You are sixteen years old, today. I'm not entirely certain how that happened since it was just yesterday when the doctor handed you to me for the first time, yet; here we are.
I've learned a lot about you in the moments that have taken place between that day and today; I've learned that you can brighten even the darkest day with a smile and a genuine belly laugh, because, you, my son, are the best belly-laugher in the world. You don't giggle, you seldom chuckle, you aren't one for a politely quiet laugh-while-hiding-your-mouth-behind-your-hand, no; you are a head-thrown-back, hearty laugh-from-the-belly, laugh-as-loud-as-you-can, laugh-until-tears-roll-down-your-cheeks kind of laugher.
There is simply no way to be unhappy around that kind of unbridled joy, and I know this for a fact because, you were born during a challenging time in our lives; your Nana was recovering from cancer and there was a lot of uncertainty and sadness in our home.
Then, when you were two months old, I was changing your diaper; I tickled your naked little tummy, as I always did, and you rewarded my efforts with a belly-laugh. Everyone said that laughter was impossible at that age, so I tickled you again to be sure and you laughed harder. I called for witnesses, I video-taped you, I wrote about it in my journal, and I told everyone who would listen, because, clearly, you were a genius. But, mostly, I thanked God for giving you the ability to create joy where before, there had been sadness.
You have continued to bring me nothing but joy.
You are, in many ways, a typical boy; your room is always messy, you disappear for hours at a time behind your video game remote and headphones, you procrastinate when I ask you to take out the trash, and you are easily embarrassed by questions concerning girls and your interest in them.
You are in no way typical when it comes to your capacity for compassion and empathy, however; your kindness toward others both humbles and gratifies me. You have never met an animal that didn't immediately love you and want to follow you home (including too many lizards to count) and your patience when it comes to your elders is admirable.
I am constantly amazed at your good nature and the ease with which you handle the minor catastrophes that naturally befall a teenage boy-pimple on your chin? No biggie. Coach get on you for missing a tackle? Eh, you'll do better next time. You don't sweat the small things and that is a gift that you won't begin to appreciate until you are much older, if ever (It's ok, your wife will appreciate it for you).
You are, by no means, one of the typically moody teenaged boys that I run into at my day job and I cannot express enough my pride in you for getting good grades, being polite to teachers, participating in sports, volunteering in our community, and generally just being a person that I would like to know, even if you weren't my son.
But, you are my son, and I am so very grateful that you are.
Sixteen years-gone in the blink of an eye.
And it seems like just yesterday.
Happy birthday, Man-Cub. I love you infinity and beyond.