Nearly 43 years ago, as one Saluki was preparing to celebrate receiving his degree from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, another, who would also eventually run with the “Dawgs” was coming into the world.
The graduation party was set for June 10, 1978, my dad brought the speakers and a few other things, but returned home after being told mom called. She was planning on joining him later but was waylaid by premature labor.
He was supportive. At one point he told the ambulance driver the quickest route to the hospital from the house, but it was local first responders used their skill and wherewithal to keep me alive on the way. Still, the doctor assumed that I would die because I was two months early.
His attitude was quickly readjusted by dad who told him, among other things, to get his a** into the room and save his boy.
Even while giving birth my mother verified that it was his language, not hers, which could be heard down the hall. Normally, those who are premature have pulmonary issues, although I’m still careful with infections, there is little doubt I got some of my attitude about authority, and sheer volume from my ole man.
As one set of grandparents raced home from an annual Minnesota fishing trip, leaving their gear with friends and rubber on the road, my paternal grandfather simultaneously smoked two Camel straight cigarettes, while pacing in the hospital room.
My Uncle Donn, paced outside. He was too nervous to do anything but look inside. He and Aunt Diane would become my God parents. I couldn’t have been luckier.
I’ve never really considered the day a cause for personal celebration, my mother deserves the credit because she did the work. The best part of recent birthdays is hearing the first pieces of my story involving the people who love me unconditionally. The story never changes, though from time-to-time soliciting additional details has made retellings even more vibrant.
I suppose the worst part of getting older is that many of the main players in the first act of my life are no longer here to celebrate; and watch additional chapters unfold, with our family.
My dad’s cousin has been preparing for retirement for years, though I doubt he’ll ever stop working.
My grandfather told the crowd assembled for his retirement from a well-known construction company that “he’s ready to die now.” Instead, he lived to the age of 90, watching politics, sports, the stock market, and enjoying his cigarettes till the end.
The other set of grandparents were my biggest champions. Grandma saw me go on to SIU and supported me at every turn. I wish grandpa could have witnessed that, the Cubs Winning the World Series, and so much more.
My birthday isn’t just mine. It’s a celebration for my family, the nurses, doctors, helicopter pilots and one EMT, named Mark who made sure I had the opportunity to be the best I could be, in lieu of a previously agreed upon, above average Joe.