There are times when the days seem to run into each other creating a momentum that I could never hope to get out in front of. When I see life this way, it’s overwhelming. But sometimes, I see life as a series of smaller moments. Some are brought on by choices I make and others, not so much.
I call the most crucial of these surprises gifts from God because of how they shaped my life. They could be written off as just little coincidences, but they made me who I am. They may seem random, but even so, I am grateful I was able to get so much from these three little moments.
Gift from God number 1: It’s 1976. I am 4 and wake holding a big fur ball of a dog. My parents are standing stunned in the doorway to my room. Why is this a jaw dropping moment?
When I was a toddler, my parents had to give away our first family dog, Ginger, because she triggered severe allergic reactions, which included asthma closing up my bronchial tubes.
So that I could continue to breathe, all of the carpeting in the house was ripped up and Ginger was given to friends. Back to the black fur ball, her name was Benji.
Her body type was similar to the era’s movie star dog of the same name. She was a mutt with poodle hair. That day my family learned that there were in fact a few dog breeds that wouldn’t kill me.
Benji, a stray who was found hiding out in my dad’s office upon his return from vacation, just so happened to be one of these. From that day forward my family had a dog — a very good dog.
She took it upon herself to be an auxiliary nanny, an assistant to my mom and play thing for my sister and me. If she hadn’t stowed away under my dad’s desk, I might not have ever had a dog again.
Gift from God number 2: “Do you all know why you are here?” asks the minister to my wedding guests. “It’s because of Robert Johnson.” Besides being a legendary blues musician, Robert Johnson is also the reason I met my wife, Sarah.
I treasure this fact because it isn’t very often in life that we can pinpoint the exact decisions that hurl us through time down one path versus another. On one end of the tin can telephone game of time stood my wife and I on the altar in 2002 and on the other end of the string was a moment in 1996 where a poet is deciding what poem to read at a poetry festival.
Should he read his poem about an antelope when he gets on stage or should he read his poem about Robert Johnson?
I was in the crowd that day and he chose to perform his poem about the blues icon. I am also a blues fan, so I introduced myself afterward and we became friends. Years down the line he introduced me to another poet and it was through that poet that I met my wife.
It was convoluted, but a clear path. If the first poet all those years ago chose to do his poem about the antelope, I would have never met Sarah.
Gift from God number 3: now it’s 2007 and about 2 in the morning when my wife says to me, “I think it’s time.” Her pregnancy hadn’t been too uncomfortable, so I thought of it as a coincidence that I packed our bags before going to bed that night.
But thinking back, that time was full of little moments like that, where intuition led the way. Sarah knew she was going to have a boy. She knew he’d be healthy (have a constitution more like Sarah’s than mine), that he would be impish (share a grin more like mine) and she knew he’d be coming that day.
“This is a good looking baby,” said his pediatrician.
“Thanks,” I replied politely.
“No, you don’t understand. This is a really good looking baby. They don’t usually look like this,” he added.
Owen is now almost 4 and while I think that every parent should believe that their child is the smartest, best looking child to ever hit the earth, I think I also do understand something else, if I could coyly consider his doctor’s compliment for a second.
I believe it is more than luck that Owen is my son. He makes my job as his dad a lot of fun. My desire to fill his head fits his desire to understand the world around him. The smile on his face beams as brightly as his mom’s smile.
I can go either way, I can smile as brightly as my family or sometimes, I can forget about these little gifts while getting bogged down and that is where the counting comes in.