The date was January 23, 1986, a Thursday.
We were living in Little Rock.
I stopped on the way home from work and bought a six-pack of Busch to chill in the fridge overnight (yeah, I spared no expense in those days), the perfect accompaniment to the homemade pizza my wife would be making Friday night – a typical end-of- the-work- week ritual that would also include another couple, some of our closest friends, watching the latest episode of “Dallas” with us.
Both wives were in the midst of their first pregnancies. Since mine was about 19 days past her due date, I guess I knew our plans could fall through. At that point, however, after being prepared for so long with nothing happening, I think we had become so accustomed to that baby not coming that we were just going on with life in a business-as- usual fashion.
But on the afternoon of the 24th, the mother-to- be called me at work and said it was time.
During a visit to her doctor, he told her since nature was not taking its course as it should, it was time to do something about it. It would be too risky to go any longer. The pizza, beer and “Dallas” would have to wait. (Not to worry, though, as we had one of the early model VCRs, the last video recording machine I knew how to operate).
The doc told her to go on over to the hospital from his office. She told him she needed to go home and pack a bag. She later told me how he began to question why, at nearly three weeks past her due date, that bag was not already packed and with her at all times. I wasn’t there, but I have a hunch he quickly
realized there would be no good answer to that question.
He allowed her the quick detour but told her to meet him at the hospital shortly.
The time between that call and our arrival at the hospital is a blur in my mind, but I have a vague memory of meeting my wife at home, helping her pack the bag and going by her parents’ house before finally getting there.
I also remember, even though we were way past the time we thought it would happen, how unreal it felt that we were indeed becoming parents.
Somewhere around 5:30 that afternoon, our son was born by Caesarean section. It is, of course, a frozen-in- time moment for me, just as it is for every dad who has had the privilege of standing in awe as another human being comes from the body of his spouse. It’s no exaggeration to call it a miracle. (And I was blessed to go through it twice again, in 1988 and 1992, and to be nearby when our daughter and son-in- law became parents only three months ago).
Last Sunday afternoon — nearly 32 years after making the hospital visit I just described – the love of my life and I found ourselves at another hospital, this time in Atlanta.
That same late-arriving son had called around 7 a.m. to tell us his wife’s water had broken a few hours earlier, four days past her due date. Their own firstborn, our second grandson, would be arriving soon.
This time my wife, the one who did not have a bag packed when she was close to giving birth all those years ago, had been sleeping with a packed bag beside the bed for a week. We were on the road to Atlanta less than an hour after getting the call.
The drive was nerve-wracking, with periodic torrential downpours, thanks to the latest hurricane.
Fortunately, the weather did not delay us much, and we arrived around 1 p.m. eastern time. The expectant father came out to see us and told us everything was progressing well. We settled in, along with our daughter-in- law’s parents, to wait.
A few hours later, around the same time of day he had himself entered the world, he and his sweet wife welcomed Henry Robert “Hank” McKinney — all six pounds, 15 ounces and 21 inches of him. Our son now had a son.
Another frozen-in- time moment, and miracle, were deposited into the memory bank, and I was once again at a loss for words.
Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.