Beautiful and terrible things
As I write this, you are almost seven months old. I feel guilty that your Grandma McCarthy has been taking the most care of you because I need to focus on your mama.
But you’re always laughing, so I assume that you’re generally happy and oblivious to the terrible things around us. That’s actually why I’m writing you.
A fellow New Yorker – of which you are a proud member – named Frederick Buechner once said, “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”
(I will quote things to you a lot because I think other people say things far more eloquently than your pop can; you’ll have to learn to deal).
What Buechner said is true, with this caveat: The terrible and beautiful are often intertwined.
By all metrics, your mother should have died on December 10th, when you were just a month old. I say this terrible thing as plainly as I can.
But equally plainly, I tell you: Your mother came back an hour from death – crippled and half-blind – because she couldn’t bear being away from us. From you.
She came back with a titanium mesh where her skull once was. So when I tell you that she is made of titanium, I mean that both figuratively and literally.
She fights every day to see you and hopes to hold you again, like she did when you were born. She wants to see you sit, stand, walk, and run.
She wants to see you become you.
You know, on December 10th, you hadn’t yet learned how to laugh or smile? I think she came back to experience that.
Kid, that is love like I’ve never seen before. If that’s not beautiful, I dunno what is.
This letter is late, sorry. I’d meant to write it months ago but life got in the way. You’ll find that the life’s terrible things get in the way of your plans and dreams.
It’s the nature of the world to whittle you down to nothingness. One day it will win. We accept that in our family. But we fight the world every step of the way because we will not go quietly.
We struggle and scuffle until we’re breathless and weak. Life demands struggle.
Our family motto is a pictograph of a blade in a heart – we survive things that would kill other people. We survive.
Know that the terrible things will come. But so will the beautiful things. They go hand-in-hand.
Your mother is the most beautiful thing that has come into my life and she came with this terrible thing. Neither of us knew. I would not change a thing, except maybe bring her to the hospital the day we met to get rid of this damn cancer. And buy more shares of Facebook. (Always invest your money – that’s another letter for another time).
I will love your mother until the day I die. You as well.
In any case, son: Here is the world. The price you pay to be here is to endure the terrible. So we pay our fare and we take our seat, come what may.
Don’t be afraid, Nate. Because you are our son and there is titanium in your blood.
Location: home, after almost a month in the hospital again
Music: it was then that I knew only a full house gonna make it through