Friday, August 1, 2008
I’m writing to you this evening from a provincial dormitory-style room so small that I can nearly touch opposite walls with outstretched arms. While it lacks tangible luxuries, the panoramic views of the Mississippi River and Illinois farmland combined with the solitude of a Jesuit retreat house create the perfect environment for prayerful reflection – something of which I’ve been in great need for decades.
The White House, as the Jesuits call it, consists of several historic limestone buildings on 75 river-bluff acres in south St. Louis County. The retreat provides “a three-day silent journey with the Lord” (brochure lingo, but fairly accurate) for men of Catholic faith. It comes at a good time for me.
As tonight’s dinner was being served – prior to one man scratching his back with a fork (under his shirt) and another one shoving two chocolate chip cookies into his shirt pocket – an “inspirational” CD broke the silence. Emanating from ceiling speakers over every meal, the CD’s they play range from operatic hymns and Franciscan chants to readings and monologues from priests, such as the one this evening.
Tonight’s CD focused on regret… well, one particular type of regret: failing to share your feelings with loved ones before it’s too late to do so.
You were the first person I thought of.
One of my mantras when teaching students how to write vividly is “show, don’t tell.” I could say, “I love you, Dad,” and that would be the truth. But “telling” you would fall so incredibly short of “showing” you. So, here it goes…
As you know, I coached Charlie from kindergarten (when he consistently lined fastballs past my face) until third grade (when he started losing confidence, interest, and friends). He knew back then that I loved baseball, and he knows today that I still do. Charlie tries his best to watch games with me, but he’s just not into it, not even at the beautiful new Busch Stadium, appropriately dubbed “baseball heaven” by the Cardinals’ marketing executives.
What breaks my heart more than him walking away from the game or lacking interest in watching it with me is when he says – usually when I’m playing catch with Andrew – “Sorry I quit, Daddy.” Ouch. So, when he called me at school one Saturday morning – “Daddy, I was wondering if we could go to the batting cages when you get home” – I just about cried. True story.
I walked in the house and called down to Charlie, fully expecting him to have lost interest in the idea by now. Instead, “Ready to go, Daddy?” swirled up the stairs and into my ears, like an old song you haven’t heard for years that still makes you smile. “Let’s go,” I said, hoping to save him from another wasted afternoon with Satan (alias: GameCube) before it was too late.
I grabbed my bat, the one I still use in the 35 and older league (or 35 pounds over league). Although we own more than a dozen aluminum baseball bats, Charlie had outgrown them all – with the exception of mine, which I’m sure he’ll be swinging in six months at the rate he’s growing. Naturally, I did what any father who desperately wanted to preserve a potentially perfect moment with his son would do; I went shopping, first to Toys-R-Us – too small; next to Target – too big; and finally to Sports Authority – just right.
We drove a few miles, talking with – not “to” or “at” – but with each other the entire time. We stopped at a converted cinder-block warehouse freshly stocked with a dozen pitching machines. Charlie hit first. It’s remarkable to me how well he can still hit after a six-year hiatus. There were holes in his swing, but I said nothing. No “pivot that back foot;” no “keep those hands up;” no “follow through that swing.” Not today. There would be no correcting, no fixing today. Today would just be me and Charlie, father and son, playing ball.
The previous weekend after church, as Charlie and I waited at the mini-van for the rest of the family, a friend offered me two Cardinals tickets. I enthusiastically accepted, as a drunk would accept free whiskey. Maybe a half-dozen times a year someone will offer us free Cardinals tickets; so, although I was ecstatic with the offer, I wasn’t surprised. I was stunned, however, with what followed.
“Hey, Daddy,” he said. “Maybe we could go together.”
Just about cried again. True story.
As if soaking up two perfect hours on Saturday wasn’t enough, I basked in the sun of Charlie for the entire Sunday afternoon. We left the house early, first stopping at Walgreen’s for snacks. Without the pit stop, I’d be forking over nearly 50 bucks at the ballpark for a few measly hot dogs, two “souvenir” cups of ice and a hint of Coca-Cola. We hit the highway two hours before game time armed with a pound of Twizzlers, a bag of peanuts, two boxes of Chocolate Chip granola bars (how’s that for an oxymoron), and seven packs of baseball cards (the old-school kind with stale slabs of bubble gum).
