Every birthday is a big one but some are bigger than others, and for you this is a Big One: 16!


Every day since your arrival has been a day of joy for your M’Amie and me, but this one, this particular Big One, brings a tincture of anxiety to us. It’s that little laminated card you now have in your purse, certification by the State of Arkansas that you are, if not legally an adult, a legal driver. Solo, no one in the co-pilot’s seat. Oh, dear.


Cars can fly in the sense that they can become airborne though they are not intended to so…so…hold it down, please! Please?


And — and this is related to automobiles, something that did not exist when M’Amie and I, and your parents, reached 16. I’m talking about your smartphone, there, in your purse (though more often than not it’s in your palms, both thumbs working feverishly across the screen). When you are behind the wheel, your driver’s license will be lonely, sitting deep in your purse. It needs companionship. What better way to cheer it up than put your phone right next to it, so they can talk to one another? Save the phone conversations for later, the e-mails for whenever, and for everybody’s sake but especially yours, NO TEXTING WHILE DRIVING!


Yeah, your parents have already told you. I’m telling you again. Want me to beg? I’m on my knees.


But that’s nothing new: you, like your sister, have had me on my knees a lot these years, every time from gratitude. First, your safe arrival. Your continued health — physical, emotional, spiritual, social. Academic, athletic. The sustained, sustaining love and support of parents who are better at parenting than anyone I know. Not by pure genetics have you achieved what you have achieved, have you become the wonderful young lady that you are. They have been with you every step of the way, had your back. Not every 16 year-old is as fortunate. Our state, our nation and our world would be a better, safer place were there more people such as your mom and dad, who’ve strived to give you every advantage in life.


The evidence of that deficit in family life is everywhere around you, inescapable. You read the paper, you watch television, you listen to the radio — and the human tragedies they report seem only to multiply. Angry people hurting other people, some of whom are themselves angry; others who simply were in the wrong place at the wrong time. And many of them with too little chance, or means, of escape. You are developing, I think, a pretty fair personal radar. Nurture it. For you have reached the age when you need that sensory perception, that not-so-sixth sense that tells you not where to go but where not to go. And, for that matter, who not to go there with. Trouble usually announces itself well in advance. Some things only sound cool. They can get hot, molten, fast.


Speaking of heat, if you get any hotter on the golf course they’re going to charge you with arson! Your long game will get better perhaps when your arms get a bit more muscular, but that will come, and in the meantime what you are doing on the greens continues to astonish. A putting pyromaniac! And that chip shot a few weeks ago, the one I was blessed to witness, the stroke out of the sand and across the bent grass and into the cup for yet another championship, another trophy!


But, as always, it’s the classroom that should be your first priority, and that would seem to be the formula you are following. I do feel a little cheated, though; I couldn’t be there the day when you and some classmates put on the sketch you four wrote involving some friends conversing at a little French café — in French! Merveilleux! (I started to suggest you study Russian. Nah).


And, summer though still it may be, are you maintaining your reading schedule? Still have a book on the nightstand? Good. You’ve only a few weeks remaining before you are back in a more formal learning environment. Which will include more, higher math. I remain bewildered, if delightedly so, that a child in whose cells reside a bit of my DNA can love algebra. Geometry, too (though that may explain your success on the golf course).


Your own personal geometry, at least as one who adores you calculates it: Your trajectory is still skyward, its arc yet to approach its apex.


And you thought I would finish this letter without mentioning Sweet 16!


Happy Birthday, Angel!


Love, Granddad.