In one week, you will have successfully completed junior high.
When we pulled in the driveway this afternoon, you got out, as you always do, and checked the mail. We got the invitation to Honors Night and Graduation the following night. I choked back some tears, but I think you saw my lip quiver, but didn’t say anything.
I didn’t have an 8th grade graduation, but I do remember that last week of school with my friends. Some of whom I haven’t seen since I was fourteen and some who I just saw last weekend. That happens though and luckily, you’ve been a part of those friendships (hearing the stories, good and bad) and hanging out with us on occasion.
About an hour ago, I was upstairs folding the laundry. I started folding your boxers and thought, ‘My God. He’s going into high school.” Just like every other post I’ve written about you, I’ve had the same thought:
“He’s starting Kindergarten.”
“He lost a tooth.”
“He’s riding a bike.”
“He’s almost as tall as me. He’s taller than Nana. He’s taller than me. HE’S TALLER THAN EVERYONE.”
“He’s going into high school…”
I know I wrote you a sweet and sentimental note for you to read during meditation time while you were on your retreat a few weeks back with your class. It took me hours to write that letter. There was so much I wanted to tell you, but the words wouldn’t come to me. I know you read it though, even if we didn’t talk about it much.
At the start of your 6th grade year, you were apprehensive. The school work was harder than what you were used to. You hated the uniforms. You hated wearing a tie on Wednesday for mass. You rebelled against the rules by not shaving. Detention, detention, detention. Just think, in one week, you’ll be able to grow out that beard. God help me.
These past three years, academically, have been extremely challenging for us all, but you know what? YOU FREAKING DID IT. You worked your ass off every single night and it showed, didn’t it? You gave up playing drums, watching tv some nights and when we’d drive up to see Nana and Papa, we left early on Sunday mornings so you could finish math or write a paper and have it done by supper.
Dedication, I tell ya. Dedication.
The night after your graduation, you’re headed to Tennessee for the summer. I always get mopey the first week you’re gone. Do you know why? We are always together. It’s been that way for a long, long time. Actually, since day 1 of your life. I’ve taken you to museums, rock concerts, random walks around downtown, record shops, weird restaurants in questionable neighborhoods, and yes, even Hooters. I made it my goal to expose you to as much of our little neck of the woods as possible. I know you roll your eyes at me now, but you will go to Europe in high school. I don’t care if I have to sell pencils on a street corner to make it happen. You must see the other half of the world and lose your breath as you drink it in.
With that being said, I wanted to tell you so much more than what was in my multi colored letter. These are things that have popped into my head the past week. Some of it will make sense, some of it won’t.
1. Just like I told your cousin Joe: “No matter what, DO NOT EAT FRUIT THAT IS FLOATING IN A 50 GALLON DRUM.” While I’m hoping this might just be a college thing, I just want to cover my ass on this one. You’re going to be pressured into doing a lot of dumb shit the next four years. Take it from me, just don’t drink. Not till your older. Not until you turn 21 and we can sit down, pour a whiskey and say, “We made it.” Yes, I just made that reference.
2. I didn’t make you watch several seasons of Teen Mom for nothing. Keep that in mind. EVERY TIME.
3. Turn your phone off when you’re driving. I’m straight up serious about this. If I ever find out you were texting and driving, I will paint your ass red. I will ground you from driving until you go to college. You will be that one guy who has a license, but doesn’t know how to start a car. Don’t push me on this boy.
4. People in school can be cruel. Before you speak an ill word, think. Why would you say something ill towards another person? What have they done to you? Nothing. And then, go to that person, make amends. Talk it out. Listen to their view and come to an agreement. Hug it out if you have to. Hugs are awesome.
5. You show compassion to everyone now, please don’t lose sight of that. It’s a lovely trait to have. Surround yourself with people of different cultures, different view points, different everything. This is one of the best parts about life- the variety.
6. Be involved. Join clubs. Maybe a sport? I was the president of the poetry club and photo editor of the yearbook. That was about the extent of it. I wish I had done more. DO MORE THINGS. STEP OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE.
7. DO NOT SMOKE FAKE WEED. We’ve talked about this and hand to heart, this shit freaks me out so bad I can’t sleep at night.
8. Always open the door for a female. Or your elders. Or ANYONE WHO IS WALKING TOWARDS A DOOR AT THE SAME TIME AS YOU, open it first. Be polite. Pay it forward.
9. Share: your time, your talent, your love for music.
10. Continue to read. The classics you have covered and you have always loved popular fiction. Keep it up. Words will pepper your vocabulary and take you to places and give you ideas that could possibly change your life.
11. Always check in with me. NO MATTER WHAT. If you don’t check in with me, I’ll start to panic. Panic leads to me driving around town searching for you, which leads to me thinking “What if he’s hurt? What if he’s in a ditch?” and if you don’t check in and I find you, I will more than likely spank you and or scream and then cry for two days. Ask Papa. He’ll tell you the story.
12. Learn how to cook. I’ve been trying to teach you, but right now you have zero interest. Bill cooked me the most delicious meal on our second date. I fell in love with him that night. Food can be a magical thing. You put so much love and thought into preparing a meal. To share it with someone you care about is really awesome.
13.Conversations over a meal are even better, so, PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY. This has always been the rule at our house and i hope it stays with you. What type of message are you sending (damn, no pun intended) to the person across the table if you’re face deep in SnapChat or Reddit? What type of girl are you dating if she can’t put her phone away for thirty minutes to enjoy a meal with you? Think about that. Some moments in life do not need to be captured by camera phone and shared with the world.
14. Keep a journal. Even if you write one sentence a day.
15. Call your grandparents. Your great grandparents.
16. Don’t take any wooden nickels from anyone.
17. There are no elevator passes for Freshman.
18. If a girl asks you to prom, accept. I will take photos. You will be embarrassed.
19. It’s okay to cry.
19a. It’s okay to cry in public too.
20. Remember, I love you, no matter what. NO.MATTER.WHAT. If I have to write that down and put it in your wallet, I will. Because there will come a time in your life where you will find yourself in some crazy, jacked up situation and you’ll start to panic and won’t know what to do. Guess what you do? CALL YOUR MOM. Yep.
This is the start of a new part of life. You are on the final stretch of your (younger) academic years. In four years, you realize I’ll be really crying while I write a letter like this because you’ll be headed off to college. Not just Nana’s for the summer, but college. Or maybe to Europe. Or maybe on tour with your band.
Keep in mind that the world is a vast, beautiful, confusing, exciting place. There are more adjectives, but I didn’t want to get ahead of myself. The possibilities are endless (cliche, but true). Whatever you want to do, it’s all there- somewhere. Maybe on the beach on the West coast, maybe on the back of a scooter in Vietnam, maybe hiking Mt. Fuji like we’ve talked about since you were three. Wherever, whatever! I’m thrilled to watch it all bloom in front of you.
I’m proud of you. So very proud.
I love you Bee, more than bread, more than anything.