Today you turned 16 years old.
Seriously. Let me process that one for a minute.
Sigh. When I look at pictures like this of you, I can still remember what your warm, sweet skin smelled like after a summer afternoon at the park. I can hear your laughter and excitement as you climbed everything in sight, calling out for your brother to join you. I can feel your tight hugs, almost suffocating, as you threw your arms around my neck and squeezed, afraid to be without me; afraid to let go.
Now I'm the one squeezing so desperately, afraid to let go. Fighting the fact that I need to let you go.
Chase, you are growing up into such a fine man. You are nearly six-foot-three-inches tall, and every bit of your giant frame is filled with kindness and sincerity. You still come running most nights when you hear me cleaning up the kitchen, offering to help. Not because you have to, but because you want to. I love your company late at night in the kitchen. You and I laughing, recapping the day. It's the favorite part of my night. Your thoughtfulness is beyond your years. I really can't take any credit for it, either. I'm not sure what makes you so eager to help. Your wife will be a very lucky woman.
Right now, your biggest focus is running. You get up, every single day, at the unholy crack of dawn. Never grumbling, never complaining. You drag your brother out of bed and head to early morning seminary. Sometimes, you can only go for five or ten minutes due to your cross country practice. But still you go. That is dedication, my friend, that even your mother couldn't muster. You love God. You are striving to do what is right. You have set a standard for yourself, and are determined to meet it. No matter what.
You have gotten quite good at running this year. Well, you've been quite good for a few years now. You've pushed yourself beyond your limits and adopted a discipline that I could only dream of. This Saturday, you will run for the first time on the varsity team, a goal you set for yourself and accomplished. As a sophomore.
I. AM. SO. PROUD. OF. YOU.
Chase, I love you so much. You are such a good kid. You treat everyone you meet with kindness. Someone told me the other day that they saw you talking to a girl from your school. Not an ordinary feat in and of itself -- you are quite handsome and plenty of girls would kill to hang with you. But you were talking animatedly and with a smile on your face to a girl with special needs, someone who others struggle to know how to interact with. This does not surprise me one bit. You have always had a heart open for everyone. You've always treated people with courtesy and respect. You've always been a friend to everyone.
You have my heart, kid. As you stretch your freedom wings in the next few years, I am confident you are ready for the world has to offer. You are more mature than most boys I know. You have a quick mind, and a keen knack for figuring out how things work. I've often tried to parent you by just getting out of your way. You are going to do great things. I can't wait to watch.
Just remember to throw me a hug once in a while, won't you?
Love you forever,