This lyric essay was for my English class. I find that writing non-fiction stirs up some old memories, and the more I write, the more I remember. Perhaps some good will come from all this writing...
On March 23, 2008 I became a dad. Standing next to my wife after 30+ hours of labor, we were anxious to greet this new baby into our family. I stood by my wife's side pushing, pulling, comforting and coaching her long into the night and into the early morning of my best Easter ever. When the midwife asked me if I wanted to catch the baby I quickly responded that I didn't know, but that did not stop her from telling me how to cradle his little neck into my hand and prepare for the next push. My son, a beautiful gooey mess of purple skin and slimy hair, slid into my hands at 1:11am, and my life changed forever. I held him as he took his first breath. I held him as he cried; shocked at the cold air that now surrounded him. I held him as he nestled into his mother's arms. I was a daddy.
When I was eight I didn't know how to ride a bike. This wouldn't be a problem if my friends didn't like to ride, but we were living in Louisiana, where every street and vacant lot had an adventure to be explored. I tried to blend in with my training wheels keeping me upright, but how could any self-respecting lizard hunter and tadpole collector go on safari with training wheels? My parents had divorced several years earlier, and despite my mom's best effort to give us everything we needed, I still needed a dad. That is where my French speaking friend Felix stepped in, and taught me one of the most basic lessons in life. We hijacked my sister's training wheel free bike and started practice. I fell, and I fell a lot. When I wanted to quit, I was told that the only way to learn was to get back on and fall some more. Felix patiently helped me off the ground and on the bike every time I fell. Finally the moment came when I was pedaling faster than he could run. I was on my own! I wish I knew the words that Felix shouted as I made my way down the sidewalk and across the street. I wish that I knew the words in French to thank my friend who stepped into a role that wasn't required of him. I wish I knew where he was today.
At thirteen I was the fat, white, Mormon kid in a school where I did not fit in. Tennessee was not a great place for me to attend junior high. Really though, is there ever a great place to attend junior high? Up until this point in my life, basketball was played on a six foot hoop with friends late into the evening. This concept of a ten foot hoop played in a gym with a bunch of large strangers seemed foreboding at best. Not knowing any rules, I hoped to avoid detection by just standing to the side and letting the other boys work their magic. I was great at standing. In fact, I was so great at standing that they let me stand under the hoop and took turns driving down the key and slamming their massive frames into my prepubescent body. Since they all seemed to enjoy this, I must be doing something right. So in spite of the pain and embarrassment I remained under the hoop to serve as the "dummy" for their practice. It would have been nice to know the rules of the game, but I did not have that option. Life dealt me a hand free from the education of sports and the knowledge of how to stand up to a bully. I didn't like it. I didn't know any different. I thought that this is just the way life is.
My son is still growing. At 18 months, he has life figured out. He knows how to eat. He knows how to communicate as he makes the signs for "food", "milk", "more" and "diaper." He even knows where to find my wallet and pull out all of its contents. The other day we were in the backyard, and I was watching him play on the slide. Climbing up the ladder and then going down the slide, he spent his time enjoying the beautiful day. After a few climbs and a few slides, he lost his balance and was close to falling off the slide. I watched from a distance knowing that he was only two feet from the ground, and that as much as I wanted to help him back into place, it was important that he learn life lessons like this on his own. He eventually climbed back into place. Looking around the yard he saw me and smiled. Taking a break from his toys, he climbed into my lap seeking comfort and love from someone who will always be there to give it. I love my son. I enjoy every moment of watching him grow. I am a dad.