A few weeks ago, Jeremiah invited us to come over to Murray, “You know, if it works out where you can be here right after the baby is born, we’d be glad to have you here.” He and Misty were expecting their third child, their first boy.
We have missed most of the moments that we have longed for as grandparents. I guess I’ve found distance and work to be pretty good reasons but somehow those excuses rattled a bit loose on this one. We’ve never been closer than five hundred miles and with many of the births it’s been over a thousand. Part of the price of adult children on active military duty, part of the price of other children also spread across the planet. Part of the price of the way work and worry can trick us into confusing our priorities.
This time, though, we decided to take to the road just three days after little Amos Michael was born. A bit before two in the afternoon on Passover Thursday, we headed east. Hail and strong winds had come in with the storms on Wednesday night but had cleared out on the following day.
The emerging spring had brought a lush green to the winter wheat and a tinge of new grass across the vast pastures of the Flint Hills. Across southern Missouri, the brilliant whites of dogwoods spread beneath the canopies of hardwoods. Across both states, the late stage lavender of redbuds accented fencerows and ditchlines, along with the fine white clusters of wild plum blossoms.
We caught up to the passing front in Willow Springs and drove the last three hundred miles in rain. Jeremiah was still waiting up for us. After the kind of hugs that make nine hours of driving worthwhile, he led us into the basement guest room.
He’s done quite the job of converting bare floor and foundation walls into really cool “hanging out” space. Combining raw wood and stripped panels of stain with a wainscoting of galvanized roofing, he’s managed to create hospitable space. He even managed to make a little nook for a bed. The little tin buckets with welcoming gifts set on the dresser made for a nice touch, too.
We sat up and talked until after midnight, Jeremiah sharing how Misty had already been out potting plants on the deck just a couple of days after the baby was born. As we continued visiting, the Mountain Dew wore off and the five-hundred-and-forty miles wore on; we headed back down the stairs toward sleep. The next morning, we got to meet little Amos.
How is it that even when you’ve seen so many newborns over the span of sixty-plus years, you can still be truly surprised at their tiny size? Even the ones that get up to nine or ten pounds seem impossibly small. How can something that little still be so perfectly formed?
I stood for a while, watching Randa stroke the fine dark hair of his tiny head as she cradled him in one arm. She caressed his feet, lightly traced his forehead. I leaned against the kitchen door for a while, just watching. Even before she passed him off to me, I’d already held him in my heart, already spoken his name. Everything beyond that was just extra bliss.
I held Amos Michael close, kissed him lightly, then tilted him up slightly so I could lean my face against the side of his head, feel the incredible softness of his skin, the smell of baby. I looked into those tiny eyes as he looked about a bit, watched the intermittent flailing of the one arm that had managed to free itself from the enshrouding blanket.
There is an inherited delight that is beyond delight in the precious sight and touch of newborn life. There is glory and pleasure in the witness and the promise, in the connecting of flesh and spirit, of hope and heart. A joy in loving that makes it worth every mile that we have traveled, the miles that lead us home.