A birthday celebration


I was at a meeting of our Church Board when I received the text message with a picture. I interrupted the meeting to announce, “My daughter just had a baby tomorrow!” Because of the way time zones work in the world, I knew on the evening of July 11 in South Dakota that our grandson had been born in Misawa, Japan on July 12. It had been a long and difficult delivery and the baby had come early. At first all we knew was that the baby was rushed to a neonatal ICU in a nearby town and our daughter was in serious condition in the hospital where the baby was born. We had planned to be there for the birth, but our trip to Japan had not yet started. We explored the possibility of getting an earlier flight. We looked into having her brother fly to be with her as he lives near the major airport in Seattle. As the messages flowed back and forth and the health of both baby and mother stabilized after the emergency C-section, we decided to stick with our original travel plans so that we could help when the baby came home. By the time we arrived, they were at home and we were able to visit every day for a while as we stayed in a hotel not far from their small apartment.

It is a story that I’m sure we will one day tell to our grandson, but at 2 years old today it is too soon for that story. He is just learning about birthdays and how we celebrate. He is excited because all four of his grandparents are visiting and his dad has a few days of vacation to be off of work and spend time with his family. Today there will be cake and presents and prayers of thanksgiving for this young boy who has graced our family with so much joy.

From the time she was quite young, I have known that our daughter would be a good mother. Her skill showed in her gentle way with younger children. When she was old enough to babysit, she was a favorite of families with young children. When she became an adult she worked in childcare and child development centers. When we visited her, I would comment that having a child of her own would seem easy after managing a room of 18 toilet-training 2 year olds with only one assistant. She also worked in infant rooms and changed a lifetime worth of diapers for others’ children before she became a mother herself. When she married, she chose a husband who is a natural father, gentle yet firm, clear in his values, and they have formed a strong partnership.

Our children are independent and adventurous and it is no surprise that their lives have taken them to distant places. When we were actively engaged in our careers, we invested much of our vacation time in traveling to where they were living to be near them. At one time when we were living in South Dakota, we had one was in Wyoming and the other in California. Then one was in Montana and the other in North Carolina. Our children have lived in Oregon, California, Montana, Washington, North Carolina, South Carolina, England and Japan. It is a good thing that we live in a time when travel is readily available and affordable to families who make it a priority in their lives.

Yesterday Sir Richard Branson rode with three other persons to the edge of space in what they announced as the opening of space tourism. Two other companies will be quick to follow with flights into space carrying paying tourists. The costs of that kind of travel are well beyond our means, but when I was a boy growing up I expected that space travel would become common in my lifetime. I thought that I might one day travel at least to the moon, if not to Mars as new technologies were developed and humans explored space. That process hasn’t gone the way I expected, but I don’t know that I imagined that we would have as many opportunities to travel around this earth as we have had. I think that I thought that I might always live in Montana and that my family would always be close. My mother’s siblings lived mostly in our home state with only one sister living far away in Washington, DC. My father’s siblings were a bit more spread out in Montana, Washington, Colorado and California, but we lived just a few miles away from my grandparents and I don’t think I ever imagined that I would live most of my life in other states.

I am grateful for the ways that travel has become easier during my lifetime. After we get back to Washington from this big road trip I know that we can get on an airliner and return to visit our daughter and her family. We are very lucky that the restrictions on travel brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic did not stop us from seeing our family. We know that there are families who have had to be separated because of the disease.

Even when we are far away from each other, we have technologies such as video chats that were not available to previous generations. Last nite we had a video chat with our son in Washington and caught up on his week. We routinely get to see and talk to our grandchildren even though our families are far apart. Despite the fact that things have not gone as I imagined, we are fortunate to live in the time that we do.

So today we are grateful for all of the things that have made it possible for us to be together and to celebrate the growth of this wonderful new person in our family. We are blessed and count ourselves as among the most fortunate people in the world.

Last night’s rainbow was for us yet another reminder that God is good all the time.

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