Dear June –
First of all, welcome aboard. The short delay in your debut had a few people (namely your Grandmother) turning blue. I’m sure your Mom and Dad had a few anxious moments as well, but for very different reasons. Still, a week-and-a-half past your due date isn’t all that unusual for the First Child. So, good work.
I thought I’d take the liberty to share a few nuggets of wisdom, because, well, as your one-and-only step-grandfather (call me Grumpa – all the grandkids do), I figure I’ve got a perspective and a voice that might be unique. We’ll get back to that a little later.
Here goes…as you become more aware, you’ll hear that “life is about choices.” In my experience, nothing truer can be said. The good news is that you have a little runway to develop those choice-making skills. The better news is that for the first, oh, five years or so, almost all of your choices have to do with you – what you need, how you’re feeling, when you’re tired, hungry, cranky, bored, hurt, surprised, happy, sad or just need to be comforted inside the safety of your Mom or Dad’s arms. Study hard during this period and don’t give anything away; this will give you clarity of purpose later in your sweet life. And as your choices begin to involve the thoughts and feelings and needs of other people, you’ll have a finely honed skill to cope with that.
You’re off to a good start – you’ve chosen excellent parents. And even though the mercury was hovering around zero degrees Fahrenheit when you were born, Alaska isn’t a bad selection either…for reasons we’ll talk about in a minute.
By extension, you’ve also landed among a tribe of loving, fun, wacky, simple, happy, loose, complicated, disciplined and dysfunctional people that, for good or ill, you’ll have to call Family. Did I say “loving?” It’s worth saying twice because that’s something that you should never forget. Ever. Anyway this “Family,” hmmm, how can I describe this?
Family is essentially a group of strangers who get thrown into a small lifeboat in a turbulent sea. The main objective is to row to the nearest shore, to safety. What you’ll find is that there is seldom agreement on which shore, who should paddle, how the ones who are paddling should hold the paddle, where everyone gets to sit, whether or not those who are seasick actually get to hug the rail, who has the food, who gets to dole out the food, who paddles for how long (based upon age, stamina, etc.), who has the clearest sense of direction…you get the picture. Normally, things settle down into a clearly defined org chart, but it changes over time. Roles morph. People will come and go. As the oldest child in your new family, you’ll bear the burden/challenge/opportunity/benefit of having to do everything right. Eventually, you’ll find yourself doing everything you can to please your Mom and Dad. (Actually, that will also be true of your siblings-to-come, but I’m sure you and I will, at some point, have the discussion about how easy they’ve had it.) This is why I think your skill level at determining your clarity of purpose will serve you well over the long haul.
Let’s talk about Alaska for a minute, because that will become the canvas upon which you paint your Life. Again, not a bad choice. Your options there are perhaps more graphic: bad choices in Alaska have dire consequences. And as you realize that you must join society and not be sequestered in your own head, you’ll be among people who have chosen to be in Alaska. A good model, I think, for Free Will.
No one ends up in Alaska by accident.
Love, chaos, Alasaka…and then there’s the Drama. Darling, brace yourself on this one because your Mom is the Queen O’. But that’s okay…she does it to be heard. She’ll be your most vehement proponent when you need her to be; and when you turn thirteen, she’ll be your biggest embarrassment. Neither of you know that yet, which is somehow whimsical to me.
Your Dad is a hard ass. There’s no other way to put it. Two tours in Iraq and a tour in Afghanistan, a year as a drill sergeant…he has a hard shell. But you (and only you) have the weaponry to penetrate that shell at will. Underneath, you’ll find the warmest, kindest, happiest man on the face of the earth…and you’ve just made his Life.
Aunt Steph is a sweetie. She’s already decided to be the “fun aunt,” (although every aunt I ever had was fun). She’ll teach you how to count to ten in Spanish; she’ll ask you why the sky is blue; she’ll bundle you up and take you out in your back yard to watch the moose forage on your Dad’s shrubbery.
Granny is your Mom writ large. With the advantage of distance and episode, you might not see her that much, but you’ll always know that she’s there, loving you, thinking about you. I say “advantage” because with distance and time, Granny will always be special, as anyone named “Granny” should be. And your Granny, June, is one of the most special people on the planet.
Which leaves us with Grumpa. I got into the lifeboat late. I haven’t been involved in the, um, discussions, that have led to this point, where certain people have the paddle, we’re rowing off in a particular direction, some are eating, some are riding the rail. In short, while my skin is 100% in the game, I don’t own the full wrath nor the full admiration of Family quite yet. You and I are, actually, kind of in the same boat. We have some things in common that way. So if you happen to see something that doesn’t make sense, let’s talk it over. We’ll figure it out together.
There are other Family, of course. Your Dad’s family is big and boisterous and just as loving, fun, wacky, simple, happy, loose, complicated, disciplined and dysfunctional as your Mom’s. You are surrounded, Kiddo.
Find a place on the rail and hang on, June. It’s going to be a helluva ride…