Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. Psalm 127:3
At thirty-three I thought a dad I'd never be. At thirty-four I became one. I've told the story of all that along the way in this Blog.
My three children are adults now; none married and none have children - phew! They don't know what they are missing.
It's nice they're grown now, nice all the worry and work of raising decent people is behind us. What is also nice is they still come by every week, we laugh together, we sometimes go out to eat together and everyone likes each other. And it is nice that children leave you with so many memories to brighten gloomy days.
What kind of memories? Good and bad, of course, but it's odd, over time even the bad memories often turn good, things you can laugh about together now. Let me meander through some images stored in my aging brain for you. Indulge me, it is Father's Day and next week is my birthday. It is a season for reminiscence.
All my kids were premature births, thus tiny. Laurel wasn't the smallest, that was Noelle, but Laurel was the first and teeny enough. Before they would let us take her home, we had to dress her. We were prepared with the smallest size bunting one could buy, but even this outsized her and she seemed insistent no one was going to slip such a clown suit on her. She seemed to sprout extra feet and hands and a supersonic wiggle that resisted two giant oafs, who had sprouted nothing but thumbs, attempts to control and dress. To the side the hospital nursery staff stood and laughed. Welcome to parenthood.
When the day came I had to rush my wife to the hospital believing she was miscarrying (it proved to be Noelle anxious to enter this world), I had to call the church for emergency help to watch over Laurel, who was just over two and a half and at the attempting to talk stage. This did not involve human speech so much as babbling odd and strange sounds, which could be the start of words. You'd get icks and ahhs and erks, often quite loud. This was the practice she was engaged in when the Pastor's wife came and as the woman entered through the doorway, Laurel uttered a new discovery in her pre-speech vocabulary, one beginning with F and ending in K. This would have been bad enough if the Pastor's wife hadn't sweetly asked, "What did you say, my dear?"
I could picture us the subject of next week's sermon.
Laurel was full of surprises. About age four she would imitate her mother's care of baby Noelle on her dolls. It was cute. One day I came home from work and Laurel came running to the top of the staircase calling, "Daddy". I started up the steps and before me stood a little ghost, somewhat resembling a girl, but white from topknot to toe. "Come see," she said and led me to our bedroom which appeared to be a snow scene from a Hallmark Christmas Card. She had gotten her mother's powder and was talcing her dollies' bottoms - with plenitude.
If Laurel was the little mother, Noelle was the fearless adventurer. Let me illustrate. When Laurel was at the crawler stage she crawled one day to the bottom of the staircase. She sat back and studied this mountain. After a bit of contemplation, she pulled herself upon the first step. Here she paused, then gingerly lowered one leg backward until her foot touched the floor and climbed back down. She thought a moment more, then carefully negotiated two steps, paused and repeated the cautious retreat to the floor. This was repeated for two more steps before she finally clambered to the stairway top. Having pretested the conquest, she now carefully backed her way down again.
When Noelle was at the crawling stage and came to the stairs, she looked up once and scampered to the top. However, having not given it any thought meant getting back had not crossed her mind either and Daddy had to go rescue her.
Perhaps this charge ahead adventurous style of Noelle's came from nearly not making it through birth. Just as doctors had once given up on my wife ever having children, they had given up on Noelle living past her first day. It probably led to the Night of the Rhino Foot.
There was a period when I worked days and my wife worked nights. Once during that time I was preparing the kids for bed. Noelle was in taking a bath, having reached an age where she could be left alone in the tub without danger of drowning. But not without danger of experimentation. My mom had given the kids these bath toys, little sponge animals that when wet grow in size. I had tucked Darryl in bed and went to hustle Noelle from the water to the blankets, but when I opened the bathroom door I was greeting with the shower scene from "Psycho" or more precisely, the aftermath just before Anthony Perkins cleaned it up. Blood, blood was everywhere. It dripped down the edge of the tub and sprinkled the walls and puddled on the floor. It also was streaming down my daughter, who sat unperturbed staring at her nonplussed dad with one finger up her nostril.
