One of the biggest regrets I have is not taking the time to record videos of Theresa for Ryan. Every big event, holiday, birthday or milestone would be a great moment to have recorded words to Ryan. We talked about doing that, but there always seemed to be more time and to be candid, the thought of doing that seemed quite taboo. Once we realized that time was short, it was too late to do this. I’ve decided to not make that mistake going forward. I’m going to document things for Ryan so he can look at, read, touch and share with his wife and children for many years to come. I started with a little letter to him.
On May 20, 2005, your Mom woke up very early and spent some time in the bathroom. She came out of the bathroom, flipped on the bedroom lights and started saying to me “Wake up, wake up, wake up Daddy”. I was always the better morning person, but it took me a few seconds to realize what she was saying. Yes, after so many years of trying we finally were going to have our first child. I got out of bed, looked at the pregnancy test, three in total, and realized that it was real. I remember wrapping my arms around her, dancing around the bedroom and both of us laughing.
We had a trip planned to Omaha for Memorial Day and were leaving later in the day. When we walked up the exit ramp in Omaha, Nana was waiting to pick us up. Your Mom gave her a hug and said, guess what, you’re going to be a grandma again. I wish you could have seen that exchange between the two of them. It was a wonderful moment with tears of joy flowing all around. Everyone had been waiting for you to come for many years.
You caused quite a bit of distress to Mom’s body during her pregnancy. She started having migraine headaches, dehydration and nausea. Yet, through all of this, her first worry was you. She wouldn’t take any medicine for fear of hurting you who were growing inside of her. Eventually, things got better and the time came for you to be born. You were a planned delivery on January 24, 2006. The schedule kept getting moved back and finally, you came into our life at 4:51PM. You were a 19.5”, 7.4 pound bundle of joy. And in that single instant, at 4:51PM, our lives were forever changed for the better.
I’m happy to tell you that your first word was “Gaga”, a name you called me for a couple of years. It took you more than one year to say “Mama”. You took your first steps alone on November 28, 2006. First, with Mom holding your hand and finally, all by yourself. Since that time, you’ve been constantly on the move.
You took your first plane ride on December 1, 2006 to visit Mom’s relatives in Bethalto. When we got there they had snow on the ground and you got your first taste of it. Since that first plane ride, you’ve become quite the world traveler in your short life. You’ve been to: Canada, Mexico, Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, St. Marteen, Barbados, St. Lucia, Aruba, Curacao, St. Kitt, Honduras and Belize. You love to travel, you love the sea. Both things that you got from Mom and me. There are so many more places that I want to go with you and look forward to the adventures that await all of us.
You are the perfect blend of Mom and me. You are quick to tell everyone that most of the things about you came from Mom. To be sure, there are many good qualities that you got from her. You have an incredible mind, you love reading books that are years above you, you like to draw, you like science…All things that you got from her. Looking into your brown eyes is like looking into your Mom’s eyes. To be sure, you got your good looks from her. One of my favorite moments was turning your light on early in the morning to get you up for school. You looked over at me and said, “Just 9 more minutes Dad”. To be sure, you got that from Mom. From me, you’re learning to become a good man and patiently enduring all the trials that life has put on you.
You have grown so much in your 11 years. I’ve watched you grow from a little boy who was so shy and kept to himself in the early part of his life, to one who can engage anyone in conversation and isn’t afraid to do so. Just that one part of your growth is amazing. You’ve had to endure trials that not many kids your age have to endure. You’ve done so with a grace that can only come from above. Time after time you amaze me with your understanding of life, love and the communion of the saints. And yet, you are still an 11 year old boy trying to walk to path that has been placed in front of you. I remember you asking me last summer if I still do dangerous things at work. I told you that my job involves an element of danger but that I was doing all I could to cut back on it. I no longer want to be the first person at the door on a search warrant, instead I let the newer agents take care of that. I know how hard that question was for you to ask and I hope that my answer put your mind at ease.
You were the best thing that Mom and I ever did in our life. You continue to be the gift that keeps on giving. I know you grow tired of hearing me say this, but you are the only living part of your Mom on this planet. That’s a big burden for you to bear and a lot to ask of you. But every time I’ve brought it up, you have responded like a champion.
Not that long ago, I read the following scripture to you: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” You have asked me many times if Mom can see what we’re doing and what she would be thinking. I believe with all my being that loves transcends death. We sing every Pascha, “By death he trampled death, and to those in the tombs he granted life”. I read this quote just the other day, “They that love beyond the world cannot be separate by it. Death cannot kill what never dies”.
Ryan, you inspire me to do and be more every day. Every time I look at you, listen to you laugh, hear you play, I’m reminded of all the good that is left in this world.