February 10th, 2002
I don't mean to make anybody who doesn't live in Southern California envious by saying this - but it was so warm and sunny at the beach this morning (80+) that I thought I'd pulled a Rip Van Winkle and slept right through winter and spring and awakened with a start at the beginning of summer. Tide was up and pounding against the rocks but I was prepared and had on my corduroy, non-see-thru shorts - so I just looked at the waves and said, "Bring it on Oceana Pacifica. You can't do me no harm today!"
Before my walk on the beach though, I sat at my usual little cafe` on South Coast Highway and had breakfast. Seated next to me was a family with a very fussy little baby. I was glad they were pretty much done with their breakfast when I sat down and drew a sigh of relief when they left because the screaming baby was kind of interrupting my otherwise calm morning. As soon as they left however, another couple sat down in their place and wouldn't you know it, they too had a very unhappy little baby who wanted nothing more than to crawl around on the ground - which her parents seemed unwilling to let her do for some reason. "Hey, it's just dirt. Babies eat that stuff - so what's the problem with letting them crawl around in it?!" So anyway, she screamed and squirmed and carried on and I realized that the only thing to do was hurry and finish my breakfast and get to the beach. I guess I'm beyond the point of having patience with crying babies. But hey, that's the great part about becoming a grandpa, which I will be in a few months. When my grandson starts crying, I can hand him back to Auri or Trent and go home. I've been told that this is one of the great joys of being a grandparent.
And speaking of my grandson, I found out this week that I'm going to have the privilege of delivering little Tristan Gabriel - just as I did Auri twenty years ago in a quiet and dimly lit birthing room not more than a couple of blocks from where the 19th Winter Olympic Games opened this week. Our midwife brought Auri's head out and then looked at me and said, "OK Tom, the rest is up to you." And with that, I finished bringing Auri into the world, cut her umbilical cord and laid her on her mommy's chest where the two of us took our time gently rubbing the vernix that was covering her, into her soft, sweet skin. Attending Tristan's birth will be Anne, the midwife who helped deliver Auri twenty years ago. How's that for bringing things around full circle? Trent will be there holding Auri's hand and giving her tons of love and support. But somehow, dilated cervixes, bloody placentas and umbilical cords that need cutting don't factor into his idea of a party. He's a guy's guy. I'll put him on cigar detail, give him some drugs and wave smelling salts under his nose when it's all over. Because one thing's for sure - he's gotta be ready for the hand-off when that baby starts crying.
As I sat on the warm, wet rocks looking out over the ocean this morning, naked except for my shorts, I realized that there must be a midwife nestled somewhere inside of me. I have held life in my hands as it came into this world and I have held life in my hands as it left - and felt as kindredly tuned to the one as I did the other. Though birth would seem to be more cause for celebration and happiness than death, they are both but endpoints on a brief, uninterrupted line that we call mortal life. And both have made me richer for the knowing them. I will not be able to say, when it's my turn to leave, that I have left too many stones unturned. And in that thought today, I feel very rich. Who knows - maybe someday as I'm hovering around seventy, I might be called upon to deliver my grandson's first child. If he asks, I'll be ready and offer my hands once again to the occasion. But one thing at a time. I have little Tristan to think about right now.
I passed a baby clothing store this morning in Laguna and sighed as I realized that I have yet one more place in Laguna to spend my money when I go there on Sunday mornings. Funny how I never even noticed that store until now, even though I've passed it hundreds of times. Thankfully, the nursery where I usually end up buying orchids there in Laguna has gone out of business and so now I can just substitute jammies and jumpers for dendrobiums and phaelenopsis. And my wallet won't feel any worse off than it ever does when I leave Laguna. Something tells me that Tristan is going to be the best dressed kid in the West if I have anything to do with it. I may not be much good at teaching him how to fish or catch a football - but I can sure as heck teach him how to coordinate an outfit and coach him in the basics of style - like only wearing whites between Memorial Day and Labor Day. And of course the importance of not wearing sheer white shorts any time of the year when you go walking on the beach in Laguna. (Please refer to a previous installment of this series for the relevance of that tip.)
Yep, it's sunny and warm here in Southern California in February and I'm loving driving along Pacific Coast Highway in a convertible on my way to and from Laguna Beach on Sunday mornings. I'm soon to be a grandpa and my belly isn't even hanging over my belt. I have a great job that I love and I still have as much hair on my head as I did when I graduated from high school thirty years ago. Things are looking pretty good for Grandpa Tom.
From the water's edge...