In the summer of 1998 when you were all of eight years old, you spent a week at Cub Scout Day Camp on the other side of the county. After the first day, you were nearly thrown out of the program for grabbing a camper and talking back to several (!) adult counselors. This was not an unfamiliar sequence of events because you’d always had a pronounced sense of justice that would likely have served you well in adulthood but, as a child, simply made you look like a misbehaving brat.
That evening, you and I talked it through and came to an understanding about what society wants of us and, more importantly, what real injustice is all about. You returned to camp the next day and everyone enjoyed having you around the remainder of the week. You were, after all, a pretty fun kid.
I remember, a few years later (when you were maybe eleven or so) lying in bed with you discussing your unhappiness socially. I assured you that you were a very likeable kid — sweet, kind, FUNNY — and that the day you decided to let the world see THAT kid, that would be the day your social woes would come to an end.
At eight years old, you didn’t necessarily understand all the textures and dynamics of right and wrong. But you were learning. And I always loved that it mattered to you. I also loved that you were always watching and listening. Sometimes that caused you to punch another kid, but sometimes it helped you understand why you should think about refraining from punching another kid. As you grew into adulthood, I marveled at the lessons learned. You had become such a fine human being, and I couldn’t wait to see what your mark would be on the world.
That didn’t get to happen because at age 19 your life ended. But not the difference you were making. When our family created the foundation that bears your name, we did so to try and bring into the world a bit of what you might have brought to it yourself if you’d had the time to do so. Each gift came from another friend empowering us to do this for you. Their donations help us with “turning love into action.”
That same week back in 1998, you and I went to Rye Playland, an amusement park near where we live. You and I did not ride The Spider. There was no way you were going anywhere near that thing, mostly because you’d heard about my experience when I’d taken Katie earlier that same summer. But you did want me to go on it by myself so you could watch me throw up afterwards.
I didn’t oblige you. But hope has to begin somewhere, doesn’t it? And this is one of the great lessons you’re still teaching us.
Despite losing you, despite other disappointments and challenges that life throws our way, despite the coronavirus still ravaging the planet, I insist upon hopefulness, preferring to build something good rather than regret what’s been loss. And everyday, it is you — Jonah Maccabee Dreskin. You inspire a goodly part of the strength of that resolve. Yes, of course I wish you were here. But you’re not … and this is how I choose to awaken each morning. Will I be able to do so tomorrow? I don’t know. But today, yes and yes.
Happy new year, kid.
Love you forever,