I have been in the afterglow of that since October 24th. Matthew and Justine’s little boy, Jackson, popped in a week early and ready to change all our lives forever.
He was tiny: 6-10, 18.5 inches, and beautiful. Hair: blondish. Eyes: often open. The famous gap between his big and second toe which all Dahl men have. Perfect, and perfectly beautiful.
He looked very much like his daddy had 28 years ago, bursting into our family. Matt was my bonus baby, conceived despite our (Steve’s) decision to have just two boys, and despite precautions to ensure just that configuration. I waffled on his name, calling him Timothy on Day 1, Kevin on Day 2, and finally signing out of the hospital with Matthew. The name means Gift of God, and I raised him with the bittersweet realization that his “firsts” would be my “lasts.”
It was a burden for him, I know. I was the mom crying when I weaned him, when we ditched the pacifier, on the first day of kindergarten, the last day of high school, the last concert….I mourned the end of every stage of momming, just as he rejoiced in moving on. I was born to be a mom, and felt my life shrinking just as his world opened up. Our hearts beat in tandem, but he has had to push back with a little oomph so I will let him fly.
And fly, he has. He signed out of sanctioned college housing before he ever moved in, getting an apartment and roommates arranged before I could mount a counter-attack. He did his last semester of college by correspondence, while working at WCKG as air talent. He has never been one to ask for permission, or forgiveness for that matter. ( I left him notes when he was in high school, letting him know I was on to every act of rebellion he could muster. He never acknowledged that he saw them.By college I was trained to go with his flow.)
He lives his life, works hard, learns new things, maintains his love of music through Pet Lions, his love of hockey via a mens’ league. He is self contained. He hews most closely to Steve of all my boys, and so I know him better than he thinks I do. For better or worse.
He is a solitary soul,quietly content to watch and study a situation before action. He liked to live alone, and I worried. He got a guinea pig, The Dude, and though it was a rat’s cousin, I developed affection for him as a companion for Matt. It wasn’t quite enough. (Hell, the Dude lived here for a while, representing the depths of my love for Matt. I decorated his cage for the holidays and Steve sent him packing to live out his 5 year life in more rational company)
One Saturday morning I called to check in with Matt and I heard a keening sound. I was his landlady, and he was aware of my “no pet” policy, enforced acutely after the Dude episode. He said it was National Geographic TV. But I knew he had adopted a more interactive companion. Walter, the ultimate Urban mutt, dragged him to the lake, watched TV with him, entertained him with his antics, and loved Matt without reserve. He calibrated my response perfectly: I could never consign Wally (formerly known as Buddy) to return to Paws. Moreover, once I saw Matthew’s joy in this ridiculous looking beast, there was no turning back.
There was no turning back once Matthew saw Justine, either. He was introduced by a friend who was dating her twin. He lunged- ALL IN. I’m pretty sure he gave himself ulcers while trying to seem cool to this beautiful nursing student. By the time she started work at Northwestern Hospital, he was glad to let her rest at his place after a midnight shift. BONUS: she loved Walter, too.
The rest is history. The new chapter that Justine and Matthew have just started via Jackson Higgins Dahl will double their joy, deepen their fears, and destroy their REM sleep. Forever. Matt has chosen a sturdy partner; he no longer likes to be alone. Good thing.
Before Jackson made his big entrance, Matt was like a kid before Christmas, waiting to see what Santa would bring. Now I see my son, in fatigued and delirious joy, becoming aware of how a child changes everything. Forever. Life gets harder, but richer. The future has a face…and ten tiny toes. I pray that I live long enough to see Matt navigate teenage angst. Turnabout, as they say…
Matt…my last born. Bonus Baby. Still bringing me the richest part of life, family. Gift of God.
I am standing by, just 5 miles away. This is a restart for me. New beginnings. New blessings. New joy. Available for respite care for parents, babies….and damn it, dogs.
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