My mind just can’t seem to grasp the fact that you are really 22! Wasn’t it just yesterday that the obstetrician laid you on my belly right after proclaiming, “It’s a Boy!!” and then gently guided your dad in the severing of your umbilical cord? I remember the obstetrician before he left the room, congratulating us, shaking dad’s hand, and telling him to “keep the boys coming!”
I wrote details about your birth story here so I guess I don’t need to repeat myself in this post. But there are so many things I remember about that day that are so special. One that stands out in my mind is that evening after everyone had left and your exhausted dad had gone home to sleep and take care of your three-year old brother. I had been moved from the birthing room to my private room and was alone for the first time since about 5 am that morning. I remember a nurse walking in holding swaddled you in her arms, looking at me and saying, “Someone wants his mommy.” I had not been alone with you until now and I was eager to meet you and get a good look at you– to spend some time alone with you. She placed you in my arms and I held you close. I smelled the sweet smell of new babe and started unwrapping your tiny body. Yes, I counted fingers and toes! I examined every inch of you and as all new moms do, proclaimed in my mind how perfect you were. I remember holding your tiny feet in my hand and marveling at your tiny red toes and skinny little heels. Marveling over the fact that these tiny feet had been what had given me some pretty swift kicks in the abdomen the past several months! I held you up under my neck and thanked God for the miracle of giving you to us to take care of and nurture. I patted your back, kissed you all over as I held you close and I remember thinking I never wanted to forget that moment.
You were born on a Thursday at 3:22 pm, weighed 7 lbs. 15 oz., and were 21 inches long. You were born 10 days before your due date (I was induced because your doctor was going out-of-town and he and I were in agreement that we both wanted no one else to deliver you). I had been dilated to a 3 for what seemed like forever and I was ready to meet you. I was to go home on Saturday, the standard two days after giving birth. It was quite the busy day! I remember the pediatrician coming into my room late that morning to examine you before we were discharged. The phone kept ringing off the wall! So many happy well-wishers calling to say they couldn’t wait to meet you. I would no sooner hang up and the phone would ring again. I remember asking the pediatrician if she thought it would be against the rules to yank that phone plug right out of the wall! She smiled her meek and gentle smile and then told me that she always felt sorry for the new moms who went home from the hospital on Saturdays and that she hoped I could get some rest! She told me you were just beautiful (I already knew that)!
Other than a slow start in you learning to nurse and latch on to the breast properly, your first days both at the hospital and at home were smooth ones. On the way home from the hospital, we stopped by the nursing home where my father, your grandfather, was a patient in the stroke rehabilitation unit. He had recently been diagnosed with colon cancer and had a massive stroke on the operating table during his intestinal resection and anastomosis. I was criticized by a few people for taking you, my newborn baby, into a nursing home, but I wanted your grandfather to meet you. I would not deny him the privilege of that because I knew him and knew that if he hadn’t been laid up in that nursing home and sick, that he most definitely would have been at the hospital for your birth. He was SO excited as he gleamed at you while I pinned the “I’m a New Grandpa” pin on his shirt. I laid you, still in your car seat, in the bed with your grandfather so he could get a good look at you. He cried. I got all teary-eyed too. It was a special moment that I will never forget. And it made me ever so thankful that I had taken you. He kissed you tenderly on your bald head before we left. Only 5 days earlier on Halloween, we had trick-or-treated at the nursing home with your brother and cousins in tow and he had patted my then very large pregnant belly, saying, “It won’t be long now.” When he came home from the nursing home, he spent a good part of his time in the bed, and some days I would lay you in the bed with him. The two of you would snuggle and he would pat and rub your bald head and talk to you and I saw with my own eyes how your love helped ease his pain– the pain that cancer was bringing to his body. You were only 18 months old when the cancer took him. How I wish you could have known him but it wasn’t meant to be.
In your early years, there were health issues we had to deal with. You didn’t talk until you were 4 and so there were many tests and evaluations to undergo during your second and third years of life. Since you couldn’t talk and therefore couldn’t communicate with us, you became very frustrated and threw temper tantrums. Your mother and father were frustrated too. We wanted nothing more than to know how to communicate with you. After a multitude of neurological tests, pediatric visits, speech and language evaluations, hearing tests, and genetic tests, your final diagnosis was verbal apraxia. Since you were born with a tongue-tie, you had a frenulectomy performed at age 3. This was not an easy surgery and if the truth be told, I regretted putting you through it because in all actuality, while your tongue-tie did probably make it harder for you to be able to learn to latch and made it harder for you to learn to breastfeed, it probably was NOT related in any way to your speech/language delays. Try telling that to some people though. After consulting with your pediatrician, we decided to bite the bullet and go ahead with the surgery. It was major surgery (a little more than a quick snip of the frenulum) and it was very hard on you, a three-year old toddler.
You started pre-school at age 3 mainly so you could get speech therapy. You loved pre-school and loved your teacher. When kindergarten came, you cried before we ever got out of the car, because you knew your new teacher was no longer going to be the pre-school teacher that you had grown very attached to for the previous three years. Thankfully, while driving you to school that morning, I spotted a box turtle in the road leading up to the school. I stopped the car, got out and put Mr. Box turtle in the car and we carried him into the kindergarten classroom. The teacher had a box and he soon became the center of attention. That turtle helped to dry your tears (as well as many other reluctant first day kindergarten students!) and I was thankful. At recess time, the class let Mr. Box turtle go free in the woods next to the school. He had served his purpose well.
Even as a toddler, you worked hard on your speech and language therapy both in private and group therapy. You excelled. Once you started talking at four, you just kept right on talking and making up for lost time. When you were in 3rd grade, they decided it was time to discontinue your speech therapy.
You grew to be a sweet, polite, and kind little boy, always considerate of others. You could always make us laugh with your fun personality. But you could also be very serious. I remember a time when you were eight years old and sitting in church next to your grandmother. The collection plate was being passed and you reached in your pocket and pulled out a $10 bill. My eyes grew wide as I had not known you had raided your piggy bank before we left home. You said something to your grandmother (inaudible to me) after the plate had passed and you had dropped your money in. After the service, she told me you had whispered to her that you wanted to help feed the poor. That day I saw that sincere heart of yours…. my heart swelled that day with love for you in that moment that your eight year old self acted as an example of godliness for all of us adults to witness.
You worked hard to achieve success in school your whole life and have always made us proud. I enjoyed seeing your passion for martial arts develop and how hard you worked at getting your black belt. You never gave up. I can’t wait to see what you’ll accomplish in the future. You can do big things when you work hard.
Son, I pray that you always know the love I have for you in my heart and that I’ll always be here for you. And I hope you know that God will always be with you too and that He will never, never, never abandon you. I pray that you will feed your soul with His word every day and that you will always follow Him.
Now that you’re in college, I don’t see you much anymore. I miss talking to you. I miss seeing you. I will miss celebrating your birthday with you this year as we’ve celebrated together for 21 years. I found a few pictures of you growing up and a few of past birthday that I wanted to share. They made me smile. I hope they will make you smile too.
Happy Birthday son.
With much love,