It snowed on the day you were born. Not a lot of snow–just enough to swirl enticingly across distinctly non-icy streets. But this is northern Alabama, where snow is rare.
Right now you are a week old. I’ve known you for a week, and already it feels as if I have known you for a very long time. You have changed my life in so many ways. For example, I had no idea that I would learn how to change a diaper in less than a minute flat. I am the Bo and Luke Duke of diaper changing, though without the embarassing 1970s clothes or Confederacy-themed Dodge Charger.
You came out almost indecently healthy. You got two scores of 9 on the Apgar Scale. What most impressed me is how loudly you yelled upon being rudely thrust into the world. That’s a good sign. Both of your parents are notably strong-willed, and hearing you shout like that makes me believe that you will know yourself and be secure in your likes and dislikes. If there is one thing I’d like to teach you, it’s how to become your own person. You are not a clone of me or of mom. You are a distinct individual. We get a chance to help shape you while letting you discover your own path, and that’s something that both frightens and excites me.
Your mom is as excited, if not moreso, than I am. After we got home from the hospital I went to the store and got her ice cream and an egg of Silly Putty. Remind me some day to tell you the story behind that last item. Later we talked about how, even though you were so new, we were both ready to kill for you. I hope you will use that power for good. I suppose you can use it for evil if you wish, but you’ll have to be careful about doing so. History is littered with stories of those who used their powers for evil carelessly and ended up being brought down. If you’re going to be evil, put a lot of thought behind it.
I don’t mind saying that when you were born, I cried. They were manly tears, though, the kind that would not have been out of place on John Wayne back in the 1950s. That was going to be it, my one nod to extreme sentimentality, but the next day driving back to the hospital I heard Duran Duran’s “Ordinary World” on the radio and started crying again. Not only did your birth make me maudlin, it shorted my sense of critical judgement.
But that’s okay. A lot of things change when you have a child, as I’m discovering. It’s amazing, all of these changes. I can’t believe no one told me before, except they did and I couldn’t really understand what they were going on about. Now I do, and I tell everyone I can, and either they nod happily with me (parent) or nod patiently, hoping I’ll pick a new topic soon (non-parent).
I know without a doubt that you will never view your mom and I as anything other than suave, competent people who have it all together, so this may come as something of a surprise to you: we are as new to this baby thing as you are. We are all learning together, making mistakes, having small triumphs and tragedies. You have learned how to tell us what’s wrong with you, to a limited extent, while we have learned the value of a strategically-placed washcloth during diaper changes.
While you were in the hospital you had a lot of people visit you and call to see how you were doing. You may not remember all of them, but that’s okay. I want to tell you about them coming because if there’s one thing I’d like to teach you, it’s the value of relationships. Friends can be difficult; family, annoying. It doesn’t matter. Try to work through the inevitable friction. Life works so much better when you have companions on the journey.
Many of your visitors were from our church. What I said about friends and family goes double for church families: pick one where you are welcomed and fellowship is abundant. I hope and pray that you will share our faith, and your mom and I will teach you all about it. I know you will do a fair amount of seeking. Mom and I both did. But if there’s one thing I’d like to teach you, it’s how faith and fellowship can be a wonderful blessing.
Okay, okay, it’s true that I’m now up to three “one things” to teach you. It’s a byproduct of being a teacher by nature, nurture, and training. There are squintillions of things I’d like to teach you, actually. Why the alternate possession rule in college basketball is annoying. Where the microwave background of the universe came from, and what it means. How you need to breathe out gently before you fire a rifle at a target. Why you need to plane wood along the grain. But these are facts and opinions, not overarching themes that will wind throughout your life’s tapestry. Those themes, those “one things,” I can only teach by example and gentle instruction, letting you find them in your own time.
I’m writing you this in the hopes that someday you will read it and understand part of what I’m feeling. Even if you don’t, though, the act of writing comforts me. Like Papa Ray I often turn to the written word in comfort and solace, as a tool to help me understand life. If I’m lucky, you’ll gain some of the same appreciation.
I have another week with you, an amazingly brief period of calm before we all begin to be pulled in so many different directions. I cannot wait to see who you become.
Elijah Clark Granade
Born: 6 February 2004 8:13 A.M.