Our son, Patrick, is thirty-four years old today. His birth, together with that of his sister, Michelle, and my marriage to their mother, Sigrid, in October of 1977, are the three most amazing things to happen to me in my life. I have little else to show for my stint on this orb so far (but that doesn't stop me from hoping), but I'm fine if all I'll ever do is all I've already done.
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 ultrasound 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. All of our teachers stressed the importance of understanding 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 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 baptized her, in a manner of speaking. See my previous observation about foolish grins-it applies here as well.
Thirty-four years later, he is as true to himself now as he was then.
Happy Birthday, my darling boy, and if anyone at work gives 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.