My father recently had a tragic loss in his life. His older brother suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. As his son, I wanted to find a way to bring him some comfort in his greatest time of sorrow. This episode is my gift to him with the hope it brings him even the smallest amount of peace, solace, and love. Below is the letter my dad wrote to me for my 10th birthday. You can hear me read it in this week’s episode of Hold Me Back (fair warning – I do get emotional reading it). Listen to the episode in the player below or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and your other favorite podcast platforms.
A Letter From My Father
To my son Aidan,
It’s late, and I’m flying home the night before your birthday, and for no particular reason, I wanted to write you a letter to let you know how much I love being your father, and how proud I am of you. You’re turning ten today. Wow. I can’t believe it. My ten year old son is becoming a young man. It truly does go by in the blink of an eye.
It’s hard to believe that one decade and one day ago today, two of the things that I would treasure most in my life, you and your sister, did not even exist in this world. And I remember it so vividly, everything about the day you were born. I remember calling my father, with tears in my eyes, telling him “I have a son!”
And then my incessant worrying began. I drove your mom crazy! Why isn’t he tracking objects with his eyes? Why isn’t he crawling? Why isn’t he talking? Why isn’t he walking? I was out of control! I wish someone had told me that one day I would have the perfect son, and that I should just relax and enjoy every day with you. Oh, wait! Someone did tell me that – your Mom!
I remember – and you probably don’t – but when your mom and I went through our darkest times, you kept me going, son. Your mom was our rock, of course; pushing us forward, keeping us going, and being an amazing mother and wife. But you were my beacon during the worst of storms. I remember coming home, scared and worried, and then seeing you light up and yelling “da, da!” That filled me with hope, courage, and love – the fuel I needed to push forward every day, and win.
And that continues to this day. I think of you every day and smile. I tuck you in bed every night and swell with pride. I’m filled with joy when you are happy, and I share your pain when you are sad. Your victories are my victories. Your failures are my failures. We laugh together. We cry together. We win together. We lose together. I am you. You are me.
You are one of the three lights in my life. And you shine inside of me all the time, and I love you as much as anything else in the world. I am so lucky that I have both a son and a daughter, each with their own special type of bond. You are my only boy. My son. The only grandson of my mother and father. You and your sister are now the pinnacles of multiple generations of Eldifrawi’s going back hundreds, even thousands, of years. And we could not have asked for more. Our Bean.
Aidan, you are so smart – too smart for your own good, and so much smarter than me at your age. When you put your mind to something, there is no stopping you. You are so funny – you find laughter and humor in every little thing. It’s wonderful, and annoying! Or maybe I should say that it’s ‘wonderfully annoying☺.’ You can be so kind, caring and sensitive, although you have to play tough with your sister, I know deep down you love her completely. I admire how much you don’t like to see injustice, and how much empathy you have for the pain of others – even if it makes you cry. You are so handsome. I know you’re not really digging the ladies yet, but one day you will, and they are gonna swoon for you. You are so full of goodness, just like your mother. You care about others’ feelings, and you don’t want to hurt others in any way. You stand up for those who are being treated poorly – nothing could make me more proud than that.
I don’t think you know this yet, but you have a warrior spirit – the courage of a young lion. This part of you will be tested again and again throughout your life, and your will to pick yourself up no matter how many times you are knocked down, will be what most defines what kind of man you will be. Your will – don’t ever forget that. Don’t make ‘success’ the goal, but your will to never give up. One day I’ll introduce you to my favorite poem, written by Rudyard Kipling, titled “If”. It’s filled with wonderful life lessons, but one line comes to mind right now: “If you can meet with triumph and disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same.” I’d encourage you to find your own meaning from that line, son. For me, it’s a reminder that life is always filled with victories and failures, but you can’t get too caught up in either. Just focus on being the kind of person you want to be. Stick to your values. Do what’s right, not what’s ‘easy’ or ‘popular’. It’s about character, values, morality, integrity – stuff that your mother and I will bore you with a lot in the next few years. You’ll roll your eyes and say “I know, dad!” And one day, you’ll be right!
