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Happy 7th Birthday, Henry. (The Most Important Thing I’ve Ever Written)

 

You is kind.
You is smart.
You is important.
– The Help

Oct 1, 2006

I remember two things about the day you were born, son. The first is that it was a Sunday and the St Louis Rams were playing on TV. When your mother and I arrived at the hospital the evening before, I realized that our in-room TV had only 3 channels. Wondering if this was 1986 or 2006, I was happy to pass the time that Sunday afternoon watching football. I had one eye on the game and one eye on you as you made your much-anticipated entrance. The second thing I remember is that after you were born, I went out to get your mom some dinner. It was late, and on my way back to the hospital, I stopped at a local gas station and bought a 6 pack of beer. I wish I could say this was a spur-of-the-moment act by an over-joyed new father, looking to make a celebration. The truth is, it was pre-meditated. So much so, in fact, that as your mother prepared for your arrival by filling  her Mother- To-Be suitcase with your first onesie, pacifiers and stuffed animals, I was preparing by being sure I had a cooler in the trunk of the car. I knew, 36 hours before you were born, that I would need a way to sneak booze into your hospital room. As you took your first sips of milk, I was downing Bud Lights.

Oct 1, 2010

I snapped the above video  on October 1st, 2010, your 4th birthday. There is nothing particularly unique about this video, except that I don’t remember taping it. Earlier that day, I participated in a local charity golf tournament. The 11:00am shotgun start was also my signal to crack open the first beer. I drank all day and won that tournament. About the time I should have been celebrating the 4th anniversary of your birth with candles and cake,  I was toasting my victory with a bottle of red wine. The next morning, I awoke to see that I had posted this video on my Facebook page.  As I stared at the screen, watching you and your brother, Charlie, run around the house, I knew something had to change. If I kept this up, I thought, I might not see your 5th, let alone 7th birthday. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that would be the last time I was ever drunk.

The following Monday, I entered a library, found a book titled “The Best Life Diet”, and checked it out. At first, I thought I needed to get in shape, which I did. What the book taught me  was there was a bigger reason why I struggled with my weight.  The diet suggested that I take 30 days off from drinking. I did, and it was the best month of my life. I found energy, time and you. I found your brother and your mother and it  was amazing. Shortly thereafter, I decided I wasn’t going to drink anymore.

Oct 1, 2013

Today marks the 3 year anniversary of that golf tournament, and I’ve been sober ever since. With this confession today, people will treat me differently, they may treat you differently, as well. Unfortunately, we’ll be judged. It would be easy to continue to give half answers to direct questions as to why I no longer drink. After all, why endanger the relationships I’ve worked so hard to build?  Why not keep this our little secret?  A pact between a father and son, never to be told, never to be repeated.

The answer lies in why I’m writing to you today.

Henry, there will come a time when you are asked to stand up for what you believe in, to stand up to a crowd of “nay-sayers” & “cannots”. There will be a time you are made to feel the outcast, like you don’t belong.  The fear will overwhelm you like a boat against the power of the tide, paddling as the waves crash upon you. Exhausted, you will be asked to find the courage to rise above and be yourself. And at that moment, when you feel the urge to turn to me and say, “Dad, I can’t”. I want you to think back to your 7th birthday, when your father sat down in front of a computer and proclaimed to any who would listen, “My name is Greg Younger and I’m an alcoholic.”

On a day we celebrate your birth, I want to thank you for giving me life.

Happy 7th Birthday, Henry. (The most important thing I’ve ever written)

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