Monday, February 2, 2009

Babies are Always a Blessing

Yesterday was a very 'baby' day in my life. I was surrounded by them almost everywhere that I went. After going to Sunday Mass we headed down I-95 and across the Walt Whitman Bridge, over to Williamstown, New Jersey and a visit with some of my wife Deb's family.

Her sister, Arlene Clegg, has lived in South Jersey for over a decade now, and she and her family are pretty close with ours. We spend a lot of good times together, from holidays to road trips to simple family gatherings.

We used to live less than a block from one another in the 'old neighborhood' on Huntingdon Street, Leen's husband Jim and I used to play ball both with and against one another in younger days, and Deb was in the room for the birth of both of Leen's kids, daughter Cheri and son Jim. Growing up they were close at different times with my own daughters, Christine, Kelly, and Melissa.

As yesterday proved, those days of us being simply the parents, and them being simply the kids, are now officially over. At Leen's house yesterday we visited not only with the folks already mentioned, but with some new members of the family.

Both Cheri (son Jake) and Jimmy (son Ayden) have had babies within the past two months. Well, actually Jimmy's girlfriend Regina had the baby, but you get the idea. Two new babies to visit at one sitting.

Cheri also had a daughter, Danica, born just under two years ago, so now she has two in diapers. Been there, done that. The babies look great, as most all babies do, and seemed to be pretty healthy, so thank God for that.

My eldest daughter, Christine, had a baby of her own just six months ago. She gave birth at that time to my grandson, Reznor Lloyd, and after we left Leen's house yesterday we stopped by for a quick visit with them at their South Philly home.

While 'The Rez', as I've taken to calling him, was sound asleep we did get to visit with him and his beautiful sister, my 6 1/2 year old granddaughter Elysia.

Now at this point I don't want to intrude on my family members private lives and situations too much, or make any personal commentary. But in keeping it simple, none of these babies was brought into the world in what would be considered a traditional family. None of their parents are married, and all of them face various challenges in trying to put together and keep together their own individual families.

But despite all of the challenges, difficulties and hard work that their decisions to become young parents under these circumstances has involved there is one thing that becomes very apparent when you spend any time visiting with each of them. The babies have been a true blessing in their lives.

Watching them hold their babies, change their diapers, proudly hand them around to family members, some simple truths come flooding back from the early days of my own parenthood. Babies make you less selfish. Not completely unselfish, but less so.

They make you think about someone else, every minute of every day. They force you to become at least somewhat responsible in that you have to look in the mirror and realize that it is time for you to begin to make your own way in this life.

You need to support your baby, hopefully with the full loving help and cooperation of your partner. We even further hope this partner becomes our committed spouse, if they aren't already.

As I visited with all of the kids and their kids it took me back to my own days as a young father, which really began 29 years ago today. That same eldest daughter Christine was born on this very day in 1980.

I am one of those guys with a fuzzy memory of many things from that far back, but so much of her birth and those early months are still very clear in my mind. Her mom had some physical problems relating to the pregnancy, and needed to be hospitalized for a short time leading up to the birth.

I remember having to stay out in the waiting area after first arriving at the hospital, and the birth took a long time. I slept overnight on the night of February 1st and into the 2nd on a very uncomfortable wood-framed couch in a 'family room' area.

The actual birth was a difficult one, but in the end there she was, a beautiful little girl who we named Christine Elizabeth Veasey.

There are so many stories that I could tell of her as a baby and young child, but I can condense it all down to saying that she was simply a joy as a baby. The kid slept for hours in the overnight, always had a sunny disposition, and was an extremely fast learner.

As a young family we had many challenges and difficulties, just as our children do today. Some we were able to overcome as time went along, some we were not.

But one thing has stood out through the entirety of my life. Despite the fact that I was a father at 18, the father of two by 19, the births of my daughters and the challenge of raising them was a blessing from God in my life.

Yesterday I got to visit with all of the new babies in my family. Today I celebrate the 29th anniversary of the birth of my own first baby, now raising two of her own. I love her more than I can ever tell her or show her, and if she ever reads this it comes with this simple wish: Happy Birthday, baby!

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