I was the first person to ever see you when you entered our world. I still remember holding you in my arms for the first time and whispering, “I’m your dad, I’m here to take care of you.”
It’s now been eighteen years since I uttered those words to you.
We were supposed to play ball together in the back yard in the afternoons. We were supposed to go to ball games together on Saturdays.
We were going to go camping, fishing, swimming and do all the things dads and their sons do together. I had our whole life mapped out before you ever opened your eyes for the first time.
But then together we discovered autism, cerebral palsy, and epileptic seizures. And our whole world turned upside down. All those dreams got laid aside.
I never got the chance to become the dad I dreamed I would be. But I did have the opportunity to become the dad God hoped I would become.
I spent your early years trying to draw you out and get you to engage in our world. I should have spent more time exploring your world. You didn’t need another therapist, you already had plenty of those. You needed a dad who was wholly involved and passionately engaged in being his son’s father first.
The more I tried to teach you about God, the more you taught me about God and his very character. I never understood unconditional love or grace until God used your life to demonstrate it to me.
You were never the one who needed healing. I was the one who needed it.
I have tried to make sure that you know how proud I am of you, and how much you mean to me. I have made a point to tell you every single day of your life that I love you just the way are, and how thankful I am that God allows me to be your dad.
Despite all your challenges, I don’t want you to ever doubt that.
See I have never loved you because of anything you have done. And there’s nothing you can do or achieve that would make me love you anymore than I already do now.
I love you for one simple reason- you’re my son.
Our eighteen years together has been excruciatingly hard at times. I’ve cried too many times to count, but God has kept a record of every tear. For every conversation we were never able to have on earth, we will have thousands of years to make it up in heaven.
For every dream that died, God replaced it with a blessing. I never imagined that life could be so hard, and yet so good, all at the same time. And I never dreamed that the things that created the most challenges would also bring the greatest blessings.
I remember holding you in my arms for the first time just minutes after cutting your cord in the delivery room.
I would place your sleeping form on my chest, your head gently laying across my shoulder, as we sat in my chair at night. I would rest contentedly when, as an infant, you would curl up against me on the bed and nuzzle your head in the crook of my arm.
I would hold you in my lap as a toddler wrapping my arms around you as I prayed and sang over you. When you were a young boy, I still carried you everywhere because of your crippled feet.
As we sit on the swing together every night now in the silence, I think to myself, “I could hold you forever and never let go.”
When you were born I envisioned your eighteenth birthday much differently. I thought we would be sending you off to college and celebrating your becoming a man.
Now as we sit here, I ponder the thought that you will still live with us even as an adult. I think about how we still will have to take care of you, even as an adult.
My thoughts go back to that very first night, when you and I met for the first time and I held you in my arms.
And I find myself once again whispering those same words, “I’m your dad, I’m here to take care of you.”