(In honor of his 10th birthday, these are 10 of my favorite pictures. The first one is my flight information and the last one speaks for itself. Enjoy.)
“Until you have a son of your own . . . you will never know the joy, the love beyond feeling that resonates in the heart of a father as he looks upon his son. You will never know the sense of honor that makes a man want to be more than he is and to pass something good and hopeful into the hands of his son. And you will never know the heartbreak of the fathers who are haunted by the personal demons that keep them from being the men they want their sons to be.”
I was so young and stupid when you came into my life. I was dragged into fatherhood kicking and screaming. I was not ready, and as much as she wished, your mother wasn’t ready. She was in Pittsburgh giving labor while I was stoned with my friends on the cold Lower East Side streets of Manhattan. It must have been at least 4 in the morning when I got phone call. I didn’t even have the money to pay for the flight being that I burned through my severance pay from that bad idea of an internet company I worked for. Every day was a constant sabotage in hope that this whole thing was a dream. Diapers, cribs, apartments, bills, sickness, money, and does this girl even love me?… An overwhelming tidal wave of responsibility I wasn’t mature enough to handle. And there I was, on an 11:40am flight my mother paid for with only about 40 dollars in my pocket. Your grandmother picked me up from the airport. By the time I got into the car you were nearing your first hour alive. I was late, no surprises there. It was the first time we had ever met. As pleasant as she was she was also wary of me, over protective over her daughter and judging the man who impregnated her 19-year-old. We would later fight over her driving my new-born in a car she forgot to put the gas lid on. It was the first time I made your mother cry as a mom. I wish I could take that all back but being a father or a man doesn’t come with an instruction manual. Unfortunately I probably still make her cry. I’m so fucking stupid. A self fulfilled prophesy of all my childhood insecurities and a practitioner of the victim mentality. I promised myself everyday to grow and right the wrongs I’ve allowed myself to stumble into, but if you make enough rights you’ll wind up right where you started. And it’s not that I didn’t love your mother, but I couldn’t believe anyone for the matter could love me. That insecurity was a cancer that turned my respect into petty jealousies and redundant outburst of mixed and twisted emotions. Soon I accumulated enough fuck ups to banish me to the bunk bed I grew up on. No more making you breakfast or taking you to Day-Care, it was done and I was out. I went dark. I no longer had my sun.
There I was in the basement of the Mckibben Lofts in Brooklyn. I had nothing. I did the unspeakable. An Ambien nap and a fuck it all to hell attitude stuffed in a few empty baggies and a couple of drained liquor bottles. But what do any of us have? You belonged to the world more than you could ever belong to me. Your eyes are going to move mountains and your smile is going to melt the ice surrounding many hearts. How could I not stay awake and see that? Sure I didn’t have you physically but you where not mine to begin with. You are the gift that God passed through me to give to this universe. How could I not be here to live on the Earth your light will illuminate? I wanted to feel the same rain that trickled off your umbrella, breathe the same air you filled up with words and ideas, and bask under the same sunlight you’ll thrive under. You taught me how to look. The shelter that turned into our first Brooklyn home and the food stamps became our lottery money, we made it work. We had too, everything that we had against us on paper looked amazing in reality. You taught me how to see the world as an illustration of life and I took pictures of everything in our shared existence. This was your world I wanted to preserve and record. And here you are at 10.
You like your Skecher strap on sneakers more than the Jordans I got you and somehow became a Yankees fan even though the 1st game you ever saw was the Mets. You have a slight slur and still walk on your tippy toes just like your dad did. Your jokes are as shy as they are silly. I take ownership in my genetics only. Your mother continues to do an amazing job and I thank her with all my prayers. I have all but reduced myself to a few wrapped up gifts and the occasional sleep over. Your mother struggled for your life. She had the foresight for the amazing adventure you would become and the optimism I lacked. One day I know I will beg you to forgive my shortcomings and I promise to save you the excuses. I only blame myself. Your father is still a work in progress, but every day I inch towards a better me. I never knew my father, just a couple of men I remember hurting my mother more than actually loving her. Your mother had to leave me if she was ever going to be happy, and I accept that. I was just a stupid young boy with no real gauge as to how to be a man. But I’m learning, and growing.
I know I have to do this for myself, but when I get it done know I did it all for you.
I love you.
Happy birthday Chance.