Friday, May 29, 2015

An Open Letter to My Youngest Son....on His Birthday

My Son – today is a special day – the day you leave the moniker “kid” behind you…and enter adulthood…for you are now 21…and with that comes more responsibility…more challenges and yes…even more expectations…but I know you have what it takes to succeed in this world…and I know you will do great things. You came into our lives on warm day in May, 1994…and you changed us forever. 
I have been sitting…thinking about this day for quite some time. Turning 21 is a “rite of passage” – a simple step from being known as that “young boy” to becoming a man…and I remember everything you have done so far…and look forward, with great anticipation, to what you will do here in the future. 
I remember the day you were born…and how you would fall asleep in my arms on the rocking chair…only to wake if I even tried to put you down…and how the simple act of singing to you would bring that smile to your face. How I would lift you out of your crib and you would hold me tightly…never wanting me to let you go…and I remember you sitting with Nan as she taught you and Jake how to crochet...
I remember placing you on the motorcycle sitting in front of me while you held the handlebars and we rode off through the streets of Ft. Bragg. How our dogs Renegade and Ranger welcomed you as a baby to the family and kept you company as you grew. I remember your first 4-wheeler; your first hockey game and how I would have to tie your skates before each and every practice. I remember how you proclaimed that you no longer went to a barber for haircuts…”Dad…we go to a stylist!” 
I remember teaching you how to drive a stick shift in Stafford and all the times you drove in my lap around town. How you and Jake would always fight about who sat up front with Dad in the truck. I remember you packed yourself in my suitcase when I was going overseas hoping I would take you with me…but really not wanting me to leave. I remember you and your brother running me off the road at the go-kart track in New Hampshire…and laughing when you drove away. I remember coaching your soccer team in Monterey and teaching you how to skate in North Carolina…and I remember your first goal as part of our undefeated championship team.
I remember with great clarity…all the ski trips; your first chair ride to the top of the Gunstock Mountain and your “one piece” ski suit! I remember your first time snowboarding and how quickly you took to it and how impressed I am every time we are on the mountain now. I look back on early morning hockey practice; your first car; the fun times at Holy Cross and the Colonial Forge days. I remember the day you asked to attend motorcycle safety class…and then watching you drive away on your first bike. I remember you asking me for money...and after I said yes you proclaiming…”Father this act of kindness shall not go unnoticed” 
I remember coming around the corner...and you being mile 49 of 50 in the JFK Ultra-marathon...and you running that last mile of the race with me...
I was never more proud of you when you called me and told me that you had earned your Eagle Scout Badge…and that you wanted to keep it low key…no ceremony to mark the accomplishment…just the knowledge and understanding that this…was something very special…
I remember watching you with animals and remarking how proud I was at your compassion in how you handled them…and the maturity you showed in meeting new people as you moved through your teen years. I remember the travels; the people whose lives you touched…and how they touched yours...
And I will always remember…when I was sick…and you held my hand…and you cried with me…
Over the past several weeks, I have been looking back at the life (to date) that has been Ian Patrick Hayes. As a father I could not have asked for more; you are a shining example of what is good in the world and you have so much to look forward to. Your many athletic and civil achievements to date are a great starting point for you in preparation for military service and I – for one – know how well you will do in this endeavor. 
In the world we live you either “have it” or you do not…and you have “it” Ian – and now, it’s time to use it.
As I pen this note to you Ian, I have a tear in my eye – not out of sadness...but out of love and admiration for the man you have become. You have provided so much to so many over the past 21 years and yet…as you celebrate this day…I think back to the times when you would hold my hand in the mall or sit in my lap while we drove the car down the road…and I miss that young boy…who on this day in 2015…became a man.
Happy Birthday Ian – you have work to do my son…now get to it!
Love - Dad