Friday, August 13, 2010

august 13, 1987

i'd never been an emotional being. i think that was true with most of my generation. parents were children of the depression. raised in a practical fashion. around the home there were no open displays of affection. no hugging. no kissing. certainly no crying.

but it all changed.

i'd had kids before. two daughters. plus one that came already birthed. that was neat. but back in the day the father wasn't really a part of the birthing procedure. we simply hung out in the labor room, foolishly trying to offer up some kind of comfort to the wife as she's agonizing in labor pain. intermittently moaning, groaning, and swearing at us because it's all our fault. but when the actual delivery got close, they'd whisk mother away to what they then called the "delivery room" and send the expectant fathers to the "waiting room" to smoke, swill putrid coffee from a disgusting looking vending machine, and pace nervously.

but that had changed a lot by 1987. the hospital offered what they called the "birthing room". furnished lavishly with a hospital bed, sofa, various medical carts, and one of those tremendously comfortable hospital recliner/mini-bed things. and in the birthing room the father, family members, friends, casual acquaintances, even the homeless, were welcome to drop by and stay for as long as they wished. but what this really meant was that the father, me in this case, actually got to witness the birth.

yeah, we still endured the swearing, offered little comfort, but tried. (by then we'd gone through classes which attempted to turn expectant fathers into quality care givers. doubt it worked well in many cases.) but we were given deserved breaks when other friends and family members would drop by. but in our case, mostly it was hon - the expectant mother, me, the expectant father, and my second daughter, tori - the expectant sister. nice little family unit.

in the months prior to birth we had settled on the fact the new comer would be a boy. we had no scientific evidence. we didn't do the ultra sound thing to be sure. in fact, i wouldn't do that now. i think that ruins some of the thrill. there are those practical folks that will support knowing in advance. i say those folks have no spirit of adventure.

and knowing the child would be male, we'd picked names. as i sit here now i cannot even recall having picked names for a girl. had he been a she we may have been in trouble. but we had determined that our newborn son's name would be michael weldon nix. a decision that would soon have a dramatic impact on me, as weldon was my dad's name. and naming my kid after him was quite an important decision as dad and i had not been best of friends for all my life. but we'd really mended that in the previous few years, and we wanted to honor him with a namesake.

well, as the delivery really got under way i began to realize that this was a much more difficult task than i'd ever imagined. for me. i knew it was tough on mom. but she had doctors attending her. and meds. i had nothing. ok, things, when they really started happening, happened quickly. and there was a lot of birthing going on in that hospital that morning, so somehow they lost sight of giving hon the block or whatever they did. so in truth she suffered through the experience au naturale. but then, so did i.

i found myself growing a little dizzy. light headed. i had to sit. i finally couldn't watch. but tori was truly focused. as was hon. and tori was watching intently and giving me the play by play. and i was trying not to be sick. and then she said "here's the head, dad." and i moaned, perhaps louder than hon.

and in another moment, 11:21 a.m., the doc lifted out a baby. a screaming . . . . baby . . . . boy. and that was the very moment that i turned to an emotional being. there were factors contributing to this. i watched (almost) my baby being born. that's really the most amazing experience a fella can have. add to this the fact that it's a son (baseball, slot cars. we're gonna have some guy fun. no barbies or cabbage patch for this kid.), then top it all off with the fact that i'm naming him after my dad. well, something pent up for a lot of years just broke loose and tears began to flow. i mean sobbing, raging tears. nothing like i've ever experienced before.

then, after composing myself, i felt it would be important to call my parents and share the news. i was incredibly happy. and when you're happy, you wanna share. so i found a bank of pay phones (for you younger folks, these were land-line telephones that you dropped dimes into (dimes were money prior to inflation and now have evolved into the dollar) and got three minutes to talk before some rude operator interrupted you and said "your three minutes are up. hang up or pay up!" anyhow, these were the early "cell phones", no texting allowed.) dropped in a pocket full of dimes, and dialed my parents number.

my niece answered. she was maybe 12 at the time, a bit sassy for her own good. i blew her off and asked her to get her grandma and grampa on the phone. so they picked up. and they obviously were anticipating the precise news i was set to deliver. i got through the "it's a boy" just fine, then when i started to tell them the name, well, i couldn't. the tears welled up again, the sobs returned, and i couldn't speak. here i am, a blithering, bawling idiot standing smack in the middle of a very public hallway with lots of foot traffic, all pointing at me and giggling. i think i finally blurted out the name. comforted only by the sobs i heard from my mom's end of the call. my dad was silent. my niece, ever understanding, was laughing at me.

so the emotion brought out by witnessing the birth, the emotion brought out by telling my folks we named him after my dad, it unleashed a whole awakening in me and i transitioned into a sappy, emotionally driven, blithering idiot.

and today, well, here we go again. i'm not sobbing as i recount these memories. i will confess to having a bit of moisture building up in my eyes. but i'm stalling off the deeper component. maybe later, when we take michael weldon "scooter" nix to dinner for his 23rd birthday . . . nah, i'm in control.


oh, and denise, i hope you bawled your eyes out when willie gene was born.