Today, my oldest son, Sean, turns 30, which makes perfect sense in the general scheme of things, but seems weird to me nonetheless. It’s par for the course for us moms to say things like, “Gosh, it was just yesterday when he was a baby and now look at him,” but the truth is, it doesn’t seem like just yesterday he was a baby at this point nor does it seem like he was really young any time recently, not that he seems particularly old right now. I’m not sure what age he seems to be other than just what he is, but it’s the idea of him being thirty, well. . .that just feels odd. I have a thirty-year old son. Wouldn’t I be old by now if that was true?
My youngest son remarked tonight that when his oldest brother was his age, he seemed so much older and more mature than he himself is now at 19. He asked me if that was true. It really wasn’t but I agree that Sean did seem older at times, possibly because he had three younger siblings in comparison. But to be honest, my youngest at 19 feels like he’s been about that age for a very long time. Maybe it’s all that facial hair; they all just seemed like men even when they were barely out of boyhood.
Birthdays are a time that makes me a bit reflective, particularly milestone birthdays like this. My now thirty-year old son has been around for quite a while, more than half my life actually and I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without him. In a sense, we grew up a bit together. Although I thought I was indeed a grown up at this point, I was still such a baby in so many ways. I had been married for a year and a half, and none of my close friends were married at that point nor did any have children. Most of the friends I gravitated to were those I had met through my husband, who was eight years older than me. They had settled down and had families so those were the people that now comprised my inner circle, with the exception of my cousin, who was more like a best friend, and had a baby of her own on the way. However, many didn’t live close by, so Sean and I spent a lot of time by ourselves and while it wasn’t always exciting, it was indeed very special.
Sean was a treasured child in our joint-families from the get-go. The first grandchild for my parents and the first nephew for my brother, he had solid fans on my side of the family and was equally as adored on my husband’s side as well. His godparents, my husband’s oldest brother and his wife, had children that were already in their teens so this new little guy captured their hearts and interest in a heartbeat. I spent a lot of time with his godmother, who I considered a very dear friend as well, and she loved to spoil little Sean. My own mother, of course, was so delighted to have a grandson that she thrilled in every move he made. Again, he couldn’t say her name clearly as a tot, and would yell out her name as “Ga-ma” rather than Grandma and she thought it was the best thing she had ever heard. She still talks about how much she loved hearing him say that. My father, of course, being a fairly reserved sort of guy, got a real kick of Sean and even held him occasionally, but was never the type to chase around a toddler, let alone be a grandfather making endless trips to the basement to look at a furnace. In fact, I laugh even considering that thought. He adored him just the same, and Sean loved him in return, although I suspect he was a little afraid of him at times too. My father wasn’t a big man, but there was something about him that most kids picked up on – you didn’t want to piss him off. Or at least that’s what we all thought. He was more bark than bite for sure.
We were thrilled to have Sean, and from the moment he was born, our lives became enriched. Although I had babysat as a teenager for children of all ages, I didn’t have any real experience with little babies and especially not a newborn. However, from the moment Sean entered my world, I felt like I knew what I was doing with him. As I mentioned earlier, we did some growing up together, and thank god for his forgiving nature, because I’m sure I could have done quite a few things better than I did. However, he started swimming at just three months, tolerated me affixing whiskers with tape to his nose and a bunny ear headband when he was only a bit older at Easter, went shopping daily with me (which may account for why he hates shopping now) because I somehow felt the need to buy him a new outfit almost every day, and he spent endless hours listening to me read to him, playing with stuffed animals, building block towers, playing with Legos, with his toy cars and trucks, and sometimes even cooking together, young as he was. He was up for anything I wanted to do.
For almost 3 ½ years, Sean and I shared so much time together, a good deal of it on our own, although once his father came home from work, those two would be off and running; literally at times. His father at that point was a long-distance runner, regularly running 20 or more miles each weekend preparing for marathons and putting in a good deal of miles each day as well. There were many times that Sean as a two or three-year old would run laps on the track, trailing behind his father who would delight in lapping him and saying, “That-a-boy, keep running, Sean.” He loved nothing more than bringing Sean with him to the track, and I generally followed along, shooting pictures and making sure Sean didn’t stray far from where his father was running. His father also ran shorter distances, often competing in local road races, and generally placed well and received trophies.Sean was always in his arms, going up with him to get the trophy or medal as if it was his very own.
In time, his sister joined us and he loved her tremendously from the minute he met her. Eventually, two more sons would join our family and finally, our family really was complete. If Sean minded less attention as each new member joined our crew, he never seemed to, although with four kids at least 3 years apart, it seemed like everyone got some special time of their own in spite of a house that felt at times to be bursting from the seams.
Throughout his early years, Sean was a bit shy, reserved really and quite serious at times. He was interested in science, weather, astronomy, and thought he might want to be a doctor. He spent countless hours in the backyard playing baseball and our old metal shed bore the signs of every strike he or a friend got over the years. He played Little League for years and I still miss those hot, early summer days, sitting at the ball field, talking with other moms, a bit anxious as our sons got up to bat. It seems so very long ago, and I guess now, it is.
When he was just eleven, maybe twelve, his father got sick. Although it didn’t affect any of much at first, in time, Sean would begin to take on many roles that his father would have normally assumed. As close as he and I had always been, now he became a confidant, someone I would turn to because no one else could really see what was going on and understand what we were all trying to cope with. It was a lot for a teenage boy, and especially one that was barely old enough to drive. He never complained, although I know at times he internalized it and really stressed, but he stoically did whatever I asked, listened when I needed someone to talk to, and was there to lend a hand in whatever way was needed. He took up the slack, learned a lot about some things that he didn’t necessarily want to know, and seldom complained.
Through it all, he did amazingly well in high school, was active and involved with a leadership position in FIRST Robotics, and started making plans for college. During his senior year, I was diagnosed with cancer, and now he had two sick parents to contend with, and somehow he dealt with it and did what he could to help all the same. At the time, I’m sure it seemed overwhelming to him, but he rarely let on how unusual and scary this was for someone his age to be dealing with. Honestly, I don’t quite know what I would have done without him during that time. His strength and his courage in dealing with what was happening around him, while still so very young, and making plans for his own future really astounds me. He was (and still is) an incredible young man, and I can never thank him enough for the support he gave me and the care he gave to all of us during that very difficult time.
And now, he’s thirty years old. He has a good job, a successful DJ business on the side, a lovely fiancé who he is soon to marry, and a somewhat grumpy sensibility on occasion, but a wonderful sense of humor at the same time. I treasure long conversations with him, and know that he can quite possibly solve almost any challenge I send his way. I look at this six-foot tall, very hairy man and still see the small boy in his eyes; the little guy I spent so many hours with, just he and I. He is kind and caring, highly intelligent and oh-so-humble; a man with tremendous integrity who I would trust with my very life. In fact, I have.
I remember thirty years ago, finally getting to see his little baby face and blue-grey eyes and thinking what a lucky, lucky woman I was. I still feel that way.