You were a lot smaller then. The day I first held you in my arms. A tiny little bundle of blankets and humanity that made me feel things I never knew I was capable of. If I only knew then, what I know now.
I can still remember the first time you opened your eyes and I stared into them wondering what you’d be like. Would you want to play catch in our big backyard? Would we watch the game together and hug and scream when our team made the winning score? Would we play pranks on your mom and make her roll her eyes and say things like “oh you two…?” If only I knew then, what I know now.
The first time you grabbed my finger and held on tight – I remember the wave of emotions that flooded over me as I asked myself. Will you always want to hold on tight? Will these hands be enough to pull you back up again when you fall? Will you grab them when they are reaching out to guide you down the path I hope that you will go? Will your hands be the ones that I cling to when I am old and frail? Will they someday hold the hand of my daughter-in-law? When my hands are not enough, will you fall into my arms? And when even those too fail, will you know you rest in the palm of your Heavenly Father who loves you even more than I did in that moment – though I didn’t think that possible at the time. If I only knew then, what I know now.
I remember when you took your first step and your mother and I cheered with glee. I am not much the cheering type, much more for poignant jeering as you now well know. But as I saw you put one foot in front of the other, I remember thinking to myself – I wonder where these feet will take him? Will they lead him far away? Will they take him to new places and faces and bring him into this great big world in the way I hope they can? Will I watch him run and shoot and score – will I see him skate – just like his mom? Will they carry him to places I cannot go or follow? Will they keep him safe – and will he learn to use them to get back up – even after he has fallen down? So many little steps that make a life that is all your own. If I only knew then, what I know now.
I remember your first words, first time to the movies, first day at school, and first trip to Miller Park and Lambeau Field. I remember the first time you told me you loved me – and I knew you meant it, from a place in your heart that I had never seen before. I remember the first time you held your baby sister, and there was a look of both terror and amazement, as you learned you were not alone, and mom and dad were now for sharing. I remember how much you loved her, even in that moment, and how I saw in you the brother that God had planned for you to be from that moment when I first held you seven short years ago. Oh Ezekiel, if I had only known then what I know now.
Because, my son, what I know now is that I love you with a love that is beyond measure. I know know that there is no hill I wouldn’t climb or length I wouldn’t walk – just to show you how much your daddy loves you. There is no game I wouldn’t miss, no sport I wouldn’t coach, no pre-school concert with bad singing and ear piercing recorder playing I wouldn’t sit through – all so that you can know that my greatest achievements in this life are marrying your mommy and holding you and Essie in my arms – and getting to call myself your dad. What I know now, is that in the seven VERY full years you have already lived – you have brought me more joy, more pride, more sense of purpose and passion – than I ever knew I could experience. You have given me a reason to live, and a hope that all the mistakes I can and will make, can be overcome through the grace and goodness of God, and with a mother’s love and guidance. She does, after all, always know what’s best.
And so tonight, seven years later, I will hold you in my arms (although that will admittedly be much harder to do), and I will remember all these things and more. The questions will come flooding back, and new ones will take the place of those you’ve already answered. But if only for a brief and passing moment – I will stare into your eyes, I will hold onto your hands, I will think about the steps that got us here. And as my mind shifts and I begin to think about where we will be in seven years from now – where your steps will have taken you and how closely I have been allowed to follow; whose your 14 year old teenage boy hands will be holding, and whose eyes you will hope to catch – in that moment I will offer up the simplest of prayers that will ever have been uttered.
Thank you. And please.
Thank you God, for the gift, YOUR precious child you have entrusted me with. Thank you for the privilege of calling him my own.
And please. Please let me be enough. Let me live a life of love, that leads him straight to you. Let me demonstrate what it means to both be a father and have One. Let me love him like you do.
You were much smaller then Zeke, but my how you’ve grown. What I know now, as I sit here today, is that in the past seven years, the only thing that has grown faster than you – is my heart, and it’s capacity to care – for that same little boy I held that day – the day the world, and more importantly MY world, changed forever. It has, and will never ever be, the same again.