It was 30 years ago today when I excused myself about two or three hours before your 5:21 pm birth to get a cheeseburger. I’d been sitting unfed since before dawn with your mom at the 196th Station Hospital at SHAPE, Belgium awaiting your arrival but you were having no part of it and I was hungry.
There was a brand-new burger place that had just opened in the international shopping center sort of across the street and diagonal from the hospital at which you were making life really unpleasant for your mom, an activity which fortunately did not become a long-term trend in your relationship. I remember that burger for no other reason that it was a good burger, with a thick slice of sweet onion topped with melted cheese. I had eaten this delicious concoction of burnt dead animal flesh, gooey cheese and a host of other bad-for-you things many times before, but this one was special.
It was the last one I ate before fatherhood.
Several hours later after much blood, sweat, tears, even more blood and a ridiculous amount of swearing, and from then on for all time, every burger I ate after that, I ate as a father. So yeah, I guess you could say you established a dietary standard for me on this day thirty years ago.
Sometime in 1986-ish, while your mother was in a class at the former Anchorage Community College, I introduced you to your first burger at the McDonalds near Lake Otis and Tudor. It was a Big Mac, not the Cadillac of burgers mind you, but still qualifying in the minds of many. I sliced it like a pie, attached a bib to your chin and turned you loose.
Several handfuls of two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles onions on a sesame seed bun later, after making a series of pleasantly surprised, concerned and decidedly quizzical expressions on your toddler face, you decided that this burger thing just may have a future.
Of course, your taste and understanding of fine cuisine grew to epic proportions. Not meaning that you ate in epic quantities, just that your love of food and fine dining led you to your training as a professional chef, while my taste in food continues even now, thirty years later, more closely aligned with that of your toddler days.
In any case, it’s been thirty years since my last burger before I became a dad for realisies. And it’s been an honor and a privilege to watch you grow up.
Happy 30th birthday, Jonathon Kelley Wolfe! Here’s to you and here’s to many more burgers both delicious and disagreeable. And here’s wishing you 30 more outstanding, magnificent birthdays in your future. And then 30 more and 30 more and….
You get the idea.