I wasn't sure about you in the beginning, Caleb. Before you were born, I mean. Because even though your father doesn't look it, I am, in fact, 45 years old, which is pretty old to be procreating in my opinion (one not shared by Tony Randall) and I'm going to be REALLY old when you're in say, high school and Mom and Dad are counting the seconds to retirement or when you're in college and we're rolling around the country in a Winnebago and wearing bifocals on chains around our necks. So yeah, your Mom had to kinda talk me into you. Which brings me, on this, your first birthday, to a crucial lesson:
Your Mom is always right.
When I first saw you, the doctor had you by a single, skinny leg and was trying to yank you out of your mother. Except you wouldn't come out all the way. Your head got stuck and I was like, "Oh my god, he's going to have a giant head" and for what seemed like long minutes all I saw was your body, and you apparently weren't too jazzed about this situation either because you started peeing and pooping while suspended upside down by a single, skinny leg. The doctor finally sprung your head free and there you were, ten fingers and ten toes, screaming and red and angry and peeing and pooping and the most beautiful thing in the world.
We didn't quite know how to react to you, awash as we were in wonder. Your Mom had spent the previous few years thinking Motherhood wasn't going to happen for her and was busy making her peace with that when I kinda jumped into her life with both feet. As I said, she had to convince me that you would be more fun than golf vacations and rock and roll shows and getting blackout drunk in San Diego boutique hotels (as a theoretical example) and if there was even a shred of skepticism left in me, it all went away on the day we brought you home from the hospital last year. It was a Sunday and I went to get the car while they wheeled your Mother and you downstairs. When I pulled up next to you guys, I saw your mother was crying. Not crying softly but full-on bawling her eyes out and I ran over in a mild panic and asked what was wrong.
"Everybody keeps wishing me a Happy Mother's Day," she said (barely, I mean, there was a whole bunch of snot going on there with the tears and all, so it's a good thing we had all those baby wipes on hand).
And that, son, that feeling your Mom felt right then, that is the one you give us every day. Gratitude and joy and happiness. You are our Little Blessing. The way your whole face smiles when you're happy. The way you lower your forehead to mine to give "love." The way you laugh when AJ and I chase you up the stairs. The mornings when you lay in your crib talking before we even come to get you. It's even okay that your first word was "dog" and not "Mama" or "Dada" (though thanks for getting to the latter before the former).
I know this is supposed to be All About You, but you've also had this unforeseen side effect. Having a baby around the house again, made me remember a lot about your big brother when he was your age. You both have some similar behaviors, but it wasn't just that. A moment or a trait of AJ's would come to me while I rocked you and I'd get to reflect on that and appreciate it more because...well..this doesn't concern you...but so many of my memories of that time were tainted. You could even say I blacked them out or locked them away, which I'm willing to admit isn't the best response ever, but it was less painful that way and I've gotten to re-live a lot of that time thanks to you and I've enjoyed "seeing" AJ as a baby again and I wanted to thank you so much for that gift.
You've got a lot of living to do yet and yes, your parents are kind of exhausted most of the time, not to mention the last six weeks where we've been trading sickness back and forth, some kind of super-resistant Death Germ which is trapped somewhere in the home, so we'll have a little shindig for you this weekend, congratulate you for making it to the one-year mark with an acceptable number of concussions and poop disasters. But after that, it's time to get back to the business of growing up. I see walking is right around the corner and within a couple months I expect some subject-verb-predicate sentences out of you. You've given us so many wonderful moments this past year and that's both good and bad. You've set the bar pretty high there, buddy, so it's not going to be easy to keep up those standards. I don't want to be writing this next year and having to tell these nice people that you've sloughed off.
Like I always tell you and your brother, you two are the best things in life. Be good to your mother. Listen to her. Always tell her you love her. She's the reason you're here. And the reason you're awesome. Happy Birthday, buddy.