Note: I wrote the following in late July 2017 after I thought we had lost Gavin forever. Our case took several unpredictable turns after we returned him to his mom. We have since gotten Gavin back. When I have the energy, I will post updates.
For months your mom has been telling me to write you letters. Instead, I would lie awake at night, brood, get angry and cry all at the same time. But as so often happens, I realized that your momma was right all along, and I finally decided to write to you.
My dear son: In 2015, after your mom and I decided to become foster parents, I knew I was ready to start a family. I was even excited to become a father. But I never imagined how much would love being your father and how much I would fall in love with you.
Being your dad came to define me, and I cherish every moment we had together.
One day, Gavin, you’ll probably learn this cheesy saying: It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved before. I’ve been thinking about that sentence a lot. I used to think that it applied to romantic love–the kind your mom and I have for each other. Now I’m not so sure. Romantic love is complicated. For some people that sentiment may simply not be true.
But now that you are leaving me, that saying has never felt truer. I will miss everything about you my son, even the things that may not sound like they were much fun. I will miss waking up to change and feed you (you know how your momma loves to sleep in!). I will miss doing your therapies every morning. I will miss taking you to all those doctor’s appointments. In some strange way, I’ll even miss washing those ridiculous cloth diapers your mom made us get. Losing you hurts a lot, son, and I don’t know when I will recover.
But the pain I feel is dwarfed by the happiness you brought me the last 16 months. As hard as it is to imagine my life going on without you, it’s even harder to imagine my life as if you were never there. Gavin: along with marrying your mother, becoming your dad is the best thing that ever happened to me.
My sweet, sweet boy: Though your new mom is being incredibly gracious and promised that we will remain in your life, I can’t help but feel that you are gone forever. I don’t know how many more times I will hear your infectious laugh or have you fall asleep in my arms. I don’t know if you will get to know your baby sister coming this November, or if I will see you grow up. But whatever the future holds, I like to think that we did right by you. Perhaps selfishly, I hope your mom and I made a lasting difference for you.
Our–your–friends talk about things like how we helped your brain develop, how much we read to you, and how we addressed your medical problems. Yes, those were important. But that’s not what I’m talking about. Rather, I hope we introduced you to three things you’ll come to love.
First is camping. You may not believe it, but you first went camping when you were just three and a half months old. In retrospect it was probably a bit too cold for you, and we may have been a tad too aggressive. But your mom and I are certain you loved it! You also loved it when we went several more times that summer. At one point we liked to brag that you had been camping more than 2% of the days of your life. I hope one day you note that fact on your LinkedIn profile. I also hope and pray you continue to love camping and the outdoors.
Second is frisbee golf. I know it’s kind of crazy Gav…but your dadda loves the quirky sport of frisbee golf! I like to imagine that one day you’ll have the chance to play, and that the first time you step onto a course, you’ll wonder why it feels familiar. You’ll say to yourself: “Why do I feel like I’ve done this before?” Well son: you have! You’ve been with your dadda lots of times! When you eventually start playing, you can thank me for your familiarity and your incompetence. I surely played a role in both.
Finally, son, I hope we vicariously introduced you to Jamaica, the land of my childhood. Jamaica means a lot to your mom and me, and we wanted so badly to visit it with you. Although we won’t be able to take you ourselves, I hope one day you find yourself there. And as with frisbee golf, I like to imagine that the first time you encounter it, you’ll find it oddly familiar and comfortable. You’ll step off the plane and wonder why you seem to understand what everyone’s saying. Maybe at that moment you’ll have a faint inkling that I was once a part of your life, and that I constantly spoke to you in patois. Gavin: You will always be my likkle yute.
Dear son: I feel like I have so much to teach and give to you, and that I’ll never have the chance. I will have to be content with writing letters like these–ones I know you’ll never read. Nevertheless, the father in me feels the need to close with three instructions I hope you follow forever: Always love God with all your heart. Always treat people with respect–especially when you don’t want to or you think they don’t deserve it. And finally, never let anyone tell you that frisbee golf is not a real sport.
Forever and always,
Your loving father