I’ll bet you didn’t know, when you were thirteen years old and offered a cigarette for the first time, that the way it made you look tough would last only a moment, while the ache and stain it left upon your lungs would stick with you the rest of your life.
I’ll bet you didn’t know, when you were twenty and home from the Army, when you dropped to one knee with a ring inside of a snowball, when you bought a house in a town with decent schools, that you’d made only the first handful of big decisions you’d be tasked with the rest of your life.
I’ll bet you didn’t know, when I was eleven and ran away from home without shoes on, when you feared I’d wandered into the clay pits out in front of the old chemical plant on the phosphorescent green lake and gotten sucked in, that I’d regret making you worry every day for the rest of my life.
I’ll bet you didn’t know, ever since I was eighteen and moved away from home, every time I’ve received a phone call past a certain time of night, my heart has sunk into my stomach and I’ve prepared myself to pick up and receive the news that you’d died in your sleep, that whichever mundanity we’d most recently discussed on the phone would be the last conversation we’d have for the rest of my life.
I’ll bet you didn’t know, when I was nineteen and was offered a cigarette for the first time, that I thought of you right away, the way you coughed every morning, the way you could not climb the hills in the town I was then living in, the way you told me every chance you got that, of all the substances I could ingest, the one I should stay away from forever was nicotine, and that, despite the warnings, I’d have an on-and-off relationship with the habit for the rest of my life.
I’ll bet you don’t know now, when you’re fifty-seven, that your youngest child is writing about you on the internet, nor that your youngest child is not a son, nor that they know the easiest way to avoid you or anyone else finding out is to simply not write these things in the first place, but they are nevertheless compelled from within their very bones to write them, and that they’re not sure if they’ll ever be ready to tell you for the rest of their life.
Still, I love you. I love you more than I have the guts to say.
(Song recommendation by D.R. Baker)