(a tribute to my dad and my husband for Father’s Day.  While the song title might not fit perfectly, I remember listening to this in my father’s Volvo as he drove us to school)

Dear Dad-

It’s now eleven Father’s Days without you. Some days it feels like you were just here, and some days it feels like you’ve been gone for decades.

I don’t know why it’s taken me all these years to actually sit down and tell you about what I’ve done since you left us.  Maybe I just wasn’t ready.  Maybe in some ways I wondered if you were disappointed that I didn’t run for re-election after completing your term as state representative.   I knew stepping into your shoes then was the right thing to do since it was what you wanted.  But when the time came to run again, it wasn’t right for me anymore.  It wasn’t my life – it was yours – and I had to start my own life, discover who I am, and start my own family.

So let me tell you about this amazing family of mine:

Our oldest son is Gerry, and yes we named him after you.  He actually looks a lot like you, and has my (and your) dimples.  He’s incredibly smart, curious, kind, and thoughtful.  He has already developed a commitment to community and social justice in such a way that it can only be genetic.  Kids want to be his friend, and parents want their kids to be friends with him.  Oh, and he loves baseball.  He’s small and quick and is well suited to play second base or shortstop, just like you.  I think you would be impressed with his skills on the field, and his love of learning off the field.

Howie is our middle little guy.  He has huge brown eyes that light up when he’s excited, and they sparkle when he laughs.  He’s loving and full of energy. I could call him our “spirited” one, but I’m not sure that’s an appropriate characterization.  There’s always been something about him, even as a baby.  He was a late talker and walker and had a difficult time adjusting to, well, life.  He was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and sensory processing disorder at age 3 1/2.  Hearing that there’s something a little different about your kid wasn’t easy, but in many ways it was a relief.  So many of his behaviors were finally explained, and it helped to know that there was a neurological reason behind his issues.   I’m lucky to have grown up in a house with you and Mom where you taught understanding and tolerance of different learning styles and abilities.  It doesn’t make the days less challenging, but it gives me the strength to get through the hardest moments.  I know you would be impressed by his knowledge of Hot Wheels cars and his fiercely strong connection to the people he loves and trusts.

Lewis is our baby, although he’s quickly approaching Howie in weight, height and strength.  He has an incredible belly laugh and these terrific curls.  He clearly takes after our side of the family in his love of food and table manners – there’s rarely a meal when I am not picking something off of his shirt or out of his hair (but of course, the same can be said of me).  While he isn’t talking as much as we’d like at this point, he loves music and sings and dances along with everything from “Old McDonald” to “Golddigger”. He’s incredibly curious  and has already developed a great sense of humor.  I think you’d be impressed by his comedic timing, and he’d have you “eye-squishing” with his silly faces and games.

And then of course, there’s my husband Tim.  I will be forever thankful that you met him before you got sick, and I’m so glad that he had a chance to know you.  When Tim and I married 9 years ago, it was a sense of comfort to me that he understood me and and how important my family was.  Over these years he has become an amazing life partner, and an even more incredible father.  His bond with Gerry goes deep – they enjoy the same love of science and thirst for knowledge, and every evening in the spring they are out in the yard having a catch.  With Howie, he shows patience in situations when I can’t and has gone the extra mile to learn whatever he can about ASD so he (and I) can be a better parent.  He has looked for ways to connect with Howie and  have bonded over a love of cars. And he has some strong connection with Lewis : Tim is in charge of his bedtime – reading stories, singing songs, and got him to sleep in his crib earlier than any of our other kids ever had.  There’s is no doubt that you would have been impressed by his commitment to his kids and to me.  While you probably would have disagreed on almost everything else, this dedication to his family would have been your common ground.

So while I had to step out of your shadow in the world of politics, you can see that I really did follow in your footsteps.  I have created an incredible family, and am raising my children to be good to each other and the world around them.  I have learned through necessity to be fierce advocates for them – as you were for us.  My experience with Howie’s issues have taught me to be the voice for those who can’t speak, just as you were in your public political life.  Where that might lead me in the future, I don’t know.  But I do know that I have an incredible path set out for me to follow, thanks to you.

Happy Father’s Day to my amazing husband and all the other fathers, fathers-to-be and fathers-that-should-be.

It’s not time to make a change,
Just relax, take it easy.
You’re still young, that’s your fault,
There’s so much you have to know.
Find a girl, settle down,
If you want you can marry.
Look at me, I am old, but I’m happy.
” – Father and Son by Cat Stevens