Flowers For Mom

“Give me flowers while I’m alive. I can’t smell them when I’m dead.”

–Mary Ann Welcher (1940-)

Some years ago, before my children were born (before I had even met my wife), my mother asked me what I would tell my children about her. At that time, I didn’t know what I would say to my children. But now, after these years, I have a pretty good idea. The kids, however, are not who the flowers are for. Mom, here are your flowers.

In Luke 21, Jesus watches as the rich make a show of their offerings in the Temple. Jesus was more impressed with a widow who had very little to give, but humbly gave. About this widow, Christ said, “For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.”

How do this passage of Scripture and a quote from my mother correlate? The direct answer is that in telling the story of my mother’s life, this passage is at the heart of who she is.

There are those that give because others can see it and praise them for it. There are those that give out of a sense of duty. They give not because they want to, but because they feel they are supposed to. And there are those, like Mom, who give because they want to give. They want to help others navigate the difficulties of life.

There are many examples of Mom’s giving, and there are probably a lot more of which I am unaware simply because she does not make it a practice of telling people what she has done for others.

When I was in grade school, one of my friends was faced with the possibility of being removed from his parents’ custody. I don’t know the exact circumstances, but I remember coming home from school and telling Mom. She made sure that if he was going to be removed, he would have a place to stay–with us. Everything worked out that he remained in the home with his parents, but Mom was adamant  that he would not go into State custody.

That is not the only case of Mom opening her home to others. When I would visit from college, Mom would tell me to sleep in the bed and she would sleep in the recliner downstairs. She would tell me that she needed to sleep with her legs up or some other excuse, but she absolutely refused to let me sleep in the chair.

My mother also loves her grandchildren and great- grandchildren immensely. There were times when the first eight grandchildren would spend the night at her place. (My children came along a lot later, or they would have been there, too). There was not a lot of room, but an abundance of love. The kids would have popcorn, pop (soda to those of you who are not from Northeastern Ohio), and whatever treats she had. And Mom asked  for the kids to come over. They weren’t just dropped off; she wanted to spend time with her grandchildren. And even to this day, friends of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren call her “Grandma.”

Mom has always found ways to support her family through encouragement. If her children or grandchildren were involved in anything, she would be there if it was humanly possible. I have said many times to many people that if one of us had an event on he moon, Mom would tell the rest of the family to go buy spacesuits “because ___________ should have family there.”

There are so many other wonderful things to say about this remarkable woman whom I have had the privilege of calling “Mom,” but it would become a book, so I’ll wrap it up for now.

Mom will always have a presence in the lives of not only her family, but many friends to whom she has offered a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, or simply a hug. She truly has “cast in all the living that she” has.
Mom, you truly are a great woman. You are loved tremendously. I hope that I have given you flowers while you are living, because you certainly deserve them. I thank God for your love and for your example.

DE

A Difficult Talk

” I decided what college I want  to go to. I want to go to either Case Western or Ohio State.”

–Ross Echols

Although Ross is only 10, Marlo and I understand that it is not too early for him to think about college. We are not the parents that say, “You have to go to X, Y, or Z University. Although we are proud alumni of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s MPA Program, we have not in any way tried to pressure Ross into considering UTC, or sway his thinking.

When I asked Ross why he “decided” on Case Western or Ohio State, he replied, “so I can be close to Grandma.” My mother lives in Northeastern Ohio, and these two universities offer the program that he is currently interested in.

What Ross does not understand is that Grandma will not always be around. This is not meant in any way to be morbid. I am not waiting like a buzzard waiting for loved ones to die. Rather, I am aware that we are mortal beings and that none of us gets out of this world alive.

I think of my mother as resilient. She has had serious health challenges for the last several years. She rarely complains, but at the same time I can tell when she is not feeling her best. She goes out of her way to make sure that everyone else is okay.