Leaving that early was pretty foolish, actually, since Charlie had never managed more than six innings at a Cardinals game. If that were the case today, we’d be leaving before the third inning, which would normally frustrate the bejeebers out of me. Hell, I get ticked if my buddies want to leave before the final pitch. Not today. There would be no required innings, no time commitment today.
We drove downtown – talking with each other the entire time – and paid $5 for a spot in the City Hall lot about a mile from the stadium. They charge $10 a hundred yards away. Just a bit further, it jumps to $15, then $20 in the snooty hotel garage across from Busch. I brought my fiscally wise decision to Charlie’s attention, partly to teach, partly to boast. He smiled back in approval.
A half-mile into our walk I stopped, patted my pockets and muttered a relatively bad word. “&*#@! Left the tickets in the car, Charlie.” Faster than a speeding bullet, super-dad morphed into stupid-dad once again, and we trudged back to our lot – the one furthest away from the park. But Charlie didn’t flinch, didn’t seem to mind at all. “It’s OK, Daddy.” I smiled back in approval.
We still made it in time to see the tail end of batting practice – to see Chris Duncan rip towering homers over right field; to see Yadier Molina skillfully spray base hits to both sides; and to see Kyle McClellan catch the ceremonial first pitch from a wide-eyed little leaguer. Charlie and I have known Kyle since he was a wide-eyed little leaguer. When my wife was a teenager, the McClellan family lived next door – Terry, Kathy, Matt, Leslie and baby Kyle – and over the years, the family and their babysitter kept in touch. There’s home video of Kyle (a buck-toothed 9-year-old) holding Charlie (a toothless newborn), and Polaroids of Kyle (a scrawny 7th-grader) wrestling with Charlie (a pudgy toddler). At his high school graduation / baseball draft party, Kyle signed his first baseball and gave it to Charlie (who later signed his own name on the other side). So it was pretty cool, Charlie and I agreed, watching our friend in “the big show.”
Once the Cardinals retreated to their locker rooms, we climbed the stairs to our seats, halfway up on the first base side. I reached for the camera to capture the moment then realized that I forgot to insert a photo card. Stupid-dad strikes again. But Charlie didn’t flinch, didn’t seem to mind at all. “It’s OK, Daddy.” I smiled, stuffed the camera bag back under our seats and pulled out the scorecard.
“Can I do that, Daddy?” Charlie asked, unaware of my ritual, my obsession with recording in perfect penmanship every pitch, hit and run of the game. I just stared at him and smiled. There would be no flawless scorecard, no historical evidence today. Instead, I taught my son the fielders’ position numbers: 1 = pitcher, 2 = catcher, 3 = first baseman, and so on. He wrote fly balls (F-8), double plays (6-4-3) and strikeouts (K). We talked about the speed of various pitches – how a major league fastball typically tops 90 miles per hour, while a change-up might dip below 70. Why a pitch outside the strike zone usually follows an 0-2 count, and why opposing pitchers are terrified of Albert Pujols.
The weather was just as perfect, the first sunny-and-70 day of the season. Everything was perfect. Better than perfect. And on the way home – during a brief pause in our otherwise constant conversation – I cried. True story.
So, how does this relate to my feelings for you?
Charlie’s request for me to come home came at a bad time. I was overwhelmed with paperwork, unprepared for next week’s classes, and desperately in need of just a few hours to myself. But I did what I needed to do; I did what you would do. I dropped everything and spent time with my son. Thanks to you, my own childhood experiences continually inspire me to create and appreciate time with Charlie, Andrew and Erin, such as hitting the batting cages and catching a Cardinals game. All of my success at fatherhood – we’ll just ignore the failures for now, OK? –
all of my success is directly related to memories of us.
I remember you playing catch with me in the back yard and attending nearly all of my games.
I remember you taking bike rides around town and down to the river, and you swerving the Country Squire as if we might fall in and drown. I remember you reading silly Dr. Seuss stories and scary Ray Bradbury ones; and playing Pong, backgammon, cribbage and that stupid football game cut from the back of Pop Tart boxes.
I remember going fishing in the fall at Deer Ridge, and sledding down Kenner’s hill in winter.
I remember you teaching summer-school students in the front room, and welcoming stranded Thanksgiving students in the living room. I remember sitting on your foot, holding your leg, and riding all around the house until you were tuckered out. I remember your help with homework, and your smile at report cards.
