I was born on a Friday in the blaze of an Arizona summer afternoon. 60 years later, it’s the wee hours of a Tuesday morning in the chilly travail of winter. Today is Isaac’s birthday. Not mine.
Alexis is my hero. She is great with Isaac. Aaron is my hero, too. He is great with Alexis.
Aaron was 19 years-old when he met Alexis, then 18. He had never been on a date. Never gave a girl the time of day in grade school or high school. Joined the army at 17. Came home, enrolled in college. Sociology 101, first day of class. He beelined to the empty desk next to the beautiful brunette. From that day, neither has left the others side.
7:45 a.m. I’ve got a front row seat on the 50 yard-line of The Mystery. I’m listening to Isaac’s heartbeat, broadcast live in the birthing room. He can’t be happy; the doctor just drained the hot tub, so to speak. Isaac’s days in The Garden are over. He’s being evicted.
10:12 a.m. Alexis Rose is her name. It’s so beautiful. She … is so beautiful. Me, the father of three sons, finally has a daughter. How did I get so lucky?
For in this rose contained was/ Heaven and earth in little space
11:02 a.m. Alexis is magnificent. Magnificent, meaning, “that which magnifies.” (You rarely get to use the word literally.) Like every mother before her, Alexis’ passion magnifies pretty much everything that really matters. Life, hope, and the cost of love. Miracles and meaning. Another chance to get things right. M a g n i f i e d. In fact, I just quoted Jesus’ mother to my Mighty Might daughter-in-law …
My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. For he hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden. For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath magnified me and holy is his Name. — Mary
12:48 p.m. The coolest nurse ever comes in. She’s an angel, masquerading as a nurse. Woman to woman, she doses Alexis with comfort and confidence. I meet the worker’s eye and do my best to pour my wordless gratitude into her soul.
3:05 p.m. Behold, the woman. Creation groans. Then roars. Alexis suffers in holy service to love.
“To the woman God said, ‘I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth your children.’” — Genesis 3
Really? Do you think? “It’s not true because it’s in the Bible,” my teacher said to me, once. “It’s in the Bible because it’s true.” I paste a wry smile over my helplessness. Is there anything more irrelevant than a man in a birthing room?
Hmm. A chance to get things right again. A chance to make things right. As the prophet Isaiah said, “I will save you, oh Israel. I will save you through your children.”
See, I only, ever, have had two things on my bucket list. First, I wanted the chance to be the father I always wanted to have. But second, and more important, I wanted (before I died) to look across a room and watch one of my sons being a really good father. Kind, loving, wise, admiring, patient, constant. The kind that never hits. Never humiliates. Never degrades or profanes his children.
Because then I will know that I stopped it. I will have laid down on the grenade, absorbed its energy and transformed it into peace and healing. I will have made sense of my life – its light and its dark. Then I can die in peace.
“Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes hath seen thy salvation …” — Luke 2
5:30 p.m. The doctor says we’re almost there. The nurse adjusts the magic bed to Launch Position. Seriously, this bed is crazy. 3, 4, 5 hundred years ago Alexis would be squatting in a hut. Or a rice paddy. Or the back of a wagon.
6:20 p.m. The only way out is through. Agony, the only road to joy. She sinks deep inside herself now.
8:06 p.m. I’m drowning in little blue eyes. Heaven and earth in such a little space, every time a baby is born. Everything that matters right there in your hands, in the form of a squawling little meatloaf.
Get a shovel. You’re gonna have to scrape me off the floor like so much warm jello.
(Steven Kalas is a Nevada author, therapist and Episcopal priest. You can correspond with him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)