Yesterday at around noon, my sister Casey called me on my cell phone to let me know my niece, Ava Grace, had been born to my brother Graham and sister-in-law Leslie. And that I, for the first time, was officially an uncle.
It wasn’t a surprise. We had known about little Ava’s imminent arrival for eight months or more. We had prayed, bought baby stuff, called Graham for updates, watched Leslie assume the glow of pregnancy, listened to my Mom talk about the coming birth day in tones usually reserved for the Christmas holidays.
And yet, when I got the call that she was here, really here, and that both mother and daughter were healthy – it’s just really hard to explain.
I wouldn’t see photos of her until nearly midnight yesterday. But driving around in the afternoon, going to conduct a photography talk at a friend’s newspaper staff meeting, I couldn’t keep my mind off my little niece, Ava. I had not met her, not heard her voice, nor seen her face, but my heart was filled with love for her and for the rest of my family. My Spirit was moved to pray, something that doesn’t happen very often, I have to admit.
I think it’s probably just a small sliver of what Graham and Leslie have been going through since December or earlier. I want to write songs, I want to buy her gifts, I want to know what she’s going to be like in the coming months and years, what personality traits she’ll take from her parents – the quirks we “older” folks can knowingly smile and laugh at, what will she be curious about/passionate about/interested in.
I’ll be almost 50, Lord willing, when she graduates high school. I wonder what she’ll look like. What her goals and dreams will be. It’s even gotten me taking my diet and exercise more seriously today, because I really want to be sure I’m there to see it.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be a father. I’m not sure if I want to, or if God has plans for me to. I know I’ll always care for children who are not my own – either in my family or at work. I know fatherhood is hard, hard work and I know that it requires a lot of grace and trust. The grace, I know I can count on. The trust is what I’m working on.
But I can’t help but feel that the joy of an uncle is at least a tiny grain of the joy of a father. So I can crank up my copy of John Gorka’s “After Yesterday” – where he reflects on first-time fatherhood. And I can smile.
I’ve been waking up to a little more day
I’ve been taking my walks with a little more sway
I was taking my time but a new day’s come
Make way for a new day
Make room for a child
Make room for the sound of joy
You’re gonna hear it for awhile
We’re only here for a while
Ava Grace’s Vital Statistics
- Length – 20 inches
- Weight – 7 lbs., 9 oz.
- Vocal chords – By all accounts, in perfect working order.
- On her birthday, Aug. 13, the following people were born: Women’s rights pioneer Lucy Stone, Sharpshooter Annie Oakley, Film director Alfred Hitchcock (one of her father’s favorites), golfer Ben Hogan, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, Hawaiian entertainer Don Ho, former surgeon general Dr. Joyceleyn Elders, singer Dan Fogelberg, actor Danny Bonaduce, spare baseball player Tom Niedenfuer, baseball player Jay Buhner, figure skater Midori Ito, Dallas Stars goaltender Marty Turco, American speed skater Shani Davis, and 2006 national spelling bee champion Katharine Close.
- On her birthday, Aug. 13, the following people died: nurse Florence Nightingale, writer H.G. Wells, baseball player Mickey Mantle, TV chef Julia Child.
- Famous events on Aug. 13 – Conquistador Hernan Cortez conquered Tenochtitlan (present day Mexico City) in 1521; John Calvin helps arrest Michael Servetus as a heretic in Geneva in 1553; stainless steel invented in 1913; women allowed to enlist in Marine Corps in 1918; Al Capp’s comic strip, “Li’l Abner” debuts in 1934; “Bambi” premieres at Radio City Music Hall in 1942; construction of the Berlin Wall begins in 1961; opening ceremonies are held at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
- Aug. 13 is also celebrated as International Lefthanders Day.