Sunday, April 22, 2012

Life's Milestones

My oldest son, Colin David Alter, is 43 today. How did that happen, since I'm only 35? (They say there's an age where you always feel you are in your soul--mine is 35; my thirties were great.) I remember clearly so much about his entry into our lives. (The picture is Colin with his children, and two nephews, taken about four years ago.)
We had applied with the Edna Gladney Home, a maternity home/adoption agency, about a month earlier and were expecting a long wait. But there came this call: could the caseworker make a home visit the next day? Of course she could. In retrospect, I see that this lovely woman named Marie dropped hints that I was too dumb to catch. Me: I haven't gotten the curtains up in the nursery yet. Marie: The baby won't care. Galvanized by this visit, we rushed around to friends, borrowing crib, changing table and lots of tiny clothes that made me cry as I washed and folded them.
The very next day they called to say we had a baby boy, but there was one problem: he might have red hair. I laughed aloud. I'm blonde; my then-husband was dark and mostly bald. I drove to the hospital where he was a surgical resident, and ran across the parking lot shouting "We have a baby!"
I called my parents, but only Dad was at home. When I told him the baby was born on April 22--who knew it would be Earth Day?--he said, "That's Jeannie's birthday." Jeannie was my baby sister who died at six months. I was always told she had a congenital heart problem, but I wonder now if it wasn't SIDS. But each year on Colin's birthday, I say a small prayer for Jeannie--and for my parents who were so devastated by her loss. She would be 68 or 69 today, but I'm beyond imagining that.
I knew nothing about babies, hadn't read any books, had no idea what to do. Joel dropped us at home and went off to do a varicose vein surgery (not sure why I remember the type of surgery so clearly). A friend parked her 18-month-old with her mom and came to be with me. Together, we managed to feed him undiluted formula, which promptly gave him diarrhea--the worst sign in a newborn (he was eight days old). I called the pediatrician who was a friend and mother-figure to me, and she said she'd meet me at the hospital. Then, "No, wait, I'll come pick you up." He was fine, no weight loss, and we finally figured out the problem. But to this day, he says that's why he has Crohn's disease.
I'm not sure how women who give birth do it, but I was exhausted that first week. People came and went all hours of the day (by the fourth baby, that didn't faze me at all). To top it off, friends had to be out of their house for some reason and came to stay with us, bringing a toddler. That set the pattern for our lives--three more babies, always a houseful of people, more food served than I can now imagine. I did it all and loved it, but I look back at myself with amazement.
Colin David, I sure am glad you came into our lives. I love you a lot.
To the rest of you, thanks for letting me take this nostalgic trip. Forty-three? Can't be. It was only yesterday we brought him home, and yet it was a long time ago because so much has changed.

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