My son is 17.

So I don’t post for weeks, then we have three in one day, which is some kind of record. Sue me.

My eldest son is 17 today.

Alexander is not the most diligent kid I know, but he is the kindest. He is not the smartest kid I know (though he is PLENTY smart), but he is the most faithful. He is not perfect. But he is the best. His brothers and sisters are incredibly fortunate to have him as their older brother. Jeanette and I are fortunate to have him for our son. We cannot believe – cannot imagine – that he will be gone in 18 months, essentially forever. Our family without him is totally inconceivable. And yes, I do keep using that word, and it means exactly what I think it means.

Xander, in lots of ways, made the rest of the family possible. He’s been babysitting for us for 8 years or so now, mostly informally, and that babysitting has made it possible for Jeanette to keep her sanity and enough money in the bank to feed everyone. He is not a great babysitter in the classic sense – he won’t clean our house and the chance of our kids getting to bed on time is essentially zero – but when we come home, all the kids will be safe, happy, and healthy. Mira will get them put to bed. Xander will go get them out of the burning house.

He keeps peace. Among seven other squabbling children, that’s no small task. He argues with his brothers like all kids do, and he’s insufferably arrogant about how smart he is (as his father, and his father before him), but he doesn’t mean it. He prefers joy and peace to arguing and fights. His heart, in the end analysis, is good.

I love working with him, and talking with him, and being where he is. When he goes, as he is increasingly aching to do, my heart will break.

For now, for now, he’s still here, though no longer sixteen going on seventeen. Though he’s grown a foot or two, I do not hope they call him. Not yet. Oh, not yet.

Happy Birthday, my good and wonderful son.

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