What I Want You to Know on Your Mom’s Birthday

How your mom showed me I had really messed something up was the same way she showed me I had done something remarkably well: she cried. This was also how she showed embarrassment, fear, anxiety, joy, or any of a cluster of emotions that would often bubble up throughout the day. A barbed comment from a supervisor; a TV advertisement for baby diapers featuring a soft melody and an infant wriggling around in slow motion; a well-timed hug from you. Any of these and her tear ducts were apt to spring a sudden leak.

So, when your mom stepped into the courtyard at the pizzeria and the crowd of friends waiting there yelled out, “SURPRISE!!!” I was not shocked to see the tears stream forth. I was nervous, though. What if these were not tears of surprised joy, but tears of anger or anxiety or one of the other emotions I hadn’t anticipated?

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What I Want You to Know About the Summer You Fell in Love With Baseball

It’s nearly 11pm on a school night and we’re on our way home from the stadium. I haven’t heard anything from you for several minutes and I’m beginning to wonder if you have drifted off to sleep, the excitement of the day finally having caught up to you. But then you ask me, “What was your dad’s favorite baseball team?”

“The Orioles,” I tell you. “Just like me.”

“Wait. He liked the Orioles, too?”

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To My Wife, On the Second Anniversary of Her Death

This day has arrived, though it doesn’t seem true.

How’d I make it through one year, let alone two,

Living a life that doesn’t have you?

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What I Want You to Know About Uvalde

I don’t know how to write this letter to you.

There aren’t any words.

It keeps happening but nothing happens.

All there are are words.

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What I Want You to Know About the Calendar You Made Me

In anticipation of my upcoming birthday, you started working on a secretive project after school. It was one of those highest levels of classification kinds of birthday gifts.

And so what if your backpack was filled with sheets of construction paper every day for a week, some of which had the names of months on them? Or if you couldn’t help yourself and had to tell me midweek that what you were working on for my birthday started with a “C?” Or, even if you caved and told me on Friday, without any prying or provocation on my part, that it was a calendar.

None of that changed the fact it was top secret.

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What I Want You to Know About Do-Overs

There’s always the nuclear option. I know it’s there. I’m the adult, so it’s mine to use, and I can do that. Anytime I want. It’s just sitting there, waiting for me. Tempting me. It would all be so easy.

On the other hand, nobody benefits from the nuclear option. Least of all, me. I learned long ago: do not use the nuclear option. Ever. Just don’t do it.

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What I Want You to Know About Prayer

“Hey Dad,” you say as you are getting ready for bed. “I learned the Act of Contrition prayer. Want to hear it?”

“Sure,” I answer, readying myself. This is the part of your Catholic school education that I fear. The guilt. The shame. The forced piety. Learning prayers and memorizing them the same way you memorize multiplication tables or grammatical rules like “I before E, except after C.”

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What I Want You to Know About Things That Are Broken

“You be as angry as you need to be,” she said. “Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Not your grandma, not your dad, no one. And if you need to break things, then by God, you break them good and hard.”

Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls

The pieces of your Avengers Tower Lego lie scattered across your bedroom floor. The lacquered head of a pink plastic poodle dangles from its body, held on by some cheap wiring. Superhero figurines and trading cards of your favorite athletes, recently perched proudly atop your bookshelf, now cower together under the bean bag in the corner of the room. 

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What I Want You to Know About Shooting Hoops

The roster is expanding. The Dashers recently added your cousins and your best friend at school, who finally gave in to your incessant offers to join the team. We are now at eight members, and with each new addition, my spot on the squad is growing more uncertain. I am the only adult, after all, and I somehow manage to lose all the one-on-one games we play against each other. Still, for the time being, you are keeping me on the team.

You ask me to go outside for our third game today, this time to take on the New York Knicks. I am in the middle of cleaning the kitchen, so I tell you to give me five minutes. “Okay,” you say, and you head out to take some warmup shots alone.

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What I Want You to Know About the New-Fallen Snow

“I’m going to tell you something, and then after that can we stop talking about it?” 

“Sure,” I say. “What is it?”

“Promise me you won’t tell anyone what I’m about to tell you?”

“OK, I promise.”

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