A letter to my son

As I write this letter to you, I am sitting in Maine Medical Center with your mom, waiting for you to be born. Don’t give me too much of a hard time about writing this now — you’ll learn when it is your turn to do this that having a baby involves an awful lot of waiting.

You will be here in an hour or so, though, so I wanted to take some time before you arrived to write this to you, in the hopes that someday you’ll dust off an old scrapbook and read it.

You aren’t even born yet, but already you’ve been on quite a journey. When your mom and I found out about you, our lives looked very different.

Nine months ago, we lived in a nice suburb of Washington, D.C., and neither of us thought we would live anywhere else for a long time. We were happy, we both had great jobs, your brother loved his school, we spent a lot of time at Nationals Park, and we volunteered at the local Little League. Life was good.

But we are from Maine. Living away for a decade, we always considered it home and we missed our family. We came back as much as possible, we missed it, and we both wanted to move back home. Someday.

When we found out that you would be joining our family, my father — your Pépère — was battling lung cancer, and he was losing.

The day I decided to tell him about you, he had just had a long and hard session of chemotherapy, and was very tired, in a lot of pain, and felt defeated. I don’t think I can properly put into words the change in his voice when he heard the news. Suddenly, after being confused, lethargic and upset, he was his old self again, he started laughing with joy, and you could hear his smile over the phone.

As his condition worsened, he drew so much comfort and happiness from the knowledge he would have another grandchild. When he died in April, I know he was at peace and was happy. He loved you so much, and never even met you, which is why we are giving you his name, Robert, as your middle name.

Coming back to Maine for his funeral brought a lot into perspective for me. I had been chasing a career in politics in Washington, D.C., and finding a lot of success, but was too distant from my home and the people there who I loved.

Your brother was growing up without knowing his cousins, and I spent the last eight years of my father’s life away from him. I still had my mother, sisters, nieces and nephews and even some cousins back home who I barely saw, and it started to weigh on me.

You will find that strangely, life finds a way to show you the path you should take, and then gives you a chance to take it. A few months later, I was given the opportunity to move back to Maine for a fantastic job, and start to focus on so much of what I was missing. I took it.

As a result, you will be born here in Maine Medical Center. You will be an eighth generation Mainer – eighth! – and have a long and proud heritage here. Our family came to Canada from France in 1635, and your great (times six) grandfather,Étienne Gagnon, moved to Maine just after Maine became a state. I hope you are as proud of your heritage as I became over time, and I apologize ahead of time for the decades of genealogy and family history I’ll be drilling into your head.

As you grow up, you will undoubtedly feel, at some point, the need to stretch yourself and go on to greener pastures. Don’t be afraid of doing that. Part of the reason I love home and family so much is because I spent time away from it, and part of the reason I was able to come back and live well was because I had a built a successful career, which admittedly is harder to do here.

I do hope you have the chance to have your own family here.

It is almost time to meet you, and your mother looks nervous, so I must go. But I can’t wait to meet you, I love you, and I can’t wait to see what your life brings you.

Matthew Gagnon

About Matthew Gagnon

Matthew Gagnon, of Yarmouth, is the Chief Executive Officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a free market policy think tank based in Portland. Prior to Maine Heritage, he served as a senior strategist for the Republican Governors Association in Washington, D.C. Originally from Hampden, he has been involved with Maine politics for more than a decade.