Archive for the ‘Personal/Family’ Category

413. More Than A Spectator Sport

Long ago my great-grandfather’s brother Will was a small town doctor.  Medicine was a lot different then, and I imagine “Uncle Will” even made house calls.  But one thing that hasn’t changed is that people then, like people now, had babies.

And once a baby arrives (or any child if a couple fosters or adopts), one becomes a parent.  Parenthood isn’t particularly glamourous, especially in the beginning when sleep is non-existent, diapers have to be changed and spit-up dealt with.  But twice a year parents are honored, first mothers in May and then fathers in June.

Uncle Will once observed that the first baby can come any time, but after that it always takes nine months.  It took six years for Lori’s and my first baby to arrive, six years of uncomplicated life that hardly seems real now.  Because once little William arrived nothing was ever the same.

Lori had five weeks maternity leave, and I honestly tried to help with William’s care.  I’d wake her to let her know he was crying, holler at her when his diaper needed changed, and reminded her to do the laundry.  But when the five weeks were up fatherhood suddenly became much more than just a spectator sport.

I was never so panicked in my life.  I really wished I’d paid more attention to how Lori did things.  The very first time I tried to change William’s diaper he initiated me as only a little boy can.  I almost called my mother, but decided to try to get through it by just taking it an hour at a time.

Over time, as each new parental challenge presented itself, I did my best to meet it, and miraculously, our kids somehow survived.

Angela came along 2 years after William and was in no hurry to be born.  Finally, during an early morning snow storm, the contractions started.  When I eventually managed to get a path shoveled and the car warmed up, I found Lori was back in bed.  “The contractions stopped.”

The next time she woke me to say she was having contractions I pretended I was still asleep.  It was my birthday, and I wasn’t interested in another false alarm.  But 18 hours later I was in the operating room, spectator at an emergency C-section (Dr. Kusek glanced over and said they should find a chair for the father – I guess I was “looking rather green”).

A few years later Thomas arrived unexpectedly while we had William and Angela in the bathtub.  This was supposed to be a planned C-section a month later, but Thomas had other ideas.  A doctor was hurriedly found and everything went well.

I don’t think I was ever happier than I was that next day.  They let us keep Thomas in Lori’s room and take care of him ourselves – it was the first peace and quiet we’d had in years!  But two months later we were back in the hospital.  Thomas had contracted pneumonia and again, I found myself taking life just one hour at a time.

I’m writing this on Father’s Day and I have more work to do than I can possibly get done – part of me wishes we could celebrate Father’s Day by just letting me work.

But this is about the only time that fatherhood is recognized, and considering that I’ve never worked harder at anything in my life, I guess I’ll make a few more sacrifices (though those don’t include missing this column’s deadline) and enjoy doing what really needs to be done today – spending quality time with my family.

400. # 400

Should Editor Dickerson see fit to print this, this will by my 400th Perspectives column to appear in the Albion News.  The idea of writing a column came to me back in 2004; I talked to then-editor Jean Kaup and she agreed to give me a try, saying the column would appear when space permitted.  The first one ran in October of that year.

Before beginning Perspectives I had written a lot of letters to newspapers, especially the Omaha World-Herald.  While I was growing up my father wrote letters to the World-Herald’s Voice from the Grandstand and my mother sometimes wrote features for their Sunday Magazine of the Midlands.  So writing to the World-Herald was in my DNA; they published my first letter when I was 12 years old.

Another reason I was eager to participate in the public dialog was because I came from a family of voracious readers.  My great aunt Ruby read to my brother Gregg and me on a daily basis, often for hours at a time while we played at her feet.  Our parents would then read to us before bed.

And being readers, my parents always had books, newspapers and magazines around the house.  As far back as I can remember there were copies of the Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, and Time or Newsweek lying around, and I was reading the World-Herald before going to school in the morning by the time I was in Jr. High.  My grandfather subscribed to National Geographic and Natural History magazines and I went through those each month, often before he did.

Reading these publications did a lot to shape my understanding of the world.  I never doubted that what I read was true – I was still too young to understand that truth is often in the eye of the believer.  But as I grew older I began to notice that a writer for the Natural History magazine had a very high opinion of himself and considered his say final.  And from there I began to notice that many publications had a “style” that favored certain ways of looking at the world.  I began to evaluate more and more of what I read – I had read enough by then to feel I had a decent understanding of things, and I began to disagree with pieces that ignored important aspects of relevant issues.

I thought all sides of issues should be examined, and so I began writing to newspapers, offering my “perspective” on things.  To me this was important – I grew up during the dark days of Communism and I understood there were millions of people in other countries who didn’t dare express their opinions.  I understood why the Founding Fathers protected freedom of speech – the suppression of dissent is a hallmark of totalitarianism – so I have always appreciated having the right to express my opinions.  And I came to believe early-on that just being free to speak wasn’t enough; I came to believe citizens with well-considered opinions have a responsibility to share them.  Our Founders bequeathed to us a free market for ideas – they understood that Democracy could only flourish if voters were allowed to consider multiple points of view.

So even though many of my views are in the minority around here, I appreciate the opportunity to share them.  I understand that writing columns doesn’t change many people’s views about issues, but I hope it does sometimes help people understand issues a little better.  And after all, what good is a free press if nobody bothers to share their own perspectives?