to you about excellence. Let me be honest about this – we started to think of you as Stephanie because we weren’t sure if you were male or female (your mother wanted to name her daughter after her grandmother). Trust me, there was no disappointment when we found out we were having a boy. Don’t forget that “boy” rhymes with “joy”.
A man named Tim O’Brien wrote a letter to his young son many years ago and told him that he was a little worried about his son’s age when he was born. He was 58 when his son Timmy was born and didn’t know if he would be able to enjoy Timmy’s growing up period. I am in the same situation. I was 56 when you were born; But I had long been convinced that I would live to a ripe old age and, moreover, that I would be in good shape in my later years.
I’m not worried about not being able to shoot some hoops with you when you were a teenager. I plan to have you join my regular Wednesday night game in New Britain when you’re a little older. I look forward to coaching you in any sport. I already know you love basketball, football, soccer, baseball and more, but I won’t rule anything else out for you. The world, truly, is our oyster. catch it
Tim O’Brien mentioned his longing in a letter to Timmy. Let me reflect on a few of my own. I want to see you get married someday and I look forward to your children joining the family. O’Brien told us how he learned that “a grown man can find joy in the miraculous pronunciation of the word “daddy” by “screaming… laughing.” For me, I’m happy when you wake up in the morning and come down the stairs and tell me, “I love you. , Dad.” To you, these words are automatic. I don’t think you know, at this point, how powerful they are. You can reduce me to virtual nothingness with that phrase.
You have learned a lot in your 4 years. When I hear you rhyme, sing a new song of your own composition, I am delighted beyond comprehension. When you say, this weekend, “Mom, you didn’t dry my hair properly,” I think there are millions of adults who can’t use adverbs at all, let alone, correctly. Your gifts far exceeded my deepest longings for you as we waited for your birth. We don’t even need to hover over you while you eat; To make sure you are getting your vitamins. Almost everything that appeared on your plate, you ate without hesitation.
You amaze me, you thrill me, you make my day, you are a wonderful boy, a polite, a bit confused, quizzing, inquisitive, curious, rhyming, singing, drumming, piano playing, amazing, charismatic, caring , handsome, cute (I know you don’t like that!), and you’re funny. You have one of the best senses of humor I know.
To quote O’Brien again, “I’d trade every letter of my life for an extra 5 or 10 years with you.” This is so true for me, Caleb. Of course, I’m not looking forward to leaving you behind on this planet. According to his letter, a father’s “main duty is to be present,” and at some point in your life I will no longer be present. I pray that you will be able to savor all the moments we have shared together and that I have guided you well, so that you become the man you are capable of.
We like to say that our departed relationships are “up there, watching us.” Obviously, we don’t know this to be true; But if that’s true, you can be sure I’ll be watching your every step, my son boasted proudly, seeing the success that was his destiny from the start.
There are not enough words in my vast vocabulary to describe my love for you. I think that’s all that needs to be said.
I love you, Caleb.
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