I still can’t believe you’re ten. There is still so much I want to teach you, and I will. There is still so much I want to experience with you, and we will. There is so much I want to learn from you, and I will. So much joy to share. So many moments to cherish. So much for us to laugh about, and cry about. I will try to treasure each day with you. But I’m not perfect, and sometimes I don’t stay in the moment and let my frustration or anger get the best of me, but that’s only human. And you’re not perfect either, and at times when your mother and I have to bring down the hammer with severe punishments or consequences, know that the only reason we do it is because we love you, although it might not feel that way in the moment. When I look back now at my childhood, it’s obvious to me that the most important lessons I’ve learned in my life came from the harsh consequences that my parents forced me to face – although I was so angry with them at the time. One day, you will understand that as well.
As your father, I have come to understand that these lessons can be a two-way street. I have learned so much from you, son. I see so much through your eyes. I see humor and beauty in the world that I didn’t know was there. I see injustice that I took for granted. I appreciate the value of time, and how not to waste it – like your mom likes to say, “Never wish time away.” She is so right. I’ve learned to appreciate so much because of you – like a whole new appreciation for those old ‘80s songs☺ (much to your mother’s chagrin)! You’ve opened my eyes to so much hypocrisy in the world, and much of my own. You’ve taught me how to be less selfish, and be more patient. And importantly son, you’ve taught me how to appreciate my father more than I have, and you’ve inspired me to strive for a better relationship with him. In trying to be a good father to you my son, I have become a better man, a better son, a better husband, a better friend – a better person. Thank you.
So many people love you, Bean. You don’t have a very big extended family, but what they lack in size they make up for with a boundless and overwhelming love for you. Your Grandma Kim has always, and will always, find a way to be a part of every important event in your life, no matter how big or small. Whether that means coming out for your birthday, or simply calling to find out about one of your tests. She adores you. You could not ask for a more loving and caring grandmother. And the spirit of your grandpa Fred lives inside of you. It’s part of your name, and I see his integrity and goodness in your eyes. Your Gido and Ana also love you dearly. Your Gido can’t wait to introduce you to your Egyptian heritage, take you to visit Egypt, and make you proud to be half Egyptian. He also can’t wait to introduce you to his love of wildlife and nature, the appreciation of which he instilled in me as a child. Your Ana lives to spoil you rotten, and literally cries almost every week because she misses you so much, and you’re always in her heart. Your Aunt Molly loves you like her own son, and your cousins love you like a sibling. Just look back at all the pictures of your childhood – they are part of nearly every important and joyful moment. And your uncle Alec would do anything for you – all you have to do is ask – and he will always be there when you need him. But where you and I are most lucky, where we are truly blessed, is your mother. What an amazing woman. To say she loves us so fully, so unconditionally, is still understating it. She would happily sacrifice everything and anything to make us happy. In fact she does, all the time, everyday – gladly. She is a tigress, and we are her young. She is our protector. She is the soul of this family. She lives and breathes to make us happy. The day you were born, when she held you, she was holding her own heart, and she will never let it go.
But ours is the father and son bond, and there is nothing like it. That in no way diminishes the beautiful relationship you have with your mother, but it’s okay for us to enjoy the special bond that only a father and son can have (say, for example, watching a PG-13 movie together without your mom giving us a hard time☺). You are my pal. My bud. My ‘brother-from-another-mother’☺. My friend. My hero.
Aidan, you make me so proud. I’m the luckiest father in the world. Know that always, Bean. Carry that with you always. Carry that love in your heart son, just like I carry your love in mine. In your moments of greatest disappointment and suffering, know that I’m always there for you, with you. Know that I have faith in you. Know that nothing you do will ever diminish my love for you. I love you my son. Happy Birthday.
With all my love,
Thank you for listening to Hold Me Back. To hear more episodes, follow Hold Me Back at HoldMeBack.com.
WHAT IS HOLD ME BACK?
Gen X and Gen Z live together, but we occupy different worlds. As the generational gap widens and conventional wisdom on parenting and education fails, is it even possible to understand one another? In this unique son-and-father podcast, Aidan & Ash ElDifrawi hash out a new contract between generations, forcing them to violate comfort zones on today’s most charged topics: social media and screen time, bullying and loneliness, inequality and privilege, sex and drugs, education and etiquette, even politics, religion, and sports. All to uncover a path toward greater harmony and a hopeful future for the next generation.