Saturday, July 8, 2017


I offered this, for the most part, nine years ago. I meant it then; I mean it now even more.

Today is my son's birthday. When I type 'my son' or 'my daughter' or 'my wife' I smile, not because of a pride of possession mentality but because I am truly the most fortunate person on the planet.

If we've not met, count your blessings-I am NOT likable. Actually, on a very good day, with the wind at my back, I am not close to likable. Take my word for this because I could send you a list of folks who would attest to this, and that list would vaguely resemble the census in size and scope. 

Pat hopes I've lost this photo; better luck next year, I guess.
Being not likable makes it a stretch to be lovable, and yet, my wife, an otherwise sane and logical person, could not possibly be married to me for nearly forty years, but has. Our two children are the result of her ability to make someone into something they feared they never could be. She not only raised two children, she transformed a self-absorbed obliviot into an Approximate Dad. Considering what she had to work with, she done good.

I was afraid to have children--the actual, 'here's a small human to take care of and worry about for the rest of your life' portion of the program seemed more daunting to me than I could ever handle. I didn't have a lot of happy experiences being on the receiving end of Dad and Lad interactions. As a matter of fact, one of the better days of our lives together was when my father got up early to say farewell the day I traveled to the
MEPS station to join the Air Force. We were able to pretend for that moment that we had a bond, surety or otherwise.

Sigrid went into labor in the middle of the morning and we drove across town to the Offenbach Stadtkrankenhaus. German physicians in the early Eighties were pretty much an unknown species to me. As Sigrid's labor continued and the contractions shortened and the delivery preparation's tempo quickened, I was asked where I would be during her stay in the geburtsaal. I explained that I had placed the order and had every intention of taking delivery. It was like playing to an oil painting, no smile, no nothing, gar nichts.

This is my favorite one of us because I'm still taller
When Patrick was born, after what's considered a spontangeburt, Sigrid looked she had just run a marathon and was utterly exhausted. I watched while the midwife cleaned up my son and, as she swabbed off the blood, he peed on her. Crying, basically blind, totally helpless in an alien world, that was my son and I laughed out loud maybe in amazement but more likely in joy and thankfulness for what I had just witnessed. 

The midwife placed Patrick Michael on Sigrid's chest, for mother and child bonding and my disappointment knew almost no words. At that moment, I was so jealous of the woman I loved. I asked as politely as I could if after she had 'had enough of holding him' if I could.

I was stunned when she picked him up and fixing me with a stare that bordered on a glare (leading me to suspect that the geburt wasn't quite as spontan as the wizard in the white coat had thought-and just because it was spontan hadn't meant it was schmerzfrei) she handed Patrick to me, saying 'I've carried him for nine months, it's your turn now.'

Patrick Michael was, and is, my deal with God. From the moment I held him, I no longer cared what happened to me and egotist that I am, that's saying something.

Patrick on a day he took me out to the ballgame.
I know, your children are beautiful, and smart and talented and handsome and I'm sorry but they're not my children. I've given this a LOT of thought and my son and my daughter are the absolute best not only in the world but in the history of the world (there's a barn behind a hotel in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (I think), that might want to argue that point but no chance, sorry). Where was I?

I walked him around that delivery room for the next two hours or so, singing I've Been Working on the Railroad (the drum and piano would have cluttered the delivery room) and really booming those Fie-Fi-Fiddly-I-Os, making up in volume and enthusiasm what I lacked in pitch (and civility, I guess). 

I don't know why I sang that song--I'm shaking my head in bemused bewilderment as I type this line. It seemed like a really good idea at the time. Actually, it was a perfect idea.

And point in fact, I've gone on for way too long--Patrick was born faster than I'm telling you about it. In many ways, his first thirty-five seem to have sped by at that same clip. He and his sister, have overcome the handicap of being my children, mostly because they've had the good fortune to have the love and devotion of my wife as their Mom. And, yeah, he's made me crazy, angry, frightened, delighted and every emotion in between--because that's what children do.

Nothing ever gets lost on the internet, no matter how hard you wish!
And as long as you remember to make sure they always know that sometimes they will do things you will not like, but that you will always love them, they will be able to do anything, even leave you when they grow up to be adults of their own.

Other times, there will be phone conversations that start out about one subject and become all that and that infamous bag of chips. And your eyes will fill with tears as you watch them end the chapter called childhood and begin to write their own novel as the life you always wanted for them finally begins.

Trust me, it hurts, and maybe the keyboard blurs as I type this because the temperature's really, really warm and my eyes are perspiring-yeah, that what it is I'm sure. Be glad you're on vacation today with the love of your life otherwise the folks you work with would razz you today for having a dotty dad, but you knew that long ago.

Pat & Jenna

Happy Birthday, Patrick!
Love, Dad.

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