Today is Duncan’s 7th birthday. This is an open letter to him.
At 2 a.m. on Sept. 15, 2003, I was jolted awake by your mom shoving me in the shoulder. I had just gone to bed 45 minutes earlier, and I had had a lot of wine the night before.
You weren’t expected for a few more days, so I figured I could drink and watch TV all night. I worked the night desk at The Eagle-Tribune back then, and Sunday night was MY time.
But your mom knew you were coming. And unlike your brother’s slow entry into the world two and a half years before, the labor pains you gave your mother game on fast and furious.
This was the first time you made it clear that you were going to be heard. It certainly hasn’t been the last.
Fun fact: On the ride to the hospital, as I drove over the train tracks on Rosemont Street, Mom’s water broke. The car was still brand new at that point, and that would be the first of many messes you would make of that car.
We were very afraid you would be delivered in that car. That’s how intense your Mom’s labor pains were.
You entered the world by early afternoon, and you were perfect. You still are. You were graced with a beautiful Mom and a Dad with just a few kinks in him. I would always try to hide my OCD, depression and addictive behavior from you and your brother, but I wasn’t always good at that. You didn’t seem to mind. In fact, like Sean, you helped me get well.
Sean couldn’t wait to meet you. He had a stomach bug and was throwing up all over the living room the morning after you were born. But he wasn’t going to miss meeting his new little brother. Not for the wide world. And when he met you, you were everything he had hoped for and more.
You were everything WE ALL hoped for, and more.
Fun fact: We chose the name Duncan for you early on. Your mom and I each made lists of potential names and Duncan was the only name on both lists. A lot of people think we came up with that name because of Dunkin’ Donuts. But I’m a Starbucks kind of guy and people should know better. Actually, I put the name on my list because your brother was really into Thomas the Tank Engine at that point, and one of the trains was named Duncan.
You were a happy baby from the get-go. You smiled a lot, and you were like a new toy as far as Sean was concerned. One day, he stuck his dirty finger in your mouth. Two days later, you came down with your first cold.
Sure, you guys fight. But all brothers do. It always passes after a few minutes, and sometimes the dialogue makes me laugh. Like the time you walked up to the old man in the van in front of Toys R Us and scolded him for smoking.
Your exact words were, “Smoking is dumb, you know. It puts holes in your lungs. You also left your back door (to the van) open.”
As you’ve discovered by now, life can be hard. We need to laugh every day, and you never fail to help me do that.
Looking back, you were actually a bigger shock to my system than I expected. Your brother, being the first child, was the real shocker because before he came along I had no clue of what being a father was about. But we developed a pretty good routine with Sean and thought we had this parenting thing licked.
You weren’t about to let us get away with that.
From day one, you’ve been one of the most giving, loving souls I’ve ever met. You love unconditionally, whether it’s your favorite blanket, your cousin Madison or music.
You’ve always had a reputation as something of a jumping bean. Staying still simply isn’t your thing. You’re always up and about. That energy will serve you well when you’re older.
There are a lot of things I love to do with just you.
I love to snuggle with you on the couch as we watch “Fineas and Ferb” or one of your favorites, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” You’re like my favorite blanket, even though I know that annoys you. I can’t help it, though. When I hug you I forget about my troubles. You have that effect on people.
I love going with you to the grocery store. Your always such a wonderful helper.
I love to take you on road trips with the rest of the family. In May we drove to Washington D.C. and a tour of the West Wing of the White House wasn’t as interesting to you as the playground near the townhouse we were staying in on Capitol Hill.
You’ve always been able to help me appreciate the simple things. That’s an important gift. Thanks for sharing that with me.
I also love how you can be in a place like the White House and find pleasure in little things, like playing with the rope in front of the podium in the press briefing room. You don’t let the grandness of such surroundings get the better of you like adults do. You stay down to earth with both feet on the ground.
One of my favorite family photos is the one where we are in the press briefing room. You didn’t let the formality of the place keep you from being yourself:
You’re also a master at building forts out of pillows and blankets.
Sometimes you use every single pillow from every couch and bed as part of your creation, and once it’s built you always share.
Even with the grown-ups like me.
You are also a master of disguise.
I especially enjoyed your ninja-pirate get-up. You weren’t happy about me taking a picture of it, but how could I resist?
You just entered first grade and you’re already making me proud. When I help you with your homework, I love the enthusiasm and pride you take in your work. I’m also proud of you for the time you and I did collection during the Kindergarten graduation Mass last spring. And I know you’ll do great as an attendance monitor in your first-grade classroom.
I can’t believe you are 7 years old. Where does the time go?
I guess time flies for a Dad who is blessed with two precious boys like you and Sean.
Happy Birthday, precious boy!