By Tim Hayes
Family legend has it, as my father got the word while in the waiting room at the hospital — because dads didn’t get to go in the delivery room back then — that a son had been born, he did what Hayes men have done down through the generations.
He passed out cold. (Sorry, Dad. Still love ya!)
That remains the lone instance of anyone actually losing consciousness as the result of learning of my presence. And I have no problem keeping that streak alive.
Trying to become a father is delightful fun. But when it gets super-real, when they hand you that tiny little person for the first time, someone who will depend on you, play with you, drive you nuts, fill your soul to the absolute brim with deep wells of joy and pride and love that you never realized had been stored inside that old bag of bones you’ve carried around your whole life? That’s shifting into a whole other gear, friends.
I had the honor of being there as each of our kids was born. Never hit the floor once. Each experience turned out to be unique, as you might guess. But regardless of the specific circumstances, those three events stand above all others for excitement, anxiety, happiness, the occasional whiff of fear, amazement, and undiluted blessings.
The first happened while we lived on the other side of Pennsylvania, about five hours from our shared family roots in Pittsburgh. Within hours after the big shiny ball had dropped in Times Square, the two of us battled a snowy, icy blizzard to make it to the hospital. My wife worked, waited, and worried most of that day until the doctor came in and told us, “Go on home and get a good rest in your own bed. You’ll be having a baby tomorrow.” While disappointed, we did as prescribed and, sure as anything, we found ourselves back in the delivery room the next day, where after a lot of astoundingly tough effort by my wife, our daughter arrived and changed everything.
Two years later, now back home for good around grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends, we learned Number Two was on the way. This one had been dubbed our “Miracle Baby,” conceived in a last-minute Hail Mary pass, a day before I had to begin a series of radiation treatments that had the potential of rendering me unable to father any more kids. Following a wild delivery episode where my wife began to dilate just as an epidural had been administered to mask the pain, there arrived another beautiful daughter.
After a couple of years chasing infants and toddlers around our little Cape Cod-style house, and confirming that I was not “shooting blanks” as it were, we decided to take the plunge one more time. For whatever reason, this pregnancy went smoother and the delivery progressed in such a laid-back manner that when our son was born, it felt warm and peaceful and right. His two big sisters couldn’t love him enough, nor could we.
Since those heaven-sent events, our children have grown and achieved, stretched and sputtered, loved and received love, to the point today where each has carved out a career and life of which they can justifiably take pride. Their mother and I just look at each other sometimes and wonder how we managed to go three-for-three. But I don’t know that there’s all that much to figure out, really.
Winston Churchill once noted something to the effect of: The bedrock of society begins when two young people fall in love. A better model has yet to be found. The kids know I love their mother, and that both of us love them without condition or limit. So you can save your money at Barnes & Noble, perusing through the racks and stacks of parenting books. They all pretty much give this same advice, when you get right down to it.
That’s why, on this Fathers Day, I say, “Kids, don’t worry about T-shirts or gift cards or movie passes or any of that stuff. You are my gift. Every day.”
And even after all these years, even after all the ups and downs and in-betweens, even with everything this beautiful life and family have brought me, it remains a point of self-satisfaction that I can unequivocally state one thing to this day.
I still haven’t passed out.
Happy Fathers Day, everyone.
Copyright 2019 Timothy P. Hayes