Dear Past Eugene,
There is no way to prepare for the changes that you face ahead. The path to now, Current Eugene, is long and circuitous. You write “no two dogs, just a cat and an Andre.” Now, we have one dog, no Andre, and a baby on the way.
I chuckle to see your desire to continue a practice of letter-writing. Instead, you’ve taken up phone calls. So many phone calls.
To family members near and far, trying to connect these humans that have grown apart. I bet somewhere deep in your belly you knew that this abscess would need draining one day. I bet you never thought we’d hold the scalpel during paternity leave. There’s change in the air for our family, and we believe in striking while the iron is hot.
Hopefully we can get to a good resting point before our priorities change from the family at large to the family at small. I think we are there. Bringing our branch of the family together for the Thanksgiving season will do wonders for all.
So many phone calls to your growing group of brothers. You write about coming back from Adam’s wedding. We are currently preparing for Hanson’s bachelor party, in all its glory and newness. They have agreed to try something new. This will, I hope, address the isolation about which you write. We, as a group of men, are growing into new and uncomfortable roles. I think we are doing good work to ensure our brotherhood endures through these changes.
Fathers are dying, proposals are turning into engagements, and families are growing. As we roll into our thirties, we transition from reckless boys into creaky men. I’m glad we can grow closer, rather than further apart.
I empathize with your desire for simpler times. The warm winter nights with Mackenzi in that small Tampa apartment will forever hold a place in your memories. However, even today I form memories which warm my heart for years to come: watching the first snowfall of the season from our well-nested bedroom, Honey by our feet, Mackenzi sleeping soundly in our arms, and our son kicking her belly every so often.
Past Eugene, you write to me about working for a different world for our children. To you, that is an abstraction. To me, this is lethally important. The many conversations I’ve held over the past three weeks form the basis of a strong future. Brick by brick. Breath by breath.
Bringing together the extended family so that my child and children can know a loving world where there are warm homes around the planet, simply waiting for them to step foot inside. A collection of uncles that have diverse skills, challenging perspectives, and a profound interest in my children’s well-being.
We are walking the difficult road. It would be so much easier to numb yourself to the future, to enjoy the present and allow the wood to rot and the mortar to crumble. Yet here we are, sweating and aching in new ways to ensure a different and more intentional future for our children.
And you still laugh and play with Mackenzi.
So things are well.
Dear Future Eugene,
I hope that you can hold our barely year-old son in your arms, while surrounded by a lazy dog and loving partner. If you can enjoy moments such as these, the madness of intern year will pass quickly and without fanfare.
I hope you are still writing. I know that the end of medical school will serve as a lovely way to finish this project. I know it will be easy to skip writing on your one day off, or one half day off per week. Any writing is superior to no writing. For this project to have value, it must be difficult to complete. Re-read The War of Art, if you need a good kick in the pants.
By this time next year, you will have grappled with much change. The birth of your first son. Joining your peers on the interview trail. The bachelor party plans coming to fruition. Match Day and learning where your family will remain for the next four years. Packing up your lovely Coopersburg home, your lazy pooch, your small garden of indoor plants, and your growing family.
Settling in somewhere new and adjusting to the different routes and rhythms. The increased responsibilities and pace of residency. Introducing yourself as Doctor Kim, instead of a nameless fourth year medical student. Watching the seasons change in this new house, hopefully a home. Maybe you made it out for Hanson’s wedding, maybe you brought the whole family. Maybe not.
So much uncertainty. So many details to fill in the broad strokes I wrote above. I hope you find joy in those details. In learning new walkie routes for Honey. In designing a new flow for a home, replete with tapestries and slacklines and high ceilings. In learning how to leave your son with someone else.
What will one year of fatherhood teach you? Enough to understand that I, Current Eugene, had no idea what I was getting you into? Will you quietly curse me for burdening you with all of this life for which you must love and care? Or will you kiss the memory of me, knowing that I have given you so much beauty to lose?
A few days ago, you had the dream about the Lonely Soldier falling from the sky and into the lives of a small family. And how for much of our life, until now, we identified with the Lonely Soldier. Fighting and surviving. And now, we are the small family, with everything to lose and the only hope for this poor soul.
I see now that fighting with nothing to lose is easy.
Standing tall when you have everything in the world to lose is true courage.
And I hope that we develop that courage.
Long Form Sundays
- On a well-deserved break for my partner
- On pseudo-paternity leave (or the beginning of Interview Season)
- On laughs and tears (or Hospice and Palliative Medicine: a post-mortem)