Your grandfather died yesterday. I’m sorry that you never got the chance to meet him; I didn’t know him all that well myself. I’ve been thinking about you for a while now, which is actually what drove me to get back in contact with him this past holiday season. He hadn’t been a part of my life for years, but my thinking was that one day you’d want to know where you came from, and I wanted to be able to tell the whole story. His passing is making me think about a lot of things, so I figured I’d put virtual pen to paper and talk to you about why your Dad is such an insufferable pain in the neck.
What I want most for you is to have what I never had: a sense of community, continuity, and support. When you’re thirty years old I want you to have a circle of close friends that you’ve known
since elementary school, since middle school, since high school, since undergrad. I want you to be able to say you grew up in a house, on a block, in a neighborhood. I want you to be able to tell stories about family traditions and summer vacations. I want you to have opportunity and resource at your disposal; “can’t” will not be a part of your vocabulary. You will have, know why you have, and never take what you have for granted. Your grandmother and I both agree: In the past, the major failure of the working and middle class family has been to shield their children from the pain of the labor that bears the fruit that they enjoy. You will learn the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
Speaking of your grandmother, I hope to instill a strong sense of responsibility within you the way she did for me: If you fall, it’s up to you to get up, dust yourself off, figure out why you fell, and try not to fall again. All while refusing to blame others for making you fall in the first place. To be honest I hated what she put me through when she was putting me through it, but today I recognize how invaluable of a gift I received. As I’m sure I’ve forced you to read by now, it is the willingness to take responsibility for one’s actions – whether right or wrong – that separates a boy from a man.
One last point: A man needs a father to teach him how to carry the weight of this world, but he also needs a woman to show him how to appreciate the beauty of this world and all it has to offer.
More than that, he needs a mother to teach him how to love and respect women, ALL women. I know your mother drives us both crazy, and you may have even had your heart broken by a few young ladies at your school. That’s to be expected, especially if you’re any son of mine. But Son, the moment you begin to let the pain that only a woman can cause make you hate, you’ve lost. Your soul dies a little, and it isn’t an easy thing to repair. Trust me, long before I met your mother I was at the precipice, but the way your grandmother raised me allowed me to step back. That’s a key lesson: Don’t let anyone – no matter how stinging the lash – beat the love out of you, because the moment that happens, you’ve lost something that can’t be regained.
At the end of the day, what I want most is for you to be better than me in every way possible. I’m sure I’ve made mistakes and I’m positive I’ll make some more, but I’ll never stop improving myself so that I can continue to improve you. I’ll always have your back whether you want me there or not; that’s one lesson I learned from your grandfather.
Time for me to get out of here, Son. If I’m going to be the ideal of manhood by which you gauge yourself, I’ve got a lot of work to do. Kiss your mother for me, and if you tell her I wrote this you’ll be limping to school in the morning.
I love you,
P.S.: I’d say “Stay out of my office or I’ll hurt more than your feelings,” but if you’re any son of mine you’ve already broken into the computer, found the porno, and figured out how to cover your tracks. That’s my boy. 🙂