Flashback: 1997


I’ve been told by a few that airing my son’s personal problems is quite cruel, and I’ve also been told that my posts about my daughter are far more positive. Therefore, in honor of my son’s recent 10th birthday, and to kind of even things out, I submit for your reading pleasure an article I wrote in 1997 to celebrate my son’s 1st birthday. It was originally printed in the Tennessean as a Nashville Eye column. Of course, I’ve changed the names to “blog” names.

I haven’t seen these words in 9 years, and putting this together brough it all back for me. Here at the halfway point (at least while he’s in my house), I recognize all of my dreams have come true. I couldn’t help but give my son a good long hug tonight.

God Took Away With One Hand, Gave With Another
To my son:
On October 24, our family will celebrate your first birthday. Your mother and I are planning on a big party, with lots of guests, cake, ice cream, and ceremony. You see, this is a great cause to celebrate. The fact that you are here, crawling around my house, terrorizing the dog, and making a general mess is nothing less than awe-inspiring.
Our paths will forever be connected, but they did not start out together. As for me, I was a happily married man who was starting to feel the strong urge to have children. I will never forget the day the doctor called me into his office and said, “We have a problem”. The news was bad: I could not conceive a child. I left his office feeling a deeper sadness than I have ever known. I wondered why God had singled me out for such misery, making me want a baby so bad, then taking away my ability to make one. Please forgive me for feeling this way, son. I didn’t know what God had in store for me.
Your mother was my angel. She comforted me, then showed me the way. She was adopted by your Grandmother when she was a baby. “We could adopt, too”, she said. Without knowing why, I said, “OK”. We called Heaven Sent Children in Murfreesboro, and they sent Sheila Theopolis to our door . This special lady told us about adoption programs here in the US, and around the world. When she told us of Korea, without knowing why, we both said, “Let’s do it”.
We proceeded to fill out more paperwork than I ever thought imaginable. Over the next six months, Sheila guided us through the minefield of regulations for two states, two nations, the INS, the FBI, and DHS. On New Year’s Eve 1996, Sheila called your mother with the wonderful news that you had been found for us! She told us how you were born in Pusan, Korea, and showed us pictures. We fell in love. We excitedly spent the next three months buying baby things, having showers, and getting your room ready. Then, they called and said you’d be coming home on March 21st.
That day dawned glorious and bright. Your Korean name is Kwang Wook, which means “glorious and bright”. We stood at the end of the terminal, and you were last off the plane. Instead of crying, like we thought we would, we burst into joyous laughter. What a BIG baby you were! We have laughed more than anything else since.
On your birthday, we will have a traditional Korean celebration, known as Tol. We do this in honor of all of those in Korea who worked so hard to get you home. After that, we will let you decide how much we look back to the East. As for me, when I look at you, my dreams are very much American. I dream of long, lazy summer days throwing ball, interrupted only by the cry of the ice cream truck. Of crisp fall nights, roasting marshmallows. Of winter days, where fingers and toes stinging from throwing snowballs are soothed by a warm fire and hot cocoa. Of a spring day, where addressing graduating seniors, you say “I’d like to thank my Dad…”
I know that you’re at the age that’s easy on a parent. Let me resolve now to calmly ride out grocery store tantrums, to kiss all boo-boos, to defend you passionately when racism shows its ugly head. Let me promise to keep my emotions in check when, during an argument, you say, “you’re not my real Dad”. I promise to love you, even when you don’t want me to love you. And let me swear that I will never lose sight of my main mission: to guide you to honorable manhood.
The other day, I was feeding you. As you sometimes do, you decided to blow all the food out of your mouth onto my face and clothes. My first instinct was to be angry. During the silence that followed, you gave me that infectious smile, and said “gup”. Then you laughed. I laughed, too. I said “gup”, back to you. We both laughed for five minutes. There we were, a grown man and a baby, with food all over both of us, laughing like hyenas and saying “gup” over and over. Suddenly, tears came unbidden to my eyes, and I wondered why God had singled me out for such happiness. My cup is truly running over. Every time I see you, I know God is giving me an advance on my heavenly reward.
Happy birthday, Zaphod.

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