- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 4, 2000

Has it been a year already?

A whole year since that frantic sprint to Howard County General Hospital to help usher Jeremy John Stewart into the world? Twelve months of 2 a.m. bottle feedings, weigh-ins at the doctor, ear infections and diaper changes? Three hundred sixty-five days since Jeremy's first plaintive wail tickled our eardrums?

The Stewart and Polgreen clans gathered at our house a few Saturdays ago to help Jeremy celebrate his upcoming first birthday. Big brother Sean and cousins Ashley and Kimberly helped rip open the presents. Hamburgers and hot dogs and plenty of Ben & Jerry's ice cream was consumed. Anecdotes from Jeremy's short, happy life were shared.

And afterward, I lay in bed trying to grasp where the year had gone and what the highlights were.

I already have written about how quickly life passes when the second baby arrives. But what struck me there in the darkness was how easily the worst memories and fears stick in parents' minds.

Our relatives shared the laughs and the highlights: the time Jeremy practiced his first wave with Grandma, the day he burst into panic-stricken tears because he pulled off Grandpa's glasses for the first time and thought he was being held by a total stranger, the comical hop-along improvisational way he "crawls" by dragging himself along the floor with his forearms and elbows.

My wife, Lisa, and I, on the other hand, go to bed every night, our heads spinning with questions and worries. Will he ever learn to crawl the conventional way, on hands and knees? Do we spend enough one-on-one time with him? Is he going to be speech-delayed like Sean? Will he ever learn to like veggies like Sean, or go to a grocery store and ask his daddy to get a salad, as Sean did? Can a baby really survive on a diet of yogurt, Cheerios and formula, as this one seems determined to do?

It's a shame, in a way, that it takes a special occasion and the presence of relatives to remind parents of how richly they're blessed. Oh, Lisa and I know that deep down. We go to bed most nights thanking the Lord for Sean and Jeremy and often amuse each other with the "adventures" our boys got into that day.

But the distance between "deep down" and "here and now" can be pretty long sometimes if you're not careful. Those hosannas and those reminders easily get swallowed up by the day-to-day details of living and the inevitable comparisons with the other sibling in the house and the other families we know. By the end of the day, our minds are crammed with "what ifs," and we have to struggle a bit sometimes to recall the laughs and the fun moments.

That night, I vowed that Jeremy's second year, and all the ones after that, will be different. Sean's almost 4 now; his baby days are ancient history, and even the toddler days are becoming hard to remember. Jeremy will have outgrown this column before I even get used to writing it. I'll look back on the columns and think, "Was that all I had to say about the glorious privilege of raising a healthy, happy, well-adjusted son?"

I remember reading a quote a few months ago that has taken on even deeper poignancy as Jeremy turned 1. It's by Frederick Buechner from his book, "Now and Then."

"Listen to your life," he says. "See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace."

Oh, yes. One more thing.

Happy birthday, son.

Mark Stewart is the father of two boys, Sean and Jeremy. He is a staff writer for the Family Times and can be reached at stewar@twtmail.com.

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