While waiting at the Post Office Café for the guest of honor, I observed the collection of friends and family milling around and smiled. I’ve known most of them since they were kids, and here they were, all grown up, having drinks and cracking jokes while waiting for my son, James, to arrive at his surprise 30th Birthday party.
I can’t believe I have a 30-year-old son. To be honest, that was a lot harder to say than I thought. Of course, many people my age have already gone through the “my kid is turning 30” phase of their life, so be gentle with me.
How did 30 years go by so quickly? Wasn’t he just a kid swinging a Whiffle-ball bat in the backyard? How long ago was it that I was his hero? Weren’t we just laughing hysterically at me doing something silly in McDonald’s with French fries? When he didn’t make the school baseball team, I might have cried more than he did.
Although he may not have known it at the time, leaving him alone at a college dorm for the first time was a very emotional experience for us. You just don’t stop being a parent because your child’s physical body isn’t under your roof anymore. Go ask your 80-year-old mother that question and see what she tells you.
Like every set of parents, our lives were changed on the night he was born. We did all the prep work, even visiting the hospital (Mid-Island in Bethpage) for a “walkthrough.” We learned where to park, what entrance to go through, what desk to report to and other logistics. When the big event happened, we would be prepared.
But as we all know, humans plan and God laughs. Things started to get real about three in the morning as my wife was speaking incoherently to the pediatrician during contractions. When I took the phone, the pediatrician told me in a very calm voice, “Take her to Good Samaritan Hospital right now.”
Did he say right now? That wasn’t the plan. We practiced and knew every inch of Mid-Island’s maternity ward. Again, in a very calm voice, he told me to take her to “Good Sam” right now as he had a C-Section scheduled there at 9 a.m. and our baby was going to be born soon.
Grabbing my wife and our “Go-Bag,” we raced down to Montauk Highway for the 10-mile trek to Good Sam. Montauk Highway is a rural route filled with traffic lights, so naturally, I was looking forward to taking advantage of my “situation.” After all, it was very early in the morning, no one was really on the road, and there were so many red lights in front of me. So, I did what every first-time father would do with a moaning, pregnant wife in his front seat—I blew every red light and bent the speed limits where I safely could. I was secretly hoping to get pulled over, explain my situation, and enjoy a police escort. Then again, where’s a police car when you really need them?
When he was born about an hour or so later, I got to hold him in my arms for the first time and, well, need I say more? It was now our job to take care of him, teach him how to be a decent, loving human being, pick him up when he was down and prepare him for this journey we call life. I’d like to think we’ve done that, knock on wood.
And in the blink of an eye, he reaches the first true milestone of adulthood. Celebrating the event with his friends and watching them still interacting and enjoying each other’s company like they were teenagers was heartwarming. They are all growing into adults and enjoying every minute of it, just like we did.
In my eyes, he’ll always be that 12-year-old kid in the backyard, playing Whiffle ball with those same friends, daring me to strike them out. Which I did, just about every time. Wish I could turn back time and relive those moments. Then again, don’t we all?
Paul DiSclafani, a Massapequa resident, is a 2018 Press Club of Long Island award winning columnist and an Anton Media Group contributor since 2016.