We’ve been through a lot together over the last 18 years, you and I.
I discovered a whole new level of nervous anticipation when I learned of your impending arrival. I never knew that twelve long hours of excruciating pain could feel like twelve long days, yet all of it be forgotten in the blink of an eye the moment I first held you.
We forged new schedules, new habits, a new life rhythm, clinging to what worked, discarding what did not.
You were two when we had to learn about single parenthood, and doing this thing on our own. You were four when we met our new life partner, and learned that we were no longer on our own.
I watched you being led down the hospital hallway in your little gown, your tiny six-year-old hand tucked into the nurse’s, and sent up a silent plea of protection as your tonsils were removed. Ice cream and popsicles saw us through recovery.
I reached a new depth of heartache as I had to explain your step-grandpa’s suicide to you later that same year.
The birds and the bees soon explained your new baby brother’s arrival. You found a new sense of pride in bringing me diapers and feeding him cereal. I discovered that I could, in fact, handle two.
You became a teenager the year we first learned of your stepdad’s illness, and turned fifteen when we moved to be closer to his family because of it. We again forged new schedules, new friendships, a new way of life. Babysitting for your brother and long doctor’s visits became the norm.
I became a caregiver in a whole different way. You became resilient, yet understanding, agreeing to delay that important teenage rite of passage — getting your driver’s license— until we had settled into our new routines.
You rediscovered your love of cars and trucks this year, taking college-level auto tech courses to prepare for your next life stage. You have agreed to delay your college career as we continue to battle your stepdad’s illness.
I am in constant, silent awe of your selflessness, your patience, your fierce protectiveness, and your joy for life’s simplest things. This year, you will be eighteen. An adult.
You are ready.
I am immensely proud to call you my son.
Through you, I have learned the true meaning of unconditional love.