I was very sure I never wanted to be a father. Too many indicators that I'd not be very good but, as it happens, nobody asked and in the end, the past added up to nothing. The evening we (my wife and I) found out she was pregnant, and the ultra sound indicated the sex of the child Sigrid was carrying, I was a goner. I got the goofiest grin on my face and when I think about what I looked like when the doctor told us, I smile in that same manner to this day.
Patrick was, and remains to this day, a low maintenance fellow traveler on the Big Blue Marble. Whatever we bring, he sings. If he has ever experienced disappointment or distress, and I know that he has, he has never let anyone else feel it. There have been times in our lives that I have hurt knowing that he is hurting and that there's nothing I can do about it. I remember the briefing at Dad College where all of this was covered. The curriculum hasn't changed in a long time; ask anyone who is a father and you'll see what I mean-and they stressed the importance of the words of Reinhold Niebuhr.
I realize I've learned more from my children than I ever taught them, and no one has tested me more often than my son on what I've learned, or should have. His smile that lights up a room, his ready wit, his unfailing courtesy and grace no matter the chaos and catastrophe surrounding him, are traits he entered this life possessing which is just as well as he would have never gotten them from me.
I was reminded of all of this in the last couple of weeks as we sat side by side watching the World Cup 2010. There are two hundred other places he could see it and ten thousand other people with whom he could watch it but he knows his old man would be home alone and so he would show up and fill up the room just by being there. We watched every game together except yesterday's because we both were working, and look what happened to the German Team.
I always embarrass him by telling the story about how, moments after he was born, as he was being scrubbed and toweled by the midwife, he, ummm, baptized her, in a manner of speaking. See my previous observation about foolish grins-it applies here as well. Twenty eight years later, he is as true to himself now as he was then. Happy Birthday, my darling boy, and if the guys at work give you any crap about how mushy your old man is, tell them I'm soft in the head. I already have the heart to match.