Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2008

Chuck Lyons: Birth of ‘River’ reminder of the miracles of life

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Two hours before the red dawn of winter colors the edge of the morning sky, I ease my awakening body down the staircase to the kitchen for the daily ritual of coffee-making.

The finely ground coffee beans are poured into the filter while tapping the bag gently — one, two, three, four ‘‘scoops,” or thereabouts. Next, the water and then the waiting, until half the pot is full and the robust taste is diluted enough to justify stealing the first cup ahead of its time.

Other morning rituals follow in what appears to be a typical day, including the bumper-to-bumper drive on the Beltway with hundreds of thousands of others likewise finding their way to the start of another day at the office.

Soon I find myself in an 8 a.m. meeting. But, wait; this is not a typical day. A call alerts me that my daughter is enroute to a Rhode Island hospital to give birth five days ahead of schedule to the first grandchild on what we call ‘‘my side of the family.”

Our blended family has gotten me used to grandchildren. They are all delightful, loveable and unique. But nothing prepares you for the arrival of a next generation that carries your DNA and your heritage.

The world you think you control is suddenly disrupted. Your heart beats faster, emotions well up within and your ability to think and act rationally becomes subservient to the events at hand.

I call my wife with a request that most men hardly dare to utter, ‘‘I need for you to do some thinking for me.”

She thinks out loud as I again find the Beltway. Within the hour I am sitting in the daily parking garage of BWI Airport. Within another hour I am sitting on a Southwest Airlines airplane. Within another hour I am landing at an airport outside of Providence, R.I. Within another hour I am driving to the hospital. Within another hour I am holding a newborn grandchild in my arms. What a day we live in!

Almost a year ago to the exact date I made a similar flight, with urgency, when a call informed that my daughter had experienced a miscarriage.

Sitting on the edge of her living room couch, I wrapped my arms around her as the tears flowed. Sometimes we do not need words; we just need to be held by those who love us while we mend our hearts.

Then there was a pause. I placed my hands firmly on her shoulders and looked into her eyes in search of any words that would assist this moment. I gave her hope: Someday she would hold a child in her arms and know the miracle of birth. And she would discover from this experience something of the miracles of life.

So now, as anxious as I am to see the newborn grandchild, when I walk into the hospital delivery room my eyes quickly find my daughter. She looks tired but happy, worn but relieved.

I walk over and we hug. Tears, hers and mine, drizzle down on my white shirt and pink tie. The comparison to a year earlier is not lost.

She finally smiles and says, ‘‘Dad, your tie is the wrong color. It’s a boy.”

The nurse places this grandson, all but his face wrapped tightly in a baby blanket, in my left arm. He is 20 inches long and weighs 6 pounds, 11 ounces. His eyes are closed and, yes, he offers that look of innocence.

I watch every breath he takes, realizing that these are the first breaths — the very first breaths — of life outside the womb. And every move, from a yawning mouth to a stretched limb, is about life emerging.

The next day, the parents announce the name of their son: River. In the ensuing weeks the name, like all names, takes on the personality of the child and is spoken often with gentleness and love and intrigue.

And, we never tire of holding him or being reminded that indeed this is one of those miracles of life.

Chuck Lyons is chief executive officer of The Gazette.