Dear Samuel Otto,
Where to begin? Well, first off, welcome to the world. It must seem like a big place all of a sudden. I mean, one minute you're floating around in blissful darkness and the next it's all lights and doctors and hustle and bustle. Right now you're preoccupied with sleeping and feeding and pooping yourself, but all of that will change, probably quicker than your parents will want (more on them later). It's a funny thing this world. It can be scary and overwhelming. Trust me. But with some time you'll come to see that it's really pretty small and we're all pretty similar despite our trying desperately to prove otherwise. Right now there's a kid on the other side of this floating blue sphere experiencing many of the same things you are. Maybe you'll meet that kid some day and find something in common. Seem strange? Well, let me tell you, I've run in to people I went to high school with on other continents. No planning or forethought to it. One minute you're walking down a street in Scotland, far away from anything that seems like home, and then you bump into (literally, in my case) you're buddy from English II. It's only scary if you allow yourself to settle for a smaller scale. Be curious! I know you will, it's in your genes. I think between your mom, dad, grandparents, and myself we have all the continents covered...well, maybe not Antarctica. Put it on your list. We've only got a limited time here and your clock started ticking on October 7th, 2010. That's when you were born.
Your parents will be able to tell the story of your arrival much better than me, I wasn't there. They'll talk about how the electricity on the military base was out and how the dog needed x-rays and how the car was broken down. They'll talk about how happy they were that you were born easily and that you were healthy and they'll argue about who you most resemble. They'll talk about how they picked your name. Let me tell you, it wasn't an easy process. They intend to call you Otto, which is cool by me, but since your last name starts with a "J" I may exercise obnoxious uncle rights and refer to you as OJ or Juice. Not a fan? Well, you were almost a Miles. Seriously. Your mom was partial to the name, but your dad and I had to talk her off that ledge. You may know a Miles in your time on this big, tiny planet and I can all but bet that Miles has two inhalers, allergies, and glasses well before the other kids. I like to think of Miles as that kid in the back of the class who wipes his nose on his sweatshirt and is always a step behind. Your third grade teacher may say something like, "If all of you get your science books out in five seconds we can play Heads Up Seven Up at the end of the day." Don't worry if you don't know what that is, it's a badass third grade game and you'll love it down the road. Well, Miles will be the kid that gets out his history book and ruins it for everyone. You'll hate yourself for it later, but with all the other kids you'll turn around and say, "MILES! Not your history book!" Count yourself lucky. You're OJ.
Life's going to move pretty fast, OJ. It seems like just yesterday that your mother and I were smuggling vegetables from the dinner table into our underwear, excusing ourselves, and flushing the offending greens down the toilet. She'll never tell you this, but she got caught once because said offending greens were too much for our childhood home's plumbing to take. No way can you convince your parents that you ate, digested, and crapped whole trees of broccoli. Remember when I told you I had a lot to teach you? Consider the dinner plate to underwear to restroom heist and early freebee.
Before you know it you'll have left childhood and games of catch and Saturday morning cartoons behind and you won't even realize you miss them. There's a brief moment of hell called middle school that you'll get through fine. Remember, whether you're a jock or a band geek, nothing is permanent. Middle school kids suck and, I hate to break it to you, you will too. There's no way around this. It's a cruel time and kids that age are cruel kids. On the whole, you'll probably be one of the less cruel kids because you've got two gems as parents. Trust me on this one. I've known your mom literally since the day I was born and your Old Man has been a buddy of mine since the middle school days I was just referencing. In fact, your mom has known him since about this time as well, and she thought we were both way too full of ourselves then. Truth be told, we were...and probably for the ensuing ten plus years afterwards. You'll get out of that stage. Things change and so do people.
Back to your parents. Your folks are the kind of people who would stop in a rainstorm in the middle of nowhere to help someone with a flat tire. They're the kind of people who, around Thanksgiving, will buy an extra turkey and donate it to a homeless shelter. They're the kind of people who will teach you to always stick up for the underdog and always take your victories and losses with humility and grace. I'm saying this with years and years of evidence and the privilege of witnessing them both at extraordinary highs and debilitating lows. They're salt of the earth type people, and although I'm sure sometimes you'll be embarrassed by them, in the end you'll see the same qualities I'm telling you about now. You're a lucky kid, Samuel Otto.
You don't know it now, because you're really just a pudgy ball of baby rolling around in blankets and flapping your arms, but someday the shit is going to hit the fan and your parents will be the first people there for you. Some bully is going to insult you or some girl is going to break your heart and your mom will say something like, "This too shall pass." I know she'll say this because that's what my mom (your grandmother if you're not big on the whole geneology thing) said to us. You'll roll your eyes and sarcastically think, "Thanks for the comfort," but she'll be right. Time is a funny thing. When things are going well, you'll never have enough of it, but when things are bad, when your heart feels like it's been wrenched from your chest and you just want to be better NOW, minutes will pass like days. I hate to be a spoiler, but this will happen and it's what makes the good times that much more delicious and meaningful.
Your dad is going to teach you a lot of cool stuff. When you're old enough to understand, he'll be your hero. It's kind of unavoidable in your case because he's a fighter pilot. Without getting into all the weighty moral intricacies of what being a finally honed weapon of war entails, being a fighter pilot is pretty freaking cool, and you'll most certainly be all about it. I know this because I felt the same way about my dad. Your mom is a sensitive, thoughtful, emotionally intelligent woman. Your father is similarly thoughtful and emotionally intelligent, but he provides a needed foil to your mom's way of thinking. Ditto my parents. Sensing a pattern? Your dad will be gone a lot. It's unavoidable considering his job, but those moments when he's home? Cherish those. There's nothing like basking in the glow of a father's affection and feeling the love of something that is a part of you and will leave again. Take a nap next to the guy. Go on a hike with him. Let him teach you how to start the grill or work on the car. When you get to that crappy middle school phase, he'll become less your hero and more your task master, but that phase will pass. By the time you're your own man and can look back on your childhood and reflect on your teenage years, your dad will be your hero again, but he'll also be human. That's an important combination because it allows you to love him even more. It allows you to see that he chose to be that person for you. OJ, you're already a lucky boy.
I hope I get to be a big part of your life. I hope you come to see and love me as I've come to see and love my uncles. I hope our geographic differences are not too much to overcome. I hope you always feel loved and cared for. I hope you are able to embrace every opportunity you choose to take advantage of. I hope your life is an adventure of your making. I know you're off to the best possible start with the best possible parents. I can't wait to meet you.