Sunday, June 6, 2010
An Open Letter to my Best Friend in the Whole Wide World
Congratulations on your graduation from kindergarten! Your speech absolutely brought the house down. I'd like to selfishly believe that my own stream-of-consciousness writing style inspired you (I mean, your graduation speech included references to South America, the Oakland A's and an actual Kool and the Gang sample...), but -- as you told every admiring parent who asked about it, afterwards -- you came up with it all by yourself.
When you watch the video of the ceremony, you'll notice that the picture is a bit jittery and you'll hear an occasional noise that sounds like someone squeezing an incredibly wet sponge. The shakiness with the camcorder is my fault. I clenched my jaw and froze my posture in an attempt to keep my emotions from pouring down my face. Ten seconds into the ceremony, I was quivering like a creaky dam about to burst. And, the wet sponge sound? That was me, again. What can I say, Jalen? The dam burst.
If I was a distraction, you managed to fight through it while at the microphone. This shouldn't be surprising to anyone, as you've been fighting since the day you were born. Yeah, you've heard the story a million times, but I'll never get tired of telling it: you were born nine weeks premature and the first thing the doctors did was measure your lung capacity. This is one of the biggest challenges preemies face in their first few days and weeks. Your lung capacity at birth? 97%
Those next five weeks weren't much fun. While the doctors took good care of you in the neo-natal intensive care unit, it's indescribably heartbreaking to see your newborn baby with tubes running through his nose and wires protruding from the surface of his chest. I actually couldn't hold you until you were three days old. (OK, I could've held you sooner, but you only weighed three pounds. I could see the outline of your ribs, sternum and hips against your skin. I was afraid of inadvertently putting you in a baby body cast.)
Even after we brought you home, the doctors insisted you remain hooked up to a portable heart monitor. I completely understood the necessity, but I wouldn't wish that bit of technological hell on any parent. Do you remember how it worked? If your heart rate got too low or too high, the machine would emit a piercing electronic shriek. Your mother and I were quite the centers of attention when it went off in that pizza place in La Jolla. By then, though, we were pros and knew how to get your heartbeat back to where it needed to be.
(When you're older, I'll tell you about the time the monitor went off and we found you in your crib, seized up with your eyes bulging out of your skull. On the plus side, it led to your mom and me recording the first-ever simultaneous husband-and-wife heart attacks. We hope to be fully recovered someday.)
Like I said, though, you've always been a fighter.
You started preschool at three years old and held on to my leg with the grip of Godzilla each morning during my attempts to drop you off. Three years later, you tell me every day how much you're going to miss all your friends and teachers when you change schools in the fall. Well, you're probably tired of hearing this Jalen, but you're going to be just fine. Who wouldn't want to be your friend?
Everyone should have the privilege of watching a baseball game with you. Remember a few weeks ago down at Petco Park, when the Padres' fire-balling closer Heath Bell entered the game and you kept yelling (from our seats high in the third deck) for him to throw his curveball? And, when he did -- over and over again -- you were convinced it was because he heard you? The crowd around us got a big kick out of that.
How about your all-star caliber heckling whenever an A's hitter fails to come through in the clutch ("You're KILLING me, Cust!") or when one of our relievers gets touched up for four runs in one-third of an inning ("Go back to Sacramento!") Really, how many six-year-olds even know the Triple-A minor league affiliate of their favorite teams?
If the kids at your new school aren't into baseball, maybe they'll be impressed with your impressions of Jay-Z and Eminem from the DJ Hero commercial. Why not try and win them over with all the disgusting things you eat? First graders enjoy a good gross-out and I'd put your love for unheated instant oatmeal drowning in cold milk up there with anything. (Don't play the "Sbarro's Pizza" card until second grade, when the nauseating stakes are raised accordingly.)
I'd say you're too young to make a play for the ladies, but one of your kindergarten classmates approached your mom with this gem a few weeks ago:
"Me and Jalen have a problem. We want to get married, but we don't know if we can because I'm white and he's black."
OK, let's not get ahead of ourselves here. I'm hoping you'll be hanging around the house for at least a few more years.
I love it when the first words out of your mouth in the morning (from April through September) are "Did the A's win?"
I love it when you snatch a bedtime story out of your mother's hands and pass it to me, explaining, "Daddy does the voices better."
And, I love every minute in between.