I had to do a double take to make sure it was you.
Blue eyes, I’d recognize them anywhere.
Tight smile that curves to form a half moon–
I’ve seen it since your kindergarten school picture.
Those hands—if you were covered in camouflage from head to toe, I’d pick them out of a thousand. Long spindly fingers, knuckles with scars from hitting the wall, and a few people.
It must be the uniform—
I’m not used to seeing you in anything besides sweatshirts and jeans with holes.
You are more handsome today than any Sunday you proudly wore Dad’s sports coat and shoes that were a size too big for your feet.
So I look at your picture for the hundredth time and realize everything in a single moment. You aren’t the boy who left us in July. To be honest, I’m having a difficult time admitting who you’ve become, for reasons too many to list.
I tell myself: mourn one last time for that boy. The freckled faced kid whose room was always a disaster, gobs of tennis shoes thrown into the closest, shirts half hanging out of the drawer, a miracle they made it that far. The boy who feasted on Sour Patch Kids and mashed potatoes and chicken nuggets drenched in buffalo sauce from Chick-Fil-A.
Your boyhood went by quickly and part of me wishes you could have held on a little longer, seen a few more Friday night lights, come home smelling like a campfire another time or two, mud on your boots, and your flannel smelling the woods you spent the night in. A few more times when your friends showed up unexpectedly and sat on the barstools as we laughed over chocolate chip cookies and glasses half filled with milk. You and me, watching reruns of The Office for hours, going to the movies and getting large blue icee’s and quietly pulling out candy from Walgreen’s that was stuffed in my purse.
Today I tucked that boy into bed for the final time. I must move on.
I see you, Son, more confident that you’ve ever been. Your uniform pressed, tie perfectly straight, hair shaved to a perfect fade. Your smile says all I need. You are happy, you are strong. You are doing more than I ever dreamed for you, accomplished on your own. You doing this without me is what makes me prouder than I’ve ever been.
The path is leading you to places I will never see or experience with my own eyes. But know this. I will be with you, my thoughts and prayers hovering over you like the weighted blanket I recently bought for you, only a pound or four heavier.
I said GO. Be the man God intended you to be. It’s your time to shine and put everything you’ve learned, even some of what we’ve taught you, into motion. It won’t be easy, because being an adult is never easy, yet every trial you face today will produce endurance for tomorrow. Stay strong.
And pray. Pray like never before when you’re in need. Because God is with you, like never before. He has all the strength you’ll ever need, so dig deep and grab hold of His strength with the fierceness of a fighter who never gives up.
I love you, Son. And I love this new man who takes what he has been called to with great seriousness, who squares his shoulders back before telling me things I don’t understand. It all makes sense now. How everything we ever went through with you built you up for such a time as this. Not all boys become the man you are. Only the bravest have what it takes.
Thank you for being one of the bravest.