December 18, 2019
It is snow squally out there. I am thinking of this day way back when. I am also thinking that the picture of me in that photo is when I was about six years younger than the present age of the boy who in that picture is much more interested in the cake.
Three days ago was our oldest son’s birthday. Thirty-five years ago, Monday, December 17, 1984, mom’s water broke and we made a hair-raising, mid-winter, sixty kilometre trip from a small eastern Ontario village north to the hospital in Renfrew.
They examined mom and ready-to-go child and told us that we needed to go another hour and a half to Ottawa Civic. Her by ambulance and me following in the car. This was unexpected. And to us the inexperienced first to be parents, it was confusing. Was something wrong? Why was the umbilical cord lower than the baby about to see the world?
I had just started my post as a United Church clergy that summer. Elaine was pregnant and we were excited on both counts. As the days came closer we realized that we might have a Christmas kid. Sorta like Jesus?
Well not quite.
At least it was snowing lightly.
We arrived, and upon further examination, Elaine had to make the difficult but necessary decision to have a Caesarean. At the time I was not permitted to be in the room. Good thing too, I would have had to have some extra care, having passed out on the floor
Simon introduced himself to the world the following day. He was in an incubator while mom was recovering from the surgery.
There, behind the glass, was a piece of Elaine, a piece of me, and an entirely whole new burgeoning consciousness. Simon Edward. I felt awestruck, realizing that there was a living, breathing, and entirely helpless representation of past, present, and future, lying there.
Elaine was doing well after the surgery. Friends in Ottawa said we could use their apartment for a week as a staging place to recover and prepare our homeward trip while they were away. I phoned the church to tell them the news, and they were so happy for us. Was I going to take the service that following Sunday? Elaine and I had talked about that, it was Wednesday, and yes, but only for the services, I’d be taking the rest of the week off.
I think that’s what I said. It was thirty-five years ago.
I phoned Elaine’s family, and they were ecstatic.
And then I phoned my father.
“So why did you make me a grandfather?”
It was a short, awkward conversation.
Sigh. Some people take aging so hard.
So how to compress thirty-five years into a couple of hundred words?
You don’t even try. All I can do is think of Simon and his partner and her daughter living and working in Halifax. All grown up now. I tell him about my writing stuff and he refers me to an early twentieth-century literary theorist. When I talk with him it’s like he’s cradling my spirit. He tells me that my time as clergy and the way I treated people was a major influence in the way he is in the world. He’s not Christian, and I’m no longer one, but somehow that makes no difference anymore.
In a world that steadfastly refuses to humanize damn near everything, we are trying to be good humans.
Sorta like Jesus.
Maybe we did have a Christmas baby.