Friday, February 21, 2014

On Birthdays, Big and Tall, and a Bit of Perspective

I'm a 3XL guy, and I've been a 3XL guy for most of my adult life. I haven't been a 2XL guy since I was a soldier and an athlete, and I haven't been a soldier or an athlete in a very long time. I don't think I've been an XL guy since I was in the 10th grade.

A rare photo of yours truly. That's me behind the camera with Shawn Brillon in the background (photo courtesy of Ben Jose's iPhone)

On the day my children were born, the nurses - God bless the gaggle of them - tried their very best to squeeze me into an XL gown. "This is the biggest we have in the hospital" one nurse said. On any other day I would have offered a lurid yet witty reply, something sure to make my wife roll her eyes and offer an apology on my behalf, but only moments before I had been listlessly wandering the hallway in a sort of pre-paternal daze. I wasn't feeling particularly witty. I was terrified.

I vacillated between terror and nausea as a nurse pried one of my legs past the too tight stitching on the too small hospital gown. As my leg slid in, one of my arms came loose. Another nurse wedged in the other leg, and the gown slipped off my shoulders entirely. The process of dressing me must have taken 30 minutes, and when it was over I imagine I looked a little like a disturbingly fleshy caricature of King Kong Bundy circa 1985.

Bundy ... In the flesh.

When the gown was tied off, one of nurses fit me with a mask and slippers while another touched me gently on the shoulder and looked directly into my eyes. I remember being struck by her eyes. They were different colors - one hazel and one blue - and full and beautiful in the way songs are sometimes beautiful. She said, "Mr. Daley, it's time", but more than her words it was the kindness in her eyes that spoke to me. Her eyes said she understood my trepidation, that she knew I was scared, and that she would handle me with a soft touch; as I allowed myself to be led down a hallway humming with fluorescence, I was vaguely aware of both her arm on my shoulder and a numbing tightness in my chest. She was absolutely right. It was time.

The entire process from epidural to incubator took fewer than twenty minutes, which is amazing when I consider that 20 minutes amounts to roughly seven minutes per child. When the flurry ended, I was left standing alone and dazed in the back of a delivery room that smelled vaguely of my grandmother's lilac bushes - perhaps the remnants of a nurse's perfume. I think I might have stayed there indefinitely, overwhelmed and stupefied as I was, had one of the attendants not returned to lead me to the elevator that took me to the N.I.C.U.

And as I sit here at this keyboard - separated from that day by seven years, dozens of football games, hundreds of soccer practices, and more dance recitals than I ever thought I could handle - I find myself going back to that elevator ride and those first few minutes with my children. Before that moment, I thought I knew what it was to love.

When I was a boy I loved my dog, my kid brother, and my parents. When I was a teenager I loved my friends, heavy metal music, and a dazzling blonde that was too far out of my league ever to approach. As a young man, I loved my country and the other soldiers with whom I served. Later I loved my girl, and I loved her all the more when she became my wife. Through it all, I loved fly fishing. Fly fishing had always been the cord that bound together the various epochs of my life. Then my children were born, and in the instant when I first walked into the N.I.C.U., my entire understanding of the world changed. There is no love like the love a devoted parent has for his or her child. Everything else - even casting a fly - moves to the periphery when one's children are born.

The weather forecast the day before the triplets were born. Ask me how much fun it was to drive to the hospital at 4a.m. (I was in the red band).
All of this - my burgeoning waistline, a hospital's best attempts at being hospitable, and the premature arrival of three precious little people - is always foremost on my mind this time of year. Most of my friends are focused - if not fixated - on steelhead, and not long ago I suppose I would have been too. But for me things have changed, and I think they've changed for the better.

That having been said, I wanted desperately to fish this week. I had every intent on doing two days on the Salmon River chasing some ornery winter steel. Things didn't quite come together as I planned, however, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't just a little bit jealous when the reports started rolling in from all the usual sources. It seems this was a good week to be on the water.

But if I had been on the water as much as I wanted to be then I would have missed some really good stuff. I would have missed Madison singing Let it Go in the shower - again. I would have missed the dining room light flickering as Emma tap danced like a 57 pound rhinoceros on the floor above. I would have missed a family outing to The Party Warehouse, and if I had missed The Party Warehouse then I would have missed Michael getting his groove on.

My son at the party store ... pimpin' ain't easy.
It would be almost too easy to wish this time away, and fast forward to the day when I get to have it all - birthdays and steelhead. What a fool I'd be if I did.


Josh W. said...

Awesome stuff man.

BKill said...

Appreciate you saying so Josh ...

Jimmy said...

I second that. Great post man.

BKill said...

Thanks Jimmy. Again, much appreciated.