Happy Fifth Birthday, Alden and Asa!

Happy fifth birthday, Alden and Asa.  Over the past year, you have burst into personhood with burgeoning intellect, humor, and kindness.  You seem capable of anything at this point, and it is all very exciting.

I continue the tradition of writing you a letter every year.  As always, my first piece of advice is to adopt or ignore what I offer as you see fit.  These letters may just be the ramblings of a man pacing the cage.  But this is a meaningful exercise for me, so I’ve decided to continue this self-serving routine.

This year, I want to offer you some thoughts about disappointment.  As hard as you will fight to maintain perspective in situations, it is natural to feel let down when you fail or are failed.  Nobody knows this better than your father.  I have a strong memory of every time that I’ve failed myself and that I’ve failed others, to the extent I had the maturity to realize it. 

I think part of the challenge in dealing with disappointment is rooted in the concept of hope. I’ve come to think that hope and “hope talk” is empty and dump, for the most part. An exercise in giving a tired Vegas smile and dance when you should be shaking your fists.

Your youth, especially, may push you to a sense of unrealistic hope in the most improbable situations.  The sense of ambition that guides your drive for achievement and stable trajectories and to ignore the odds can put you out of touch with your humanity and the broken parts that need mending.  To be fair, that internal, guttural scream of the young for something/anything to just happen and continue happening tapers off over time.  And there will be moments that you miss that energy source in your life—that ability to feel that everything is capable of being fixed with enough effort.

What comes after that sound is just an echo?  I admit that this sounds like nonsense, but I have found that there are ways to give up on hope but not give up in despair.  That is, you can embrace, or at least side hug, the absence that accompanies any visit by disappointment.  You will become open to the alternatives that you would have never considered, including a growing sense of gratefulness that you are on this spinning, watered rock and that your trespass ledger is worth less than the paper it is written on. 

And then, over time, you will see that, where you wanted to see a perfect outcome, it is enough to see an imperfect circumstance perfectly.  You can find wonder and awe in the great unanswered questions.  You can see dignity in the horrible.  You can take up taxidermy without shame.

You don’t have to figure it all out.  And you certainly don’t need to figure it out before you are ready.  Until that time, when your head falls, your periwinkle blue eyes will see, when you have the strength to lift them, that your mother and father are watching over you with love, concern, humility, and grace.  We may even buy you ice cream, the greatest gift of all.

Happy birthday, twins.