Sunday, March 20, 2011


It's the first day of spring.  Twenty-four years ago today, Beve and I walked into a hospital in Tacoma, WA and by noon, had welcomed our one and only son into his breathing-outside-my-body life.  It was the best of the three birth-days I experienced, neither too tired from a long labor, nor in too much pain from too little anesthesia.  J would say that this might be the only time he caused me the least amount of pain of the three of them, but that's because he tends to be a pessimist.  In truth, he's always been a bright light in my life.  So much like me, it's sometimes like talking to myself to have a conversation with him.  And physically, he is the child whose genes are most easy to see.  He's built like my brother, with Beve's eyes and my nose, and the hairiness of my father's family (sorry, J!).

So without further ado, a look through J's life:
This is my all-time favorite baby picture of any of my children, the night my father met my son. Dad had just gotten home from a Boy Scout meeting (which, I suppose, is obvious!), and for a one month-old baby, J is so alert and present. I love how intent they are on each other's faces. Dad's look is so familiar to me here--I think I saw his look at things this intently about a million times in my life.  I also feel sad to see it, though, because Dad and J only had ten years to know each other, and Dad was such a quiet man that J doesn't have a strong memory of him.  I wonder how that might have changed for J--and all the grandchildren--if Dad had lived to see them become the great young adults they are today.  He would be so awed by them, so glad to have the deep, far-reaching conversations they all love to have.  J is like my dad (and Beve's dad, for that matter) in that he has integrity, and, as my brother said the other day, a strength to handle unrelentingly difficult things rather stoically.  Because of this similarity, Dad would have really 'gotten' J.
 This is J with his cousin LA.  They are six weeks apart in age, were adorable little ones, all smiley and happy. Notice how J's reaching over to take whatever she's holding.  A prescient moment, I think.  Once he got beyond the playing simultaneously to playing with other stage, he still liked other children's toys best.

Beve holding his son in typical fashion (at the cabin on Whidbey Island).  Each child spent a lot of time cuddled just so safely against their daddy's chest.  And wow, wasn't Beve thin back then?  He's not exactly chubby now, but good grief, he was lean...and those sunglasses.  And yes, kids, he did have dark brown hair once.
 The fruits of our first garden.  This is another of my favorite pictures.  It's telling about J as well.  They each have a carrot to eat, but J would rather hold up the big one like a prize than just munch on the carrot.  I love SK's curls, E's pose, and the fact that J has the carrot top in his hair without it bothering him.  So little bothered J as a little boy.  The girls were finicky, liked to be clean, wanted things to be just so, but he didn't care about clean clothes or whether his shoes were on the right feet.  He never had a high, baby voice, just a deep, loud baritone, and I'm pretty sure he couldn't have whispered if his life depended on it.  There was no walk in J as a little boy, and walls' functions were primarily to stop him when he ran.  Once he talked E into dragging SK in her infant seat up the stairs (head-down) while I was in the bathroom, and another time he proudly told me he'd climbed out the window in E's bedroom (while he was supposed to be napping) to retrieve the toy he'd thrown out onto the roof.  Incorrigible.  No wonder Beve has gray hair!
Christmas after Christmas, under the tree were various costumes of war for our son.  Yes, I realize that many parents refuse to allow their children weapons of any kind. But bananas, hotdogs, forks, table knives, sticks, stuffed animals, Legos, building blocks, etc. can all become guns to a child like J.  So we allowed for the games--knights of the round table, cowboys of the old west.  Dragon-slayers.  These were all games, and never translated to a more violent nature in him than he would have had otherwise.  In the background of this second picture, by the way, is Grampie, still tall and slim, talking to JJ, the W cousin who is just six weeks younger than J.
Our 3rd grade son spent a lot of time reading, playing sports...and talking to the principal.  There was always something going on that J was involved in.  Nothing that made the principal worry that J'd become a real problem (I was working at the school at the time), but J was so completely certain about what was right and wrong in every situation that he got himself in trouble.  He'd stand up to kids who were being mean, tell them what he thought, and that came back to bite him more than once.  Starting then, but even into high school.  J's just never, ever been able to abide that people cheat and lie and try to get away with things that aren't right.  His moral compass is as perfectly true as anyone's I've ever known. It worried me when he was little, because, for all his rough and tumble ways, there was a sensitive spirit inside that felt everything deeply, that was troubled by the meanness of others, and worried about how people treated those who weren't as popular or smart or whatever else counted in his peer group.
I thought I should include one picture of the five of us (with two of our earlier dogs--my sweet Jemima, the lab puppy, and Sassy, the Lhasa). This is from the summer we took a trip across BC, into Alberta, down through Montana and home with good friends.  The summer of 1999.  J was 12.  You can tell by the way he's holding his left arm that it's after the shoulder injury that changed his life.  He'd spent almost an entire year with that arm in a sling, hoping it'd heal well, though it was not to be. (By the way, this picture was taken at the home of Eugene and Jan Peterson.  Do you recognize that name?  He's fairly famous in Christian circles as the author of The Message, though calling him the author isn't exactly right.)

Beve and J have taken two big trips together. Notice J wore a WSU hat on each trip! First, my men went to Washington DC with my mom and two other Crain cousins one hot, sticky summer.  Beve was there to help when Grammacy was out-of-hand emotionally, and to be a stabilizing person for our son.  J and my mom had a rough go of it.  Well, she almost always had a rough go of it with him.  Her loss, we've always said.  But the trip was mostly great for the rest of them, other than Beve having a Meniere's attack, which landed him in an ER, and kind of put a damper on their last day.  Well, that and the electrical storm when they flew into DC. Then there was LA having to share a room with Grammacy, whose snoring kept her awake all night, every night. Hmm, Come to think of it, there were a whole lot of hard moments on that trip.  Maybe the best we can say is that they survived it, and have the pictures to prove it.  J's favorite part was the Halocaust museum, though favorite is an odd word to call it.  A couple of years later, Beve and J went to Germany together with J's high school German class.  J is a history major now, has always been passionate about WWII, so German was the obvious language to learn, and the trip an easy choice.  They were both very moved by Auschwitz.  It is a transformative experience.  One I hope to have someday.

J.  24 years.  He's spent so much all of the last year trying to get healthy so it feels sometimes like he isn't getting anywhere.  I know he feels that, anyway.  But I have great faith that there is a purpose and plan in all of this.  God created J so perfectly, and knows exactly what he needs to become the man He intends.  This year seems like a waste to J, I know it does. But I believe it has served a purpose we might not understand for years.  Never-the-less, I pray that being 24 will mean fewer surgeries (like NONE!!!!), fewer medications, and less of what might be considered treading water.  Here's the thing, though.  Whatever happens, I am certain that J will continue to have the integrity, the strong moral compass and sensitivity he's shown his whole life.  Those are great traits.  And may God greet him in this year in new and decisive ways. 

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