Monday, May 12, 2014


The child I am most in awe of is not mine. We've got two beautiful girls, ages 12 and nine. Not a day goes by that I am not thankful for them, that I don't learn from them, that I don't love them. But the child I am most in awe of belongs to my sister and her husband.

Our nephew Samuel is six years old today. When my sister was pregnant I had never heard of hypoplastic left heart syndrome. I don't think she had either. When he was born, he was rushed via underground tunnel over to Children's Hospital in Washington, D.C. He was hooked up to machines and had his first heart surgery when he was two days old. He had two more by the time he was two. Now, other than the zipper scar down his chest, there is no way you'd ever know. Not watching him run or skip shells at the beach, not watching him play soccer or tee ball. Not watching him clobber his older brother if need be.

Our daughter Ava had a neurology appointment this past week (all is good). We were answering questions about family neurological history (I have nothing documented, you can't prove a thing) and Ava said, "Dad, Samuel." I explained that our nephew Samuel had hypoplastic left heart syndrome, though it isn't a neurological condition. The doctor looked up and said, "How is he?" I said, fantastic, you'd never know. She smiled. She's been working in pediatrics for 30 years and knows what that condition used to mean. It wasn't good. And she's seen what it means now, which is why Samuel is here.

I have often thought I was born into the wrong era, the wrong time frame. That I would be better suited for a simpler time. But that's just a matter of preference and perspective. Samuel was born as the exact right time. So I guess I was too, because I get to know him.

I try not to exaggerate or speak in hyperbole. But Samuel's smile lights up a zip code. It makes everyone around him smile. I've watched it happen. He has also established himself as king of the zerbert. He'll track you down. He'll get you on the stomach or the side of the face or the leg. He is relentless. At this point, I have the advantage that I can pick him up. So we have some noteworthy zerbert battles. He's got six years of experience under his belt. We'll keep the zerbert war going for another six. And then six after that. And six after that. And you get the idea. I'm going to have to develop a new strategy when he is too big to pick up anymore. I'm starting to work on that now. Happy birthday, Samuel :) Keep on smiling.

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