Wednesday, July 31, 2013

About Babies and True Love

A couple guys I know (younger than me, obviously) have recently become fathers. My friend Dan, with whom I used to work in Chicago, and his wife had a little girl a few months ago. And Anthony, a young guy I’ve known for a few years, and his wife had a girl last week. In both cases, it has been great fun reading their posts on Facebook about how happy they are, and looking at their numerous pictures of the babies (both of whom, need I say it?, are cuties).

Earlier today, I had a brief online conversation with Anthony, in which he said again how excited he is about fatherhood. On a few occasions in the past week, I’ve smiled about his wild exuberance. But not in mockery – I have been remembering the two occasions when I felt exactly the same way.

His joy is the same as my reaction, over thirty years ago, to the birth of my daughter Kathleen, which was reprised five years later when her brother Robin arrived.

On December 3, 1982, a nurse placed in my arms a tiny person, and at that moment it was as though a curtain opened and I saw a whole world that had previously been hidden. I know it sounds ridiculously melodramatic, but I’m not (overly) embarrassed to say that at that moment I first understood what pure, unconditional love really is.
The two people I love the most.

I was hesitant for a couple weeks to express these feelings to my wife, since I was (to get right down to it) saying, “I love Kathleen more than I love you.” The love I felt for Gloria was strong, but nonetheless had an element (however small) of conditionality to it; what I felt for our daughter didn’t. When I finally broached the subject, however, Gloria smiled and quickly said, “I know exactly what you mean.”

It was also about this time that I realized that the love I held for Kathleen was the way my parents loved me. And again I felt something I had never felt before – gratitude and wonder at realizing how much I was loved.

I sat down that day and wrote a letter to my parents thanking them for their love. Of course I had in the past (at least some of the time) thanked them for the many things they had done for me, but I had never thanked them for just loving me, because I had never before known the extent of that love.

And, to top it all, five years later I had the same wonderful experience again – less intense only in the sense that this time I knew it was coming.

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