Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Saturday, July 9, 2016

A Birthday Memory

about to head off to trick-or-treat,
Kent, Ohio
early 1970s
Our son Steve's birthday is a week from today, and this morning, walking across the Hudson Green, thinking about him, I remembered a moment that marked a change ...  a change that occurred when he was a very little boy.

He was born on July 16, 1972, while Joyce and I were scrambling to finish our Ph.D. programs at Kent State. I was taking my final courses that summer--and had to request INC from my professors when Steve arrived, when sleep became something I used to do. The profs were obliging, and I finished five years later. (Children do take a bit of work, don't they?)

We'd had a real scare only hours after his birth at Akron's City Hospital: an infection. They rushed him over to Children's ICU, where I would see him for only the second time in his life. He had an IV in his head--his shaved head (he'd had a bundle of hair at birth). Joyce had also taken ill, back at City, and there I stood, alone in the ICU, looking at our son and feeling absolutely helpless. The doctor was not much comfort--It's the great killer of babies, he said of the infection.

But Stephen Osborn Dyer lived, obviously, and will turn 44 next week--older than I was when I taught him in 8th grade English at Harmon Middle School, 1985-86. (I turned 41 that fall.) He has a wonderful, talented wife, two perfect sons (our grandsons) (!!!), and they live about 40 minutes away, down in Green, so we get to see them often--though not so often as we'd like to.

Anyway, the memory this morning ...

We had taught wee Steve (when he could stand and walk) to hold Joyce's hand (or mine) when we walked downtown (about two blocks from our Hudson home at the time). Later, when he was more sure of himself (though not much older), we let him walk alongside us (or frisk in front a little bit), but always he had to hold the hand of his mother or father when he crossed a street.

One day, reaching the crossing where Aurora Street meets Main Street (right next to Hudson's clock tower), we saw the light change, I took his hand, we moved out into the intersection. Where he dropped my hand. Oh, not in a disdainful way, not as any sort of a rejection, but just sort of a move that said, Dad, I've got this.

And he did. The piercing feeling I felt that day returned to me this morning when I remembered that moment. Back then, I was not hurt, worried, offended. I just realized that an epoch had ended. One of Dad's Jobs had just become obsolete. I knew there would be more.

And, of course, there were. As kids grow up, they have an ongoing series of Dad/Mom-I-got-this moments. And, for parents, such transitions are all bittersweet. We're simultaneously thrilled and sorrowful, grateful and regretful. Insistent tears pool close to the surface.

And one day, decades later, you're heading down the sidewalk, alone, and you yearn for the touch of that little boy's hand in yours, the touch that says Dad, I need you.

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