though his dreams have lost some grandeur coming true,
There’ll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty-
before the last revolving year is true.
Once again, I return to Joni Mitchell’s Circle Game as I celebrate the birthday of my first son. Joni closed her song at 20, and now I find that my baby is 30. I need a new rhyme scheme. I am totally content with the son, and the life.
Steve made us the first reality radio family 30 years ago as he narrated Pat’s journey from Lima Bean to Human Being. Pat, as well chronicled, was the result of an assignation meant to stifle his angst at having to dress up for my sister, Marie’s wedding. I should have worried that a 26 year old who had to be seduced into attending his sister in law’s wedding was not necessarily daddy material. I was so shocked by the pregnancy that I told no one. Steve went right on the air and announced our impending parenthood. He did his fetus updates on WLS in the afternoons, and by the time Patrick made his grand entrance he had thousands of surrogate aunts and uncles in the world at large. He was not born live on the radio, as some recollect- but his birth and first cries were videotaped and played the next afternoon when Steve returned to the airwaves. I was in the hospital, and heard it along with the audience, and truth be told, I remember the tape more than the birth. That is probably because I was not in stirrups or pain.
During Pat’s birth, Uncle Garry and Larry Lujack updated my labor every 15 minutes until I was so raw and irritated that I told Steve we would be divorced before the birth if he did not pay attention. Steve was annoyed because I could not manage to deliver before 7:00pm, when the airshift was over. After Pat’s birth, I managed to deliver in the evening, and Steve never missed another day of work, for delivery or child care. It was our division of labor.
During the time that I carried Pat, Steve was fired from WLUP. We never really knew why, but soon he was hired by John Gehron to do afternoons for WLS. It was a lifeline that remained for the births of all 3 sons. I was finishing law school, we had just moved into a 120 year old money pit, and Steve was young and wild. I was blissfully unfocused on all the turmoil, and content to re-direct my life. Steve was probably more panicked, but his inherent bravado kept him from admitting it. He worked weekends on the radio in those days, and on weekend nights he performed with teenage Radiation. I was in heaven, carrying Pat all day…he never cried, because he never had to. I vacuumed with him nursing. Steve probably felt like a third wheel.
Today, Pat is a man, awaiting the birth of his first child, a boy. In June, he will embark upon the same adventure. Carefully laid plans will give way to reality and flexibility. Every decision will be filtered through the geometry of family. He has found a wondrous partner in Rachel, and is well equipped for the zigs and zags ahead. I am counting the moments, as excited for the “Grandma” phase of my life as I was for the “Mom” phase. Steve says I cannot wait to be old; that is not true. I am excited to see the future, incarnate in my children and their children. Our roots deepen, we are more tethered to the earth. We have a legacy to offer the future. And an obligation to work to make it a good legacy.
So on this day, I say happy day to Patrick Joliat Dahl. Bar specials will give way to circus themed cakes and ice cream. There may be moments when you look back on the good old days, but the future is in your child. I have watched Pat and loved him long enough to know he will continue to make me proud and grateful.
With apologies to Joni for co-opting her song:
30 years, my boy will be a father,
dreaming now, for three, and not for one,
Working- to be the best man for his family,
Knowing that the job is never done….
And the seasons, they go round and round
and the painted ponied go up and down
we’re captive on the carousel of time
we can’t return, we can only look behind
from where we came,
and go round and round and round
in the circle game.
Happy Birthday, Patrick. You have made my merry-go-round richer and better.