First of all, I want you to know that I counted your fingers and toes. It’s true! The moment I saw you, I did a quick mental count. The impulse seemed automatic. Of course, you had the requisite number. What would I have done if you hadn’t?
After that, however, I remember thinking, “I will love you for the rest of your life.” I thought of it that way—YOUR life—and not for the rest of MY life. I’m not sure why. Maybe I felt that, even after I’m dead and gone, my spirit would follow you around. I hope, son, that that sounds sweet and not creepy. In addition, I will always remember your first words. Actually, that’s not really true. I can’t remember if they were mommy or daddy (MUST have been daddy). I remember what I could have SWORN you said.
You were just a few weeks or months old, and you proved how brilliant you are by name-checking the first man in space: Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin. OK, OK, I know you were just babbling and producing random phonemes. But, clear as a bell, you said, “Yuri Gagarin.”
I also remember how fortunate your mother and I were, in respect to your sleeping habits. I was told before you were born that I could kiss sleeping goodbye for, like, a year. Other parents of recent newborns shared their horror stories about going four days without more than a solid hour of sleep. At first, these tales of terror seemed true. Your mother and I would take turns getting up for you. I’d get up, get a bottle of her milk, warm it up, feed you, and rock you until you went back to sleep, which, typically, you did pretty fast. After eight weeks, you stopped waking up. Yes, that’s right, jealous readers. My son slept soundly through the night from the age of eight weeks to the present day.
The next thing I remember is how you seemed to have great hand-eye coordination from a very young age. We dropped you off at daycare when you were six weeks old. A couple of weeks after we started to take you there, you were playing with a little ball. I reached my hand out in your direction, and you threw it to me across a distance of five feet. I was pretty impressed that your aim was so accurate. I wondered if you might be an athlete when you got older. You’ve opted for soccer instead of baseball, but you have become a better athlete than I ever was as a child.
Finally, I remember your first steps. I think you took them a little later than some kids. You may have been around eleven months. At the time, I was a journalist for a local newspaper. I had to go to an interview with a local business owner. You were with your mother, on the far side of the living room. I was by the front door, gathering up my things. I reached my arms out toward you, expecting you to crawl over to me for a goodbye hug. Instead, you let go of your mother’s hands and walked across the room to me. I was amazed. I hugged you so tightly. I hated that I had to leave for work.
Now that you’re ten, my memory about your earliest milestones has become a bit sketchy. But one thing is as true now as it was then: I will love you for the rest of your life.