To My Dearest Children,
As I’ve shared with you before, the reality of change is a constant in our lives, and as we embark on yet another new part of this “journey of a lifetime”, I want to share a few thoughts of encouragement and hope. While there has been unbelievable, almost unbearable amount of stress in the recent months, there is also intense joy and the opportunity to shape how we think about our circumstances.
Each of our lives is marked by transitions. Transitions are the markers by which we know change is either upon us, or coming. As I’ve done before, I again want to encourage you both to embrace change and learn how to think positively about transitions and to not have fear as you head into the unknown.
The home in San Bernardino where we lived from when you were born was a comfortable place where your Mom and I created many great memories of your earliest years. We loved to travel and used this home as a base from which to take some incredible journeys. Mom and I went on a delayed honeymoon to Australia when she was already pregnant with our baby boy. We ended up going on John and Shauna’s honeymoon to Europe when Mom was pregnant with our baby girl, and Grandma stayed in our home to take care of our boy. The time we spent together in the home were special moments of rocking you in the blue recliner, swimming with Pappa in the pool, riding the tractor around the deck with Grande’, playing with Midgy and Blacky and getting sticks of gum from George across the street. The imprinting of Sandy and Chrissy as nannies to you while your Mom went back to work was a large part of where you got rhythm and soul. We also experienced a transition and change in this home when we reached the decision to have Mom stop working so she could be home full time to raise you both. We started you traveling early from this home, including trips to Seattle for holidays, accompanying me on business trips and vacations where we took Grandma and Pappa to Hawaii where our baby boy took his first steps.
The first transition from one home to another in your young lives was the move from San Bernardino to Seattle when I was on contract for Weyerhaeuser. During that year, we packed up the whole house and moved into a little house in the woods on the land around the headquarters. It was tall pine trees, rainy and windy, with lots of visits to Grandma’s home for family gatherings at holidays, opening season for fishing, Propeller Club chow downs with Uncle Bill and Easter egg hunts with the cousins. We had rented out the house in San Bernardino, and moved back when my contract was done.
We got settled again in the home in San Bernardino and had gone through a lot of transitions during that year. When we got back into the one story rambler in Del Rosa Heights, there were great life events spent in a place that gave a framework for our memories. We have lots of pictures of a variety of events in that home, and they will always be etched in our memories. That home was the platform from which we created our memories and lived our dreams for that time in our lives. But we transitioned out of that home. The second transition in your young lives was the move from San Bernardino to San Diego.
When we started to see the decline of the area where we lived, and got tired of dealing with the commute for me to get to work, and were worried about the health impacts of living in smog all the time…we made a conscious choice to look for another place to live and we were just drawn to San Diego. We didn’t know anyone in San Diego; we had no family, no friends…just a few experiences of visiting San Diego and windsurfing in Mission Bay, bicycling around the Bay and Mom visiting the Jazzercise headquarters in Carlsbad.
It is hard to believe we bought the Lone Jack house in 1993. We moved in at the end of the year in December. In fact we flew up to Seattle for Christmas that year and came back after the New Year to start a new phase of our lives in a new town, a new home. We were excited to embark on a new phase of our lives, and we had many hopes for this new start. As you look at our family pictures from this time you can see the joy and excitement of going through all these new adventures.
Although you have a few formative memories of San Bernardino, the majority of your life memories are now firmly marked by the architecture of the home we shared together for almost 16 years. Most of your young life transitions have been supported and made safe by having this family dwelling. Your rooms were almost an extension of your personalities and knowing that you had that constant in your lives gave you incredible confidence and reassurance. As you have gone through various transitions, moving from pre-school to lower school, then graduating to middle school, and then moving into high school…each of those transitions was marked by some kind of change. Yet a constant throughout that time was our home. We used that home as a base camp from which to explore the world, literally and figuratively. We used that home as an Oasis to which we escaped and regrouped and regained our sense of balance. That home was the place where you temporarily transitioned from full time school at Santa Fe Christian and were blessed with probably the best three years of education when you had Mom as your teacher during the years where she home schooled you. I will never forget the times when Grandpa Ted was able to share those lesson times and how much he enjoyed just being around. Not only did our home protect us from physical storms, it also protected us from the storms in life: the school fights, the traumas of broken friendships, the final exams, the teenage years and the transition to young adulthood.
That physical structure, more than just the structure of a house, but a home saw you both through a wide array of challenging life transitions, and you have come through all of them with your “selves” intact and ready to take on the next challenge. Although no where near the tragedy of losing your Mom in 2007, you have had exposure to other losses, including the loss of Blackie, the loss of Grandma Doris in 1990, the death of my cousins Donnie in 1992 and Stacey in 2002, the death of Grandpa Ted in 1999, and the passing of Pappa in 2003. Because you were so young, the impact of these losses were much less significant for you.
The transition of losing Mom over two and a half years ago now, marked yet another huge milestone for each of us. That was a transition and change that was out of order in the expected sequence of life. It just shouldn’t have been Mom’s time to go. Yet we trust in God’s timing for this change. Each of us has been changed in different ways and we are each working through what all this change means in our lives…but we were blessed to have been able to do that from the comfort of the home where we shared so much. Now that home is no longer ours. We have transitioned into a new home with many open questions swirling around us. As we struggle to figure out what this next phase of “normal” looks like, we are all about to face yet another transition which is going to require us to accept change and figure out how to think appropriately about what all this means.
