Well, my darling boy, this is it.
In less than 24 hours, you will officially be a college graduate and a “real” adult. And the end of my life of “mothering” you will end. But, I need you to understand something. My time of feeling like I need to mother you will never end until the last breath leaves my body.
I know you hate the way I worry. The way I still want you to check in with me. The way I always try to protect you with every ounce of my being. But, that will never change. You see your DNA, and my DNA are linked. You are part of your father, and part me, but you lived inside me for nine months. And something happens when you share a body with someone that ties you to them. I feel your pain. I soak up your joy. It seeps into my bones and becomes a part of who I am. You are who I am.
I remember the night, right before your first birthday, when you fell out of bed and hit your head on the nearby radiator, and we had to rush you to the ER for stitches. I remember when you were hospitalized for a bad stomach bug. Or when you had surgery at Johns Hopkins for your Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. It’s like those things happened to me as well. I could honestly feel your pain in my body.
You are a man now. I get that. You have a life of your own with your own decisions to make, and I respect that. I just need you to know that for the last 22 years, every single move I have made has been with you in mind and heart. I pushed hard because I could see your brilliance even when you doubted yourself. Remember when you were younger and had such a bad speech impediment that no one could understand you? But I did. I spoke your language because it was mine. You had a difficult time learning to read because of it, but I never gave up on you and I never will.
Your grandfather still made me call him whenever I traveled to check in and let him know I was safe, and yes, it drove me nuts. But, as I sat with him the seven months before he passed, I understood his worry and his concern. He knew he wasn’t always going to be there for me. And he wanted me to know that no matter where he was or how much distance, even death, would separate us from each other, that he was always beside me and even when he was gone, he would still be my greatest fan. And that’s what I need you to know about me.
Tomorrow you graduate from college, and I don’t know where your life will take you. I won’t be there for every decision you make or every loss you might encounter, every win you have. But, I will be by your side forever.
I absolutely adore you. You make me so proud, not only for the professional and academic accomplishments you have had over the past four years but for who you have become as a man. You have always had this beautiful, giving spirit since you were a little boy and it has grown with you as you’ve become a man. You incorporate that into your photographs and into your life as a whole.
There’s been a hell of a lot of change in my life the past two years: your brother graduating college and moving to Seattle. The loss of your grandfather, and now you graduating from college and going out to make your mark on the world. But, the one thing that will never change is how much I love you and how I will always, ALWAYS, be there for you. It’s not that I don’t think you can do it on your own or that I don’t respect you as a man. It’s that I can’t NOT want to protect you and look out for you. You are my heart walking around on two legs and I would give up everything I have for you and your brother.
So, go out and paint the world with your colors. Show the world what you see when you look through your lens. Be the beautiful, brave, and compassionate soul you have been since the day you were born. I’ll be there on the sidelines every step of your journey, so when you look over, you’ll always see my face and know I’m there.
Congratulations for all you’ve done and all you’ve become.