The Firsts of Fatherhood

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It was nearly midnight on January 24, 1984, when I held him for the first time at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois. My son, Nick, had just been born on a bitterly cold night in Chicago’s northwest suburbs.

His mother and I fell in love with him at first sight. His peaceful expression after a difficult labor. His tiny fingers and toes. His shock of dark hair that would soon turn blonde. I adored every bit of my firstborn son.

Today, on Nick’s thirty-sixth birthday, a lifetime of firsts are flooding my brain. Perhaps it’s because I know how far we’ve come in three and a half decades. Climbing the winding ramp to the upper deck at Wrigley Field. Watching him kick a soccer ball at two and, at five, size up his little brother Kirk when he came home from the same hospital. Marveling as Nick drained clutch three-pointers on the basketball court.

In later years, Nick and I endured more complicated chapters. Finding our way together after his mom and I divorced. Telling him I was gay. Introducing Tom to him and Kirk. Seeing the four of us bond over a comedic basset hound. Surviving testy teenage years. Driving Nick to the University of Iowa for his freshman year.

More recently, I’ve gotten to see Nick stand by Tom and me on our wedding day, say goodbye to his grandmother, sort through his career options, follow his dream and pursue a new life in Arizona, find crutches when he tore up his knee in 2017 (two months after I suffered a heart attack), campaign for a democratic senator in Arizona, and pick grapefruits, oranges and lemons from our condo trees this January.

In 1984, I never imagined any of these chapters … any of these firsts. Or that Nick and I would each leave Illinois and end up living ten miles from each other in the Arizona desert. But that’s where our lives have led to this point … far from the arctic cold of northern Illinois.

This morning, as Tom and I drove home after our gentle yoga class, I called Nick to wish him a happy birthday. I could hear happiness in his voice. He was out for a long walk on a beautiful day in the Valley of the Sun.

A beautiful day, indeed. Nick is my son.

 

8 thoughts on “The Firsts of Fatherhood

  1. Happy Birthday to Nick! My oldest turned 19 on Tuesday. He too was born on a bitterly cold day in the Midwest. I too could never have imagined all of our firsts on the day he was born. This was the first birthday he wasn’t home, and I did not see him. We had a rousing family Facetime call, but of course, I wish it had been more. This was not my favorite first.

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  2. It relaxes me to read how the connection as adults is as satisfying as when he was a child. With my daughter Sophie standing on the cusp of adulthood, I have a lot of anxiety over the future. BTW. Sophie was born on a blistering hot day in DC at the start of August.

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  3. What a perfect tribute. And a picture to match! It’s so good that things have turned out as they have, and that you can share in his happiness.

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