Dad is now in a nursing home. Seeing him no longer living in the house that he worked so hard to keep up is difficult. We visited him last week, and the hardest part was leaving him there. I held back tears as we left, trying not to let our kids see me upset. Ross knew something was going on, but I (being a man and all) did not want him to see me upset, so nothing was said.

I now question how I tell my kids that their grandparents will not always be with us. How do I let them know that Grandma and Grandpa have fewer days in front of them than behind them, without scaring them? My communication style is usually pretty direct, with no sugarcoating. I have to somehow take the edge off, while still communicating to them the reality of my parents’ mortality?

I would like feedback on how you have handled or plan to handle this conversation with your children.

DE

Watching A Hero Fade

Until I was probably 10 or 11 years of age, Dad was, in my eyes, 6-feet-4 and 240 pounds of muscle. As I got older, I would ask Dad how tall he was because I wanted to know how I “measured up.” Dad would say that he was 5-feet-8. Ok, maybe not the 6-4 that I imagined, but it made me feel that reaching his height was attainable (a big deal for a boy). Once I got into High School–and FINALLY reaching 5 feet tall– I realized that Dad was maybe not quite 5-8 either! When I graduated, not quite at my current height, but closer to 5-5, I realized that I was at least as tall as Dad. Regardless of the fact that I am now a LEGIT 5-8, and Dad is um…not 5-8, he is still as giant to me and as much if not more of a superhero than ever.

Why? Dad was born into a poor family in Detroit in the 1930s. He worked various jobs throughout his life. He was an Insurance Salesman. he enlisted in the United States Army. He worked at a packing plant in a small Ohio town. When the plant closed, he worked wherever he could find work. Dad was from that generation–where men were expected to work and provide for their families. That generation did not feel that any type of job was beneath them. They would do what was necessary to put food on the table and a roof over our heads. We by no means lived in the lap of luxury, but we never did go hungry.

Right before my teen years started, my naïve little world came crashing down. My parents were getting a divorce. To anyone with a brain, the warning signs were evident, but this was something that happened to other families, not ours. That could truly be considered the end of my innocence, and my induction into the real world. For all intents and purposes, this was the beginning of my coming of age. But, thank God, this was not the end of my relationship with Dad.

My mother, who is a remarkable woman, refused to speak any negativity about Dad to her children. As a matter of fact, her phrase was, “If I hear you say anything bad about your dad, I’ll kill you dead where you stand.” Mom was never much for idle threats. So we continued to have a relationship with Dad.

Mom and Dad would show up together for family weddings, graduations, holiday celebrations, etc. They genuinely remained friends, and almost 35 years later, this holds true.

As an adult, I knew I could call Dad and talk to him about things. After I moved to Kentucky, I would call maybe once a week and we might talk for an hour. Sometimes the conversation would be light. We might talk about sports (he is a Michigan fan, I am Ohio State). We would talk about family, his childhood, pretty much anything. I remember Dad telling me that on different occasions (my wedding, our expecting our first child) that I would be receiving a new education. I was not sure what he meant, but I believed him.

In 2004, a 19-year-old Black man, by the name of Michael Newby was shot and killed by police here in Louisville. The police officer was subsequently acquitted. I, as a Black man and father, was dumbstruck. I felt that there was no value placed on the life of a Black man. I didn’t know what to say, but I knew who I could talk to. I called Dad. He did not try to offer words of comfort, or to try to make sense out of it. But just talking to him man-to-man helped me deal with it better.

After Dad had reached 70 years of age, he went back to work stocking shelves in a store. Of course Dad never missed work, even though his hip joint was causing him a great deal of pain. His hip was now bone rubbing against bone, but he worked as long as he could. He finally stopped working when the pain got to be too much, and he had the hip replaced.

When Dad was being prepped for his surgery, it gave me the opportunity to tell him something that I had been thinking for a long time. The conversation went something like:

Me: “Dad, you know how we always joke about your height?

Dad (with a grin on his face): Yeah.

