Thursday, June 15, 2006

Memorable moments of early fatherhood

Mental image of firstborn son Jim. (He used to share my name. I don’t know what he calls himself today.)

At the instant of birthing, he emerged with skin colored bright blue. Shocked, unexpected, wondering what went wrong. The first breath, feeble cries, and quickly turning healthy pink. The most incredibly full and dark mane of thick black baby hair running halfway down his back.

Weeping with joy, filled with the most intensely overwhelming emotion.

A photo of son Jim, just a toddler. In an unsupervised moment, him standing in the unfinished basement room, the current family project. Beaming brightly, his little hands and arms raised high, coated an inch thick up to the elbows with heavy yellow sheet rock mud.

Hustles off to the shower.

A handful of boys at play in the sandbox. Son Robert, five or six years old. Shouting, “By the Power of Greyskull!!!”. Unsheathes a long butcher knife from hiding down the back of his t-shirt, and strikes a pose emulating the tv hero He-Man, brandishing the knife as his invincible weapon, threatening his foes in the sandbox.

Frantic parental intervention.

Another vignette of Robert, several years older. Unaware that he is being observed, standing on the sidewalk contemplating as neighbors drive by. He finds a big rock and launches it at Randy Jones passing in his truck. Strikes a bullseye. Randy stops abruptly with a squeal of tires. Looking at me — “Better do somethin’ ’bout that, slick.” “Oh yeah, I will”. Randy continues on. Robert takes to his heels, dad following into the house at a slightly more leisurely pace.

Intensive father/son discussion on why we don’t throw rocks at cars.

A landscape moment. Striving to make the desert blossom. Mother and children huddled around the front porch, watching in shock as dad wrestles with the ditch-witch that won’t. Frustrated and enraged beyond control, temper long-lost, cursing and swearing a blue streak.

At a later sandbox session, father overhears the interplay where one of the children announces that his name is “Dammit”.

Sincere father/son discussion about how we sometimes say things that we know we shouldn’t.

Son Thomas, eleven, suffers a serious leg fracture at the roller-skating party. Shocked at such an unexpected turn, the father secretly weeps tears of fear and anguish. “Father in Heaven, please, let the pain and suffering come to me — please spare my children!” Thomas spends miserable months in wheelchair and full cast

What a fragile thing our lives really are.

Son Joseph, the most sensitive of the boys. He is so enthralled with Nintendo and Super Mario Brothers that he has a prolonged tantrum when his games are interrupted.

Some soul-searching for an answer. The game is retired.

Dad goes to summer camp with the older boys. Along the hiking trail, son Robert is separated from the party for a brief time. Searching, praying, franticly looking for some clue that he might have passed this way, through the thousands of acres of wilderness surrounding. Shortly thereafter, as he is found — “I couldn’t find you guys anywhere!”. Trying not to show the tears of relief and gratitude.

Dad and son wrap their arms around each other, for a brief instant understanding and acknowledging everything that it means to be dad and son.

Discussions about what to do when we are lost.

Son Joseph, retired to his bed early, suffering from flu, feverish. The rest of the family is eating dinner together.

Some strange signal from the children’s room alerts that something is wrong. “Distress! Help!”, the urgent message, unuttered, yet clearly received.

Hastening into the room. The child’s body is distended and racked with convulsions. His skin is dusky, ashen gray — impossible. No living person can turn that color. Shock condensed into one horrified frozen moment.

Suddenly comprehending the need to act, a frantic summons issues for ambulance and paramedics. Confusion over what to do, not knowing what might be wrong.

Then, a few quiet seconds, like the eye of the hurricane passing over.

Father gently takes the infant son in his arms. He quietly pronounces a priesthood blessing.

Moments later, the paramedics arrive and the calm is broken. Amid noise and haste, the child was carried away to the hospital.

Tense hours followed. Doctors performed diagnostics and made recommendations.

But everything turned out okay. And the father knew, assured from the moment of the blessing, that it would be so.

And I believe that somehow, though he was unconscious, the son knew it as well.

1 comment:

Stephen said...

Amazing. Beautiful. Thanks, Jim. Wish I had read this when you wrote it and could have thanked you then.