Friday, May 16, 2014

But Those Dreams Have Remained And They've Turned Around

Amanda, Gabriel and Jiichan

The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.
Luke 1:19

This is the moment where life and death meet. This is what we are - warriors. 
Worf - Star Trek: The Next Generation

There's so many emotions when it comes the birth of my second grandchild. Gabriel's life has been anything but ordinary. My daughter, Amanda, had severe complications at seven months that it required emergency c-section to keep her alive. At first, I was so scared for Gabriel. I knew he would be so little and his life would be at stake. But the little guy showed that he was tough and ready to enter the world and he would be able to survive just fine. Considering the circumstances, his progress has been extremely uneventful. He's just plain growing and getting stronger as the days go by. In my eyes, I see him as having the heart of a warrior. In geek terms, he has received the birthright of a true Klingon. To his successful arrival I give a hearty "Qaplah!"

The phoenix hope, can wing her way through the desert skies, and still defying fortune's spite; revive from ashes and rise.
Miguel de Cervantes

Gabriel's name was decided a while before his birth and so I find it quite prophetic that his middle name is Phoenix. It show so much of how God does bring forth things from the ashes and "rebirths" them. My grandson has been birthed from some very difficult circumstances. Like his mother, he has risen above. I can't say too much of how proud I am of him knowing that he is a fighter and survivor.

In honor of his birth, here's the list of interesting events and births on his day, April 26th:

1986 – A nuclear reactor accident occurs at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Soviet Union (now Ukraine), creating the world's worst nuclear disaster.

121 – Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor (d. 180)
1564 – William Shakespeare, English poet, playwright and actor (d. 1616)
1900 – Hack Wilson, American baseball player (d. 1948)
1942 – Bobby Rydell, American singer and actor
1943 – Gary Wright, American singer-songwriter, keyboard player
1955 – Mike Scott, American baseball player
1960 – Steve Lombardozzi, American baseball player and coach
1963 – Jet Li, Chinese-Singaporean martial artist, actor, and producer
1965 – Kevin James, American actor, screenwriter, and producer
1977 – Kosuke Fukudome, Japanese baseball player

1984 – Count Basie, American pianist, composer, and bandleader (b. 1904)
1989 – Lucille Ball, American actress and producer (b. 1911)

I mention these two people's passing as they have a connection to the family. I share my birthday with Count Basie and was going to see his band perform at UC Davis in 1984. He took ill a few days before the performance and passed away soon after. Lucille Ball is by far my favorite comedienne as my mom, Gabriel's great grandmother had a very similar sense of humor. I hope that some of what was her, will be in him.

I have to admit that whenever I hear his name I track back to one of my favorite TV shows as a kid: Welcome Back Kotter. I guess the only Gabe I can think of is Gabe Kotter (aka Gabe Kaplan). The theme song for the show rings in my ear although very little of it could apply to my grandson. I guess that continues to reinforce that I'm becoming the old crazy grandpa!

My hope is that with a grandson, we can take in ball games, play catch, go to the gun range, ride motorcycles and play catch. I know that he's the son of two artists so he may end up being more interested in "right brain" things. That's just fine with me. I'm hoping whatever the activity is, it's quality time spent. I want him to know how much I love him and that through all of what he's already been through, I'm proud of him. He is my second generation Ichiro. I hope that he knows that he's number one in my heart.
My Friends Toasting And Sharing Cigars To Celebrate Gabriel's Birth

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Greatest Gift And Honor

My Beautiful Daughter, Amanda While She Was Carrying My Grandson, Gabriel

“Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
    or walked in the recesses of the deep?
 Have the gates of death been shown to you?
    Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness?
 Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
    Tell me, if you know all this."
Job 38:16-18

“Where is your faith?” He asked his disciples.
In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”
Luke 8:25

I believe I have had a truly unprecedented week. This is the type that changes so much of how your life is lived and your perspective on what priorities one has. With Amanda expecting her first child and my second granchild, my thoughts and expectations of my relationship with her were exciting and filled with anticipation. I knew she was carrying a boy and my thoughts of having someone to play catch with and ride motorcycles were my "happy thoughts". I know that he would likely be like his mom and dad and be more of an artist which I would enjoy as well, but of course I had some selfish hopes of my own. What thought never entered my mind was what would happen in the last week in April; something no parent ever fathoms. What started as some concerns and pain during pregnancy quickly unravelled into a major crisis.

