I was there in the hospital the day you were born. I saw you take your first breath, and heard your make your first cry. I was overcome when I saw your face for the first time: I had never seen anything so precious in my life. I was immediately filled with a new kind of love unlike anything I had ever experienced before. I cut the umbilical cord that day and started you on your life’s journey.
I was there when you were baptized into God’s family. You wore the same gown I, and my father before me, had worn for our baptisms decades earlier. As I held your tiny head over the font that day, I thanked God for the wonderful gift He had given me, and prayed for the wisdom and patience to be a good father.
I was there in the cabin at Itasca with you Carl, when I first heard you laugh. I sat in front of you, popping your bottle cap out of my mouth over and over again, making you laugh until you fell asleep from exhaustion. Hearing you laugh filled me with joy that day, and it still continues to do the same each time I hear it.
I was there with you Carl, when you took your first steps at the zoo in Tucson. You saw the heads of two giraffes over some trees, and took off to go see them. It struck me at that moment that your first steps were away from me instead of towards me. I realized then that it was my job, as difficult as it seemed at the time, to prepare you for even larger steps away from me in the future.
I was there with you Carl, when you were three years old and went to your first day of preschool. You were so excited to be finally going to “school!” I was still carrying you most places that fall, but by spring you preferred to walk everywhere on your own. The picture I have of you on that first day at United Day Nursery is still my favorite, and I’ve placed it on my dresser where I can see it every day.
I was there Carl, when you earned your black belt in karate. I sat there watching, my stomach in knots, while you prepared to break your boards. When you broke the last one, I jumped up and yelled YEAH, while accenting the point with a skyward fist pump. My reaction may have been more than what you saw from other parents that day, but that’s only because I was cheering for the best kid on the floor!
Today I will be with you as you walk across the stage to receive your high school diploma. It will be yet another step towards your independence and like at the zoo in Tucson, it will be yet another step away from me. There will be many more steps to your life in the years to come, and like always, I’ll be right there behind you. I’ll be there to guide you, to help you, and most importantly, to love you as you continue wherever your heart and mind lead you. You’ve become a fine young man Carl, and I’m proud to tell everyone that you’re my son.