To My Oldest Son,

I could start with all the blah-blah that all the moms are saying right now, but as life is time, and it’s all short, I know you’ll remember more if I stick to the good stuff. After all, you know I love you. You know I’m proud. I don’t have to tell you again, do I? I guess I just did.

Commencement speeches and this time of year are full of life-advice, and I’ve written some of my own, but with you graduating, I’m looking at this differently than before. It’s suddenly much more personal. And as all parents know, you’ll always be my boy, reflecting on me and making me proud, I hope.

So you know what would make me proud? It’s not quite what you might think. Yeah, I wouldn’t be mad if you traveled all over and made a lot of money. That would be cool. Come back home and buy ya mommy a new car and a really fancy wheelchair for me later in the nursing home. Sweet!

When I think of and anticipate the guy I want you to be, though, money ain’t got nothing to do with it.

I want you to be the guy who always holds the door. I want you to look out for other people, and always show God’s love in your actions, so they will know you’re one of His. And I hope you never quit going to church and reading the Bible. That’s the blueprint to fall back on and lead with the same.

I want you to be the guy that smiles without trying. I hope you can. Happiness should be effortless, if it’s sincere, but you have to get in the right mind to accept it, and just let it be. Entirely like God’s love. Just let it be. And remember, you already have everything you need.

I want you to be the guy who asks how someone is, and doesn’t just expect a, “Fine, and you?” Be the guy who really wants to know how someone is, and asks himself in his head, how can I help? What can I do to make it better? Remember, this, too: Never resist a generous impulse.

I want you to be the guy who always shows up. When a friend needs help, to borrow a truck, a strong back, or a shoulder… just show up, even when it’s not convenient. Be that guy who always answers the phone.

I want you to be the guy who learns how to dance, really well. Not that it makes a lick of difference in the long run, but I want it for you, because everyone needs a peculiar skill set, and I already know you’re not musically inclined.

Be the guy who reads for fun and knows a few things that other people don’t. Once in awhile, memorize something; it just makes your brain more interesting. Be the guy who knows where the good spots are, and take someone there.

Be the guy who works hard and doesn’t give up. Guard your heart and your soul, but share them every time you get a chance. Don’t judge others. Your poop stinks, too.

If you’re somehow perfect and achieve all this along with professional success…no, you won’t. You won’t be forever without fault. So when you mess up, be the first to say you’re sorry. Be the one to remember that you’re not perfect either, and whatever the foul is…you’ve probably done worse; if not, then your mother has. Be the guy who remembers where you came from and then…

Be the guy who goes back home. Be the guy who isn’t afraid to get above his raisin’ but then…go back home. Smell the dirt and manure and embrace those who embrace it. You’re absolutely good enough, but you’re no better. We all have skeletons, but we all have some good stories, too.

Sometimes the dirt under the nails has some gold dust in it. Now go get some of your own.

Love, Mommy

A teacher and mother, Meagan Morehead Bradshaw lives on a farm in Bland County; contact her at meaganmorehead123@gmail.com.

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