Me: Well, I just want you to know that even though your physical stature may not be that big, you will always be a giant to me. I will always look up to you.

Dad: Well, I’ll always be proud of you. You’re a good son.

That conversation meant more to me than probably any that we have ever had. Some people never get the opportunity to say these things.

Then came October 2014. I was at a training for my job when I felt my phone buzzing. I saw that it was my sister’s number, and knew it was important. My family usually doesn’t call during work hours unless it is important. I checked my voicemail and Donna’s voice said that she had found Dad unresponsive in his house. He was already at the hospital and it was serious.

Living 5 hours from where he was made it that much more difficult because I couldn’t see him right away. As my nephew and I travelled to see Dad, I got another call. Dad was being taken by helicopter to Cleveland because he would not survive the trip by ambulance. When I arrived at the hospital, there was my hero, my role model, my Dad, attached to a breathing tube and all other types of machines. The doctors had to perform brain surgery as he had fallen, hit his head, and had bleeding on both sides of his brain. He did not regain consciousness for the 2-3 days that I was there, but I got the assurance that he would come out of it.

Dad gradually regained consciousness, but the doctors had diagnosed him with a form of Dementia. We were told that Dad, who had always been independent, would now be dependent on others. He would never return to his home. He eats when and what is mandated by the facility.

It has been over two years now, and I see my hero fading. And it is one of the most difficult challenges I’ve had in my life. Our conversations are more painful than anything when his timeframe is so scrambled. My hero gets names confused, he talks about people that have passed on as if they were still living. And I’m not sure if this man, this hero of mine who I will ALWAYS look up to knows me anymore.

My family and I visited at Thanksgiving, and we had good conversation. We laughed, talked, even played games. But after our visit, Mom told me that when we arrived, Dad asked her who we (me and my family) were. I reflected and remembered that during our whole visit, he never did mention me, my wife, or my children by name.

 I hate to see my hero living like this. It is a long descent, and as has been said to me, it is indeed a long goodbye. The dilemma is that I by no means want Dad to die. I also don’t want him to live like this because I see how this disease has robbed him of who he was.

This advice may sound cliché, but it is still true:

Tell those close to you that you love them before it is too late. Let your heroes know that they are your heroes. As Mom told us, “Give me roses while I’m alive, because I can’t smell them when I’m dead.” In this case, I’m glad Dad got the “roses” while he was still able to enjoy them.

God bless.

DE

 

My Tribute to Grandma

“Yeah, there they are!”

–Magnolia Biggers Echols (1905-1996)

The above quote was my grandmother’s way of welcoming us into her house. We lived in Ohio, while she lived in Detroit. We went to visit her every summer, and this exclamation remains with me even now. That exclamation was accompanied by a huge smile and hug. We knew that Grandma was glad to see us.

I was unaware of when Grandparents Day was until it was announced during church. I can’t say that it made me think more about Grandma, because, although she left this physical realm almost two decades ago, she is in my thoughts almost daily. I also found it appropriate that Grandparents Day fell just a few days before her birthday (September 22).

Grandma has such an impact on me, that, when delivering the sermon at church, she was a part of the sermon. (The topic is for another entry, but I may share that as well).

Grandma was born in Hardaway, Alabama. In Macon County. The same county as Tuskegee. Never heard of it? That’s understandable. When I would ask Grandma about Hardaway, she would laugh and say, “It was a hard-a-way, too,” implying that things were not easy. She grew up in the early part of the 20th century in rural Alabama. She only completed the eighth grade, because that was as far as schools for Blacks went at that time and in that place.

She married my grandfather Rev. Wellington C. Echols, Sr. in 1923 and shortly thereafter moved to Detroit as part of the Great Migration. They settled down and had eight children, 3 girls and 5 boys, with my father being the 6th child. Sadly, after 23 years of marriage, Grandpa died of pneumonia. Their third child was a senior in high school. My Dad was only 10, and the youngest was still a toddler. Grandma, however, persevered. She said that she made it with the help of GOD first, and other people. In Detroit, in the 1940s and 1950s, a single mother made sure that all of her children got their education, and none had a police record!