I thought nothing of it at the time, you know. Children don’t realize the sacrifice – making the choice between graduate school and bowling alleys; between taking naps and flying kites; between grading papers and gluing model car parts.
Well, I know something of it now. And thanks to you…
I play catch with my kids in the back yard, and attend nearly all of their games. I take bike rides around town and down to the creek. When I’m visiting back home I swerve the minivan as if we might fall in the river and drown. I read silly Dr. Seuss stories and scary Tales from the Dark Side ones; and play tennis, backgammon, and stupid video games.
I go fishing in the fall at Whetstone, and sledding at CrestwoodPark in winter. Before they grew too big, the kids sat on my foot, grabbed my leg, and rode all around the house until I was tuckered out. I help them with homework, and (try to) smile at report cards.
But it’s not just what I do with my children; it’s how I do it, as well.
While some fathers insult, berate and humiliate their kids for mistakes on the ball diamond, you never reprimanded me for striking out, walking in a run, or making an error. Nor do I. While some fathers force their kids into a specific sport, activity, faith or career, you never did. Neither will I. While some fathers instill in their kids prejudice, injustice and hatred, you encouraged acceptance, equality and affection. So do I.
I should have shared these feelings with you long ago, Dad. All of your goodness – the very best of Richard Holmes – thrives within your son, and constantly grows within your grandchildren, every day. And I thank God for that.
I thank God for you.
It took me 19 years to attend a funeral. Not that I was avoiding them; I just never had occasion to attend. No one close to me ever died, or came close to dying. Come to think of it, other than Tony Dye (coincidental pun), no one close to me was ever hospitalized. A scrawny little shortstop, Tony ended up in traction for two weeks after busting his knee cap in a summer sandlot baseball game. He collided with “Big Jim” Collins, a boy twice his size, while sprinting toward a lazy pop fly. Sounded like a gun shot. We were 13.
A few days later I visited Tony in the hospital. A ginormous rope and pulley contraption lifted his knee above the bed. Don’t remember if he was in pain, but I remember how cool that contraption looked.
I suffered more than my fair share of scrapes, bumps and bruises while growing up in Canton, but nothing very serious. Certainly nothing close to what Tony endured. Seared the skin off my shin once in a bicycle wreck, which took more than a year for the last fleck of scab to fully disappear, but it never really hurt. Not in a big way. Nor did the Osgood-Schlatter injury. Or the fall from our maple tree. Or totaling my Monte Carlo.
However, the time I got nailed in the gonads by a 16-pound shot during gym class… I thought I might die that time, or at least never become a father. But I survived with no apparent damage.
For the most part, I snuck into adulthood ignorant of pain. Big pain, that is. The kind that rends you helpless, physically or emotionally.
Fractured my wrist a couple times playing college baseball, ending two seasons prematurely, and missed another year with a fucked-up back. But the only permanent damage was to ego, pride and unrealistic dreams. Totaled another car, too, but walked away unscathed. Finally attended a funeral, but I wasn’t that close to grandma, so it didn’t affect me much. I didn’t even cry.
After college, I suffered a few more baseball injuries: pulled hamstring, torn quadricep, pinched ulnar nerve. Also developed arthritis from running too far or too often. And totaled my third car. All that hurt, but not terribly. No big pain.
More than three decades passed before experiencing big pain, the kind that rends you helpless, physically or emotionally. For me, it was both. The realization (or belief) that I was worthless. My decisions destructive. My failures unforgiveable. My existence irrelevant.
Preface: Apologies to my wife for being dragged into this little essay on sleeping habits. It would be impossible to describe such things without including her, since they are mostly reactionary to hers.
Last night – and pretty much every night for the past decade or so – bed-time begins for me with a prerequisite warming ritual. Her side, not mine. Doesn’t matter the season. According to the manual, I must lay on her side for no less than 3 minutes to absorb and remove all bed-sheet chill. I don’t mind the task; a slight bite to the touch is refreshing at day’s end. But it still seems a quirky request.
Request / requirement
Po-TA-to / Po-TAH-to
Once satisfied with my efforts, she joins me under the sheets, usually facing away. If she crawls in facing me… well, that wouldn’t qualify as habitual. Entirely different essay topic. Most nights, her back is facing me. I slide my left arm under her pillow, tuck my knees behind hers (traditional spooning position), and wrap my right arm around her torso with a snug hug – not too hard, not too soft. Goldilocks would approve. I hold her for about 10 minutes, or until sensing that she isn’t likely to turn my way.
