Sunday, May 27, 2007

My Oldest Graduates High School

Talk about weird - my son just graduated from high school a couple of days ago.
MY son.
You know - the one who's diapers I used to change?
The one who I used to feed with a bottle?
The one that used to fit entirely inside my two hands when he was born?
The one who used to giggle uncontrollably when mamma would slap the floor on both sides of him?

The night he was born is still crystal clear in my memory. We lived in Germany at the time as I was in the Army. I wont bore you with all of the military details, because anyone who has served knows what it is like. Lets just suffice it to say that by the time I got a call that my wife was in the hospital, I had already been up for around 35 to 40 hours as a result of my duties. My unit had been "deployed" and away from our families for weeks and I had to get special permission to leave and go to the hospital. My wife wasn't due for another two months, and so this was a lot more than a little scary.
On the way to the hospital (two hours from where I had been working) the plastic air cleaner of the little German Ford that I was driving fell down onto the engine and caught fire! I pulled off of the Autobahn (German freeway) , got out of the car, and ran in small circles before my brain finally engaged and I started scooping dirt out of the farmers field that ran along the freeway and started throwing it onto the flames on the engine. When I got the flames out, I had 1.5 spark plug wires still working - the others had burnt through. Do you know the car still got me home where I could get our other car?
Long story a little shorter, many hours after I got to the German hospital in G├╝nzburg, my wife had an emergency C-section and my son William was born! They wheeled him out on a little cart and gave me a little oxygen mask and told me to hold it over his mouth. They then walked away to take care of my wife and left me alone with him.
Remember that he is two months premature, this is not at all the typical birth, and so things are pretty scary. I remember feeling "safe" while he was crying because at least then I knew that he was OK. When he got quiet I would get scared.

Now things get a little complicated. We are in a German hospital, not the American one we had planned on. Fortunately most Germans speak some English, in varying degrees or proficiency, so some communication was taking place, but there was a lot of room for misunderstanding.
Once my wife was stable, the doctor came out to speak to me. He said that they were very worried about my son as his head appeared to be too large, and it was a virtual certainty that he was going to be "retarded" if he survived. . .

They evac him to the American hospital about two hours away in Augsburg - my wife never even got
to see him or hold him. Remember, by this time I have now been without sleep for over 48 hours, I have just had my car catch fire, my son is two months premature, retarded, and may not survive. Now my wife is in the recovery room. What do I tell her? While she is in all of this pain, do I tell her that her son is retarded or do I wait and give her the chance to recover? I have never lied to my wife but I can't bring myself to tell her while she is hurting so bad. I have never in my life hurt so bad inside - not before or since. Once my wife has recovered from the operation I assured her that the baby was healthy though premature, and she fell off to sleep.

I came to the hospital directly from the field exorcise I was on and so I am in filthy fatigues and take this chance to go to the house and get a shower and change. While home, I called my sister and unloaded on her. My poor sister has been the one that I have always called when I needed someone to talk to. She tells me something I didn't know - my cousin, who grew up in the same town with us, is stationed at the hospital in Augsburg where my son has been taken. My sister hangs up with me to try and get a hold of him. Days later I get the rest of the story - when my sister called his barracks he was falling down drunk (this was the preferred past time for virtually all soldiers back then). They finally got him out of his room and to the phone where my sister explains the situation to him.

My cousin went to the children's hospital and pretended to be the father so they would let him in and talk to him. I have been up for almost three entire days now with no sleep when my cousin calls me from the hospital to tell me that the German doctor was wrong, my baby is fine! The German Doctor did not know my son was so premature and this was why his head appeared so much larger than it should be for his size. I sat there in our apartment for probably a good 20 minutes crying in exhaustion and relief. Me, the big bad soldier, balling like a baby.

It takes almost a week before arrangements are completed to get my wife to the same hospital where my son is. Can you imagine how this affects a mother? Her baby is a week old before she has ever seen or touched him - that's tough for a mother.
So long ago, but it seems like yesterday.
My son, my baby, my little boy has graduated high school - wow!

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