Today, my son turns 29.
When I saw him on Saturday night, I mentioned that I had hoped to have his gift ready.
“Oh, yeah. I guess my birthday is in a couple of days…”
He went on and we touched on the fact that, for him, because of the way he grew up, his birthday has never really been either celebrated or about receiving gifts.
Sadly, this is true.
Since today is his birthday and this post is about celebrating him, I’m not going to go into all the whys and wherefores exposing this lack in his life. Maybe tomorrow. We’ll see.
I was a 16-year-old runaway when I discovered you were growing inside of me. I was staying with a friend we’d met when we stayed at a neighboring homeless shelter a little while before. Your father was in prison on a parole violation. I didn’t know about his record until the night he went to jail. I’d vowed my love to him and he’d gotten me away from the sad life I’d been living. So, I was going to , “Stand By My Man.”
I was so scared when I got the news I was going to be your mommy. I was clueless and knew that I’d have a hard time meeting your needs. Even though abortion was one option, it never was for me. There was no way I could ever give you to other people. I didn’t want you growing up wondering why I didn’t want you. I couldn’t imagine giving away the only family I had.
That was the same year Madonna came out with, Papa Don’t Preach, and even though my situation had little in common with the song, other than being a pregnant teen, “I was keeping my baby,” and it became my anthem.
Selfish? Yeah, probably. But, deciding to keep you motivated me to do better, to be better, or at least to try. I entered a youth job readiness program and got my first GED.
Your father and I wrote each other, giving updates, making plans for our future, your future.
It was February. I turned 17 in June and he got out of prison. We went “on the road,” again. We landed in Texas and became friendly with a truck driving couple. They “adopted” us and took us back to their home in North Carolina. I didn’t know both my mother and her father had been born there.
The local community and church welcomed us. They helped us get a trailer. They got us a car, a dark blue, two door, Oldsmobile Cutlass. I finally got prenatal care.
You were such a strong baby, with such a strong heartbeat! At my first exam, the doctor thought he heard two heartbeats, with two echoes. My belly was so big and so full, he thought you might be twins!
The week before you were born, your father got into a car accident on his way to work and wasn’t able to work. With you just about ready to enter the world, he convinced me that there wasn’t any way we would make it if we stayed. Despite the fact you were nearly a week overdue, we packed up the car late that Saturday night, after visiting friends and watching “rasslin’.” We drove on out of town. We got about a hundred miles away when I admitted that I wasn’t having Braxton Hicks contractions and you were on your way.
We pulled into the pothole filled parking lot of a little greasy spoon joint. I swear he hit every one of those damn things! When I tried to get out of the car, the pain immobilized me. He ran in, called out, “Cup of coffee to go! Woman in labor! Where’s the bathroom?” He was back in the car and driving almost as soon as he’d left.
On the way back to town and to the hospital, he broke the speed limit and we made it back in way under an hour. Even though we’d seen a state trooper every few minutes on the way out, we didn’t see any on the way back. I was in the delivery room by 2:30 in the morning. They broke my water, but the labor didn’t progress the way they thought it should. I got an emergency C-section. You were born around noon. I heard later, that the doctor wanted to get home in time for Sunday supper.
We stayed in the hospital for a week. I lost a lot of blood in the surgery and was severely anemic. It was the height of the AIDS scare. Your dad and I fought because he didn’t want me to get a blood transfusion. The medical staff won that argument and I received three units of blood. The night I got out of the hospital, we got in the car and left. I had 12 or 13 staples in my stomach.
We spent the first two years of your life living out of cars and hitchhiking across the country. Your dad was a better caregiver than I was during that time. I guess I was experiencing postpartum depression in the midst of it all. By the time you were two and I was 19, we were on our own.
You’ve been through, and overcome, so much in your short life. Now, you’re married to a wonderful woman and have two stable and loving families you belong to. Your, “real,” adopted parents support and guide you in ways I’ve never could. You’re one of the best managers your company has and you’re taking college classes. You guys are on the path to home ownership. You are in the early stages of owning your own business. You’re a man of faith and integrity and continually work to grow, heal, and improve.
I couldn’t be more proud of the man you are. I love you.
Happy Birthday, my son!