Monday, February 1, 2010
Another Big Kid Birthday
Not even three weeks ago I wrote about my sacred daughter and how her 18th birthday was so emotional for me. She had counted down the days to the big event and we all celebrated in an appropriate fashion when January 5th finally arrived. In contrast, her brother whose birthday is three weeks after hers, said not one word about his own approaching big day.
It was a giant calendar on my office wall and a call from Grammy, offering to come help us celebrate, that were my reminders. He went about his days as usual, playing video games and Rock Band, going to and from school, running track, bugging his brothers. You’d never have known he was turning 17 in just a few short days. No mention of what gift he might want, no discussion of whether he should have a party. He never even told me what kind of cake he’d like.
But that’s the kind of boy he is, and always has been. His style is to lay low in everyday life and shock us with the occasional surprise. His due date was Groundhog’s day, February 2nd. Instead he arrived early in the morning, on Super Bowl Sunday, just hours before all of our college friends arrived from out of town for the big party in our tiny duplex. His birth was quick and complication free so we were able to take him home just after Michael Jackson’s Half Time show, to meet all the people who had gathered at his house.
Then he just settled into the role of little brother and was the built in playmate for his just-a-bit-older sister. She set up the games and he played along. He was my sweet baby Michael, always with a smile. He was an easy going baby then a happy go lucky toddler. It wasn’t until big sister went off to kindergarten that he realized he could have his own friends and his own point of view.
He is my child who is never sick. In most of the places we’ve lived he would not have had a medical file if it weren’t for well checks and immunizations. Everyone in the family can have a cold, sniffling and sneezing around the dinner table, and Michael will be well, not a sneeze or fever in sight. It’s become a family joke that nothing is strong enough to take Michael down. With a few exceptions. When Michael has medical issues, he gets the weird stuff.
An innocent fall to the ground as he joked around with a friend at the bus stop resulted in a broken leg. Three months later, again fooling around with friends, he broke his arm in almost the same way. Then there was the case of chicken pox, that he didn’t tell me about until the day he complained about his ‘weird mosquito bites.’ It was the middle of January, no mosquitoes in sight. He was also the first in our bunch to get Lyme disease. Again, I would’ve never known if he hadn’t collapsed on the couch with the complaint, “I just don’t feel good, and my knees hurt..” Michael never felt bad, I knew something was up.
But in regular life, this is my sweet boy. He gives quick hugs in the kitchen as I make dinner and can turn my day around with his thousand watt smile. The teen years have had their speed bumps but most days I can still see my sweet, easy going, baby Michael, somewhere in those blue green eyes. His charming nature has enamored his aunts and his willingness to help keeps him in good graces with grandparents. The little cousins follow him like puppies when we are all together, because of his patience and quiet leadership skills.
I know we’re not done with the teen years and there is always potential for rough waters ahead. He is our first born son so the job of paving the way falls on his shoulders. His two little brothers watch him as he navigates these years and are learning just what mom and dad will tolerate and exactly what they won’t. It’s sometimes a tough row to plow and we are all learning along the way.
Michael was our only baby who came on his own time, not a tightly scheduled pregnancy, like his siblings. I have always felt like he was our bonus baby. I hadn’t planned to have our first two so close together, but God knew what he was doing. He knew Meredith was going to love having a brother who idolized her for the first four years of his life, and He knew that our other two boys were going to need a strong, quiet leader to be their role model. We had always planned to name our first son after Jeff’s dad, who died just months after we were married. When Michael came along , the name and the legacy fit him like a glove.
I cherish every one of my children for the distinctive things that make them so uniquely special. And as my first born son turned seventeen on Sunday, with little fanfare and just one request - a very chocolate cake - I am forced to face facts. He has just a year and a half left under my care. His growing up years seem like such a blur. He has sprouted up right under my nose but somehow flown quietly under the radar.
He was my gift on a Super Bowl Sunday, so many years ago. And I will never stop being grateful.