I don’t quite know how or when Grandma and I bonded. Mom told me that when I was still a baby, that she had surgery and I went to stay with Grandma for a little while. Mom said that Grandma started me eating solid food. (Maybe I bond over food)! Whatever the cause, Grandma and I were close.

As I grew up, I always knew that on my birthday, I would get a card from Grandma with money in it. The funny thing is that even after I started college, I would get birthday cards or “thinking of you” cards from Grandma. And she would still put money in the card!

My last visit with Grandma was in the Spring 1996. I had some time off from college, and I was visiting my family in Ohio, but I was determined that on this trip I was going to see Grandma. When I got there, she was sitting on the porch swing talking to my Aunt Bea. They had no idea we were coming, but true to her character, Grandma smiled that big smile and welcomed us. We sat on the swing and she just held my hand and talked. At one point, she was referring to me while speaking to my dad, and said, “This is my boy. He’s your son, but he’s my boy.” I asked her that if dad were to get on me about anything if I could call her. She flashed that smile and said, “Yeah!” dad just smiled and we continued on with our conversation.

Later, we went into the house and just enjoyed talking to each other. Grandma had Aunt Bea hand me a piece of paper, and told me to write on it, “With love, Grandma Echols.” I did it without a second thought. Grandma then instructed Aunt Bea to give me $200. I was shocked and discreetly asked Aunt Bea if Grandma could afford to give that to me. Aunt Bea simply said, “She wants you to have it.” I thanked her and put it into my wallet. Not long after that, I was informed that Grandma could no longer live in her home, but would instead be in a facility due to her physical health deteriorating. Her mind was sharp, but physically, she was on the decline.

In August of that year, I received my Bachelor’s Degree. I would not be back to Detroit, but I sent a copy(Grandma’s copy) of my diploma to Detroit with an Uncle. I was told that Grandma was no longer able to speak, but when she was told what it was, she smiled as if to say, “I’m proud.”

December 10, 1996, I received the call that I knew was coming, but was still unprepared for. Grandma had entered into her eternal reward. These many years later, she still lives on as I tell my wife and children about the great woman that they never got to meet. She never walked the red carpet; she was never a guest at the White House.She did not star in her own reality show. But Grandma was one of the most important and influential people in my life.

DE

Being Black and Being a Father

–“How do you approach it (the topic of slavery) with your son?”

–“How do you even like White people?”

These are questions that have been posed to me, not by Black people, but by White people. They were both innocent, yet poignant questions. The first question was asked as a follow-up to a discussion on my family tree and slavery. The second question was asked when I told a friend that my son had recently completed a book about the Underground Railroad.

My answer to the first question was that I am simply open with my son while making it clear to him that not all White people engaged in the slave trade, nor did all condone it. Indeed, some White people (William Lloyd Garrison and John Brown among many others) were instrumental in bringing down the American Slave Trade. My answer to the second question was that I couldn’t hate an entire group of people for what a fraction of that same population participated in and some justified.

While these answers came relatively easily to me, the answers are not always easy when speaking directly to my son about race relations. Granted, the topic has not come up often. We have been fortunate that Ross attends a school in which more than twenty nationalities are represented. His friends are of Turkish, Indian, and of course American (White and Black) origin. He has been invited to a birthday party at the Turkish friend’s home, and we were made to feel quite welcome. So everything is peachy, right? Not necessarily…

As all people are to some measure impacted by their own experiences , I harken back to my formative years in a small city, Massillon, Ohio. It wasn’t Mayberry, but it was by no means a metropolis, either. My three older siblings and I grew up in a somewhat mixed neighborhood. Mr. and Mrs. Tate, an elderly White  couple from Kentucky  lived on one side of us. Mr. Brown, a middle-aged, single, Black man lived on the other side. Across the street lived Mr. and Mrs. Legg, another White couple whose children were adults. Behind us lived an elderly Romanian couple whose names I cannot spell, so I won’t mess it up by trying. Ours was the only family on that part of the block with school-aged children. The aforementioned neighbors were very generous, bringing vegetables from their gardens to us, bringing souvenirs from trips, and generally being interested in our well-being. I can honestly say there were no racial issues on our block.

