What You Owe Us

Dear son,

I was feeding you dinner tonight while Mom was out having a celebratory drink with her colleagues from work; they had a big win this week, her particularly.

It was a four-course meal: White cheddar cheese, peach cubes, peas, and banana.

You’ve gotten into this game the last couple of weeks where you like to give your food away. Sitting in your high chair, you like to hold pieces of toast down for Jessica Jones to snatch, who is glad to come back again and again.

Tonight, you started holding your peas out to me. The first one, you snatched back and put in your own mouth, but then the second and third, you put in mine, giggling all the way.

These words slipped past my lips: “May I live to be an age that you have to feed me one day.”

A thought. A prayer.

It’s one that nearly brought me to tears. I was 37 when you were born. That’s not particularly old, but yes, I often wonder how many years I have with you, if I will get to live to be the age to see you have your own children, if that’s the path your life takes. I want to see the circle of life fully come around, and reach the age I need caring for, to see as much of your life as I can.

But then I started overanalyzing it all as I am so often prone to overanalyzing everything, and I want you to know, I really don’t want you to ever have to feed me. I don’t want you to ever feel you have to do anything for me, or your mom. This is something she and I have talked about a few times. We never want to be a burden to you.

If we’re lucky enough to get to old age, let the nursing home staff feed us and change our diapers, and listen to me tell the same stories over and over again. We brought you into this world, but we want you to know you owe us nothing other than going out, making your mark, and being a good human to others.

No more, no less.

Love you, kid.

-Dad

 

 

Your First Fall

Dear Son,

It’s been weeks since I’ve written you here. How you’ve grown these last couple of months. You’re teething. You’re going through mental leaps and developments. The world is opening up to you. You’re crawling all over our condo. You try to eat Jessica’s food from her bowl. When you wake in the middle of the night, or in the morning, you sit up in your crib, waiting for me or mommy to come pick you up. You and me have a game, just a few days old now, where I look everywhere around you, above and below and either side of your gaze, saying, “Where is he? Where’s Harrison?” and you giggle expectantly, waiting for me to find you, and when I do, I squeal with excitement, and you giggle even louder.

The nights are a little rough right now. There are a couple of hours in the middle of many nights, you just want to be up and social. We try and eventually get you back to sleep. Some nights, I’m tempted to bring you out in the living room and play and let you crawl around and explore.

You love daycare. You love solid food, and are less and less patient with baby cereal every day. You’re wearing size 12 and 18 month clothes, and you’re just nine months.

You’re growing. We can’t wait to see who you become, but we love who you are now.

We love you, kid.

– Dad

Our Morning Routine

Dear Son,

You’re a little over six month’s old as I write this. Here’s the morning routine in the Frymire household these days:

I wake up around six in the morning. I take Jessica downstairs for her morning constitutional, then I have some “me” time – journaling, meditating, learning a new language. I’ll eat some breakfast. Then I eventually check work e-mails, and figure out if there’s any client needs I need to immediately address.

Sometime around seven, that’s when you start stirring. You babble. You play with sounds. You’re trying to find words. This morning, it sounded distinctly like you said, “Dad”, but I know that’s just hopeful thinking on my part. When I come into the bedroom and look at you in your crib, you’re almost always on your stomach, pressing up, looking around, and when you see me, you give me big smile. I’ll pick you up out of your crib, and sometimes sing the opening lines of “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” from “Oklahoma”.

There’s a bright golden haze on the meadow…there’s a bright golden haze on the meadow…

And I open the blinds to let the sun in while I sing.

This is so incredibly dorky, and one day I’m sure you’ll come to be annoyed by it, but for now, it makes you smile.

By the time I’m done singing, your mom is sitting up and getting ready to nurse you. I’ll go off and start getting ready for the day, and then a few minutes later I’ll come back, and all four of us (Jessica Jones too) will snuggle on the bed together, you the center of all the attention. We all lay together for maybe five, ten minutes, and then it’s time to start the day.

***

These few minutes we have together every morning have become the highlight of my day. We have other good moments during the day, of course, but these mornings in particular are some of most precious times I’ll look back on.

You’re taking a nap as I write this now. I’m watching you on the baby monitor, and you’re starting to stir awake. We’re all about to go grocery shopping, and enjoy this Sunday weather.

Whenever and wherever you’re reading this, I love you, kid.

Your Dad

 

 

 

 

 

 

When You Sleep

Dear Son,

“The Flash” is a TV show I’m sure I’ll introduce you to when you’re old enough, maybe both versions, the current one playing in 2017, and the one that was on air in the early 90s, when I was the same age I imagine you are when you’re reading this letter for the first time.

