Growing up, I was the baby of the family. Actually, I never liked that term, so I am surprised I even used it. Anyway, since I was the end of the line so to speak, I never really was around any babies. Eventually my older siblings all had children of their own, but when they came over to our house for a visit I don’t recall being encouraged to take any particular notice of my nieces and nephews when they were infants, and I didn’t. That all changed dramatically when I got married and Jacob, our oldest, was born.
It had been a hard delivery that ended with a last-minute move from a homey, bedroom-like birthing room, to a very sterile delivery room. A specialist showed up along with several additional nurses. It was more than a bit scary. So, when the delivery nurse finally placed him in my arms I was awed, grateful and more than a little relieved. I got to wash him up and wrap him in a fresh, warm blanket. I didn’t need any lessons or encouragement to hold him close. I ached to hold him. I wanted that embrace to last forever.
When Jacob was five years old he got his first two-wheel bike. I gave him running start after running start for a number of evenings. On one failed attempt he scraped an elbow, both knees and the palms of his hands. I gathered him up in my arms. The embrace calmed him down so we could go in and wash him up. As a father you can’t help in that moment to feel like it is your fault. But he put his little arms around my neck and squeezed hard. I wanted the trust of that embrace to last forever.
When Jacob was eight years old he started playing little league baseball. Your feelings go in every direction at once. When he was at bat part of me wanted every pitch to be a very obvious ball, just so he didn’t strike out. But then part of you is hoping that at least one of those pitches is a nice easy strike right down the middle of the plate – not too fast. Well, the pitch was high and outside and he shouldn’t have even swung, but somehow Jake managed to punch it to right field – a solid single. He was smiling so wide at first base that there was hardly enough room on his face for the grin. When the game was over and he came running out of the dugout and jumped up into my arms I knew how much it meant to him that I was there to share it with him. I wanted that embrace to last forever.
When Jacob turned 16 and got his driver’s license all my protective instincts from when he was born came out again in my heart. And when he did have an accident I was so relieved that neither he or the other driver was injured. As we watched them tow away our car I held him close – awed, grateful and more than a little relieved. I wanted to protect him from any more of life’s dangers that were coming too fast for my heart. I just wanted that embrace to last forever.
When he got married I knew what challenges were coming his way. So much weight that I didn’t want for his shoulders, but he was ready for it. I was so proud of the man that he was becoming. I wanted that embrace to last forever.
When Jacob eventually held his own babies in his arms the joy burst out of my chest. To see my child, hold his own children was overwhelming. I wanted that embrace to last forever.
Jacob moved his family to Colorado six years ago. We do get together at least a couple of times each year, but the “away” days still seem too many and they last too long. Jacob and his family came home for a visit this week. When they came in the front door he went to his mother first – I think that is as it should be. My heart was in the middle of their embrace. Then it was my turn. Now it is me who looks up at him. It is his bigger, longer arms that wrap around me. Neither of us could choke out a word until he managed an “I love you”. He and I both wanted that embrace to last forever.
And, you know, it does. Each one does.
His Peace,Deacon Dan