We attended elementary school in  the 1970s and 1980s. Our friends lived close by and we would ride bikes, go to the playground, and just act like goofy kids. I can say that I was somewhat sheltered in this environment. I knew nothing about racism, or any other type of “-ism.” My parents had talked about it, but it was still an abstract issue top me. I had never directly felt the impact.

Then, one day as I walked on the main street in the town ( a 4-lane street), a group of our fine citizens in a passing car rolled their window down and yelled, “Nigger” at me. I had heard the word before, but it had never been directed at me. For good measure the child in the back seat flashed his middle finger at me. The innocence was gone. I had been formally introduced to racism.

Another instance occurred when I was walking to a friend’s house. That particular friend’s parents were what we would consider well-off. His family and one other family were the only two Black families that lived in that neighborhood. As I walked to his house, a carload of Whites stopped their car, rolled down their window, and informed me that I was in the wrong neighborhood.

I also experienced a problem at a summer camp at which I worked. I was a staff member for several summers, and enjoyed my time there. One night, we were to be entertained by a musical performance conducted by an outside group. This group presented themselves as entertaining and educating us. To that end, they brought with them several display boards filled with what they said were satanic and racist symbols. They wanted us to know what to watch out for.

Before the musical performance began, I noticed the front man standing near the display boards, and we struck up a conversation about the different symbols. There was one particular symbol that was not on the board, yet he still felt compelled to describe to me. The symbol, in his own words, meant, “We hate niggers.” I stupidly thought that he was simply discussing this for my knowledge. A few minutes later, the three-member group took to the stage. Not long after they started their performance, I noticed something on the guitar player’s guitar strap–the same symbol the front man had gone out of his way to tell me about. I walked out and let my supervisor know.

For years, I harbored a bitter, palpable disdain for my hometown because of these incidents. But as I mature spiritually and emotionally, I realize that the people that engaged in that activity represented a minority that needed to feel some twisted sense of superiority. The sting is still there, but I am not as angry about it. But now Marlo and I have two children that will have to navigate the waters of race and racism in American society.

As for our children, we do not consciously shield Ross and Danielle from racial issues. While Danielle is still too young to grasp the issue, Ross is very astute. He sometimes understands more than I  give him credit for. We were on vacation at the beach, and whenever I see the ocean, my first thoughts go to our forbears that came across that vast expanse into a life of involuntary servitude. I mentioned this to Ross and he then told me that a White friend of his got into a disagreement with a black friend of his and told the black friend, “At least my family wasn’t enslaved.”

Rather than responding in anger to this child’s statement, I used it as a teaching moment. I realize that I can no longer  shelter Ross from the very real subject of racism. It exists, maybe more than we as a society care to admit. I will not allow him to use it as a crutch for all the challenges he will inevitably face. He will know that he is still ultimately responsible for choices he makes. He knows that he is just as capable as his classmates.

There is also the issue of peers maybe thinking that Ross is not “black enough.” I have been told that because I speak a certain way, that I am trying to be White. It seems that many people, Black and White, automatically assume that Ross plays basketball or football. Ross is only minimally interested in those sports. The extent of his interest is which team is winning. On the other hand, Ross knows the rules of golf and the protocol of the golf course.

Ross became interested in golf by playing it on our Wii gaming system. At the time I was working with Mr. D’Shawn Johnson who is also the Director of First Tee of Louisville.. Mr. Johnson consistently mentions that First Tee is not a golf program. It is a Youth Development program that uses golf as a tool. Ross has been involved (based on his interest, not Mommy and Daddy telling him he had to) for four summers, and he enjoys it. We are not trying to make him a professional.

