Shortly after I wrote my first “Letter to Mackenzie”, you overheard your mom and me talking about them. In your innocent way you asked me why I was writing you letters. Which of course gave me an idea. That question called for a letter of its very own.
You were born exactly one month after my forty-fifth birthday. By then I was already blessed with two wonderful stepdaughters. I hope I’ve had some hand in shaping Heather and Jamie into the amazing young women they’ve both become, but since they entered my life in their teens I had neither the opportunity nor the responsibility to guide them through their early years.
Being an older dad has its pros and cons. On the one hand, I have come to believe that I can savor your childhood in a way that a younger dad cannot. It’s not that a younger dad couldn’t appreciate his young child. He most certainly could and would. But being older, with my own career well established and with many life experiences under my belt, I feel better equipped to appreciate the miracle that is a young life. I don’t take one bit of it for granted.
On the other hand, I can’t afford to take anything for granted because it’s not certain I’ll be around to watch you grow up. A young father who has a child at twenty-five or even thirty will still be in his forties when that child graduates from high school. Barring an accident of fate or of nature, he’ll be there to guide his child into adulthood, to give him or her advice, and to provide comfort when his child skins a heart or skins a knee.
That’s not necessarily so for an older dad. Since you were born, I find that I sometimes count my life expectancy in what I call “Mackenzie” years. In other words if I live to be say, sixty five, I’ll see you through your high school years and into college. If I live to eighty, I’ll see you to thirty-five. And if I’m fortunate enough to live to ninety, I’ll see you to the age I was when you were born. Wow. But even with today’s medical and biological advances, ninety, or eighty, or even sixty-five is not promised in the way that forty-five or fifty is.
During the first few years of your life, I found myself telling your mom on many occasions how I hoped to savor the experience of you growing up. That there are so many things I want to say to you when you turn eighteen. And then when you get married. And then again when you have a child of your own. And so on. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not obsessed with death or anything like that. On the contrary, my parents and grandparents have lived well into their seventies, eighties and nineties and I have every intention of doing the same.
And as I’ve said to your mom, if I were to die pre-maturely who would teach you how to swing a bat or field a ground ball? Who would bore you with our favorite books and movies, or for that matter who would remind you what your own favorites were when you were little? Or tell you who the fourteenth president of the United States was (It was Franklin Pierce by the way).
Your mom has a wonderful sense of humor, by which I mean she laughs at my dumb jokes. She also indulges my lunacies with a serene patience. One day a few years ago, I was going on and on about what I wanted to tell you on your 18th birthday. And your mom, in part because she thought it was a good idea and in part to get me out of her hair said to me, “Well, why don’t you write it down?”
So I did. That kept me sane for a while. And then Jamie turned 21 and I wrote her a letter for her 21st birthday (don’t worry, we gave her gifts as well). And one day we were telling some friends about the day that you were born and your mom thought that could make a great letter. And of course, I love telling the story of how your mom and I got together, so I thought I should write that one too.
And then Heather, who at the time was living in Cleveland and loves to dance, tried out for the Cavaliers NBA dance squad. The night before the finals, I wrote Heather a letter from 2500 miles away which I hoped would give her confidence and let her know that even though I wasn’t there physically, I loved her and was rooting for her. I hope the letter helped Heather. I know it soothed my own aching heart, and served to lessen my sense of helplessness that I was not with her in a time of need.
So I started to think, why not keep writing these letters? Over time I plan to give you, Heather, and Jamie lots of advice whether you want it or not. I plan to tell you lots of stories about your lives and ours. I plan to inspire you, to protect you, and to guide you. I plan to make you laugh, to console you when you are down, and to celebrate with you when you are happy. Yet maybe these letters can help if during some important moment, your mom or I are not around. Maybe many years from now you’ll read the letters to your own children to pass on some family lore or, allowing for some personal vanity, to share some memories of your mom and the old man.
One final thing, which I hope you’ll share with Heather and Jamie. These letters are yours, but the themes within them apply to you all. Once when you were about six, I was telling you how much I love you and your sisters. As befits a six year old, you asked me if I loved you best. In fact, I love the three of you in equal, boundless amounts; and everything in my heart, and all that I am is for the three of you and your wonderful mom.
I hope you’ll enjoy reading these letters, my sweet daughter, and that they will envelop you with all the love that I feel as I write them.
All my everlasting love,