"Can't get out," she calmly said.
"Rhin'russ," she said.
She had stuffed the Rhinoceros sponge up her nose where it swelled and left behind its foot. She had ripped the body away and spent who knew how long trying to dig the remainder of the beast out of her nose thus creating this massive bleedfest.
I cleaned her off and (pretty much in a panic mode to tell the truth) called our Pediatrician, hoping his office was not yet closed as the evening was late. A nurse answered and I blurted out, "My daughter has a Rhinoceros foot stuck in her nose!" By the Grace of God, she did not hang up on me. In may be that zoo animal parts up noses is a natural occurrence in pediatric offices.
I then called my wife at work and told her I was taking the kids to their doctor. She of course asked why and I said...
"Noelle has a Rhinoceros foot stuck in her nose," and at this point the absurdity of it hit me and I barely stifled a chuckle.
"I've had a rough day," my wife snapped, "I'm tired and in no mood for your jokes."
Obviously explanations followed and all worked out and my daughter is not now encumbered by any kind of feet up her nasal passage.
Now my son was not above sticking items in his nose, but he never got any stuck that drew my attention to such practices on his part. It got my attention the day he was accused of plotting with a classmate to blow up his school, but that is a story for another Blog (a teaser to keep you coming back - one of those then bad things we laugh about today).
My kids were in a number of activities. Sometimes activities led to odd affiliations; for example, I can tell you my son was in the Girls' Club, My oldest daughter in the Boy Scouts, Noelle wore combat boots, I was a Cookie Mother and my wife was a Road Runner.
Laurel, at age 8, asked to ride horses. We took her to a stable just over the Pennsylvania line to enroll her in riding lessons. She being the unadventurous and cautious daughter, I expected once she stood next to a horse towering above her, she would ask to go home. Instead she took riding lessons every week for the next 11 years and won quite a number of horse show ribbons. She also was in an award winning school chorus, an adult church choir at age 10 and some plays, not to forget her stint in the Explorer Scouts to participate in a paralegal program.
Noelle had dance and acrobatics, but shown in art, having work displayed in two Young Brandywine Artist Festivals and also a private showing locally. She was also in Brownies for which I became Cookie Mother. (She was also recruited by the engineering school at the U. of Delaware, but choose not to go, taking paramedical classes instead.)
My son was in scouts, too, but probably some of the best memories he gave me were in baseball. He was a good ball player. In his first Little League season if he couldn't quite hit the ball consistently, he was good at the ball hitting him. In one crucial situation with his team needing runs and the bases loaded, he looked at me and said, "Don't worry, dad, he's going to hit me." And sure enough, the pitcher plunked him. Darryl never flinched upon being hit, just trotted to first. I remember one time he got clipped good by a hard throwing kid and the umpire took off his mask and said, "that's one tough kid".
Next to the season when he was team captain and the team went on to win both division and league championships, the sparkling moment was a year earlier when his team was out of playoff contention. We were playing the Tigers, a team on the bubble for making the championships. We had a man on base in the last inning and the scored tied with two out. Our third in the batting order was coming to bat, a pretty good hitting catcher. The Tigers season was on the line. The Tigers' manager did something I never saw before or after in the nine years I coached in Little League. He ordered an intentional walk. He walked this kid to get to my son. And yes, just like the movies, with two strikes on him, my son hit a game winning home run and knocked the Tigers out of the playoffs.
My thought was, "what was that manager thinking? Why did he think we had Darryl batting clean up." Darryl led the team in home runs that year.
It is the little successes of their children that mean more to daddies than all their own accomplishments. My children, all three,have awarded me with many such joys.
I could go on, but enough of this puffed-up proud papa palaver. I will just leave you with the cliche, but truth, emblazoned on the T-shirt below: