This is undoubtedly a day for great celebration.
Today is my son, Andy’s 30th birthday.
Well, technically it’s a celebration of the anniversary of the day of his birth, which was October 26th, 1986. But you know what I mean.
30 years old. Damn, you’re old. You’re over the hill now.
Andy was born at 9:03pm at the long since demolished old U.S. Air Force Regional Hospital at Elmendorf Air Force Base, so the party doesn’t start until 9:03 tonight when it’s officially official. As you may know, Andy still lives in Alaska and really loves it up there. Like anyone’s hometown, it’s home to him and that’s as it should be.
While October 26th is the recorded date of arrival, it was very nearly a week earlier.
About two weeks before Andy made his grand entrance, the whole family got sick with the flu. I mean REALLY sick. Violently so. At two years old, Andy’s older brother Jonathon probably got the worst of it, constantly throwing up, ingesting replacement fluids so that he didn’t get dehydrated, and then barfing it up all over again before he could blink. I remember him crying and crying and crying because he was so ill.
I was equally stricken, and for a week or so, I was in the same boat as poor little Jon was, but I swore a lot more.
Their Mom, Deborah, was also horribly sick. Same symptoms, same threat of dehydration, and even more swearing, except that she was probably the sickest of the three of us because she was puking for two.
Taking care of Jon was hard enough when he alone was sick, but when Deb, Jon and I all got sick at the same time, there was hardly any energy to do much beyond the basics for any of us. We were expending all our energy just being sick. It was a miserable ten days or so for the three of us.
The Sunday before the Sunday Andy was born, I came downstairs after finally getting Jon to sleep. I discovered Deborah sitting motionless on the couch in the living room of our quarters on 520-B 7th Street at Fort Richardson, dazed with what the Army calls “the thousand yard stare.” Actually it was closer to two thousand. Just looking at her, you could tell that the lights were on, but nobody was home.
“Deb?” I asked tentatively. “Are you OK?”
“I’m fine,” She replied weakly, speech slurred, “but I think I’m starting to have contractions.”
“Are you sure?” I asked stupidly full well knowing that she knew what contractions were better than I did.
She rolled her eyes and looked at me with an unusually weak look of disdain. “Let’s just sit here for a couple of minutes and see,” she added weakly and went back to being really out of it. Her demeanor was so weak that it genuinely scared me but she was the boss so we waited a little while. When her condition didn’t improve and the contractions increased, she said that we’d better go to the hospital. So we packed her up and got her off to the emergency room at Elmendorf.
She was immediately brought in and given IV fluids to counter the dehydration from which she had been suffering. Once she got sufficient fluids in her, the contractions weakened and eventually stopped and after a time, she was released to go home with strict orders to hydrate.
During the next week, the three of us finally got well enough that we were getting back to normal. The next Sunday, on the 26th, Andy arrived. No problems, no complications. Just a happy, healthy small redheaded human.
After all the commotion at the hospital, two-year-old Jon, sufficiently recovered, came over to meet his brother. Deb and I thought ahead and pre-positioned a toy car in the hospital room that Jon could ride around on as a gift from his new brother, hopefully mitigating the attention that Andy was about to get. It worked and they’ve been virtually inseparable ever since.
Some weeks later, Robin Baizel, one of our friends who had appeared in a stage play that Deborah and I worked out in Eagle River, Alaska, came over to meet the new human. When Deb brought Andy downstairs, she started laughing, pointed at him and then at me and said “Oh my god, it’s a clone!” I just remember her laughing so hard that she could barely choke out the words.*
In 2004, he and his brother came to promote me to colonel at the Pentagon. Attending the ceremony were the two general officers from Army Public Affairs, many of my colleagues and friends, and one Charles Krohn. Charlie was a very accomplished member of the Senior Executive Service and the senior civilian in Army Public Affairs.
After the ceremony, Charlie came up to me and said “I was really impressed with your younger son.”
“Andy?” I said.
“Yeah, the redheaded one” he confirmed. “He’s a pretty heads up kid. He and I talked for quite a while and he was able to hold his own with me. Very impressive!”
That’s Andy. From the time he was little, he was always able to mix it up in whichever group he found himself.
I was proud of him then and I’m proud of him now. He handled himself adeptly during his Mom’s recent illness in South Carolina, spending every day for weeks at the hospital with her, while in his spare time, assisting Deb’s family in the aftermath of Andy’s grandfather’s death just days before.
So that’s the story of how Andy almost arrived a week early. It’s also the story of why I always get my flu shot. (You should, too.)
But the real reason for this post is that Andy, you’re 30 today. It’s one of those milestones that make you think you’re old. And you are. Very, very old now. Ancient. Almost decrepit. Make no mistake about it. On the upside, you’re never REALLY old until you’re as old as me. Or Methuselah. And if you get to be as old as he was, think how much interest will be in your 401k!
Happy birthday, sir! Enjoy this great day!
Love you, dude!
* Quick sidebar — Deborah Ginsburg, Andy’s mom, remembered Robin’s exclamation more accurately than I did and the verbiage contained herein was corrected to so reflect. Thanks, Deb!