Then I roll back 90 degrees, right arm releasing her and now resting at my side. I kick the sheets loose at my feet because I hate restraint. And because I love the chill. My left arm slips out from under her pillow and plops across my face, forearm covering the eyes as if blocking a bright light. Or a dim life. Draped over to shield myself from realities I don’t want to acknowledge.
Not necessarily a lack of physicality – although that’s certainly a variable – but more a lack of emotion, affection, romance. I might lie facing the ceiling, left arm blocking the eyes, for several minutes… or a half hour… or an hour. Contemplating this lacking. Not just last night, but pretty much every night for the past decade or so. Like an airplane on a runway, in position to turn, pick up speed, lift off and fly. Anywhere. Everywhere. Or just return to the hangar.
With nothing from tower control, I shift another 90 degrees, to my right side. No longer covering the eyes, my left arm now wraps across the right and tucks neatly under the pillow. Now we face opposite directions, opposite walls, opposite dreams. And all movement ends.
You exhibit such grace. Such poise. It is remarkable to me how someone so young can function so effortlessly. I have to admit that I did not notice this side of you last year. I did not see the confidence, did not discern the vigilance. I failed to perceive the depth of your insight, failed to observe the potential of your leadership abilities.
Was I not paying attention? Yeah, right. How can anyone not pay attention to Stephanie Baker?
Case in point: the other day I’m going through Prom pictures with my daughter, pointing out how beautiful she is and reminiscing about how much I miss my seniors.
“Where’s the Prom Queen, Daddy?” she asks. I click forward until Katie pops up.
“Katie was last year’s queen,” I say.
“Yes, she is. And so is this year’s queen, Carolina.”
Erin agrees, then pauses to look at a picture of both Katie and Carolina, together. She does this often – peering intently into photographs – as if looking beyond people, past their surface beauty, and into their hearts, minds and souls. When Erin is satisfied with what she sees, I move on.
“They’re pretty,” she says, again.
I keep clicking forward, replaying the night for Erin, narrating my experiences with these teenagers. I tell her about Barbara and Tommy and how they emanate pure joy; I talk about Louie and what a gentle giant he is, and about Ashley and how her dress can’t handle her girations. I try to explain why the music is so loud, why boys dance in back of girls, and why Trent has that look on his face. Dozens of pictures flash onto the screen, then quickly disappear to make room for the next one.
“Stop!” Erin commands. It wasn’t a rude command (though she’s quite capable), but rather a loud please.
“Who’s that, Daddy?”
“That’s Stephanie, Erin. You know Stephanie.”
She nods, pauses to look at you more closely, then looks into you.
“Why wasn’t she Prom Queen?” Erin asks.
I chuckle, and explain that you were the Homecoming Queen. A few seconds later I’m showing her a picture of you with your tiara from last fall.
Erin has a collection of a half-dozen or so Barbies, and I don’t discourage her playtime fantasies. But I’ve always made it clear to my daughter that there are several layers of beauty. The first one, what someone looks like on the outside, immediately distinguishes the unattractive from the attractive, the attractive from the beautiful, and the beautiful from the gorgeous. “What we don’t see,” I tell her, “is the beauty that lies within. It takes time to see beauty that lies within.”
There is intention, what someone wishes to do or accomplish. There is action, what someone actually does or accomplishes. And there is peace and love, what someone feels and shares regardless of what they look like on the outside. “That last layer,” I say, “is what determines how beautiful someone truly is: feeling and sharing.”
I’ve said this to Erin a thousand times over the years. In fact, I remember the first time I said it to her. She was five and had just come home with her first pair of glasses.
“Barbies are beautiful, aren’t they, Daddy?”
“Well, yeah, I guess so, Erin. But you are just as beautiful.”
“No, I’m not. I have glasses. No Barbies have glasses.”
Hence, my first “layers of beauty” speech. So, three years later when I told Erin, “Yes, Stephanie is very beautiful,” I also made sure to remind her that almost everyone has beauty, if you choose to look for it. Erin knew what I meant. But this time, instead of leaving it at that, I continued talking about you. I told her that your beauty – while stunning and well-within the gorgeous category – runs so much deeper that what is obvious.