People are also surprised when they ask Ross what he wants to become. Many adults, black and white alike, that don’t know Ross, expect him to respond that he wants to be an athlete or an entertainer. Imagine their surprise when Ross tells them he wants to pursue a career as a Geneticist. We are teaching Ross that it is fine to not fit into stereotypical expectations of others, and that he should pursue what interests him.

In conclusion, teaching my children about race and racism is a precarious balancing act. I have experienced racism and see racism, so I have some of my own biases. I try to keep these biases and experiences from becoming my children’s biases. I am aware that not everything that happens is a result of racism, and that I cannot raise my children to be jaded and suspicious.

 

DJE

Don’t Know Much About…

Don’t know much about history,

Don’t know much biology,

Don’t know much about a Science book,

Don’t know much about the French I took

–Sam Cooke

It has been said that there is no manual for how to be a parent. I have found that to be absolutely true. When I was a new parent, I thought that my only lessons would be diaper changing, 2:00 AM feedings, and burping (the baby, not me). I have also found that parenthood is a continual education. I have been pleasantly surprised at some of the things I have learned just by listening and allowing my kids to be kids.

In his nine years, Ross has expressed an interest in becoming an Astronaut, a Meteorologist, and a Geneticist. I will readily admit that I know next to nothing about any of these subjects. My field of study was in the Social Sciences, not the Applied Sciences. Although I have a passing interest in some of the Applied Sciences, I can say that I never gave any of them much thought. So Ross presented me with another learning opportunity…

The Solar System

When Ross was in preschool, his teacher, Ms. Angela, discovered that Ross was interested in the Solar System. Before Ross started Kindergarten, he was able to look at a model of the Solar System and name the planets in order from Mercury to Pluto (when Pluto was still considered a planet). Marlo and  I did our part to fuel his interest. We wanted him to explore his interests, so we bought him a set of Space flash cards. Ross was around 5 years old when he got these flash cards. He came home, read them, studied them, and memorized them. Marlo and I did not need to “push” Ross to study these cards.He was so excited, that he read them on his own. Within two days of having received these cards, Ross had read through, and memorized the entire pack. I quizzed Ross and he could tell me which picture represented the Eagle Nebula, the Hubble Telescope, and the dwarf planet Ceres (which I had previously never heard of).

Later that year, we took a trip to Disney World. Ross  thoroughly enjoyed Disney, but he also enjoyed our side trip to the Cape Kennedy Space Center. Ross got to see an actual space shuttle, a space capsule, and many other objects concerning space exploration. He was fascinated. In the gift shop, he saw a replica plush space shuttle that he has had since. On a subsequent trip to Cleveland, we visited the Great Lakes Science Center. Ross was thrilled to see even more space- related objects and to learn more about space.

Meteorology

After Ross got a little older (maybe 7 years old), he decided that space was not his thing. He was now more interested in becoming  a Meteorologist. The extent of my knowledge of Meteorology was whether or not it was raining. But because Ross was interested, and we wanted to encourage him to explore his interests, we tried to learn along with him. To that end, we were told that a local television station , WHAS, gave free tours. I emailed the Meteorologist, Ben Pine, and scheduled a tour. Mr. Pine was very accommodating in explaining his responsibilities and allowing Ross to see the equipment that he used as a Meteorologist.

Ross also had weather-related books that he read more than once, and had us read with him. During his interest in weather, Ross and I learned about barometric pressure, cold fronts, different types of clouds, etc. That was quite an education for me, not just for Ross.

Genetics

After a two-year interest in being a Meteorologist, Ross later decided that he does not wish to be a Meteorologist, but a Geneticist. I had to find a working definition so that I could explain it to other people when they asked. One day, Ross brought home a library book that explained Down Syndrome. Another time, he brought a home a book about the history of DNA. We are now trying to find ways to encourage his thirst for learning about Genetics. We are currently trying to arrange a day that Ross can either met with or shadow a Geneticist. Again, this is not to make Ross a Geneticist, but to explore his interests. He may decide that he wants to do something else.

