Yes, I make great beer. Apparently I've also been pretty successful at producing male offspring, though I did have lots of help with my assistant brewer on the two greatest masterpieces of my life, my two sons. Michael was born late into the night on February 24, 1985. I remember the wife and I thinking that if the doctor would hold off for a few minutes, he would be born on the twenty-fifth, just like his mom and dad. After two days of labor, mom was not interested in such a silly gesture. As it was he was a difficult delivery. This was in the days before the glut of lawsuits against doctors for any bad consequences, regardless of their decisions during an operation. The doctor decided to deliver Michael naturally, rather than by ceasarean section, even though he was firmly lodged in the birth canal and reluctant to leave those cozy environs.
To make a long (thirty-six hours) story short, he was delivered at 2352 on the Twenty-fourth, utilizing forceps and leaving two deep gouges in the sides of his face and a head that could rival Beldar for it's pointiness. Michael would refer to the scars in his early years as his "wumps". The scar areas turned beet-red whenever he ate anything chewy until he was near ten years old.
I remember recording a cassette tape on the night after he was born, which included such songs as "Beautiful Boy" by John Lennon and "It's a Boy" from the Who's "Tommy". I still have that tape. I listen to it now and then. I'll probably listen to it tonight.
Michael was always an amalgam of the best and the worst his parents had to offer. He had my rebeliousness and his mother's need to say what she thought regardless of the consequences; my lack of organizational skills and general laziness and his mother's ability to cut through the nonsense and see the heart of the matter; my need to be appreciated by my father and his mother's ability to do what she thought was right, no matter what anyone cared.
As a child he loved baseball but was tall for his age and unable to gracefully control all of his long and unwieldy appendages. He was a big kid and was always picked early for pickup games but his awkwardness in running and batting made him a disappointment to those who expected so much from an athlete of imposing size. One particularly bad coach, while dad was working second shift (an unfortunate side-effect of the job) turned him against sports for the rest of his youth. He took a short turn at track and field, where he excelled for the short time that he was interested, but quit during his late Junior High days when he discovered Rock and Roll, girls and the ubiquitous highs that are often associated with those pursuits.
Luckily, he found out early that being stoned was an ugly way to miss life as it should be enjoyed and he quit smoking pot and everything else by tenth grade. He was a smart kid, smarter by far than his father. I'll never forget him talking to me when he was about ten. I told him that there were seven "perpetual calendars" and he said, "Yeah dad, I know". Then he said, "Do you know why there are seven perpetual calendars"? I really didn't know the answer, but I wasn't prepared to learn it from a ten year old. He said, "Because there's seven days in the week"! I guess that's about the simplest answer that can be given!
In the summer of 2004, while my wife and I were enjoying a golf weekend at Garland Resort in northern Michigan, Michael called us to say that he was feeling sick with the flu and was going to visit the after-hours clinic. He thought he had pneumonia. The doctors said he had a bad case of bronchitis and gave him a prescription for antibiotics. After a week, with no improvement, we sent him to the doctor ( a new doctor, as we had become disappointed in the behavior of his old doctor). The doctor saw him and determined that blood tests were in order. By the next day we knew something bad was wrong. A week later he had been diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma and was in the hospital having a biopsy done of one of his four tumors.
Alot of soulsearching and sleepless nights followed while mom and dad tried to make sense of this new terror. Michael had his own struggles with mortality at the age of nineteen. One year and much chemotherapy and radiation later, he was pronounced to be "cancer free". We will wait for the five year pronouncement to actually celebrate but there has been no recurrence of anything resembling cancer so far. I thank God for the grace he bestowed on me and my family both in giving us this boy to love and cherish and in saving him from the ravages of this deadly disease.
Michael was always very mechanically inclined, which skills he probably inherited from his two grandfathers (certainly not from the knucklebuster backyard mechanic that fathered him). He worked his way into a machining program at his local Vocational Technical school where he excelled as the top student in his field over several years. He parlayed this schooling into a job in a high-tech manufacturing plant in the area, wher he learned to program and run Wire EDM machines, a high-tech metal-cutting tool. He now runs the entire division at his company and will soon be able to name his own salary. He's very good at what he does and he's only twenty-one years old! I am oh, so proud of him!
Today, Michael and his brother Andrew are skiing in Northern Michigan, along with Michael's girlfriend and a friend of Andrew's. This is what youth is made of. Enjoying life as it comes and striking out on one's own to enjoy the pleasures of young-adulthood. My wife and I wanted to go along like we have so many times when the boys were young but I think I like it better this way. They're cutting the ties that bind them to us, just as we trained them to do. I hope they're having a great time and that they're creating memories they'll have for the rest of their long and full lives. Today is my oldest boy's birthday and I hope it ranks up there as one of his very best!