[I probably should have begun with this one! My first child, so the beginning of this whole saga… but, like my war journal, it’s an exploded timeline here, developing perspective as it unfolds. This is the sixth post in the series on The Children.]
October 7, 1976
John Nelson Eden was born this morning! I can’t begin to capture the torrent of emotions and thoughts. The love, the joy, the awe and wonder of it all is perhaps best, and surely forever, emblazoned in my memory in that moment when I first looked into his red, screaming, screwed-up little face as the doctor held him up and said, “Hey boy, say hello to your mommy and daddy!”
That contorted little face was so beautiful, and that cry has to be the sweetest sound I ever heard!
It was an experience of ultimate magnitude, transcending anything else in my experience. Now I need some sleep real bad! Just a few more thoughts and I must go to bed…
Connie, his mom, was just beautiful through it all! Even as nothing prepared us for the experience as a whole, so not even the suggestions of veterans about how it brought them closer prepared me for just how meaningful it really is for the bond between us.
The effect on my perspective clear. There is a great difference between planning and thinking of “a child” in the abstract and planning and thinking of John Nelson, this actual precious bundle of potential!
November 17, 1976 (A Wednesday night)
To John Nelson:
As I sit here in the loofa with you, son, I can hardly contain my feelings! You’ve been having colic almost all afternoon, and mommy is all worn out, so I’ve rocked you to sleep, and now, you’re sleeping, fitfully, here beside me while I study.
Every now and then, you have a gas pain or something, and I just reach over and pat you on the tummy and murmur a few comforting words, and you settle back down, sometimes with with a little sigh that is sweet in that gentle, innocent way that I suppose only babies have. Sometimes, when you have these bad nights and mommy is so tired, you sleep on my chest while I read, and so I feel very much in tune with all your little pains, your cries and whimpers, and your little sighs as you try to sleep. You’ve always been a noisy little guy! High level of spontaneous vocalizations, in technical terms. But all of this is just a preface.
Tomorrow, you’ll be six weeks old by the calendar. In the last six weeks, you have made a profound and lasting impact on me as a person, and I just want to record a little of my feelings now for you to maybe read one day when you understand and appreciate my feelings. Joy and wonder and love have been the main things I’ve been feeling. This love for you is so strong there’s just no way to really express it! I feel so close, so in tune with you and your needs and responses, and so committed to you in the way that only this love can inspire, and so proud of you! Yet all of this fails to really describe the feeling!
This tremendous love that I have for you, John Nelson, is more than just an emotion. In it I find the key to the understanding of existence, for it is in response to this internal feeling — part of the relationship between you and me — that I will be to you all the things that will become my contribution to your humanity, to your personhood and thus to all humanity.
The degree of my awareness of this feeling and my response to it is the measure of my own humanity. The degree to which I allow the external and internal problems and pressures of life — and there are pressures: work, school, church, home life — to interfere with my response to you is the measure of my failure of you.
But if I, and your mother, and your grandparents, your relatives, and all of the people with whom you live in relationship are half-way able to be real persons to you, you will know all this. And you will know what I mean when I say, “Son, your daddy loves you!”
January 9, 1977
It’s almost hard to believe that it’s 1977. Somehow, I always thought things would be different by 1977, if we managed to make it that far! But here it is and here I am — I’ll be 31, thirty-one, this year, a settled family man by all appearances, yet not knowing what the coming year will bring.
I begin student teaching next week, should be certified after summer session, with 20 hours of graduate credit… had thought I’d teach her in Independence, get that master’s degree, but now I don’t know. Maybe I’ll try to get a job in a tribal school in Arizona, go to school there. We just kinda need to leave Missouri… lots of reasons.
John Nelson’s birthdays:
[In the journal I began in 1979, is this list of where JN lived for each of his first 13 birthdays. It is a pretty clear picture of how our lives were a bit nomadic for those years.]
1976 – born in Independence, Missouri.
1977 – Crownpoint, New Mexico (Eastern Navajo)
1978 – Jesup, Georgia
1979 – Jesup, Georgia
1980 – Koinonia Farms, Georgia (near Plains)
1981 – Eugene, Oregon (West Broadway St.)
1982 – Eugene, Oregon (West Broadway St.)
1983 – Eugene, Oregon (West Broadway St.) / Dad in Florence
1984 – Eugene, Oregon (West Broadway St.) / Dad in Florence
1985 – El Cajon, California
1986 – Ramona, California (spend 2nd half of 5th grade in Florence)
1987 – Ramona, California
1988 – Ramona, California
1989 – Jesup, Georgia (with Dad)
August 7, 1979
(In Winter Spring, Florida visiting Uncle Stewart.)
John-John got his second set of stitches today. Fell or something while we were in a health food store, split his forehead open, blood all over his face again, took ten years off my life and three stitches to close it up. It was all about two inches from the three stitches he got last summer.
After it was all over, I had to go into the restroom and cry. I still could cry just thinking about it. He doesn’t much like hospitals or doctors now for sure! But it didn’t even slow him down. Half an hour after the stitches, he was laughing, running, jumping — and kept it up all afternoon!
[The stitches last summer came after he ran into a metal band in a health food store in Machias, Maine on a summer trip there. Someone in the store took us to the local hospital, and I’ll never forget holding him along the way and realizing I could see his bone through the split in his skin. A very sweet doctor there wrapped him in a cloth and sewed it up and he was calm and not crying before the sewing was done.]