Tomorrow I will send a letter to each of my three sons, ages 25 to almost 21.
I started the letter in 2008, shortly after a good friend died in his sleep at age 52. My friend never married, never had kids, but I’m sure there are things he left unsaid to family and friends. I don’t want that to happen to me, or to my boys.
They know it’s coming. It’s five pages long, and I’ve spent more than five years writing, editing, adding, subtracting. Writers know how this goes. Nothing is ever finished, just abandoned.
I’m not going to share here what I wrote to my sons, of course. That’s personal, even in this age of social media where the tendency is to post every life event, however mundane, for our audiences real and imaginary. (Have you hidden a serial selfie poster on Facebook lately? … Good. I’m not alone.)
Anyway, I feel a huge sense of relief after printing out the five pages (single-spaced, more than 2,500 words) and putting them in three envelopes, each to a different state: New York, Pennsylvania and Washington.
I can breathe easier knowing that if a texting driver airmails me into a tree while I’m out for a run, my sons will have that letter in hand — a “last lecture” of sorts.
It spells out some family history, some advice, some mistakes I made, some observations I still make, including “the bigger the truck, the smaller the penis.” Of course it includes my last wishes, primarily that the boys host a hell of a party, a celebration, in my honor after I pack it in. They’d better play the Levon Helm songs I want, or I’ll be pissed. None of this somber funeral crap.
In the meantime, the letter should serve as a catalyst, a spark for my sons to engage in some meaningful conversations — with me, and with each other — about life in general, and their lives in particular. They are American males in their 20s, surrounded by good and by evil. I know which side they’re on, but good people need help coping with the bad.
I just hope they find some wisdom in what I wrote, to help them stay sane and to help them spread joy where there is sadness.
How awful it must be to leave this earth without telling your loved ones what you’ve always wanted to say. We all deserve a chance to say our good-byes, but too often accidents, fate or senseless violence prevent that. I don’t want any regrets, at least in this category.
Look at it this way: There are few things in life we can control, but in this case I want the final say, the last word. Three words, actually. They’re at the bottom of the last page of my letter, but you probably can guess how it ends.