By Mark David Blum, Esq.
My youngest turns 16 years old today.
Rather than toss a few quarters to buy her a birthday card with someone else’s words on it, I thought I would take a few minutes and write this note.
Indeed I am flabbergasted she is 16 years old. I remember “16” and can recall how excited I was to reach that plateau. There are not words enough for me to tell her how happy I am and how much I wish her the very best.
Sixteen came upon me way too fast. It was not so long ago she was just a little girl and now suddenly blossomed into a young woman. I could not be more proud. She survived a great catastrophe of my making and come through it brilliantly and beautifully.
I had so many plans for her 16th birthday. There was the obvious car I had to buy and the trip I wanted to take her on. It was supposed to be as obnoxious as any sweet 16 could be. But I failed her when I lost my license. Every day when I look into her eyes I see the mirror of my own shortcomings. This is a heavy weight that hangs around my neck. I will never be able to forgive myself for what I did to you and took away from her and her Mom.
It seems of late that I have lost my connection. As she grows and matures, she is letting go and moving on. Before she is gone I wanted her to know that I am truly sorry. If I could waive a magic wand and erase the entire stain on my life I would have done so. But she knows that no matter what, she always had shelter, food, and a warm bed to sleep in. Though I slept on the floor, she always had a bed. She ate when I did not. No matter how bad or good things were, I did my very best to make sure she came first and was safe.
Nowadays when I hear moans and cries for things and events wanted, I recoil in pain because I cannot help. Fret not as such complaints and snits are the normal complaints of a person of her age and gender. The whines are normal; my inability to respond is what tears at me. I would give both my children the world on a platter if I could.
As much as I may miss “my little girl”, I have come to see and accept her as an independent person capable of making major decisions. She still has time to make mistakes and learn and be safe. Society will treat her as an adult now so I pray she is careful in what she does and where. I am almost excited now to see her continue to mature and blossom. With the whole world available, it is on her now to make the next steps.
Remember too that while the decisions made today will impact later in life, there is so much time and she is going to go through many changes in life. Her career may change many times before she settles into whatever it is that will make her complete. Do not be afraid to try and fail. She has heard my stories. No such stories would exist if I did not first make the attempt.
“Life” is a very long process. I hope she is not fooled into thinking that she is now what she is going to be in five years. None of us knows what awaits us; whether it be great joy, horrific pain, or banal mundane. She is the one who sets her own limits. Nobody but she can decide her future and nobody has any greater or lesser right or privilege than do she. All I ask is that in addition to what she does for herself, she always find room in her life and heart to do for others.
My job is not yet done. She owes me nothing. What I do I do so because I want to, because I choose to, because I can. I expect nothing in return but for her to excel and succeed at whatever she chooses. All I could ever ask is for her happiness. I want nothing less.
Not only is today her birthday, but it is also the 16th time I get to celebrate her life. A large part of what I am and who I turned out to be came about as a result of being her Dad. Over the years and tears, we molded each other and will forever be a part of each other. I pray she never forgets that. I never will.