On March 8th, 2002 Mindy gave birth to a healthy baby boy. At almost exactly seven pounds and nineteen inches in length, Caleb Anthony Harper has become Judy's and my first grandchild.
Later that month, shortly after Caleb was born, I was in "a mood" when I read my e-mail. As a PWP (person with Parkinson's Disease), I was going through some e-mail from a Parkinson's mailing-list and I ran into a post that just hit me the wrong way and I decided to reply.
The poster was a new member who's father had recently passed away. She came into the mailing list looking for support. But, in the messaage the wording she used sounded like she was saying that Parkinson's Disease killed her father. And, it wasn't just once -- she said the same thing at least three times. Suddenly, my mood "tied a knot" in my stomach and my reply took on a bit of an "edge."
What I didn't appreciate in the new subscriber's post was the fact that she was telling all of the PWP's on-list that Parkinson's killed her father. So, I took it as saying that we all had a fatal disease. And, I didn't appreciate it.
Well, my reply generated a little flurry of e-mail exchanges -- some supporting me, others not supporting me. And, in the final wrap-up of exchanges about my post, I got a little "misty" and wrote a small piece of text -- not really a poem, not big enough to be an magazine article -- and many people enjoyed reading it so I thought I would share it with people here.
... I was sitting in a chair holding my own son, Mark Andrew, rocking, amazed at the tiny little being that I participated in co-creating; a new vessel for a soul to continue their education in this time-space reality. And that woman over there ... can that really be Mindy Annette who I used to bounce on my knee because I enjoyed how it made her smile and giggle? It wasn't all that long ago, was it? I'm not old, am I?
The afternoon dragged on and on after I got that phone call in the middle of the last day of teaching a class in Bentonville, Arkansas. It was the call that told me my new grandson was on his way. Later, I was told Caleb Anthony Harper entered this world at 5:53 p.m. on Friday, March 8, 2002. Weighing in at 7 pounds plus a fraction of an ounce, and 19 inches long. But, I had yet another night in a hotel room to wait to meet my new grandson. I've never really had a sleeping problem in the some sixteen+ years I've been traveling around the country teaching people about UNIX and the like. But, this night it's different.
As I sit at the table, trying to get my travel-computer to talk to the modem correctly so that I can get on the 'Net, not able to sleep, wondering which paths Caleb will choose on his journey in his time in this little corner of the universe, I find myself thinking. (Thinking has always been a terrible vice of mine -- I do it way too often.) Is trying to wade through the some 200+ e-mails I have let accumulate in my mailbox really required? Is working on my Web-site all that important? Is maintaining a mailing list for people to talk about Grand Funk Railroad necessary. Should I apologize to those people whose feelings I unintentionally hurt with my post to the Parkinson's mailing list? Did I really get censored after that post to the PD list? Am I actually almost half-a-century old? Am I really a "grandpa?"
The arguments that come through my e-mail box amaze me. People saying things to other people in e-mail that they wouldn't dare say face-to-face. That keyboard, monitor, and the small cable that connects them to the 'Net seems to give everybody so much courage; courage to tell other folks that their opinion isn't right -- that they don't have the right to think the way they do; they aren't allowed to have the beliefs that they do; that they are right and everybody else is wrong. It all seems so pointless.
All I really want is to avoid arguing, fighting, and hope that everyone can get along and be happy. Can't I make everybody happy? Isn't there an Oz somewhere, a Walden Pond, Wonderland, a Hundred-acre wood, a Utopia, a Teletubbyland?
It has been over six years now, since I was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, I still don't believe it. I don't even like taking an aspirin -- I'm young, I'm healthy, I can make those little aches and pains go away. Do I really have to take six different medications at regular intervals throughout the day now? It's coming up on the one-year anniversary of my total, right side hip replacement. Wasn't it just last week I was playing football with the guys, feeling strong and healthy, so sure that this body would last forever? As I look in the mirror, getting ready to go to the airport, to go back home and meet my new grandson I ... wait a minute, are those grey hairs I see in my beard?
Now I sit here rocking Caleb in my arms, I find myself amazed again by the seemingly perfect little "bundle of joy" that my daughter had delivered. So similar but also very different than her and her brother were ... was it really twenty-three years ago? Is it true? Have I grown up? Am I not eighteen anymore? ... twenty? ... It seems as if it were only yesterday that I was sitting in a chair holding ...