Monday, August 26, 2013

Jenna's 9th birthday

Blue eyes, my baby's got blue eyes. Like a deep blue sea on a blue, blue day. -- "Blue Eyes" by Elton John

Jenna was born nine years ago today. Eight-and-a-half pounds. A golden sheen to her head that promised blond hair. Blue eyes.

At least I tell people they're blue. There really isn't a word to describe the color of her eyes.

But I'll try.

I learned to scuba dive in 1993. And I learned something about it right off: scuba diving is a big hassle. So much heavy, awkward equipment is required for breathing underwater. The tank by itself weighs 80 pounds. Then there's the weight belt, which must be adjusted just right so you won't float to the surface or be stuck on the ocean floor. Then you have the BCD, the fins, snorkel, mask and wetsuit. Once you get all that stuff on, it's hard enough to remain upright, let alone walk normally.

But once below the surface, the oppressive gear becomes your key to the underwater world. You swim around weightless, holding out fingers as curious fish swim up to them. Your teeth clench around the regulator that, on land moments before, was uncomfortable in your mouth. Now it's the only way to get air into your lungs. The sound of your constant inhaling and exhaling is a reminder that you're doing something humans weren't made to do. You are living, thriving, underwater. The hassle, for the moment, is forgotten.

It took us a long time to get Jenna into this world. I got pregnant, then miscarried. Pregnant again, then blood one morning. Pregnant a third time, but then more blood. We started thinking adoption. Then I got pregnant again, and this one held. I got very sick, was placed on home healthcare, and then developed gestational diabetes. Then, one Thursday morning, the previous year-and-a-half faded as I finally looked into her eyes.

And I remembered the circle of light.

Thirty feet under the ocean's surface, it's easy to become disoriented -- to the point that you can lose track of which way you're supposed to go to reach air. As a scuba diver, you learn to look for light. Light means surface. When you find the sunlight piercing the blue mass in which you are submerged, you slowly swim toward it, exhaling all the way. Surrounded by varying shades of watery blue, the circle of light expands and seems to pull you toward itself. You keep swimming up, up, up -- until you think your lungs can't expel any more air. But the bubbles keep coming from your mouth, and you keep moving toward the light.

Then you reach it and you burst through it into air, light, life.

That's what color Jenna's eyes are.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Our 20th anniversary

For our 20th wedding anniversary today, here's a repost of something I wrote three summers ago:


I’ve been on the campus of Abilene Christian University this week. I went to college here, and I always love coming back.

ACU has changed a lot since I was in school here. The short, skinny trees from back then have grown up and filled out and now shade the campus. Evidence of technological updates is everywhere. But emblems of the school’s history remain. Most of the original buildings are still here, including McKinzie Dorm. Built in 1929, the building was old long before I got here. It was already aging when my aunt lived there in the late ’40s. But there it still stands, grand and stately in the face of the progress that surrounds it.

The Bean is still here, too. ACU’s cafeteria has undergone a number of facelifts over the decades and looks nothing like the Bean I knew as a student. Today, as Jenna and I were eating lunch, I pointed over to the west side of the cafeteria.

“Daddy and I met for the first time right over there,” I told her.

She seemed somewhat impressed. This is the girl who thanks God regularly for “Mommy and Daddy getting married” in her prayers.

I can’t come here and not reminisce about choices I made—and events that came about as a result—while I was a student here. After first meeting in the Bean one day at lunch, Chad and I dated one fall until I ended it after a couple of weeks. He was the right guy at the wrong time. Which made him the wrong guy at that particular point in time. I avoided him for several months. I wanted him to forget me and move on to someone else. One Friday morning that spring, I got up early and headed to the Bean with my stack of newspapers. I had an 8 a.m. news reporting class, and we were quizzed every Friday on that week’s current events. I liked to leave the dorm early on those days to walk under the canopy of a usually-stunning sunrise (one good thing West Texas scenery has going for it) and study the week’s newspapers in the Bean. On this Friday, I had made it to Wednesday’s headlines when I heard a voice. “Is it OK if I sit here?”

It was Chad. The freshman who had tried to date me a few months back. I gave my consent and he set his tray on my table. But I was annoyed. Then he showed up the next Friday. He had strength training class at 8. He had to carb load, he said. I was still annoyed. I have an important class to study for because I’m majoring in something important—mass communication, doesn’t that sound important? I’m going to have an important job and an important future and I have no intention of including him in it, I thought. Can he not see this?

Seemingly by coincidence, Chad and I kept meeting up every Friday morning. My irritation began to fade. If I wanted to avoid him that badly, I would have avoided the Bean on those mornings. But I found myself stepping out of the dorm into the brilliant Friday sunrise, wondering if he would be there.

Now I picture the two of us sitting at that table in the Bean on a Friday morning during the spring of ’91. I freeze the scene in my mind and consider all that hung in the balance during those moments. My future, his future, and the very existence of our children sat suspended in the air around us, breathless and waiting. Waiting to become reality or vanish into nothingness.

I want to lean over to the ear of that other me. I want to tell her that he’s the one. He’s the one she’ll spend that cozy beach honeymoon with. He’s the one who will be her constant. He's the one who will wrap their daughters in the kind of love only a godly father can give. He’s the one who will hold her in strong, comforting arms as she loses yet another pregnancy. He’s the one.

Today in the Bean, with Jenna staring at me quizzically, I whispered, “You chose well.”