I have tales to tell about my journey to Italy, but these can wait. I am home safely, full of memories and gratitude- but back to where my heart will always reside. The Chicago area is teasing us with the prospect of Spring, and this is the season we celebrate all three Dahl birthdays. Today, the child who defied birth control and a gestational calendar to pummel his way into the Dahl family is 26 years old. I, of course, have aged accordingly. He helped the process by being a spirited boy. Then he countered by being as sweet as a child could be. The yo-yo kept me on my toes. For this, I guess I should thank my third born, Matthew Joliat Dahl.
Matthew is my lone ranger, self contained and mysterious. He is not a chatty man, and does not keep me involved in his day to day life. I am a busy body, and I have to curtail my nattering with him. He will not abide it! He is sensitive and gentle, easily affected by words, and proficient in flinging them for whatever effect he desires. When he loves, he is passionate. When he fights, he is armed with a sharp tongue and inherent knowledge of the softest target. He loves his family, his dog, his fiance. He is loyal to his job and his band. He would stand in front of a train for any of us. He is just slightly unreliable. But he always comes through.
Matt processes internally, and is not a blabber like me. I crave connection, but he is happy being in Matt world. We have forged a balance, I think- I know I bug him with my animated personality, but I also know how much he cares for me, cares what I think. He is not likely to reveal much to me. That, of course is what I crave.
When a Mom looks at a grown child, she sees backwards to the baby boy who needed his lovey and binky to settle down. I recall his baby powder smell, and his downey hair. I remember Matt’s chickenpox, covering every inch of his beautiful toddler skin. I still harbor his extensive collection of Snoopy dogs in the attic. I remember guiding him into some dead ends, by urging him to audition for parts he was rejected for. I remember saving him from danger and protecting his future. I advocated for him, whether he wanted me around or not. High school alienation and accomplishment teeter tottered for Matt as he navigated to adulthood. We went to DePaul orientation together and he dismissed me with the confidence that he could proceed on his own. I should have been overjoyed, as I was a co-architect of his independence. But I knew I was being kicked to the curb, and I was broken hearted.
As I checked out the campus dorms, he was looking at off campus housing, which he secured before he entered Freshman year. Matt did not crave the familial nature of dorm life. He like being on his own. He is like his father in that regard.
Matt took to the airwaves during college, and amazed even me with his facility with words. I could listen to him on Saturdays, and figure out what he had been up to. It was as if the Mysterious Matt was finally available for me to decode. Soon he was given a chance to hold forth every night, which he embraced and excelled at. Radio has shifted during the last half decade, and Matt has moved his dreams to another orbit. I am sad for him that that the vibrant entity that has graced our family’s past (and maybe future, who knows?) has faded, but I know he will zig and zag to a promising future. His band, Pet Lions, is a musical and creative enterprise. They are excellent, and his participation energizes him. He dreams. Without dreams, we would live a dreary life.
My little boy is all grown up now. He is engaged to Justine Higgins, an beautiful oncology nurse who reads his moods precisely, re-calibrates them when they are unacceptable, and forgives him faster than I ever could. Like me, she has fallen under the spell of gentle Matt and his dog Walter. Their dog Walter, I mean. They are looking to leave the city, get a little suburban house with a fenced yard and a basement for drumming. Time has flown. My heart is still where it always was, with my family. It is just as easy to love 75 inches of man as it was to welcome 20 inches of wriggling baby.
Happy birthday, Matthew. You have made my life richer and sweeter. And more dramatic.