By Jack Levine, Founder/President of 4 Generations Institute – Director of the GRANDPartners for GRANDParents Program
Allow me these few minutes to share a message from the heart. My wife, Charlotte, and I recently returned home from a glorious trip to California to celebrate the wedding of our younger son Josh and his beloved, Natalie, also the younger of two siblings in her family.
The ceremony and celebration could not have been more moving, meaningful and joyous. Two families joining together to watch their “babies” take vows of matrimony under the majestic redwoods of northern California.
This redwood grove was planted early in the last century by an Italian immigrant restaurateur who envisioned a place for great food and wonderful gatherings. Now in its fourth generation of family operation, the Deer Park Villa in Natalie’s home town of Fairfax, CA could not have been a more perfect setting.
There, in the loving gaze of family members and friends, the couple exchanged their vows. Under a traditional Jewish Chuppah (canopy) adorned by Natalie’s great-grandfather’s Tallis (prayer shawl), symbolizing the home they will build together, sipping wine from a silver Kiddush (blessing) cup passed down by my Grandma Minnie, the ceremony was officiated by Victoria Heuler, our sister-in-law, a Tallahassee attorney who was granted 24-hour “visiting ceremonial marriage powers” by a California judge.
All was going well and I was just fine in my euphoric thoughts ….and then Vicky recollected the first time she saw Josh aged one-day “snuggled in your Dad Jack’s arms in the neonatal intensive care unit.” Then I lost it. My tears of joy were transformed into tears of intense gratitude…and they flowed in streams.
You see, Josh had to be delivered by emergency C-section. Although he was full-term, Charlotte exhibited extreme distress due to the baby’s ingestion of meconium in the early stages of labor. Two skilled obstetricians had to go in “and get that baby” and after administering anesthesia, within fleeting minutes the Caesarean cuts were made, Josh was lifted out, and two attending pediatricians had no choice but to jam a tube into the floppy newborn’s throat to suck out the offending thick liquid to save him from choking on the infectious inutero body waste.
I saw every second of this miraculous medical procedure. I was in the operating room because I demanded to be there…and no-one had the time to dismiss me during those high tension moments. Charlotte, of course, was out cold while this drama unfolded. I remember intensely rubbing my arms in that chilly room, breathing short breaths, praying, and then…the sound we prayed for broke through….a gurgled gasping cry from our newborn son. It was far from melodic….but the best sound I ever heard.
While Josh was by no means out of danger in the first hours and days, great pediatric care saved him…for his healthy future…his educational achievements, his dedication to community service, his loving nature, and now, his building a new life with his wonderful wife.
So that’s why I was sobbing deeply at that special moment of the wedding, thinking how we almost lost that little guy with the wrinkly blue-shaded skin. My feeling of gratitude for his survival pounded in my chest. This wedding day took on such special meaning which I will never forget. It was as if the doctors did their duty 28-years ago so this day could happen.
We each have our own personal perspective on the key events in our lives…the joys and disappointments…the pleasure and pain…our hopes, dreams and legacy-making accomplishments.
I have found that it’s in the eyes of those we love that we find our greatest fulfillment.
My earnest wish for you is to enjoy as intense a feeling of happiness as Charlotte and I have experienced at this special of all occasions.
Here’s one of my favorite expressions of the joy of parenthood….extending across the generations….as sung by Tevya and Golda in Fiddler on the Roof ….
Is this the little girl I carried?
Is this the little boy at play?
I don’t remember growing older
When did they?
When did she get to be a beauty?
When did he grow to be so tall?
Wasn’t it yesterday
When they were small?
Swiftly flow the days
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears
What words of wisdom can I give them?
How can I help to ease their way?
Now they must learn from one another
Day by day
Fiddler on the Roof – music by Jerry Bock; lyrics by Sheldon Harnick