The following is a guest post by Jonathan LaForce, a former Marine, and current entrepreneur. These letters are to his young son and are things he wishes had been passed down to him. Since he and I have similar views about what it means to be a man, I’m more than happy to share them.
My dearest boy,
I’m writing this letter, sitting on the side of a mountain. Full dark has come, the wind is howling. It’s lonely up here, the way I like it. When I was a teen, people came to this place as a lover’s lane. Probably still do. I go here for the quiet. Nobody to bother me. In some ways, that is the story of my life a preference for loneliness. Lonely won’t hurt you.
Ironically, You’re in your car seat immediately behind me, wrapped up in my shemagh. You wouldn’t go to sleep, and your mother needed a break. So I loaded you into my truck and off we went. Much as we had done since you were a month old. My back is too screwed up from my time in uniform for me to rock you properly, but a Ram 1500 will do in a pinch. We did it for hours so mommy could sleep, and now that you’re almost 3, I see no reason to stop. Between Dean Martin, Poison, and Whitesnake, you’ll eventually pass out.
I worry, at times, that I won’t be there to see you grow up to adulthood. Yes, my enlistment is complete at the end of this month. But I would go back in a heartbeat if the government asked. Long before I met your mother, I loved the Marine Corps. For better, for worse, it is my mistress.
I’m writing this letter so that if for some reason, you have to grow up without me, you’ll have advice you can look back on.
You’ll meet plenty of women in your life. Some good, some bad, some few evil. Some you’ll love. Hopefully, I’ll get to watch you learn about all of these, with a strong preference towards the good ones.
A good woman isn’t defined by her hair color, how brightly she dyes it in different colors, her tattoos or lack thereof, her fashion sense. A good woman is defined by her character, and not necessarily her education. She can be dumb as a stump, but kindness is a helluva thing. The bad ones? Those are defined by their actions. Bad girls don’t care who they hurt along the way. So what makes a woman evil then? She actively seeks to hurt others. It’s one thing to be tasteless, it’s another to be malicious. I know, I’ve dated all three.
You will admire women because they possess qualities that stand out positively in your mind. Their work ethic, their personal strength, their sense of humor, good looks, their loyalty to you as a friend. None of these are bad things. And even if you never get further than friendship, count yourself blessed to have such friends.
Love is a little harder to define. You’ll love several women in the course of one lifetime.
I’ve loved a good woman, who was scared of me and what I am. She ran from me, and I have regretted not trying to repair that bridge. She was a loyal friend. Far more than I have ever deserved.
I’ve loved a woman and would have cheerfully given her everything I could to see her be happy. The hurt she carried, though, demanded more than I could give. That’s a crushing thing to a man, to be told your best isn’t enough.
I’ve loved women I thought were good, and turned out evil. They caused some heartaches along the way. When you encounter those, remember not all women are like them. Laugh at those contemptible creatures when Karma strikes them down. It eases the pain a great deal.
I’ve loved a woman who was an incredible friend, and to this day I consider an epitome of beauty. I’ve loved her and felt such loyalty to her that even when working on a security guard’s pay, I spent $400 on a purse as a get-well gift, just because she needed cheering up. I would have conquered the world for her if she had asked. That many years of friendship commands such loyalty and devotion. But she did not love me back, and I watched her slip away as easily as a ghost in the fog.
I’ve loved a woman I can never have; we grew up together I watched her get married while I was in high school and wished I could have been her husband, for she was an exquisite lady. We fell out of touch and by the time she was available once again, I had met your mother. Without a doubt, I’d still take her if given a chance to do things over again.
None of them will ever know that, though, or whom they are. Because that’s part of life too. You’ll meet many women you could settle down with and build a happy family and home with. I do not think the Divine limits us to just one person we could be happy with for eternity. And when that time comes, it may be hard, because you care about those others. They didn’t stop being important to you. That does not mean you regret being married.
I do not regret marrying your mother. She has been and continues to be a wonderful helpmeet and companion to me as I have struggled with depression and disability these last four years. She’s given me you, and your baby sister. But I would be a liar if I ever said I had never wondered about how things would turn out if I had chosen someone else. When I leave this mortal world behind, I’d like to think me and the Almighty are going to have a chat where we look back at my life and see how it would’ve played out differently. I’ll probably bring popcorn and a Dr. Pepper.
Learn to be your own man, learn to love and care for others. Learn to be romantic, and have fun in the doing. Learn to be a gentleman, with the manners and class to act accordingly, and a hell-raising roughneck as times occasionally demand.
Above all else, remember that your daddy loves you, my son.