I described the unpretentious grace with which you enter and exit a room. I painted a picture of poise, especially amid stress, disappointment and frustration. I showed her how, somehow – and I’m still not sure exactly how – you accomplished so much this year, with such high quality, yet made it look so easy. I explained how your smile could light up a room, lighten a load, and enlighten a teacher.
I told Erin how much respect I have for you, as a student, a leader and a woman.
And after I described you to my daughter… by the way, this is a true story… after I finished, Erin nodded again and said, “I can tell, Daddy. I can tell she’s like that.”
Later that night I remember thinking about my conversation with Erin, and all that I said about you. One thing, in particular, stuck in my mind – something that rarely comes out when referring to students. I described you as “a woman.” Not a young woman, but a woman (no adjective necessary).
When I look at you, Stephanie Baker, I see a beautiful woman, and not the kind everyone else sees. Granted, I didn’t notice until this year, but it often takes time to see beauty that lies within. And now it’s so obvious. You represent the very best of womanhood: strength and compassion; purpose and humor; discipline and frivolity. You lead, but can follow if need be. You succeed, but deflect recognition. You possess the glow of a queen and the patience of a saint, and I feel blessed to have seen this transformation.
Thank you for sharing yourself with me and those fortunate enough to call you friend. Thank you for sharing your beauty with Hazelwood West.
With the love of a teacher, father and friend,
I’ve said and written more than a few things about you over the years, all of which I’m sure were glowing. And rightly so. Because that’s exactly what you do: glow. I feel so fortunate to have basked in this glow for the past three years.
You didn’t have to share, you know. Didn’t have to open up and spill all of that light – that shine of success, and flicker of pending failure; that fire of first love, and flame of hurt and heartache. But you did. All of the conflicting colors associated with your glow, you shared it all. You trusted me to offer advice. You counted on me to just listen. You allowed me to absorb the heart and soul of one of the most amazing young ladies I know – a beauty that runs to your core.
I’ve never felt more needed and respected as a teacher. You made me feel part of the family.
Still, it’s more than that. More than sharing, more than shedding tears and sharing laughter. What distinguishes our bond from those of other students is what we didn’t share this year. We did not share assignments, after-school work sessions, or Saturday deadline days when nothing seemed to go right. Remember those? We did not have meetings about staff members dropping the ball, or heart-to-hearts about taking responsibility, about not dropping the ball yourself. And you did not spend countless hours bailing out a yearbook staff that dropped… well, everything. None of that was part of your senior year in Room 232. None of it.
Because you weren’t there, right? (Yeah, I know, that still bothers you a little.)
Not me. In fact, to me, it was a godsend.
You were there, Emilie; you were there everyday… whether physically or not. And the room was with you. We didn’t need to share those experiences because we already had – you already learned those lessons. You outgrew 232. You no longer needed it, not to the extent of your classmates. The excitement of running a publication was replaced with the experience, insight and wisdom of having already done it. You needed less from me to gain more from life. And that’s the ultimate lesson.
When you find “the one” – the man you will share the rest of your life with – you will spend the majority of your waking hours with him. The two of you will bask in each other’s passionate glow to the point that it annoys the hell out of everyone around you. J But in time, that euphoria will wear off and daily life will settle in, replacing some – not all, but definitely some – of that initial excitement. This is when a marriage is tested. When it either dissolves or solidifies.
It’s when you realize that you no longer need him to make you, but that he’s always there when you do. And vice versa. Though you may take different directions over the course of your marriage, you will always return to that solid bond solidified with experience, insight and wisdom. Unfortunately, most people don’t learn these lessons… ever.
When you chose to forgo journalism in your senior year, you tested that bond. You took a different direction and risked dissolving ties with the room and its students – the ones you led so skillfully the previous year as editor-in-chief. Gradually, the thrill of producing a newspaper and yearbook started to wear off. Daily life, college life, settled in, replacing most – not all, but definitely most – of last year’s excitement. Quite a test. Your relationship with Room 232 would either dissolve or solidify.
And what happened? Your glow grew brighter, broader and deeper. You blossomed into someone who no longer needed the journalism experience. And that’s not something to sulk over; it’s something to celebrate!
This past week, knowing you would be leaving soon, I watched you more carefully – how you radiated confidence and twinkled happiness. How the room always seemed brighter when you were in it. And the really cool part is that it continued glowing after you walked out on the last day.
