I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding. John O’ Donohue
We all thought that Baby — that’s what we call him — was going to arrive early. Shelly thought so. The ultrasound technician thought so. And most of us family members were betting on a June arrival. In fact, Shel’s parents were so confident of his imminent birth that they drove out from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, unbeknownst to anyone, and surprised Pete and Shel a week ago. And Cam and I made sure that our schedules were clear this Fourth of July week so we could be present for the birth of our first grandchild. So here we all are in Boulder, Colorado — both sets of grandparents — waiting for Baby.
And I’m discovering that there is much you can do while you’re waiting for Baby, much you can do while you’re trying your hardest to stay out of your son and daughter-in-law’s hair. Thankfully none of us are setting up camp with our kids in their condo. That’s a plus. And there’s shopping in Boulder, businesses, like the Apple Store, that don’t exist in our rural environment. So that’s the place I hung out on Day One. I bought the Macbook Air, my story-telling traveler’s dream computer, thin and light enough to slide into my traveling purse. And I’ve already had my first lesson, learned to navigate the screen without a mouse, learned to type on this tiny keyboard. And there’s hiking — trails that lead to trails that lead to trails. In the few days before Cam joined me on this Waiting-for-Baby- Adventure, I found Hall Ranch, a network of paths near the town of Lyons, and, each morning, before the sun rose high and hot, I set off into the sandstone foothills near Boulder, Colorado.
The other day, as I wound around a corner on my morning hike, I was startled by a western jack rabbit, a baby at the side of the path, nestled against the rock, in the sage and the grass. It looked at me and I looked at it, and then it turned away again, pulled on a piece of grass and kept on nibbling. “I love you, Bunny!” I sang to the baby. “I’m so glad you were born!” Peter was our first baby, born in Ann Arbor, during the winter of Cam’s junior year of dental school. It was a busy time for Cam. I remember he brought his green-covered anatomy text book to the hospital while I was in labor, thinking he might have a chance to study for the next day’s test. And after eighteen hours of hard work on both our parts, at exactly ten that evening, when Pete was born, that book was nowhere in sight and I’m not sure we said the exact words, but we were thinking them, “I love you, Baby! I’m so glad you were born!” We were smitten. And somehow we did it. Somehow Cam did it. I think he took the test the next day. And he learned to make crowns that shined bright, and he learned to drill and fill and become the amazing dentist that he always has been. And, during that time, he carried that baby who is now having baby around in the front pack and he swaddled him and he changed his diapers and he loved him dearly.
I was thinking about Cam, and I was thinking about Pete as I climbed up over those sandstone ridges at Hall Ranch. It is easy to appreciate the mother-to-be, to see her as heroic. And Shel is heroic. She’s heroic as she, at nine months pregnant, makes her way to work each day. She’s heroic in her gumption, in her humor, in her creative fire, in her generosity to include all of us during this sacred time. She’s going to be a wonderful mother; she already is a wonderful mother to this baby she is carrying. And Pete, he is heroic too; that’s what I was thinking as I walked along. Like his father, he is carrying a pile of books and a weight on his shoulders. It is the summer of finishing it all up, the last touches on the dissertation, the papers for publication, the college class he is teaching. And he is doing all this while keeping his spirits high, while remaining an uplifter to us all. His grandfather was an uplifter, and somehow my mind wandered as I wandered on this morning hike from my son to my father.
For many years, I felt the hole of a missing father. My father died when I was seventeen, and I think I acutely missed him because he was the person who “got” me the most. It feels amazing to be appreciated, to be seen, and it is especially wonderful when you have a parent who understands and appreciates you in all your quirky spirited humanity. I have come to realize that I am fortunate, that I carry my father’s love with me, that he is present in my present, that he is present with his grandson too. So what better thing can I be doing right now? Than to say to my son who is about to be a father that you are awesome, that I get it, that you’re working hard, that your efforts are heroic, and it is touching the way you love your wife, the way you love your baby who is about to be born, the way you stay positive and upbeat as we all hang around waiting for Baby.