Happy 20th birthday.
As I noted in our phone call today, it amazes me that you made it this far because, frankly, I'm a putz. I never left you on top of the car and took off. I never threw you off a pier and walked away. I never encouraged you to climb a tree and then had to take an important call -- or grab a cold one.
That you're alive says everything my fathering.
What you've become, though, says everything about you.
And what you've become is simply the best person I know.
You are utterly brilliant, incredibly on top of current events but vested in history. Your empathy is high, although I understand how that causes pain. You have a deep moral compass that sends you in the right direction always. And, of course, you're funny as hell. Actually, you're funnier than hell. Hell pretty much sucks. I've heard from friends.
Here's a secret: I study current events before I call you. Even as a newspaper editor, I can't keep up with your knowledge. I love that your knowledge extends beyond our borders, a rarity in these United States today. I remember when you at age 15 won the contest that took you to the mock UN at The Hague and you planned to represent Recep Erdogan. "Why did you pick the biggest douchebag in Europe?" I asked. "The challenge, dad," you said. "The challenge."
We've talked about how empathy in difficult times can be horrifying. This year has seen has been the worst in my lifetime -- pandemic, recession, racial strife, RBG's death. And, oh yeah, your dear old dad is laid off and technically homeless. But imagine the world without empathy. Your empathy. The Earth would be worse without it.
I love that your morality leads to outrage. It ought to. In fraught times, living in the gray, we need more people like you who see right for what it is and wrong for what it is. When I turned 50 -- and you were 15 -- I talked to you about how I might switch to a communications career that pays more than being an editor. You said, Father (you always call me that when you're serious) you always taught me to fight the good fight and you're the best fighter I know.
Damnit, I have to live up to my own words?
On this birthday where I'm supposed to give you something, thank you for giving me everything.
Peace and love unto all of you my brothers and sisters,