Letter to Josh

Letter to Josh

From Chicken Soup for Every Mom's Soul

Letter to Josh

In 1989, several days before my oldest son, Josh’s, eighteenth birthday, I wrote the following piece and sent it to our local paper asking them to print it. They agreed, and it appeared the next day. It read:

My oldest son is celebrating his eighteenth birthday, and I am proud to announce that his father and I are going to survive. Now for all those who have never raised children this might not seem like a big deal, but believe me from my experience this is truly an amazing and wondrous feat.

Dear Josh,

On your thirteenth birthday we watched as you took those first giant rebellious steps toward adulthood. You no longer accepted, unquestioningly, our answers to why you had to be in bed early and why you could not play outside after dark. We began to see small hints of skepticism and humor in eyes that once held only adoration and respect for all we said and did.

And . . . your father and I began to discuss, in depth, the feasibility of sending you to military school until you were eighteen.

On your fourteenth birthday you were no longer content to remain in the neighborhood. You wanted to claim the whole world as your domain, and your ever-widening circle of friends now contained names we did not know. We reluctantly accepted your mad dashes to answer the phone (acknowledging that most of the phone calls were now for you anyway) and on the few occasions when we did answer, it seemed strange to hear girls’ voices asking for you.

And . . . your father and I began to consider in earnest calling several well-established adoption agencies (including the local humane society) to see if they would accept you for the next four years.

When you turned fifteen we learned of all-night skating and midnight bowling, that no one goes to the early movies and everyone lives at the mall. Our conversations with you became minimal and usually turned into heated debates. Pros and cons rang through the house. Your sentences began with “All my friends are doing it” and ended with “Wait till I’m eighteen.”

And . . . your father and I began to seriously contemplate running away.

It was on your sixteenth birthday that a very real panic began to set in as you proudly announced to all who would listen that you were going to get your driver’s license. I stood there in shock, numbly thinking, This kid wants my car keys, and remembering all the Band-Aids, every tube of first-aid cream and the numerous trips to the emergency room as you gradually worked your way from the stroller to tricycles, from big-wheels to bicycles, to roller skates and ice skates, skateboards and snow sleds.

And . . . your father and I decided that, when we did run away, we were taking both of the cars with us.

Your seventeenth birthday brought more changes. It seemed the only time we saw you was when you were hungry or needed to use the car. The refrigerator hated to see you coming and we hated to see you go. Our conversations now centered around college versus the armed forces, and we felt a little lost when we took our first family vacation without you.

But, Josh, we are truly proud of the man you have become, of your many accomplishments, the awards and trophies you have received over the years and your involvement in so many wonderful organizations.

And now . . . your father and I watch with equal measures of pride and apprehension as you walk out into that world you wanted to claim as your domain so long ago.

Happy birthday, Josh.

Love,
Mom and Dad

Initially we intended to give Josh a mild ribbing—he was a kid who loved to instigate and loved a good laugh, even when the joke was on him. But it became a way of letting him know that I believed in him and supported him in the hard decisions coming up as he entered the adult world with all its complexities and challenges.

Now I regard it as a loving reminder of a time that passed all too quickly.

My daring toddler, my lovable little boy, my wonderful rambunctious teenager, Joshua, died when he was twenty-one.

Linda Masters

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