To recall something that happened over a quarter of a century ago, in detail…minute detail, is a remarkable gift. Sometimes, I can’t recall who won the World Series a month after the last pitch. Who ran for Vice-President two elections ago? How old am I?
I have to stop and think about many of these things.
But, there are some things that happen in one’s life that work like a strong acid, etching a memory in the glass of your cortex that records every detail. Like a Daguerrotype, you can look at the image of a person or action frozen for all time on a silver coated sheet of paper.
That’s the way the morning of July 14, 1987 played out for me. That was the day my son, Brian, was born. He was a surprise, in a way, he wasn’t expected until weeks later. He hit the delivery room scale a little under 5 lbs. He was put into an incubator.
I was already the father of a daughter. When Erin was born, I was kept in the waiting room, pacing back and forth like a ‘nervous expectant father’ character in a 1950’s TV show. There was no nurse to chat with me. Soon the doctor came in and announced that “she” was here. But I, the father, was left to wonder and worry in a room with a table of outdated Good Housekeeping magazines.
Not so in 1987. I had gone to the rest room to splash my face which had been sweating on a vinyl chair where I had spent the night. When I returned to the room, Nancy was gone. An Orderly threw a pile of scrubs at me and said to put them on ASAP and follow him. I was struggling to fit the booties on as I hopped down the hallway.
In the Delivery Room, Nancy was already in position. Our Obstetrician hadn’t arrived yet, so a Resident handled the actual delivery. I saw the whole event. I stood and watched as his head pushed through. Then, plop, he was out…into the doctors hands. All slimy, bloody and very tiny. The nurses took over and wiped him, snipped and swaddled him.
Meanwhile our Obstetrician arrived in time to do the stitching (and later the billing). The doctor looked up at me and said: “Well, what do you think?”
I couldn’t respond. I looked at Nancy. She seemed spent and sleepy. I looked over at Brian, all 4 lbs and something of him. I still couldn’t speak.
“Well, what do you think?” the doctor asked again.
I still had no words to express myself.
I walked over to the window and looked down at the parking lot…and tears flowed down my cheeks.
I had just witnessed one of life’s most amazing and significant events. The emergence of a new life.
I knew then and I know now that what I had just seen was not ‘unique’ in a global sense. The scene was being replayed in every corner of the planet, without regard to day-light or dark, desert or jungle, plush pure sheets in expensive clinics or mud-caked floors in Bolivian huts. This was the famous “circle of life” that everyone has sung and wrote about for thousands of years.
The real difference here was that my eyes had seen my son’s first seconds in the world he will occupy until his life span is completed. I was there at the starting line when the gun was fired. I was there when he hit the ground running. I was there when the first flash of light hit his cornea, the first touch of a human hand, the first slight breeze, the first dry space, the first head-above-the-water out of the pool of embryonic fluid, the first pinch of pain, the first touch of fabric on his skin and his first inhalation of the mixture of 78% Nitrogen and 21% Oxygen that was to be his ‘air’ for a lifetime.
Then, the rest was easy. He grew before my eyes, from a being whose sole focus was MILK to someone who then had thoughts, ideas, words, needs and questions.
Over the years, we walked together, ate, argued, laughed and grew to know each other as adults do.
There is much I need to show him. Places I need to take him.
I’ll always be his teacher just like I’ll always be his father.
Happy Birthday, Brian, from someone who first met you 27 years ago today.