I've not written a lot about my abrupt entry into fatherhood. The reason is fairly simple: the two weeks between when I learned about Will's existence and his arrival into the world was the darkest fortnight of my life, and I don't really gain anything looking back on it.
August 24, 2011 was the scariest, heart- and gut-wrenching, and then supremely joyous day of my life.
Many of you know I am adopted. My wonderful parents, Don and Kathy Hendrickson, never kept that information from me, and so I've never really been driven to find out who my biological parents are. I have a handful of information that I'm able to reflect on, and thank those two people for giving me a chance at life.
But here's one of the upshots of that situation: I had never looked at a person before and known that I shared a biological link to them. I'd never knowingly seen my features on another human being.
One of the side effects was that I really couldn't discern who people (mainly newborns) looked like in comparison to their biological relatives. It was just a muscle that I'd never really used.
But on that late August afternoon, after all the fear and the uncertainty, after the rushing downtown to Baptist Hospital (and I don't give one whit what name's on the door...it will always be Baptist Hospital to me), after a very no-nonsense but supportive nurse helped me scrub in to the NICU for the first of what would be close to 50 times, I walked up to an incubator, gazed upon this tiny, ropy form wearing a diaper no wider than three of my fingers...and I saw my nose.
That's my nose. There's a respirator taped to his face, an umbilical IV, a handful of other monitors strapped onto his minuscule form...but that's my nose.
I knew two things in that moment: that he was going to be OK, and that I was no longer alone in the universe. Here, in this plexiglass womb, with doctors and nurses dedicated to making sure he would leave that environment as quickly as possible, was proof that I existed.
I know this is a lot to put on a kid, especially one who showed up 10 weeks early, but he saved my life that day. He gave me purpose and direction and a reason to put two feet on the floor and one foot in front of the other. I'm not saying I haven't stumbled (a lot) in the past 36 months, but he's the reason I get back up, dust myself off, splash some water on my face and try to move forward again.
So here's to my shaggy-haired, lanky-limbed, smiley-faced, tomato-lovin' super-sweet boy. Being your Daddy is the best thing I will ever do. Happy birthday, Will!