Now, your glow – after-glow, as it is – still warms my heart. Always will, I believe. We’ve simply spent that much time together. Learned that many lessons, shared that many laughs, that many tears, that many grins, smiles and smirks, so that your glow has etched its way onto the walls of Room 232 and into the heart of Mr. Holmes.
And that’s what you’re leaving, Emilie: a place – and a person – that will always be here, glowing, as if you never left.
With the love of a father,
I wrote a story about you more than two years ago. About how you possessed this rare ability to befriend anyone and everyone. About your love of life, and love of self, without pride, pretention or arrogance. If I had the story in front of me I could confirm that I also mentioned your sparkling eyes and infectious smile.
[Of course, me keeping that story would require organization. Right.]
If I didn’t mention those eyes and that smile in the story, I certainly remember seeing them way back when I interviewed you in Room 232.
Of all the pieces I’ve written – from those about students, friends and family to the ones about rock stars, state senators and college presidents – I think yours may be the most accurate. Not a word would I change, though I might add a few…
Since that time, I’ve enjoyed watching you evolve into an amazing young woman – the kind of woman I hope my own Erin grows to be. Someone who is inherently loving, yet carries a healthy skepticism. Someone who is beautiful, inside and out, and makes her friends feel even more so. Someone who is not only talented, but also too humble to acknowledge the depth of her talents. Someone who is sensible, practical and wise, yet willing to take risks, push limits and walk outside the lines.
Someone whose eyes sparkle, and whose smile is infectious.
Honestly, Erin, that’s what I hope to see in my daughter. And it’s what I see in you.
I pray that the man fortunate enough to earn your respect, love and devotion forever, will realize the extent of his fortune. I certainly realize how fortunate I’ve been to be your teacher. To have you make Room 232 your home-away-from-home.
It is no small feat to consistently spread love. You have a gift, one that you willingly share, and those lucky enough to come within range of your glow are happier and healthier for it. Thank you for shining your light my way. I could not miss a student more than I will miss you.
It’s okay to jump – to risk falling from the nest, breaking your wings and hitting rock bottom with a crushing thud.
For three years you swaggered in and out of Room 232. A subtle strut as if you were the eagle in a zoo full of turkeys. Unlike the arrogant rooster poking arrogance at everyone, or the bossy blue jay with his annoying sense of entitlement. But like an eagle: confident, independent, regal.
Looks can be deceiving.
Don’t get me wrong, Sarah. You do exude confidence, independence and regality. Your presence is impressive – strong, beautiful, self-assured. But behind those vibrant feathers and keen eyes is a fragile soul. A softness, like the white fuzz of a baby bird – an eaglet whose time has come to soar, but…
An eaglet learns to fly when she’s only two months old, though she often stays in her nest for another two to four months. I wonder why. Why would this glorious bird, perfectly capable of flying away, choose not to? I mean, the eagle seems so confident, so independent, so regal – like royalty amid a kingdom of turkeys. Why would a queen avoid taking ownership of her kingdom?
[Don’t you love all the rhetorical questions?… Look, I just wrote another one. What a hypocrite!]
You know how they say that every dog year is worth seven human years? [Damn. Did it again.] Well, I conducted a little research and found out that wild eagles – you’re definitely a wild one – live about half as long as humans. So, the two to four months that eaglets spend in their nests after learning to fly would equate to four to eight human months.
Four to eight months. One to two semesters. Hmmm…
Sarah Delashmit: my confident, independent, regal protégé. Your time has come. Not to leave the nest of home, the physical house of squawking and squabbling, raging and regretting. I know you’re ready to leave that part. I’m talking about the nest of care, the attention of Mom and Dad, of safety and security, of memories made and memories missed.
This is more than mere flying – which you’ve been doing for a while – but rather flying away. Emotionally. Psychologically. Spiritually. It is not an abandonment of home and family; your love of family will only strengthen. Rather, it is a quest for peace and forgiveness. A journey into the world – your world – where confidence, independence and regality seep into your soul and fulfill your destiny. Your ability to soar.
It’s okay to jump, Sarah. Make a leap of faith that everything will work out at home. That you can pursue your dreams, continue to love and be loved, and fly. My faith in you has never been shaken. Never. You can and will fly within and above the beauty of life. And I will always be right here watching and admiring and waiting for you to visit.
With the love of a father,