On December 14, 1991, I dropped my wife at the hospital as the doctors prepped her for delivery and drove the four miles back to the house to get an overnight bag and the baby-delivery items we were told to pack. It had begun snowing. On the way to the hospital again, the driving was slow along Interstate 290, and what should play in the radio but Harry Chapin's song Cats in the Cradle. You'll have to YouTube it for yourself to understand this song's significance for a young father-to-be on his way to deliver his first child. It was always a significant song for me, and in that moment I knew I would be involved in every moment of Andrew's life (we actually had "Amanda" as a name but he ended up being a boy, but that's another story how his name came to be, for another time). He was born in a wild delivery with dropping blood pressure, separating placentas and emergency C-sections, delivered in the wee hours of December 15th, five weeks premature, small but healthy.
The years that followed were amazing times: baby raising, potty training, playing with dinosaurs and cars, getting him through the "chicken pops," first day of school, cub scouts and Webelos where I was the den leader, watching Star Wars for the first time, reading books every night, vacations, hiking, swimming, then eventually high school and college. Finally, helping him move out to New York.
Life's gotten interesting in the last decade, but the rumblings have settled down. The boy is now a man, living and working in the Big Apple, living his life, preparing to come home for a few days at Christmas. It'll be good to see him. It's weird. Every parent goes through it at some point. Years ago I moved from seeing my kids every day, to less often, as they moved through their own lives. They call, sometimes (and I whine about the frequency like the good empty-nest father that I am), visit, email. His sisters are better at it than he is. I suppose I was no better at his age, it all comes around, don't it?
I still think often about the first night of my son's life a quarter century ago, listening to that very specific song. It think I did OK as a Dad, and though the future is a dark mirror, the next twenty-five will have its own adventures and challenges as a father, and for three adult kids, and our new two-year old. But today (well, yesterday as I polish this up), is a day to celebrate my First's first quarter of life. I miss him, as all Dads do when their children are no longer children and become who they were destined to be. We do the best we can in that first quarter century, imparting what we can, both deliberately and accidentally. After that, it's in His hands, and theirs.