A late-September morning in Colorado, a snap in the air, the rarified blue of an autumn sky; I remember it like it was just a few days ago but it was 1998. Mark Maguire and Sammy Sosa had both broken Roger Maris' single-season home-run record, President Clinton was facing impeachment, and it was a picture perfect day. The day Lilly was born.
The delivery was a scheduled C-section (due to X being considered "high risk" after we lost Noble) at six in the morning. Not exactly a morning person (at least not then, before becoming a dad), I wondered how I would have the presence of mind for the birth. In fact, negotiating the disposable scrubs might as well have been a matter of differential calculus. At 6 A.M., the few neurons firing are the ones devoted to answering nature's call.
Fortunately, other than figuring out back from front on the scrubs and what to do with the shoe-coverings, there wasn't really any function for me in the operating room. Things moved rather quickly, from administering the anesthesia to making the incision, to finally pulling Lilly from X's belly. My heart leapt when I saw her squirming and heard her crying, she had arrived at last.
The nurses clipped the cord and had me cut it, then quickly took Lilly too the heat lamp where they cleaned her up, weighed her, and then wrapped her in the little felt blanket. Turning to me, the nurse pushed the little bundle towards me, "Daddy, would you like to hold her?"
I took her and looked at and fell instantly in love. I had never seen anything so perfect and beautiful and wonderful. And I wept. Massive tears rolling down my cheeks, dripping down onto the blanket, moved by the little pink person I held. At that moment I had a flash, a realization, a giant mystery of the universe was revealed to me. In Zen they all it Kensho, an awakening, a moment of insight into one's self. My own awakening, in that operating room, was full of light, my heart of silk unravelled and opened to the world by a newborn girl.
What I realized was that my life had indelibly changed, for the better, because at that moment I realized that the daughter in my arms was suddenly more important than my own, more important than anything. For the first time ever I was suddenly secondary to something else; from that moment on, Lilly would always take precedence before me. In that flash of awakening I saw that no matter what, I would gladly, unconsciously, sacrifice my own life to save hers. The center of the universe had shifted and I was elated by the change, it was as if a life-long burden had been lifted and I was free.
It was Love, I realized, real Love and not the love of illusion or desire or romance or eliminating lonliness but a genuine, authentic Love that, no matter how much I looked, I could never find. My daughter brought it to me, quite out of my control, freely giving it to me, "This is GOOD, this is GOD, this is the only thing that matters and it is yours, it comes with me in lieu of a User's Manual, make of it what you will but it is your gift of me." My awakening, the realization that yes, this was Love, that I could Love and that I could now know Love. In that flash of a moment, the possibilites of the universe were revealed to me.
When I tell my single friends about the gifts my children have given me, I know that they don't understand, that they can't understand. I understand them - I was clueless like them, once. I once thought love was about finding someone to fawn over and bring flowers to, someone with whom I would always have shaking-the-plaster-off-the-walls sex with. That's nothing like Love. Love is putting someone before me, always, without thinking or planning or sense of obligation but for the sheer joy of it, the ease of it, the inevitability of it that is as natural and necessary as breathing.
Before Marni came along, I wondered how I would be able to share that Love; it really bothered me that I would have to divide my Love because I wanted to give Lilly everything. After Marni came along, I realized that Love was infinite and abundant, I did not have to mete it out because there was more than enough to go around, a well deeper than I could ever dream. With my children, my days are a constant reminder of that fact, each day is a gift of Love. It is nothing I've done; it is all due to my children.
Lilly, Marni, and Zeke may test the limits of my patience but they never test the limits of my love. There are no limits.