I saw pictures of you today on my cellphone. You are so tiny. You were sleeping in a clear plastic bubble, in a hospital room with other premature babies. Trying to breathe.
I want you to know that I’m praying for you to pull through. I haven’t skipped a day. I even pray for you before we eat dinner. Every evening.
Last night we had meatloaf. I love meatloaf. But we didn’t feel right eating until we said a few words for you.
You will pull through, of course. You have to. And when you do I want you to grow up to laugh a lot. I really mean this. I want you to laugh at the drop of a dime, like a nutty person.
I wish someone would have told me to do this, I could have saved myself a few years. When you get older it’s harder to chuckle.
Soon, you’ll be healthier, and off your breathing tube, and you’ll be able to laugh. And that’s what we all want to see. Believe me. People will be visiting your hospital room and cuddling you with the sole purposes of seeing you smile or laugh.
We adults LOVE to see babies laugh. We will tickle your fat little legs, talk in high-pitched voices, jingle our keys in your face, and blatantly put our fingers into your armpits just to see you grin. And if you don’t laugh, it will hurt our feelings.
So laugh. Laugh too much. Laugh at inappropriate times. Laugh at yourself. And don’t ever stop doing this.
Because for some reason, when you grow up, everything changes. I don’t know why, but it does. In school, you’ll learn how to “sit still,” “be quiet,” “pay attention,” “raise your hand,” “chew your food,” “don’t interrupt,” “drink your milk.”
And if you’re a boy who plans on living past his thirteenth birthday, you will “put the toilet seat back down.”
Then you learn to “get serious about your future,” “make plans,” “earn a living,” and “invest in IRAs.”
But where’s the laughing? Where is all the smiling? We adults forget how.
So just keep doing your thing. Keep being silly. Dance in your room. Sing often. Any song you can think of. And I’m not being allegorical here. I mean actually sing and dance. You’d be surprised how much better this can make you feel. If more people sang along with car radios there would be less need for Metamucil.
And don’t forget to be nice to animals. I’ll bet you come from a long line of people who love animals. So do I.
In fact, did you know that in World War II the Europeans considered Americans to be oddballs because of how we coddled animals? Of course you didn’t know that. You’re still a baby. You have more important things to worry about.
But it’s true. Europeans were surprised to see that American soldiers were so crazy about animals.
Dogs in particular. Did you know that our infantrymen were adopting stray dogs right and left in the heat of battle? It’s true. Naval men kept puppies below deck. Airmen had their own strays, and even raised kittens. There were pets running around everywhere. And this was a WAR for crying out loud.
My friend’s grandfather once told me a World War II story about a dog named “Ziggy.” Ziggy was his army pet in Italy. He found Ziggy stranded on a battlefield, curled next to a dead mama dog.
Ziggy followed the soldiers everywhere across a battle-weary Europe. And when the war was over, a young Texan smuggled Ziggy back home. Ziggy died at a ripe old age in Houston.
I hope you grow up to love dogs. And I hope you spend more time with them than you do on cellphones.
Because that’s another thing. Right now, you don’t even know what a cellphone is. But you will. By the time you’re a teenager, these things will probably be more popular than they are now.
Don’t get me wrong, smartphones are nice. You can do everything from checking the weather to flushing your toilet from another zip code.
But they change a person a little. They make it hard to focus on nature’s wonderful things. So spend more time finding frogs, drawing pictures, riding bikes, blowing bubbles, roller skating, or having conversations with elderly people.
Which reminds me. One last thing. Old people. Look for them, make friends with them, attach yourself to them, ask them questions. Elderly people are your ticket to a good life. They know SO MUCH.
Going through heartbreak? Find an old guy, he’s been sixteen once. Feeling confused about what comes after high school? Find an old woman, she knows how you’re feeling. Not sure if your boyfriend is the one to marry? Get an old person. And quick.
And when you’re talking to these older people, maybe in a nursing home, or in an assisted living facility, you’ll notice something about them. It will take you off guard at first. You’ll look into their eyes and notice that these elderly people look very familiar. What is it about them? Then it will hit you.
Long ago, when you were in a clear plastic bubble, these were the same people who were praying for you to pull through. On that fine day I will likely be in the nursing home cafeteria. Eating meatloaf. Come find me.
Because I will want to see you laugh.