A Child is Born

88 years ago, a baby was born. He was bald and fat with piercing blue eyes. And his mother loved him. She held him close and caressed his skin. And rocked him. Sang to him. I know. Because this is what mothers do, when their babies are born.

78 years ago, a boy was just beginning. With his cousins and friends, he ruled the streets. Played stickball. Kick the can. Skipped school and spent the day at the movies, watching the same film over and over again. Until he was caught, captured! The priest, his teacher, dragged him back to his studies. On weekends, the boy pooled money with friends, bought pizza. He ate the the crusts, they ate the rest. There was laughter. Lots of laughter. I know. Because he told me, when he reminisced of youth.

68 years ago, a boy was barely a man. He enlisted, went to war, wanted to see the world. He learned sea sickness and loneliness. He discovered love of his home and yearned to return. And upon arrival, learned love of another kind. This young man met his wife, and waited for her, while she danced with all of the boys, but came home with him. I know. Because she told me, that wife, when I asked why she married him, why she loved him. He made her laugh, she said. And he did.

55 years ago, a man built a house, made a home. Settled down to dinner time and softball games. Made himself a workshop, in the basement, where he spent hours — days — fiddling around. With this. With that. Also, he prepared for the birth of his boy. His son. Bald and fat with piercing blue eyes. And he loved that baby. And held that baby. Caressed his skin and sang to him. I know. Because that is what fathers do, when babies are born.

45 years ago, a man witnessed his young family grow. Silently, mostly, he watched. He smiled. Fixed toys and untangled necklaces. Constructed swimming pools and jungle gyms. He did not play. He was not a friend dad, a fun dad, playing catch, teaching sports. Instead, he did what he knew. He created. He built. A mini bike from broken parts. A new bedroom from abandoned storage. Trails through the woods. A dog house. He provided. He loved. He was there. I know, because I was there, too.

35 years ago, a man saw his children become teenagers, young adults. He saw them grow other interests and better friends, and spend less time with him. But his wife was there, and with each other, they discovered new interests and new friends. Square dancing and long walks. Together, they remembered laughter from early days. Before it got busy, with children and activities and the building of lives and, also, of things. I was there, so I know. But not really. I had my friends.

25 years ago, a man retired from his job, spent time with his wife, their new life. Without children at home, they traveled, elder hosteled, rode bikes, ate out. It was not an extravagant life to many, but to them, yes. They embraced their lives, did what they wanted. I know because she wrote to me, his wife, about their trips, their shared experiences, their learning adventures. And also, because they visited my far away home. And when they did, they laughed with me. And learned with me. And loved me as an adult and a child.

15 years ago, a grandfather was born. He learned to appreciate babies again. This time, he laid on the floor with them, read books to them. Changed diapers. But mostly he watched. And listened. And smiled. They named him Poppa. He loved his new name. He set up trampolines and created obstacle courses. Bought legos and toy dinosaurs. Fishing poles and hooks. He held grandbabies in his lap. Rocked them. Sang to them. And they smiled. Listened. Watched. I was there and watched, too.

5 years ago, a man held his wife. He dressed her. Took care of her. For many years, she was his voice. But then, she spoke no more. He saw her fear and her anger. He fed her soup. Held her hand. He learned to ask for help for her, when it got too hard to do himself. Mostly he remembered his life with her. Her movements. Her smile. And he missed her spirit, though he had her form. I know because I missed her, too. And ached for her. And I, too, was there.

1 year ago, a man lost his everything. His love. His laughter. His mate. He watched his wife breathe. And then breathe no more. He held his children and he wept. I know. Because I wept, too. I was there.

Today, we honor this baby, this child, this man, this father, this grandfather. On the day of his birth and for his 88 years.

I am honored to have known him, and to know him still.  To love him. For always, he will be there with me, and will be my dad.

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