The one thing I most want to give Will is advice. Wisdom. Unfortunately, it’s hard to teach a four-year-old about personal debt. I could tell him a second mortgage is like The Joker: evil and impossible to destroy.
I may not be around to teach him these lessons when he’s old enough to understand them. I write him letters to read when he’s older, but these are still limited by the quality and quantity of my knowledge. Fortunately, many of these lessons have also been expressed by writers who are more eloquent and more dead than me.
I will leave him a reading list, one that includes Kipling’s If (“If you can keep your head when all about are losing theirs…”) or Polonius’ fatherly advice in Hamlet (“Neither a borrower nor a lender be….”) The problem with that last one is that I still remember the musical version of Hamlet the castaways staged in an episode of Gilligan’s Island. For the young folks reading this, Gilligan’s Island was like a 1960s version of Lost, but without all the …. everything.
I especially admired something I read in a recent local obituary:
“If ever there is a tomorrow when we’re not together… you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’lll always be with you.” — Winnie the Pooh (A.A. Milne)
I know he will also find his own way to many great books, where wisdom is abundant, from Raymond Chandler to Saul Bellow.
Best of all, I am reassured by Team Will. These are friends, grandparents and others who I expect to fill Will’s head, expand his world and shape his character. They are as old as my mother, who can tell him about growing up when everyone was poor, or even how to read (she was a teacher). They are as young as Keaton, a three-year-old friend who is all boy and is already teaching Will how to roughhouse joyously.
Our son is insulated deep within that circle of good, wise people. I am Will’s dad but, if need be, we are Will’s dad.
He can’t go wrong.