Somewhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas your mother approached me bearing a wide smile and a sparkle in her eye. She said, “I think I’m pregnant.” We’d been hoping for a baby for the last few years—the thought of becoming parents was exciting news. We were just kids ourselves, but ready for the challenge—how hard could it be?
We prepared for your arrival by following the doctor’s instructions down to a T. Diet, exercise, lamaze classes, you name it—we did it all. I even quit smoking—twice!
We left our second floor apartment and rented a small house in town; there we prepared your nursery with starry-eyed anticipation. Having no clue if you were to be a girl or boy, we painted the room yellow and filled it with the usual baby furnishings. Then like a couple of kids playing house, we’d rearrange the furniture just about every-other day.
Nervous energy had me pacing around the house and I began carving wooden owls to release the tension. There’s a faint remnant scar on my left thigh—complements of my carving knife. Your mom took away my knives and put the owls on hold until after your arrival.
In the early morning hours of July 8th, while working the midnight shift on the railroad, your mom called to say, “It’s time.” She was waiting for me at our front door and we left for the hospital immediately—I don’t even remember driving the car.
Because there was a chance that you’d need to be delivered via cesarian section, I wasn’t allowed in the delivery room. Instead they escorted me to the father’s waiting room—a tiny, smoke filled, ashtray overflowing room—where three other fathers-to-be were rattled by the sound of the opening door, and disappointed when they saw it was just me.
It seemed like an eternity before a nurse burst in and called out, “Mr Kiepura, it’s a girl.”
“How’s my wife?” “How’s the baby?” “Can I see her…them?”
Life was never the same again—how could it be? Every thought and action we had centered on you. If you were awake we held you, crying we rocked you, asleep we watched you. An unfamiliar kind of bond sprouted from our hearts, and it overwhelmed us.
You brought about a new consciousness in me—like opening the door to a sixth sense. Before holding you in my arms I didn’t see a need for any sort of Divine intervention in my life. But you brought in a new responsibility that weighed so heavily on me that I had to seriously consider any and all possible dangers. You were far too precious to “risk it all” on a shallow understanding of God. I had to know that you’d be safe both here and hereafter.
Thank you—you changed mom and I in more ways than we can say. You were the greatest joy of our marriage and the root of my faith journey. Your life helped define me as a father and man, maturing me while at the same time wrapping me around your tiny little finger. Forty years later—your big brown eyes still melt my heart—I love you.
You continue to be our pride and joy.
Happy Birthday, Nenie!