May 4, 2004
I'm Here If You Need Me

senior portrait

How old were you when we started with the 'I'm here if you need me' stuff, anyway?

I'm thinking you were probably somewhere around three or four -- after we moved out of the apartment and into the TicTac house, maybe -- but it could have been even earlier than that. You never liked to sleep by yourself, right from the start. As a baby, you were always the small diapered lump, tucked into the crook of your slumbering Daddy's arm. When you were a toddler, we often took turns -- your father, your sisters and me -- passing you back and forth, from one night to the next, like a favorite teddy bear. There is just something so deliciously comfortable about snuggling with a little boy in fuzzy pajamas. (Just ask Michael Jackson.) Once we moved into the house, and I exiled myself more or less permanently to the living room sofa at nights, it seems as though you were the Tot most often found sleeping on the loveseat next to the sofa. And that's when I remember it becoming a ritual: my hand reaching out toward you in the darkness ... your small hand squeezing mine in return ... the quiet promise we exchanged, like a prayer, just before we fell asleep each night.

'I'm here if you need me.'

I don't know who said it first, you or me. It was probably me. I probably said it one night when you were sick or sad or scared, as a means of comforting you, and I probably fell in love with the way that it sounded -- so maternal, so protective, so Waltons-Mountain-reassuring -- and with the way you immediately responded with I'm here if you need me, too. We probably said it again the next night, and the night after that, and the night after that, until it became as much a part of our bedtime ritual as chocolate milk and peanut butter toast. Even after I left -- during those first sad dark weeks, especially -- it was how we ended every phone call. I could no longer feel your hand reaching out to hold mine in the darkness, but your words travelled through three hundred miles' worth of phone line and wrapped themselves around my heart, like a hug.

To this day, we still end a lot of our phone calls that way, whenever we remember. You signed your Valentine card to me this year with it. The funny thing is I've never said it to anyone else: not to your dad, not to your sisters, not even to David. It belongs to you and me.

And I'm glad about that.

I'm glad about a lot of things today, actually. I'm glad that you're my son. I'm glad that you've reached your eighteenth birthday in one piece. I'm glad for any part I may have played in getting you there. I'm glad that you're turning into a young man of character, of good cheer, of vision, of conscience.

And I'm glad that after everything we've been through together, the past eighteen years, I am still able to tell you ... today and forever ... that I'm here if you need me.

Happy Birthday, Boo. I love you.






Memorable *Kyle* Entries
arrival
first haircut
son #only
the backpack
stranger in the house
snot and goo
sneaking up on me
birthday boy



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