We eagerly await the time when  Danielle’s interests are made clear. It appears that she is more interested in artistic pursuits. If that is the case, there are Art Museums and Dance Recitals aplenty in Louisville. Rest assured, if she is interested, she will attend. Wherever her interests may lie, we will encourage her, and I am sure, we will learn from her also.

The point is that we as parents don’t have to have all the answers. It is perfectly acceptable to tell your child that you do not know the answers to every question he or she may have. I encourage you to learn alongside them. It doesn’t diminish you in their eyes, but will give you another topic of conversation. We may not have a clue as to the fields that our children are drawn to. But we can encourage them to build upon their knowledge of those things that interest them. They won’t always have the same interests that we do. Don’t let that stymie their dreams. Instead, learn along with them. Knowledge is something we can never have too much of.

Don’t know much Meteorology,

Don’t know much Astronomy,

Don’t know much about DNA,

But I’ll try to learn anyway!

See ya next time!

Orientation

When most people begin a new job, there is an orientation. Usually the orientation lasts for one day, and in some cases longer. You are also told when orientation would be, and what you could expect. Not so in the case of becoming a parent!

My wife, Marlo, was rightfully intent on making all of her prenatal appointments, and usually I was there with her. The doctor gave us due dates in early October. We thought about how Marlo would be in her last trimester during the hottest part of the year. But then…

Saturday, July 30, my wife and I were watching television when she complained of a severe headache and blurry vision. She uncharacteristically suggested we go to the Emergency Room. As a soon-to-be first-time father, I completely forgot to mention to medical personnel that my wife was pregnant. Being so far from the due date, it just didn’t enter my mind to mention it. Gladly, my wife did, and she was treated, given medicine and sent home with the advice to return if it got worse.

In the wee hours of July 31, my 36th birthday, she said that she needed to return to the hospital. We were then told that my wife had pre-eclampsia and that if her blood pressure was not stabilized, she could suffer a stroke, kidney failure, or death. The baby would be delivered in the next 24 hours.

Shock, worry, and excitement fought for dominance within me. I was comforted by a passage of Scripture, and then I was ready.  Ross was born via C-Section, and Marlo and I laid our eyes on Ross for the first time. As the medical staff wheeled our son to the NICU, we were allowed to stop briefly so that my in-laws could get their first look at him.

On doctor’s orders, Marlo was confined to her hospital room for the first couple of days after giving birth. It was tough for Marlo to not see him, and it was hard for me to see him hooked up to oxygen and a feeding tube. I would visit Marlo, walk across the pedway to where Ross was, and bring a report back to Marlo. It was during one of these visits that I looked at my 3-pound, one ounce miracle and realized, “Hey, I’m responsible for him.”

When we were finally able to hold Ross, I could basically hold him in the palm of my hand. I was also encouraged to hold him to my chest (called kangaroo care) so that he could get used to me.

After Marlo was released from the hospital, she still was not cleared to drive. Her father would take her to visit Ross, and I would visit after work. We would only leave after Ross fell asleep. (Marlo couldn’t bear to leave while he was looking at us). Ross got stronger, but had to learn to breathe, suck, and swallow before he could come home.

While he was still in the hospital, his doctor scheduled his circumcision. He was taken to another room for that, and when he came back, he wouldn’t even look at me! I think he felt that I knew what was going to happen!

After a month, Ross was allowed to come home. While I see my children as responsibilities, I in no way consider them to be burdens. They may not always behave the way I would like them to, but I don’t always behave either! Whenever I am at my wits end, I just need to  think back to that fateful day on which I could have lost my wife and son (and thus our daughter would not be a part of the family), and remember how truly blessed I am.