An Open Letter to My Sons at Graduation
Drew and Mitch,
From the moment your mom and I brought you home, I wondered how I would feel when it was finally time for you to leave. Now that it’s your time to fly, I still can’t satisfy that curiosity as I’m a mixture of simultaneous emotions wresting for control to the point I genuinely don’t know how I’m going to feel from one minute to the next. Each reason for happiness and joy brings alternate feelings of sadness. The best way I can put it is that it’s hard for me to accept that it’s time – again – for the last time.
One of the great paradoxes of parenthood is that the primary job is to prepare your children to be independent, responsible, and caring adults, which, when done right, means they will leave. It’s a wonderfully hollow feeling to grasp that the reward of a job well done is loneliness – hence the enigma.
Even as I understand the sadness I feel, it doesn’t even come close to eclipsing the unabashed joy and excitement I have for both of you. You each have smiles and personalities that could light up Nashville and are already forces to be reckoned with. I’m continually amazed by the intelligence you both display – academically and emotionally. You are both uniquely exceptional individuals while continuing to retain the special bond you have as twins.
Drew, you have developed into the man I aspire to be. You are thoughtful, kind, and willing to share your heart so willingly it’s inspirational. You’re a man of both feeling and conviction – and both will serve you well as you enter Mississippi State in a few months to begin your mechanical engineering journey. So my simple advice today is to never apologize for who you are – you are amazing just as you are, and the right people will always gravitate to that.
Mitch, I love the man you’ve become, and you continually challenge me to be a better dad and human. You are determined, resolute, and passionate with a clear focus on what you want in life, which will be a tremendous asset as you realize your dream to become a sports broadcaster after you cut your teeth at the University of Alabama. So my simple advice for you today is to take time to enjoy life as it happens – there’s no prize for rushing through every experience.
As I began to write this letter to you with tears, quite literally, streaming down my cheeks, I found myself longing for things I didn’t fully grasp how deeply I would miss until this moment. Things that were seemingly small and, perhaps, even insignificant at the time have taken on much greater meaning as you two launch past the milestone of high school graduation. Yet, in doing so, I keep coming back to the phrase “just one more time” as I would do anything to experience again:
Just one more time for you to fall asleep on my chest
Just one more time for you to reach for and grab my hand as we walk side by side
Just one more time for you to scream, “Daddy’s home!”
Just one more time wiping dirt from your face
Just one more time singing “Big Red Car” by the Wiggles with you
Just one more time making up stories while you fall asleep
Just one more time building a fort out of pillows and sheets
Just one more time waking me up at 5:00 AM on a Saturday to play with Legos
Just one more time watching you smile as you finally master something you’ve worked hard to learn
Just one more time asking me to play catch
Just one more time putting on eye black before a big game
Just one more time watching your eyes in wonder as we walk into a stadium
Just one more time to teach you….anything
In the moment, I never fully understood that there would a last time for each of these experiences until they simply stopped happening. Later this week, it will be time for one of your last times – your last time as a high school student. As I ponder your journey, I hope you stop and reflect on some of the memories you’ve created at Centennial High because, at some point in your life, you’ll want to experience something just one more time.
One door will close this Saturday while an infinite number will open. Those open doors will lead to many first times for all of us – and I can’t wait to experience those with you. When those experiences happen, I promise that I will do a much better job of immersing myself in the moment because I fully understand that opportunities are not infinite – there will always be the last time and usually when it’s least expected.
For now, it’s time for your last time, and I hope you soak up every moment – I know I will.