It’s hard for me to imagine he’s that old. Of course it’s hard for me to imagine I’m this old.
I am though, and so is he. I will always remember driving to the hospital in Yankton, South Dakota. My recollection is it was snowing – not unusual for South Dakota in mid-March.
I was basically a child myself, and David’s mom was younger. Neither of us was exactly headed for the decision-making hall of fame, having been overcome by influences unrelated to the construction of a stable future.
I remember waiting all night long as David’s tiny mom struggled to deliver our nearly 9-pound bundle of joy. In 1978 the thought of my actually being in the delivery room for the entire labor did not occur to me or to her, and certainly not to the doctor.
One of the things I remember most clearly is a feeling of panic. See I waited in the waiting room for much of the several hours it took, and dozed off just before morning. When I slipped away it was dark. Though I only slept for a few moments it was light when I awoke. My first feeling was I had slept through the day and missed the birth.
Fortunately that was not the case.
Though I have three younger children and have had the feeling three times since I will never forget holding my son (My Son!) for the first time. So small. So helpless. Looking back now the me I see seems so young and unprepared – helpless myself.
As the world has turned since that snowy morning in March I have not spent as much time in my son’s company as I’d have liked. His mom and I were divorced before he was two. She took him back to Kentucky and though there were brief efforts to reconcile our father-son times became more summers and weeks together than what I had imagined, what I then hoped and what I can think back now and be proud of. I spent several years undirected in heart, mind and spirit, and as the song says he learned to walk while I was away.
There are moments plucked from the years between then and now I’ll never forget. Driving through the Colorado mountains in Papa’s pickup truck singing old country songs. Seeing David smack his chin on the side of the pool and somehow knowing we’d bear the same scar on our chins. Seeing him play college basketball – as I did – and later playing on a team together. Still later watching him marry a good woman. I’d become a maudlin old guy by then, but I’m pretty sure no one saw me crying.
I’ve also since been blessed with a wonderful wife who’s given me two daughters and a second son. I was 20 when David was born, and David and Michael are 20 years apart. Seeing them together has always given me a funny feeling – like I’ve somehow slipped sideways in time and am gaping incredulously at my younger self.
I’m proud of my eldest son. He’s a strong man physically, mentally and spiritually. We want them to be better than us. He is.
I love you David. I hope it’s OK I wrote this. Happy Birthday.