I have spoken before about “life’s firsts.” For myself, and I am sure for many others, number one on the list is one’s first love. The experience of that overwhelming emotion is wondrous. It defines the moment when one’s humanity is awakened.
An equally significant moment in life is the birth of one’s first child. My first-born was Erin Elizabeth. The first time you hold that child, life changes forever. The scale of a living person whom you can hold in the palm of your hand, the realization of the responsibilities, and the yearning to do right by this child begin the “parent’s journey,” which never ends.
Less than two weeks ago my son Mark and his wife Cary had their first child, Zachary Mark Kassouf. It has always been a custom in our family that the first male child would have his father’s name as his middle name. My grandfather was Samuel Joseph; my father was Frederick Samuel; I’m named Lawrence Frederick; my son is Mark Lawrence and now my grandson is Zachary Mark.
Like all new parents, Mark and Cary are sure that “the Z man,” as Grandpa K has dubbed him, has smiled at day three, has spoken a word at day seven and even has begun crawling across Mark’s chest on day eight. Each day a new photo appears on my cell phone with a description of an activity: Zack smiling, Zack saying “wow,” Zack following mommy with his eyes.
He yawns, and he hums. Next week he will play his first round of golf, I am sure. Watching my son and his wife experience their newfound treasure is great fun, and I wait with anticipation for Zachary to play the old crack an egg on your dad’s head trick, only to find that this time the egg was real and is running into your eyes, as Mark did to me.
Here is another good one. Mark is a bright red-haired fellow. During his senior year in high school, he had a job at the local car wash. As I was driving by one Saturday morning I waved at the redheaded kid working at the car wash. He didn’t wave back, but I just figured he either didn’t see me, or he was still mad at me for forbidding him to go to Hilton Head with his friends. I didn’t allow him to go, as he really had no invitation to stay with a specific family.
Imagine my surprise later in the day at receiving a phone call from my son informing me he had safely arrived in Hilton Head. I told him “good try, I saw you at the car wash this morning.” He informed me another redhead worked there and was the same size as Mark. It turned out he had left early that morning, driven straight through and was planning to sleep in his car. I told him he could not sleep in his car. I asked him to get a motel, have the clerk call me and I would arrange for payment.
Fortunately, he ran into friends of ours who had a place in Hilton Head and asked Mark to stay with them. Problem solved. Of course, Mark had to come home and face the music. It was one of those times when you realize your child can actually take responsibility for himself and survive without your constant supervision, but it is also a no-no to ignore a directive from your father. Pride in him, as well as ticked off. Sound familiar?
My fondest wish is that Zachary gives Mark the same array of loving ups and downs that Mark has given his dad. All of my children, and I suspect yours as well, have given us far more than we have given them. Only a parent can understand the love parents have for their children and the joy that children bring to their lives.