The third season concluded a few weeks ago. It was okay, at best. It definitely didn’t come close to the brilliance of the first season, and I doubt any future season ever will. But there was one moment this last season that sticks with me. It makes me think of you.

Minor spoilers ahead, son. But that’s okay. Life is short; you have to read some spoilers every now and then.

So there’s this scene late in the season where Detective Joe West is sitting on the couch with his adult daughter, Iris. They both know Iris is destined to die in a few days at the hands of the season’s Big Bad, Savatar. They know this because of, well, time travel shenanigans.

Joe feels helpless to protect his daughter, and to convey his helplessness, he tells her how he would watch vigilantly over her when she was lying in her crib while she slept when she was an infant. He was terrified she would stop breathing and die, because sometimes, sadly, that does happen with newborns. He would watch her sleep every night, and often times, even place his hand on her chest to just will her to keep, keep breathing. (The actor who plays Joe is the unsung hero of this show, able to deliver such great, touching moments like these.) You were a couple of months old when it episode first aired, and when I watched it, it was like a punch in the gut.

I know how Joe felt.

I don’t dramatically watch over you as you sleep at night, but oh, how often your mom and I check on you. Even though you sleep in our room, we have the baby video monitor on the bed between us so we can check on you. If you sleep more than a few hours, I’ll awake anxious, and sneak over to your crib and place a hand on you to make sure you’re still breathing.

When you go down to sleep a little too quickly, I worry about that too.

I so often feel neurotic about this worry your mom and I have, but I’m told it’s perfectly normal, and it goes away a little more and a little more as the first year mark approaches. Knowing your mom and I, we’ll keep on worrying even longer.

You probably don’t understand this just yet, and likely won’t until if and when the time comes for you to have kids of your own.

But the silver lining: Every morning, when I hear you stirring and I walk over to your crib, and I see your eyes light up when you see me, it is a little miracle. Pulling you into the bed with us and snuggling as a family – Jessica Jones too – for a few minutes is my favorite part of the day.

Love,

Dad

 

 

First Father’s Day 

Dear son,

Today is my first Father’s Day as a father. Yours. Your dad.

Father’s Days have been weird for me for a long. I lost my own dad 15 years ago. We had a complicated relationship at the end, one I’m still processing to this day. And every year, all the marketing and attention that is given to the day, I fight it with gallows humor at times, but it always stings a bit when I get an email or some ad geared towards buying your dad something for Father’s Day.

***

This morning, I was in the kitchen making breakfast, your mom was still in bed asleep, and I heard you begin to stir, start to talk to yourself in your crib. I put aside whipping the eggs for a moment, and came back to say good morning, and you greeted me with a smile, as you often do. And in that moment, it really sank in that Father’s Day has a new meaning for me now.

***

I took Jessica Jones out for a walk a while later, and when I came home, your mom had placed some gifts, a couple from you, cards you made at daycare.

***

In the years to come, I’m sure you’ll give me gifts and kind words on this day. But this year, know that you are the greatest gift to me.
Love,

Dad

A Couple Months Later

Dear son,

It’s been over two months since I’ve written a post here. A lot has changed since. You’ve already grown so. It feel like a lifetime ago, and yet just yesterday at the same time. Mom’s honey back to work. You’ve started daycare. 

Right now, your mom is grocery shopping at the new Aldi’s she’s really excited about, and I’m typing this one-handed. My other arm is under you. 


A lot has changed for me outside of the home. I quit a comfortable job, one that was good, but long past time for me to leave. I’m entirely self-employed now in a few different fields, and I’m navigating that. 

I worry sometimes I am not present enough for you. I know it’s all for providing for you, but I still feel guilty. 

******

It’s different writing to you now that you’re here. Before you were born, you were an abstract idea. Now you’re here. It feels strange to write to a Future You, with You very much here with us now. 

But still, this is me here saying I’m going to get back to writing you more regularly. 

*****

Mom’s home from shopping now, and you’re awake. 


It’s time to get on with the day. 

Love you, son. Will write again soon. 

Dad

Mom

Dear son,

This last week was the nine-year anniversary of my mom’s, your grandma Jean’s passing. With each passing year, I find the anniversary is less and less on my conscious mind as the day approaches. Your Aunt Kim texted me the day before this year, “I’ll be thinking of you tomorrow” and it took me a moment to figure out why she was saying that. Of the memories I have of my mom, I try not to dwell on her final days. I was in the room – along with her and your aunts – when both her and your Grandpa Huck passed a few years before, and they’re not memories I care to revisit. That said, I will say this: Mom knew how much it affected her kids watching their dad take his last breathes, and so I don’t find it mere happenstance that she did not pass in two or three hours I sat next to her hospital bed reading while Nancy and Susan slept on the other side of the room, but in the twenty minutes after I lied on the floor next to her bed with a pillow and blanket. Her kids were asleep next to her when she passed, given the news by the nurse who came into check on her.

