He arrived two weeks after his due date, by induction, and he was not impressed, yelling his way out into the world. He was a big baby – at birth he looked like he was three months old, pushing toward 10 pounds. The nurse cleaned him up, wrapped him in a little blanket, and put him in my arms. Eyes in a little round face squinted at me.
I fell in love.
At seven months, sitting between us in his car seat, he tried to take control of the steering wheel. We were on the interstate.
He walked at nine months. He walked for exactly one day. Then he ran and didn’t stop.
At two, he climbed into the car in the garage, keys in hand. He considered himself an adult, so why shouldn’t he drive the car?
He was four, perhaps five, when I noticed something odd about the training wheels on his bike. He wasn’t using them. I took them off, and off he went. When his mother saw him, she burst into tears.
For the elderly neighbor across the street, he was her Jeopardy partner. They’d watch the television show together, and she’d give him snacks.
Early one Saturday morning, we heard the television set on. I stumbled into the den to see what was up, and there he was, watching a golf game on television. Golf. He was five.
And then time begins to run together. I’m not sure what happened, but a lot of time passed between the little boy singing at the top of his lungs for a church Christmas program and a white stretch limousine pulling into the driveway for the senior prom. In between were hundreds if not thousands of soccer games, basketball games, baseball games, and any other kind of game with a ball.
Like that 1987 World Series game, Cardinals and the Twins playing game 5 in Old Busch Stadium. We were there. He explained the game to me.
College, and then his first job, working for a minor league baseball team. And then the jump to Arizona. Watching him load the U-Haul truck. Watching him drive away.
Even good things for your children can be hard.
And then he finds Stephanie in Phoenix. We fly out one Christmas to meet her and her family. She was scared to death. Turns out he had told her all kinds of stories about his mother.
Almost two years later, we flew out again to Phoenix. For their wedding.
And then my St. Louis boy figured out a way to get back to St. Louis. With a pregnant wife in tow.
And then the night they go to the hospital for Cameron’s induction (there must be something in the genes). He falls, hits his head, and I rush to the hospital at one in the morning. He’s not delirious, but he’s disoriented. The x-rays come in. Blood on the skull. The next day, Stephanie’s in labor, and he’s having brain surgery.
It all ends well. Cameron’s born. Two years later, Caden’s born. For Caden’s birth, he wears a bicycle helmet.
He, and his brother Andrew, have taught me two things about fatherhood.
The first thing: Once you become a father, you never stop being a father. How you’re a father changes, but you never stop being a father.
And the second this is, you don’t want to stop.
Happy birthday, Travis Young.
Photograph: Stephanie and Travis Young, with Caden obviously enjoying himself and Cameron standing quietly, with a friend's new baby.