You came into our lives and changed us forever. I have been sitting thinking about this day for quite a while. Turning 21 is a “rite of passage” – a simple step from being a kid to becoming a man…and I remember everything you have done so far and look forward with anticipation to what you will do here in the future. I remember when you were born and would fall asleep in my arms on the recliner; how you would scream when we put you down and how a simple act of singing to you would bring us all joy.
I remember placing you on the motorcycle sitting in front of me while you held the handlebars and we rode off through the streets of Fayetteville and Ft. Bragg. How Renegade would walk up and pull the pacifier from your mouth ever so gently! How driving from Ft. Devens to Nana’s house in Revere and then realizing we forgot “your bunny” and had to go all the way back for it! I remember teaching you to drive at 8 and the officer pulling us over in the parking lot. I remember coaching your soccer team in Monterey and your hockey teams in North Carolina and at home in Virginia…and our undefeated championship team. I remember towing you behind the car at Ft. Bragg during that snow storm and “hoping” you will still on the rope as we hit 30 miles per hour in the 4x4!
I remember with clarity the trips skiing; your first chair ride to the top of the mountain and your “one piece” ski suit! I remember your first time snowboarding (“I hate this Dad!”) and how impressed I am every time we ski now. I look back early morning hockey practice; your first car; the fun times at Holy Cross (“and graduating…Jake Hayes”) and the Colonial Forge days. I remember all the injuries; the broken elbow playing roller hockey and the injury while playing High School Football – you scared your parents with that one! I remember the night we bought your new car and how proud I was that you choose something that would last – and how upset I was – a week later when you said “I don’t like it anymore!”
I was never more proud of you then the day you achieved your Eagle Scout Badge. When we stood there in the Marine Corp Museum with everyone in attendance I do not think even you fully understood what you had accomplished…but you did and we were all so very proud to have been a part of it…and when you thanked your younger brother for his help you took one step closer to becoming the man we knew you would always be.
While we spent time together this week and last in Martinsville, I have been looking back at the life (to date) that was Jacob Michael Hayes. As a father I could not have asked for more; you are a shining example of what is good in the world and you have so much to look forward to. You’re athletic and civil achievements to date are a great start for you as you prepare for military service and I – for one – know how well you will do in this endeavor too. In the world we live you either “have it” or you do not…and you have “it” Jake – and now it’s time to use it.
As I pen this note to you I have a tear in my eye my son – not out of sadness but out of love and admiration for the man you have become. You have provided so much to all of us each and every day and yet…as you grow…I think to back to the times when you would hold my hand in the mall or sit in my lap while we drove the car down the road…and I miss that young boy…who on this day in 2012 became a man.
Happy Birthday – you have work to do my son…Now get at it!
Love - Dad