Dear Son and the men who shaped you:
I fought tooth and nail to keep you safe and sweet. To keep men from making you tough. I did my best to make sure you loved your grandmas, your sisters, and God.
The first few years were easy. I had such say over your life. But then you turned two and your dad made me wean you. He said you had to eat real food so you could grow up big and strong.
When we dropped you off for boot camp on Sunday, it felt like the day I weaned you. Both of us so sad that you had to grow up. That I couldn’t mama you anymore.
Seventeen years ago, after you were weaned, I let Opa take you out in his big, diesel truck. You came home all quiet with a big bump on your forehead. “What did you do to my son?” I lit into your Opa.
“He fell out of my truck and landed on his head all by himself. It was the boy’s fault. I told him to wait until I got my gun.”
“Dad, he’s two-years-old!”
“Old enough to know better,” said Opa. “That bump on his head will teach him a lesson. He’s gotta learn to be tough if he’s gonna ride with me.”
I didn’t think you’d want to go with Opa again, but you did. By the time you were four, I couldn’t keep you out of Opa’s truck. You had your own gun. Your own determination to become a man. You were Opa’s boy, no longer mine, and I couldn’t stop you.
Opa wasn’t the only one doing his best to make you into a man as fast as he could. Your uncles were leaving their mark on you as well.
Uncle Tim taught you how to ride your bike without training wheels so I couldn’t catch you. The training wheels slowed you down. Once those were off. It was all over. You had the run of the neighborhood.
Uncle Rik taught you how to flip people off on the highway. He wasn’t even trying to teach you sign language, he just flipped off your dad as he passed us on Interstate 5, going to see the Colonel, your grandpa, and that was it. I spent a year teaching you not to use your finger that way. You stopped picking your nose before you stopped flipping people off. Maybe you still flip people off. I hope not.