Today my first born turns 35. As I look at pictures of him on my walls I find it hard to believe that he's that grown up. And that our lives have taken us in such different directions. Its hard for me to believe that we don't still live in the same sleepy town or that I would ever choose a path that would take me away from him. After all, 34 years ago I fought in court to keep him. And made a silent promise to him that I'd be the parent that would stick it out. That I wouldn't leave. But three years ago I did. And even though he was all grown up then with a life of his own, I could still see the disbelief in his eyes, when I told him I was moving to Chicago.
It takes some getting used to, this aging process. We used to spend every day together. He was one of my best friends and toughest challenges. We grew up together and the temptation to make him an equal instead of disciplining him like a child was strong. Especially when he seemed to love to just hang out with mom and watch movies. As he grew and developed into the kind of man I was proud to have raised, I watched us grow apart. A time I both knew would happen and never believed would come. I wish somehow we were closer like my daughter and. I. But he is as distant and as much of a loner as I am. And while I don't like it I completely understand it. And so do his best friends, much in the same way mine do.
I have a birthday tradition I started with them both, from the day they were born. The first thing I said to them both, the first thing they heard their mother say outside the womb, was,"Welcome little one. You are alive.". And then it would grow from there. When they were young, I'd repeat what their year taught them, their accomplishments, how proud I was of them. Then as they grew up it was a consistent, stop whatever you are doing for your birthday wish from mom. It always came at the very time of their birth. And I knew that no matter where their lives took them we would at least be able to call each other on that special day. Because their birthdays are as special to me as they are to them. Most of us don't know or don't remember that our own parents feel the same way about our birthdays.
So if you are luckier than I and your parents still are living, call them. Call them often because someday you'll wish they were here. Call them or reach out on your birthday. Because it's the day they gave you life. And its the day their life changed forever, for the better. The day they finally knew what it was all about. And how it felt to know there was finally something in this world not only worth living for but willing to die to protect. You don't just forget that day.