June, 12 + Austin, Texas
I carried an empty feeling for a year. In October of 1998, Sarah told me she was pregnant. Deep in my bones I felt this was absolutely right and natural. I knew Sarah's pregnancy was in the ordained order of events, like season following season. Dad had lived a full life, and passed on in due course. Soon another life would come along in the Chain of Being. This someone I could mentor like Dad had mentored me. Minus the belt, the notes to Miss White, and the piss-drinking, of course. I was very happy, more for Jeff and Sarah than for myself. For me, being a grandparent was something abstract, imagined, but not concrete. I had no emotional context. That all changed June 12.
Samuel Dylan Williams had been born at home on June 10, 1999. My little bird charmer had given the gift of birth at home as Linda had. This was the old way, before modern medicine had taken over. All had gone well, very well. There's a video tape to prove it. They are something, these women.
I was to meet Sammy D. June 12 at Linda's funky cabin in a rural town outside of Austin. The cabin was a dead-ringer for a typical Wellington home. How fitting. Imagine the setting: You entered the main room and kitchen through a low door. Against the walls were sink, gas range, refrigerator and shelves of herbs, dishes, all in plain view. We were sitting around the old cast-iron wood stove in the middle of a 15 by 15 foot center of the dimly lit cabin. Dogs barked in the distance; we heard no traffic, no music, no TV or radio, no city sounds. This quiet was one feature that had drawn us to the Maine woods.
Sam was two days old. I felt like a fourteen year old on a blind date: nervous, self-conscious, awkward. I chattered about nothing as I waited for my date to show up. I caught the first sounds of Sarah, Jeff, and Sam. Their car motored up the dirt drive. My heart beat double, my palms got sweaty, and my breath came in fits and starts. Something grand was about to happen; I just knew it. Like saying goodbye to Dad, except this time there was no sadness, no emptiness, only joy and anticipation.
Sarah and Jeff came in quietly, on tip-toes, with this silent bundle totally wrapped in swaddling. Sarah placed the bundle in my lap and pulled back the blanket. My blind date was love in infant form. I beheld a perfect, tiny, and beautiful pink cherub. My heart split wide open. I sat speechless, weeping without restraint. I held Sam like he was a delicate vase.
Head over heels in love, I was changed from that moment forever. With this magnificent little being, there would be no room for cynicism or sarcasm. With Sam I would be emotionally immediate and open; there would be no distance between us. Unabashed joy and abiding fear entered with him. Like my love for Sarah, joy and pride came mixed with anxiety. Strange economy that deepest love carries strongest worry. They suffer most who care most.
Sarah was blooming and radiant, vitally alive with motherhood. My Princess of Narnia had become a Madonna, fulfilled and complete. Jeff was glowing with fatherhood. He was a man born to be a dad. These two presented me with the gift of a lifetime, one precious beyond reckoning. 'This little guy's gonna add twenty years to this old cynic's life,' I thought.