As both of you experienced your first two years of college on a journey which took you away from home into the dorms at your respective universities, I can’t help but remind you about the physical framework around what you experienced. You took bits and pieces of your rooms and transplanting them into temporary housing were you figured out how to create a new sense of “place” in someplace that became your transitional home. How you thought about that change was in large part what shaped your experience for the first two years. With the financial uncertainties staring us in the face, I want to encourage you to shape your thinking about our current circumstances with optimism for all the great memories you have created in those first two years. It is okay to have reservations about what might be coming, and you will also need to figure out how to think about all this with an expanded knowledge of money, relationships and everything else life is throwing at us. The sadness can and does co-exist with the joy and excitement.
I want you both to always embrace any change in your life with a sense of optimism and excitement, knowing that we will always have each other, unconditionally loved, no questions asked and without judgment. That is the strangeness of unconditional love, that you can experience it, lose it, be overwhelmed by it and be in it all while keeping your perspective that whatever it is…it is just as integral a part of your life as your blood. You cannot live without it and you will always need it.
I am blessed to have shepherded you for this part of your journey. I hope to be a continuing resource and cheerleader for you as you experience more, different and new changes, and I will do my best to be available for as long as God intends.
As for me, I’m sure of one thing: No matter what happens in the future, regardless of the physical location where we happen to reside, you and your Mom will always remain inside me. Our lives together fill a very important part of my heart, and nothing will ever change what we have been blessed to share together during the time Mom was with us. We are now filling our lives with new memories, and they are being done around a series of “firsts” without Mom. Hard to believe I’m still saying that after two and a half years.
There will no doubt be additional transitions in my life, such as starting a new job (hopefully very soon) or deciding to risk exploring new relationships again. The relationship with a woman in my life has been an important one, and I am sure that you know there will never be a substitute for your Mom. Your Mom will always hold a special place in my heart, irreplaceable.
I want you to always remember that the way I can explain that to you is because of the way I’ve felt about both of you as you came into my life. When I married your Mom, I couldn’t imagine loving anyone any more than how I loved her. Of course I still loved my parents and sisters and extended family, but there was a whole new part of my heart that opened up to allow for a special and unique place where only your Mom could fit. That place became very large over the 21 years we were together, 19 of it married.
During our first year of marriage, our son was born and an entirely new place in my heart showed up, a special reserved place that was totally and completely about loving my son. It expanded my heart in a way that I hadn’t imagined I could love so much more, but it was a unique space and a unique love that was and is reserved only for my son. Just like with your Mom, the place for loving my son has continued to grow and deepen as the years have filled our lives with so much. Now that love is allowing for a transition for a young man to forge into the world as a well-equipped, free-thinking man. That love allows for the space to also provide room for the additions in his life of a life partner who will expand his heart in much the same way as Mom shaped mine. I imagine that there will be several relationships through which God will allow my son to grow, love, learn, and hurt before he will find that special love of his life. Eventually I know that God will bless my son with that life partner and that all our hearts will expand to not only accept that woman in my son's life into our family circle, but also the addition of his own children. I am excited in anticipation of all these great transitions, and will always wish that Mom could be with us to experience these life changes.
Then it happened again, along came my daughter. Another expansion took place in my heart and a whole new space opened up for a love which is now exclusively used to love my precious daughter. All of the unique experiences marked by the special bond of a father-daughter relationship have continued to blossom. I have faced the transition of having her affections shifted to another man, and had to bear from a distance the challenges of not being able to mend a broken heart or fix a relationship. This was a difficult change for sure, but I’m grateful that you continue to grow and mature in a way that is thoughtful and respectful. I don’t feel like you’re shutting anyone out for new relationships at the expense of existing love relationships, but that you, like my son, are figuring out what it means to create a whole new place in your heart for someone new. There is a whole new dynamic in your thinking and relationships which required all of us to change to accommodate this new phase of life. You continue to be challenged by some of your friends have not been taught how to deal with, expect or manage this aspect of their lives, so they’ve gotten stuck in what they thought their relationship should be with you instead of giving you the room to expand your heart and include them in the new growth areas of your heart. I am proud of you for sticking with it, for being a role model and for believing they will come to understand this in time. I know it has been painful, but that is part of what continues to mature and shape you as a leader.
Right now it seems hard to imagine going through another courtship like I’ve just been through, but I trust that in whatever years I may continue to be blessed with life that I will again find someone who will expand a whole new part of my heart. I hope that in my courtship you have seen a good role model. I hope you have felt that I treated this aspect of my life the way I should.
I don’t know what the future holds. The future might include the possibility of buying a new home down the road. The condo for now is a good transitional landing place for which we are truly blessed. I may need to go through a transition myself which may include moving to another home, maybe a villa in Tuscany or a penthouse condo above Pike Place Market in Seattle. It may be driven by the need to accept employment somewhere other than San Diego due to the current economic circumstances.
Whatever our ultimate physical location is, we will always carry the memories of our past residences with us wherever transitions and change take us. These are the bricks and mortar that surrounded us, but part of the tools we utilize, certainly not a reflection of who we are. I am so proud of who you both have become. You are my solid foundation in a world of chaos. Houses and money burn, but you two are eternally my kids.
Here’s part of why I’m writing this to you both. Though we have little choice in most of the transitions in our lives, I am so proud of how both of you are dealing with ongoing tough transitions. I thank God that we had the foundation He provided where we have stood together amidst a heavy storm and weathered the loss of Mom in a way that is honoring both to her and to God. We have sorrow for sure, but we have hope and confidence in our eternal destiny, and for that I will always be grateful. Although I’ve been through most of the life transitions you’re about to experience, you both already know what took me decades to learn. Life is about brief joys, those saturated moments and places etched in our hearts where we stand, shaky but upright, and find that overall we have a pretty good balance.
When you feel like that balance is teetering, always know that you can come to me for a hug, a conversation, my perspective, a glass of wine or just to cry together to reset your frame of reference and regain your balance.
Always remember how deeply I love you both,