Life is absurd. And life is precious. Family is a lot of both.

Monday, January 19, 2015

On the Day You Were Born

Happy 10th birthday, Samuel Hutchens!

We will celebrate this year on a sunny, mild day in Missouri. Your dad will be the one to wake you up with a tickle and a birthday song. He'll be here soon after you get home from school too and will be the one to light the candles and help you set up your new Lego sets and listen to you explain for the 1000th time who's who in your Minecraft world.

No big deal. He's just a dad being a dad.

But being around on your birthday IS a big deal to your dad. He missed your actual first day, you know. He wasn't late, but you were early. He was just steps from getting on a military airplane, headed home from months in Iraq, when he got the call that you weren't waiting.

On the day you were born, I awoke in labor and thought, "Oh no. No way. Not today, baby boy." Your dad was due to fly home on January 22. You were due to be born January 26. That was a pretty good plan. But the thing about babies is that they aren't all that good at following plans.

Your Grandmama was with me and your big sisters and brother at our home in Germany. Maybe she had an intuition that you might come early, but she wouldn't take no for an answer. Always trust your Grandmama's intuition. It's a good thing she was there on that very cold, very dark, very early morning.

Now that you know us both so well you might think it's a little bit funny that your Grandmama and I got lost in the icy, windy weather. We wandered the roads for a while before we found the right turn for the Krankenhaus (which is a great German word... isn't everyone cranky when they have to go to the hospital?). Thank goodness you weren't in TOO much of a hurry. Just enough to make sure we would all have a really good story to tell.

I called Dad's sergeant and he called Dad. I think he said something like, "I've got bad news, Sir." That scared Dad half to death so when the sergeant told him you were going to arrive before his plane made it back, Dad wasn't as upset as he might have been. Maybe that sergeant knew what he was doing.

You'll have a hard time imagining this, but you were born before cell phones were easy to use internationally. That means your dad and I had no way of talking to each other until he found a land line that would connect to the hospital. You hadn't quite arrived and we discussed for a minute or two what we should name you (I know...we should have had that figured out already). I told your dad that I didn't really care (having a baby isn't easy and I was so tired at that point that he could have named you Big Duke for all I cared). We'd narrowed it down to Samuel or Benjamin. Your middle name was definitely going to be Hutchens, the maiden name of your other grandmother.

The line was bad so we had to hang up. You were born pretty quickly after that. You were so pink and round and adorable. I think you had a smile on your face from the very beginning. It's like you knew you'd pulled a joke on all of us by choosing your own birth date. Your sisters and brother showed up pretty quickly. They took one look at you and said, "He looks like a Sam." And, well, you did. So I signed the birth certificate that made you officially Samuel Hutchens Bartee.

Then Dad called again. As soon as I told him that you were healthy and happy and perfect, he said, "I decided we should definitely name him Benjamin." Umm... I had to tell him that you already had a name. Poor Dad had a rough day. It wasn't until he actually saw you that he agreed you really did look like a Sam.

And, oh, when he actually saw you. Would you believe I remembered to grab the camera and snap this picture?

Look at your dad. He's still in his uniform. He still has sand in his boots and the sweat of two days traveling on a cargo plane. And the exhausted face of someone who has not slept in about 36 hours. And you can't see it in this photo, but he has the proud tears that every daddy has on the day he finally holds his baby. 

He got to you as fast as he could. He's a dad you can count on.

Happy birthday, kid. You still keep us guessing. And you still give us great stories to tell. We should have known from that very first day that you'd be one of a kind. Kind a chip off the old block.