31 July 2015
Kathy’s 15+ hours of labor came to an end with an emergency caesarian section Saturday afternoon after 5:00 PM. All the doctors were new to Kathy and I. The obstetrician, the anesthesiologist, and the pediatrician were on-call as our doctors were taking their Saturdays off.
The Dodgers game was playing loudly in the surgery room and the doctors were joking with each other as though they were circled around the water cooler. But as the surgery progressed they were careful to keep focus on saving Nathan’s life. Another day at their office proved an extraordinary day for Kathy and I. Nathan’s first cry awakened Kathy from her exhaustion and we were introduced to joy.
This joy that came with the birth of our first child was a complete surprise to me. I had spent 9 months listening to countless advice and warnings about this parenthood thing. But I was still unprepared for the flood of sustained emotion that overwhelmed me. And it still overwhelms me to this day.
Kathy’s surgery bought her and Nathan a few days in Newport Beach Hoag Hospital which towers above Pacific Coast Highway near the Newport Peninsula. Nathan would return to Newport Beach 18 years later to attend UC Irvine. I spent those first days driving PCH to and from the hospital. I was there the moment the visiting hours allowed me and left at the last bell. I found out that ignoring the speed limit rewarded me with a speeding ticket. In Southern Cal no one gets a speeding ticket. Traffic is so bad that we never even knew there was a speed limit. To this day I am not quite clear how my 1970 Ford Econoline Van managed to exceed it.
Bringing Nathan home needed to be accompanied by trumpets and banners. And I was so careful with him. I would not allow him to leave the house for a month wanting to be safe against all possible diseases and germs. Those early days found me hustling for work. I was unemployed and decided to transition to self-employment as a cabinet maker. But my first job found me refinishing a full dining room set on the balcony of our apartment. I made $200 which it turns out was not an effective bid as I calculated I earned less than $2 an hour. But all those hours were spent with Nathan and his cradle just inside the patio door. I kept him in sight. He never slept. He really wanted to not miss a thing.
At 6 weeks of age our small family journeyed to Northern Cal settling in Alameda. I became a manager in an Oakland bookstore (which is a whole other story). Kathy and I navigated, uncharted those first two years of parenthood making memories with each developmental milestone that Nathan past.
Nathan you were so remarkable. You were so bright. And now I see the exact same temperament and light in Peter. Being the first child cast you from the beginning as the one to follow. In many ways you were our training wheel child. My learnings from you became a benefit especially in raising Matt. Matt and Stephanie had a much better father than you did.
You have set the tone for our family. In academics, athletics, responsibility, reliability, and character, you have led. We gave a laundry basket and alarm clock to each child at age 8 because at age 8 you wanted to do your own laundry and wake yourself for school.
You have nurtured a gentleness from childhood which returns a great benefit to Peter and Jackson. As each day progresses you through these family building years I am confident you will thrive. Happy Birthday.