Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Day He Showed Up

 I think sometimes, that I have lived a hundred lives, this one began on a cloudy February day in Boulder Colorado in 1985

I was on my knees, my fingers white-knuckled on the chain-link backstop at a corner baseball diamond - just across the way from Boulder Memorial Hospital in Boulder, CO. My eyes refused to focus - impossible through the well of tears that wouldn't stop.

I was choking for each breath - begging - begging God - For the life of my newborn son. His tiny life was hanging by a thread. His mother had survived a harrowing delivery and a nearly-fatal episode of shock.  The doctors were right on it and she was going to be ok  - we all would - if our  little boy could just hold on.  The previous 12 hours had been a walk through the sort of hell Dante would envy.

I know many people walked and drove by that busy Boulder corner that day. I'm sure they wondered what manner of demon possessed the sobbing, cursing wretch they beheld.

 I was oblivious to anything around me, trying to make a deal with God - along with every ounce of my being - that he stop my heart, cold as stone, right then and there. I would gladly give up this life, and everything in it - if my little boy could just hold on.

I knew he was better than me - better than anything I'd ever touched -  the first moment I laid eyes on him. I knew that his tiny soul carried the weight of forgiveness.

He was small - spindly and sickly, fragile and frail - and he carried the authority of heaven. He was a living love-letter from my grandmother on the other side.

 I knew also,right from the first soft fitful cry, that I would never again be whole. The part of me that was everything,  now resided in this small wisp of a child that lay lingering between heaven and earth - as if making up his mind.

His hematocrit levels were completely screwed. The last 6 weeks in-utero there had been some separation of the placenta from the uterine wall. Long story short - he wasn't getting all the nutrients he needed as a result.  Through no fault of her own, my wife gave birth to a starving baby. His red blood cells had gone berserk trying to compensate and as a result his blood was way too thick. Axle grease when it shoulda been 10W-40.

The doctor had come in to Kelli's room a few minutes earlier to explain that they were doing everything they could, but that his body temperature and breathing were not stabilizing. He wasn't yet sure what was wrong, but It wasn't looking good. Kelli was given a sedative and told to rest. We talked softly and sadly, crying until she fell under the blessed fog.

I had no idea what to do. I couldn't think - everything between my ears and through my chest - down to my toes - burned. I started to walk to the exit sign and I found myself running - bursting through the steel door into sunlight. Light that burned my eyes like acid through a flood of tears I could no longer hold. I hollered in rage and cursed at God at the top of my lungs with my fists in the air - screaming " FUCK YOU" ................... "FUCK YOU"

 I'd believed in God all my life, but I could not hold belief in any God or being,  that couldn't see how badly we all needed that little boy -Who couldn't see what he had made. Who would be so selfish as to take him away.

I tried not to believe but I had nowhere else to turn.  I walked in a slobbery sobbing  fog across the street and into the park. It was right behind home plate that my knees buckled, and I fell like a stone. I could no longer breathe. I asked again - I pleaded in vain - "God please" "give him my life" - "take mine".

 I knew for certain in that instant,  what I know today as one of the inviolable truths of my existence - I wanted no part of this world without that boy in it.

After some time, when it finally dawned on me that God wasn't gonna show up and fight like a man. I gathered my composure as best I could and made my way back to the antiseptic porcelain  hell where my son lay dying. I didn't want his mother to be alone when they came. There was a raging fire between my ears and breathing felt like sandpaper. My feet were mud.

Now God has made a long habit of going "off the reservation" when it comes to keeping me in the loop. I don't know what  "He / She / They / It"  does - or how it does it - or how it decides when to - but I learned that day how insignificant and powerless I really am .

I  learned that, in spite of myself - in spite of my doubts and fears - God loves even me.  Every whisper and every tear of my pleadings was heard and heeded on  that day - in the farthest reaches of heaven - by God himself.

I and my wife, and my precious child, were never more than a breath away from an angels loving hand that day - not for an instant. Whenever my faith is tested, I remember that,  on a single February afternoon in 1985,  God laid more grace on me than any fool could ever hope to deserve in a lifetime.

At the point of our last conversation with the doctor he had still been searching for a reason why Chaz couldn't stabilize. They were drawing blood from the poor kid every 15 minutes and had him on oxygen.  Searching for an answer.

 One of the nurses - a brilliant young woman named Linda - our own personal angel - - noticed how thick his blood was when they would try to draw some out for testing.He wasn't running right.

She mentioned it to the floor nurse after her  shift with Chaz, and then to the Dr. when he showed up. When they checked his red blood cell count, it was out the roof. They immediately gave him a transfusion of regular 10W-30 protein albumin, and within a few hours his temperature, blood count, and breathing all stabilized. By evening we had a perfectly healthy and thoroughly punctured baby boy.

 His hand and feet were purple from all the places they had taken blood from.  He was about as big around as a candlestick - all elbows and knees. He was severely underweight and looked like a Sharpeii puppy crossed with a tire-iron. His diapers looked way too big and so did his head. When he cried like it sounded like hard work. He was perfect.

We named him after my Uncle Chuck and Kelli's father. Both good men - both extremely stubborn and both passionate, flamboyant characters just a little larger than life. We named him right.

Two days later my very pale and determined wife Kelli cradled him in her arms like we were stealing the last watermelon on earth, while I wheeled her out the ER entrance on the backside of the Boulder County Memorial Hospital. I had  our  old yellow Volvo, engine running, waiting at the door.  Under the watchful supervision of the floor-nurse, the security guard, and my wife- I fastened him into his brand new car seat and like a New York chauffeur, took my place behind the wheel.

Sadly, Kelli and I would  divorce a few years later  -  we lost each other somewhere. -'but in that moment we were in complete agreement. We almost spoke on top of each other and I will love her forever for the anxious determined look in those beautiful blue eyes that day.  "Let's get the hell out of here" ........ "Before,they come out and want him back."

That was 30 years ago. He's a military man at the moment now - Active Duty Air Force Reserve. He's a black-belt and teaches Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to children,  he's kind to women and critters, he's a damn fine cook, tough as a bucket of monkey wrenches, a pretty fair shot, and  handsome as hell. He's the kindest and  most decent man I know.  Funny as hell and just brilliant - my favorite person on earth.

When everything else in this world has gone to hell.  When it's gotten dark or tricky. I remember that day.  I've always known my blessings have been worth 10 times the cost - he's proof.  I'm the richest  man on earth simply because he's my son.

I look at old pictures, and I can't believe how fast the years have flown by. I wasn't a very good father, but he's always been a magnificent son.

I've watched  him become a young man, and watched that young man become a great man - of compassion and fortitude. A man of forgiveness and grace. - With strength and wisdom that I never possessed. I hold no claim to any of it - that's all his own.

I hope God is as kind to him as he has been to me. I hope he gets the know the beautiful joy and heartache that a son like that brings to a mans life.  I didn't have sunlight or oxygen before  him -  I don't have those things without him. That's how being a dad works. 

I want all sorts of things for my son. But what I want more than anything for him - To someday see his own loving eyes looking right back at him from the face of his own beautiful child. To feel that small warm hand, soft on his face, and to know that God has indeed heard his every prayer - in the farthest reaches of Heaven.

"Peace Out"
"Don't take any wooden nickels"

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