EDITOR’S NOTE: When Cade Welch, our first grandson, was born in 2005, I began a ritual of writing a once-a-year letter to him in The Register-Guard — and later to his sister and cousins — come birthday time. Today, Cade turns 9. In his honor, here’s that first column.
MAYBE YOU’VE experienced it: one of those “whoa” moments when you’re reminded that in the book of life, you’ve ventured far beyond the preface. I had one on Wednesday.
I was staring at a photograph of a middle-aged man holding a day-old baby. A 20-something young man stands beside them.
That would be my son. And the baby I was holding – that would be my first grandchild, Caden Grant Welch, born at 2:34 a.m. Monday. His first scream in the night – I heard it from a Sacred Heart hallway – was the sweetest thing I’ve heard since two similar screams from a Bend hospital 25 and 23 years before.
And so on this Mother’s Day, I celebrate not only the woman who gave birth to me and the woman who gave birth to my sons, but the woman who deepens the plot of our family’s story: Susan Anderson Welch.
I remember her first official “meet-the-parents” dinner at our Yachats beach cabin. With teenage sons around, Welch dinners at the coast could get rowdy; thus, moments before we sat down – and, with Susan in the other room – I slapped a verbal warning label on The Fam: No funny stuff.
It’s a testament to the respect I command that the first grape was fired about 12 seconds after the blessing. I don’t know who hurled the opening pitch in this festive food fight; I only know this: Susan’s retaliation is now the stuff of family legend, a five-grape barrage that left me with one distinct thought: She’s a keeper.
In July 2001, Ryan and Susan were married, leaving us a thank-you note and a gift certificate for Burrito Boy, the kind of thing that makes parenting all worthwhile. Then, last summer came the news: Susan was pregnant.
As the birth date neared and Susan bulged, I found myself looking at my daughter-in-law with a sense of awe: Somewhere in there, I thought, is a new generation.
We soon saw digital and video images of what we learned was a little boy. But if technology had changed in the last few decades, some things had not. “I’m hoping he’ll come before Saturday,” Ry said. “I wanna take him to Oregon’s spring football game.”
Ryan did – but in a carrying case named Susan.
The call came Sunday night. They were headed for the hospital. Game time.
At 1:59 a.m. Monday, Dr. Julie Haugen tied her surgical mask and entered Room 201. From the hallway, we “cheap-seat” family members would hear the contractions well up – along with encouragement from bed-side coaches – then subside. It was like listening, on the radio, as the Ducks struggled to punch it in from the 5.
“Push, push! Great, Susan! Almost there, girl! Ahhhhhhh.”
Third and two. Long pause.
“Push, push – so close. Oh, oh, oh! There’s the head! Ahhhhhhh.”
Fourth and inches. I looked at Susan’s father, Wally, and wondered what it must be like to hear the pain of your exhausted daughter at such a moment.
“Here we go! Oh, my gosh! Here he comes!”
I knew we’d scored when Ryan broke into tears, but I awaited the official signal. And then it came: Caden’s cry in the night.
Like autograph-anxious fans, we of the Hallway Gang waited to come on the field and, when given the OK, joined the revelry. Cameras flashed. Cell calls were made. Hugs and high fives were exchanged. The commotion reached such a pitch that a nurse politely flagged us for excessive celebration.
We calmed down. People headed for the exits. In the soft-light room, Caden was wrapped in a blanket and placed in the waiting arms of his mother, my hero.
I didn’t lose it then. That would come seconds later when she spoke her first words to her son. Words of wonder, tinted with the slightest touch of uncertainty. Words I will never forget.
“I’m your mom.”