I loved you before I’d even seen you, when you were nothing more than a thought and a whimsy and a fluttering in Your Mother’s stomach, when you were a piece of news to tell friends and family and a reason to clean house and get serious about moving to Atlanta. I loved you when you were a staticky rhythm, a heartbeat, heard through a tiny mids-heavy speaker. I loved you when you were a black and white image on a screen in a doctor’s office, a recreation of the radiographic waves sent there and back and displayed on a monitor in the pulled-Venetian darkness of a Nashville afternoon, winter. I loved you from the moment you were an alien thud and ridge of the skin of Your Mother’s growing belly. I loved you during those moments when you were this spectral something, amorphous and undetermined but like something more than in our heads, that lay between Your Mother and me even as we held each other tight from fear and expectation and excitement and awe and hurting backs. I loved you as I shuffled, bleary-eyed, late night, to the hospital kitchen and piled small cartons of cranberry and orange juice into my arms for Your Mother, because the contractions were too close together and she hadn’t slept in 27 hours. I loved you even as I held Your Mother’s hand and as she screamed and as I saw the top of your black-haired head and the lights were turned on bright in anticipation and as the doctor instructed Your Mother to push and she did and she screamed and she did. I loved you all of those times, and I loved Your Mother all of those times too, and I loved what we’d made. Together.
…but then I saw you, on the table, under lights and heat and alive and eyes open and not just some idea in my head but real and alive and eyes open, and just then, at that moment, I realized that I’d never actually known what love even was, that I’d been a man who didn’t even know he was drowning until the lifeline was in his hands. I’d never known. Not until just that moment…
And then I loved you all over again but this time with the fullness that I’d never known was there but which you found in me and which is all yours, and will be yours forever. I loved you unashamedly, fiercely, without pride, without expecting anything in return, without worry of how I looked, or concern for my hair or clothes or weight, like the man in that raging sea, lifeline in hand. I surrendered my helplessness gladly, to you and to us and to Your Mother and to everything that will come later. I surrendered whatever I’d known about myself before that moment, realizing that everything that had been was like a beam of light that would forever, gloriously, be bent by the prism of you, alive, eyes open.
I loved you because I had no other choice but to love you. You are you.
And I love you.