Eleven years ago today this Beautiful Boy was born:
His brother wasn’t yet three years old when we began praying/hoping/trying for Baby #2, and it took twice as long for this one’s arrival on Planet Earth (+prayers, tears, too-many doctor visits, pain, and money). His brother was 5 1/2 years old when Lil’ Guy surprised us with his five-weeks-early arrival; his brother said, “Oh, yay! I needed someone to play with today!”
My dad held our New One for the first time at Four Days Old. Lil’ Guy had jaundice; so did Dad. They kind of match, if you look closely. Dad was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer not long after I discovered I was at-last pregnant. He lived for fifteen+ months with a cancer that kills too many in about three months.
[Just so we’re clear, this post is harder to write than most…]
Lil’ Guy is all Lovebug, snuggles and sweetness, joy and smiles, laughter and exuberance. Honestly, I’m cracking up just looking at that attempt at a grumpy face, especially because I know only a moment later he cracked up with sillies and tickles and pounce-on-Mommy goobers.
Today he is 11 years old. This morning he left for school-sponsored Science Camp, a sleep-away camp for the next four nights. Yup, he will sleep away from home on his birthday for the first time at 11 years old. I slept away from home on my birthday for the first time at 18 years old and, even then, I thought it something of an injustice. What, the whole world doesn’t stop for my birthday? You’ve got to be kidding me, I have a mid-term exam On My Birthday? Egads!
As parents, we tried to bill this week as: “The Biggest and Best Birthday Party EVER!”
Tween is smart, creative, talented (you should hear him play trumpet!), devoted, funny, loving, sweet, sensitive, peacemaking, willful, and a little bit sassy: of late, as he steps into this new stage, I call him my “sassy sapling.”
This year has been odd: Teen growing into the independence of mid-adolescence, increasing amounts of friend-time and driving; and Tween rounding the corner towards Middle School. I have been aware since August that my Baby is almost done with what we call “Childhood.” I’ve ached with it all year, almost like the groans of pregnancy.
Ten years ago today Dad slipped into Eternity. Ten years ago last night my siblings and I slept over at my parents’ house, our childhood home. Actually we’d had a several-nights’-sleepover; Night 1 of which involved sipping wine and telling stories late into the wee hours. Did we expect Dad to go in our midst? Maybe. I wish someone had turned on a video camera, as we told stories and extended grace to one another like I’ve never experienced before or since, our individual and complimentary gifts magnified by the light of life and death. In the middle of the night Dad made it clear he wanted a sip, too, so we brought him a glass of wine and a straw, and held it to his mouth. Always a pleasure-seeker, I hope he enjoyed it.
So Yes, Tween’s birthday is also the anniversary of my Dad’s death, which makes today stranger than strange.
I have the coffee mug from Dad’s local coffee shop, which I had made for him, emblazoned with his name. After a too-long hiatus from his own visits to the shop, obviously due to health issues they didn’t know, I picked up his mug for him and he was thrilled to have it back for a time. For nine years I sipped morning coffee from his mug on May 4th (Tween’s birthday/Dad’s passing) and October 15th (Dad’s birthday).
Ten years makes a difference.
Today, I did not completely fall to pieces.
Today, I chose not to sip from Dad’s coffee mug; I can drink from Dad’s mug on his birthday, or other days, but maybe not during the celebration of Tween’s birthday. I did, however, drink a margarita in Dad’s honor.
Today, I saw Tween off to camp, had a second cup of coffee, and treated myself to a seat in my stylist’s chair.
Today, I honored my dad for his strengths and weaknesses.
Today, I waved “Hello!” from this new stage of life – a whole new era of life and parenting, this ‘new’ church and town and house and community… How my dad would have loved where we are now, who we have become in this place/decade of life!
My dad didn’t get to meet his most recent three grandchildren; he met but didn’t get to know the two before that. All of these children are delightful and amazing and full-of-life. Dad would have loved them and (probably) grumped at them at least a little, as was his way.
Hey, Dad, these kids are Day-Glow, glow-in-the-daylight-and-dark fluorescent-brilliant. And you paved their way. They’ve heard stories – you riding horseback between San Diego’s mountains and beaches; you flying planes the world-over. They love your city, they get where you came from even if they see it only in glimpses. They skip rocks as I’m sure you did in your day.
Today, I appreciate that Dad waves back at us more often than we know. Cheers, Dad! The future looks bright.