Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Parent of a 30 year old

This column originally appeared in the Sun Chronicle on August 15th, 2009

My oldest son turns 30 this week. How did this happen?

Sure, he’s married and has a beautiful son. That makes me a grandfather (did I mention my grandson’s name is William?) and that’s something I take great pride in.

But a 30 year-old son? That can’t possibly be. I demand a recount. It was only yesterday I turned 30. At least, that’s the way I remember it.

On August 17, 1979 I was a nervous 23 year-old husband expecting his first child. My wife was three weeks past due, and I was sure she was delaying just to make me miserable. She assured me carrying around an extra person through the very hot summer qualified her as the miserable one, but I remained convinced she was just punishing me.

That morning we had indications the long wait might actually be over. I rushed her to Sturdy Hospital, remembering to take our bag that had been packed for two months. It was 6:30 am when we got there, and I recall thinking the hospital parking lot was as empty as I had ever seen it. I rushed my wife upstairs to the maternity ward, sure she would be giving birth any second.

Nine hours later we were in our “Birthing Room” waiting for our son to make his appearance. I say son, but in fact we did not know the sex of the baby beforehand. But I was positive it was a boy. I refused to consider it might not be. We had the name picked out, and I would not consider a girl’s name. This was going to be my son, and his name was going to be Aaron Christopher.

I hung on the doctor’s every word whenever he made an appearance. Sensing my interest, he gave me a very important job. I was handed a pad, and told to write down the time of every contraction and how long it lasted. I did so for the next several hours, knowing the fate of my baby hung in the balance.

When the doctor returned to say the time was drawing near, I proudly presented my detailed record. He told me he had just given me that duty to keep me occupied, and threw the pad away. Thus began a lifetime distrust of the medical profession.

Finally, it was time. I scrubbed up and was allowed in the room for the delivery. As we were waiting impatiently, the public address system in the hospital blared a message that caught my attention:

“Will the owner of a grey Chevy Chevette, registration number ------ please move your car immediately, or it will be towed.”

I could not believe it – they were going to tow my car. I was told I had some time, so I ran to a hospital phone and called the front desk.

“They said they are going to tow my car, but I can’t move it now – I’m in labor!” I told an obviously confused clerk. While expressing sympathy with my plight, she explained that in my haste that morning I had failed to notice there was a sign posted in the parking lot saying it was being paved that day. So I had to get out of my scrubs and move the car, all the while muttering threats about what I would do should I miss the actual birth.

But I made it back, and at 7:04 pm my son Aaron made his debut at a whopping nine pounds, one ounce. I will forever remember the nurse walking towards me and saying “Here Dad – hold your son.” I did, and it was a feeling I have had only one other time since, when his brother was born two years later.

Now my first-born son is turning 30. He’s now taller than me, but I have forgiven him that. I am as proud of him today as I was the first time I held him, and I love him even more.

But someone is going to have to explain to me how this happened. Only old people have kids who turn 30.

I’m going to have to have a long talk with his mother.

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist who wants to wish his son Aaron a very happy 30th birthday. The elder Gouveia can be reached at aninsidelook@aol.com.

Three Deaths

This column originally appeared in the Sun Chronicle on August 8th, 2009

Sometimes death can teach you a lot about life. At least, that’s what it has done for me this week.

I was touched by three deaths that occurred within the last month. The three people who died were different ages and personalities, and to the best of my knowledge never met each other. And truth be told, I didn’t know any of them all that well. Yet I found myself thinking about them, and learning lessons from each.

Ted Tausek died July 25th in Brewster at the age of 99. For the last 12 years of his life he lived in an assisted living facility on the Cape, and spent much time entertaining people with his musical abilities.

In the 1960’s he was a teacher at the LG Nourse school in Norton, and I was a student in the 6th grade. Mr. Tausek was my social studies teacher, and the first to install in me a love of current events and government. He was loud, he was opinionated, and he was enthusiastic. He definitely made an impression.

So much so that when I got married nine years later, the Ted Tausek Trio played at our wedding. We didn’t really pick him (he came with the country club) but it was a kick to have him there. I hadn’t seen him since that day 32 years ago, but his passing made me sadder than I expected.

Robert Legg of Norton died July 31st at the age of 76. I only met him a handful of times, but I was struck by his desire to help others and his willingness to put himself out there. A disabled veteran, Mr. Legg was a person who didn’t make excuses – he just worked hard to get what he wanted or needed.

I moderated a selectmen’s debate a few years ago when Mr. Legg threw his hat into the political ring. I can’t tell you he did well either in the debate or at the ballot box. His answers were rambling and hard to understand, and he finished dead last. But his enthusiasm, his dedication to veterans, and his courage in stepping forward when others would not stuck with me. I liked him, and I was somehow strangely proud of him.

Michael Hoyle of Norton died on July 28th at the far too young age of just 24. His death was a sad and tragic loss – a life ended not by old age or illness, but by demons that beset far too many young people. I know Mikey’s parents, though I didn’t know Mikey himself very well.

As I sat in the pew at his funeral, I looked around at the other attendees. I saw the grieving family members, and many of their friends and neighbors. And I saw many of Mikey’s friends – young people looking confused, upset, sad and hurt.

As I gazed at their faces, I wondered if Mikey might have more effect on some of these kids in death than he did in life. I wondered if the mistakes he may have made might become learning tools for these young men and women. I wondered if somewhere, somehow, a life might be saved because someone would remember Mikey – and that would make a difference.

There is nothing sadder than the death of a child or someone still in their early youth. It is not just the loss of the person we mourn, but the loss of all the potential contained in that person. There truly is no sadder phrase than “what might have been.”

Ted Tausek, Robert Legg and Michael Hoyle should serve as examples to us all. They each did some things well, other things not so well. But each will be remembered, and each will serve to inspire people who knew them.

When I remember Ted Tausek, I will remember a man who made others happy with the gifts he was given. When I remember Robert Legg, I will remember a man who was unafraid to step up when he believed he could make a difference. When I remember Michael Hoyle, I will remember that potential is not just an asset, but also a burden.

And I will remember what I learned from each.

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and can be reached at aninsidelook@aol.com.