It’s so easy to read meaning that isn’t there into such moments of life, but it’s that meaning that helps us carry on.

I tried not to dwell on mom’s passing on the anniversary, but her being gone did creep in  little ways. The day before, a massage client, a parent and grandparent herself, who had known of your impending arrival for several weeks, responded to my stories of my new sleep habits since your birth by saying no matter how old one’s kids get, parents never sleep the same knowing their kids are somewhere out in the world. “Your mom doesn’t sleep the same, Dennis” she said, a well-intentioned sentiment I let pass without comment.

Otherwise, I was just a little off on the anniversary, a little down without thinking about why, except for a fleeting moment here or there.

It’s so hard to sum up with a person with a few descriptions, a couple of stories, and I’m sure by the time you’re reading this, you’ll have seen plenty of picture and heard tales of Grandma Jean from your aunts and cousins and me.

***

A few months before she passed, I was home visiting, and the family went to a mall. I had just started dating someone new a few months before. By that point, I already knew the relationship probably wasn’t going to last the long haul, but still, I found myself wondering over to a jewelry store, casually looking at items in the glass cases. Grandma Jean strolled up, looked at the rings, and said, “So when are you going to propose?” I dismissed the idea with a laugh, pointing out this woman and I had only been dating a few months, and asked her what the hurry was.

“I want more grandchildren,” she said, sadly.

I can imagine her holding you. She would have loved you.

***

The last few months, but in particular, the last few weeks, I have had to make the adjustment of looking at my wife- who I have known as Betsy, Elizabeth (her more formal name she’s known by in a few professional circles), Hon, and Love (my favorite term of endearment for her) – as also your mom. Perhaps more rewarding than becoming your dad, I’m watching her become your mom, seeing that how it changes her day by day. Not to say these early days of parenthood have been easy – it’s been a struggle many days – but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’ve found myself thinking a lot of the little things your grandma did for me.

I didn’t appreciate my mom enough growing up. I considered myself a much a “mama’s boy”, much closer to her than my dad, and even still, I didn’t wasn’t grateful enough for the hard work of simply being a parent that she did for me day in and day out. I remember once I asked to make me a cheeseburger for dinner, and when she handed me my plate with a cheeseburger only and no fries, I threw a fit because, as far as I was concerned, a request for a cheeseburger was, obviously, also a request for fries. I would ask for a glass of water or tea or whatever with dinner, and then complain if it wasn’t filled all the way to the top.

A non-food related story: One night in high school, my girlfriend was out with friends in another town a half-hour away, and I was afraid she wasn’t safe. (My high school girlfriend had a rough family life, and there’s a story in that about the first high-stakes confrontation I had with an adult, me being a 16-year-old kid, and I’m sure I’ll tell you that story sometime.) Anyway, my mom got out of bed at eleven o’clock at night and drove with me to the other town to go searching for my girlfriend. When we found her, it turned out the entire thing was a misunderstanding on my part (it’s been over 20 years, so I can’t remember the details much at all), and there was no rational reason why I should have thought she was unsafe. Mom gave me just one, fleeting “I’m going to kill you” look, but after that night, she never brought it up again.

Why am I telling you this? Because, again, no child appreciates their mom enough, and having lost my mom almost a decade ago now, I regret all the times I didn’t show her the appreciation she deserved. And now, a little over month into your life, I’m watching your own mom with you, with you attached to her several hours everyday, her literally giving her body for you, and even as I’m saying this to you, I don’t know if I appreciate her enough day in and day out, but I want to make sure you do.

During your cluster feeding phases, I’ve watched your mom breastfeed you near constantly for hours at a time. She’s been with you when your fussy and near-inconsolable all day long while I’ve been at work. While I do what I can, it’s your mom who sits up every two or three hours in the middle of the night to feed you.

And oh yeah, she pushed you through the most delicate part of her body, a 12-hour marathon of pain you and I will only ever be able to imagine.

***

I imagine pulling up this particular entry on a day in your early adolescence when you’re being impatient and demanding on your mom. I imagine your rolling your eyes at me and mocking me, but I also imagine my message getting through, and you going to give your mom a big hug.

***

One last story about Grandma Jean.

A few weeks after she passed, I dreamed one night we were riding in a car together. She was driving. We were sitting at a red light, and she was telling me a story about something, I can’t recall what, but she was very into the telling, so much so, she didn’t notice when the light turned green. The cars behind us began honking, and then pulling around. I was just about to tell her when I realized I was dreaming, and she would be gone again once I awoke.

So I stayed quiet and listened to her for as long as I could.

 

 

 

Husband, Father, Time Traveler