You were born at exactly 4:00 a.m. Not one minute before, not one minute after. I looked up with the nurses, our eyes on the clock above the bathroom door, watched the minute hand click into place above the 12, the hour hand already resting on the 4. The time leading up to that moment was some of the most trying I’ve ever been through. There’s not much a Dad can do during childbirth except be there. Fetch ice chips. Turn the fan on. Turn the fan off. Put a cold towel on a forehead. Hold a hand. Say the word ‘breathe’ more times in an hour than we have likely said for the entirety of our lives to that point. That time, the minutes and hours before you, was an immeasurably frustrating experience for a man who — as I’m sure you’ll discover one day — doesn’t do well with that sort of a thing.
I was there, though. If I ever give myself credit for anything, it will be that I put my all into being there on the day you were born.
I have never been more proud of someone than I was of your Mom in the build up to you. Sweet, imperfect you. Lumpy head. Long, gangly fingers you didn’t (still don’t) know what to do with. Lungs that were only turning over for the very first time. Understand that you only existed in hypotheticals until that moment. Schrödinger’s child, there and not there at the same time.
And then, you arrived. You became you. You were.
The first time I held you in my arms, I whispered dreams to you, softly for ears not yet accustomed to the volume of hope. I still have them, all those dreams, tucked haphazardly next to the wishes I also hold for you. In case you ever need them.
It had snowed while your Mom pushed you into being. We didn’t know, not until your Grandpa told us via text. Only then did we look out the window and realize that the world had resumed running, as it always does, tick tick tick like that clock above the bathroom door.
But you had stopped time when you were born. You have that sort of magic in you.
This world, like you, is imperfect, as are the people on it. We disagree on things, some of those things bigger than others. We try. We try again. You will meet good people, and you will meet bad people, but mostly you will just meet people.
I have thought a lot about this letter. Long, long before you. I believed, through arrogance or ignorance, I could come up with words to present to you, to guide and protect you, on the day you were born. That would be my gold, my frankincense and mir. Words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, paragraphs into a shield immense and impenetrable and inimitable.
I never found those words.
We armed you, your Mom and I, with a name. It means “noble, kind.” We didn’t know that when we picked it out. It was a quirk of fate. It fit though, in much the same way keys fit their locks and daughters their fathers’ arms. May it always serve you well.
I don’t think you will ever understand this letter. I don’t think anyone else possibly can. Relate, maybe. But they are not me and they will never be the me I am to you. I was there when the minute hand clicked into place above the 12, hour hand already resting on the 4, with the snow still falling in a world outside a window that ceased existing in that moment because I was too busy being there, in the way only Dads can be.
And that’s the trick of this letter, you see. I was there, on the day you were born. But I never stopped being there.
I am here. For you. And I always will be.
It is remarkable how the heart can break and expand at the same time.