I don’t know when you’ll read this. Maybe when you’re a teenager, creating a Facebook account as a novelty as your peers have moved on to some less archaic version of Social Media. Perhaps you’ll read this when you’re much older after I’ve shuffled off this fragile vessel of humanity and you’re going through my things, as I went through my own father’s things.
Maybe you’ll never read this, though I hope that you do.
I hope that this can serve you both to understand more about me, about who I am, and about what I’ve tried to teach you about the world – on this, Cairo’s tenth birthday.
This moment in my life, this particular February, feels different for me. Mazzy is on the cusp of being a teenager where the myopic glow she saw the world with, her perpetual and youthful ability to see the good in the people is threatened by the social jungle of junior high. You and she now go to different schools, bifurcating a partnership that has persevered to this point despite your diverging social strata and interests. I hope that partnership continues to be important to you both. Through differing interests, through growing up, through heartache, and triumph.
Sometimes the world will be unfair. It will be hard. I don’t want to shield you from the fact that there is despair in this world. There is darkness both in the hearts of the wicked and the heart of the pure. Despair lives in us all and obeys no laws of gravity where mass is concerns. The weight of despair, particularly to those attuned to it, can vary from minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day. I don’t want you to shy away from feeling the burden of despair as it weighs on you – but I don’t want to you feel that it is a burden that you cannot carry. Sadness, grief, spite, anger, confusion, desperation, joy, passion, love – these all have their own weight that needs carrying. I do so hope that the lightness of love you experience in life gives you more strength to carry the sorrow.
As a father, I understand the fear of my child being jaded to the cynicism of the world, but I fear more not helping you, my children, forge an armor against it.
I am no warrior.
I don’t even know if I’m brave.
I’m crafty. I’m witty. I’m cunning. I’m driven – but more than those things, what I am, if nothing else, is privileged. Privileged by the whiteness of my skin, despite the Ashkenazi features that threaten to expose my otherness. Privileged to be a man in a society that still clings to its patriarchal roots, though the winds of change try and pull it ever harder from the garden. I was privileged by an education provided by the State of California in schools located in middle-class suburban neighborhoods where poverty wasn’t an ever-present cloud darkening the sky. I am privileged by my own ambition, pushing me to a professional success that allows for you to never know what it’s like to be hungry, or cold, or afraid.
These things, taken individually mean very little. Ambition without education may lead to success. Schools in impoverished areas still produce lawyers, doctors, and Presidents. Taken together though, all those things, present an advantage that I’ve enjoyed that cannot be denied. This advantage I have tried to use to give you a life where you want for nothing. That you can choose whatever path you want as you move forward. This is your privilege, and though times will be difficult, you must not be mistake situational happenstance for true strife.
There will be times in your life where you will shout at the storm. You will step in front and protect those behind you – and it is righteous to feel the power of sacrifice – but take caution that a single person against the gale of inequity and injustice cannot stop the hurricane. Find others to stand shoulder to shoulder with, locking arms, and form a wall. Use the privilege that I’ve provided you through my hard work and your fortuity of birth to not stand on the shoulders of others less fortunate, but instead to stand with them. All of them.
I know – It’s idealistic. Maybe even sappy. Fatherhood has that effect. One day you are a block of granite, rigid and unmovable, and then at that first cry – the first wail of your hungry babe, you crumble to the raw elements of yourself. You may know that one day. That’s a decision you’ll make on your own in time. These words cannot travel into the future, only into the past. Whenever you read this, wherever you are, whether together or not, where ever the world is – know that loving you two has been an exercise in trapping a supernova behind my eyes.
I am beyond proud to be your father. To both you and Mazzy.
Happy 10th birthday Cairo.
Will all my love,