Chad wandered in and out of the room, a dazed smile on his face. Family visited, my sisters frowning over hair matted by thirty-six hours of labor and an emergency surgery. They braided my rusty colored hair, rubbed my feet through the warm blanket, and repeated that yes, that was my baby.
Twenty-four hours after he was born, I gently lifted myself into a wheelchair and made my way to the NICU where he waited, the biggest baby in the ward. He was perfect and I cried in relief and joy.
How can it be ten years since that moment when I tucked his tiny body against my heart? I look at Joseph, my Joe, and am awed that I'm his mother. I wonder how on earth someone so amazing came from someone so...ordinary.
I sat at my computer for an hour, trying to find the right words for this birthday post. It's not that they fail me, it's that they come in gushing, prideful waves. I used to do posts about his milestones, his funny little saying, his laugh and, while he still has a giggle that makes me grin and a sense of humor sharpening by the day, the milestones are more subtle; less the black and white typed list handed to me by his doctor and more glimpses of the man he's becoming.
He's still a little boy, snuggling up to me on the couch, though more often than not, our heads bump while he wraps his arms around me. He's five inches shorter than I am, his feet still puppy overgrown and showing he's got a ways to go yet. His long body fills the love seat, his hands and arms easily carrying heavy grocery bags from the car.
So very kind.
I wonder, if we were different, if his upbringing was different, if he'd be a minister, a preacher, a priest. No. Not a priest. Because he wants kids, this boy of mine. He's certain he's going to be a great father and I'm equally sure he's right.
I watch him play with Holden, patiently waiting for an almost-five-year-old to catch up, adjusting his stride, leaning down to talk. When he knows he's going to be over, he flips through his books, looking for just the right one to read to him.
He loves his baby cousins, gushing over their cheeks and blue eyes, calling them the cutest in the world until the lure of Benny and games to be played pulls him away.
At his sister's tee ball games, he likes being the third base coach, standing next to his dad with his hands on his hips, and fist bumping the runners as they touch the base. They grin at him, looking up to the big boy who gently encourages them. Between innings, he sits next to me on the blanket, reading his book, looking up to cheer for the batters.
His gentle spirit and kind soul are balanced by a sense of humor that borders on the irreverent and frequently dips into wit. There's not a day that goes by that he doesn't surprised a laugh out of me with a dry aside, a punny quip, a sarcastic comment.
In some ways he's so young with his undaunted belief in Santa and the Tooth Fairy mixed with pity for those who don't believe. And in other ways, he's wise. Wiser than I was at his age and wiser than I am now.
He argues against trying to capture lizards and snakes, making the point that scaring them is unkind and that they are better left to enjoy their lives. He struggles with loving ribs because "they're so delicious" and knowing a pig had to die so he could have his dinner. He hates when he sees reports of sharks being killed, sighing and saying, "They were in their home. They're just being sharks. They shouldn't have to die for it."
When it comes to people, his heart is even bigger.
Recently he bought a friend a school lunch because the boy had forgotten his own. He confessed, asking if I was mad that he'd spent double for lunch. I told him I'd never be angry at him for helping someone else and then wondered out loud why his friend hadn't had a lunch. He replied he hadn't asked because, really, it doesn't matter why.
And when he discovered there was a boy who didn't like him, he shrugged and said it didn't matter. "That's his opinion and he can have it. I like me a lot."
He wears confidence like a comfortable jacket. Whether he's unlocking the magic at California Adventure in front of thousands or lounging in a camp chair reading a book in the shade of an oak, he's at ease with himself and the world around him.
Do you see what I mean about the gush? The torrential maternal pride?
I know children are to learn from their parents, but I learn from him. Every day. And every day, I thank God, the Universe, whatever fate was at work, that I get to live my life with Joseph and I somehow, someway, am his mother.
Happy birthday, my sweet, dear Joe. We are so lucky you're ours.