Late in the week I was told that Amanda will need to be observed and tests would need to be done to be sure any of the pain wasn't serious. That led to a Friday night stay in the hospital with the thought that she would need constant observation. For some reason I felt at peace and that she would just get through this and in late June all would be well. I think your mind would like to believe that things are always precautionary and that we can control our outcomes with forward planning.

Saturday, April 26th would be for me the longest day of my life. It began with a phone call at 4AM saying that Amanda was having seizures and that an emergency c-section would need to be done. The news that they will "have to take the baby" put me in this heightened and helpless situation. Even with prayer and getting to a point of knowing the truth that God is in control and the outcomes are not ours to determine cannot mitigate the emotion or the mental preparation of the worst case scenario. I kept thinking of how I would deal with possibly never meeting Gabriel and the lost chance of playing catch with him. The thoughts were frightening as you think of the fragile life that was at stake. After what felt like an eternity I got the news that he was OK and that this should help Amanda recover from what was diagnosed as Eclampsia and HELLP. Already Jodi had booked an early morning flight to be out there with her. For the moment, I felt great. Amanda would get better, my grandson was doing well so when I get some rest I could celebrate Gabriel's birth.

The next piece of news broke any happiness I had. Amanda was getting worse and having more seizures. To be honest the timeline gets really fuzzy for me since I think my deep concern started to really give way to all of the fears a father can have. She had a brain clot that threatened her life and that emergency brain surgery would be needed. The procedure went a lot longer than they anticipated which only prolonged the agony of waiting. The news kept coming in small doses and with breaks that would only allow me to process some of the worst of the worst case scenarios.

When you're in this situation you really can't think straight. I also kept preparing for some of the worst possible things I could imagine. How much pain was she suffering through? What if she ends up a medical vegetable? What if she came out of this severely impaired? What if she ends up being an entirely different person from the girl I know and loved? The worst of all, what if she died? Could I find a way to move past this? Could I even face the possibility of burying my beloved daughter? I am so thankful to so many friends who were kind enough to talk me through this, think for me and just hang out with me. The friends I have are second to none.

I finally got the news late in the night that she survived. They had not been able to remove the clot so they removed a portion of her skull to relieve pressure on her brain. How she would fair after this is anyone's guess. The doctors recommended one week just to get her "out of the woods" (it's just too hard to say what that means but it's pretty obvious). My prayers during this time went along the lines of trust with a tinge of pleading. I know that God is good and I can accept His will and plan even if it ended up being painful but I prayed that He would grant me just one more minute with the Amanda I knew and loved. I delight in her and her wonderful personality. I wanted to enjoy even just one more time with her that way.

Sunday through Thursday was mostly spent waiting and hearing some good news. Jodi sent me a picture of her out of surgery that was painful to see. Even if you know just how bad things will look, when it's your own daughter any pragmatic logic goes out the window. Seeing her with all sorts of tubes and wires attached to her and bandages wrapped around her is so difficult to see but also necessary. I needed to see my little girl no matter how difficult it was. I booked a flight to see her for Friday hoping that she would make it through the week. Thankfully, each day came some good news: she's breathing on her own; she responds to voice commands; she recognizes people. These were baby steps that were like drops of refreshing water in the desert. On Friday, as I prepared to leave I called to check in. I got the question: "Would you like to talk to her?" I was happily shocked. I said "Yes, definitely!" For a few minutes I got to hear her beautiful voice. It was like I was floating and suddenly peaceful. After so many sleepless nights, I suddenly had a burst of energy. God granted me not only one more minute with her, He was blessing me with the joy of Amanda being back!
I knew things would be alright when I could see that she could still work her iPhone

Walking on her own!!!

Our visit was filled with lots of conversation and the absolute joy of meeting her newborn son, Gabriel. We talked about things, joked around and she even got up and walked! I write this with a huge smile on my face and choking back some tears. God has not only spared her, He's performing a miracle before my eyes. This is God's blessing in action. I am in awe and I praise Him.

Going forward there are so many challenges ahead. But knowing that my daughter and grandson are improving makes everything pale in comparison. Adjustments will have to be made.

In one conversation with her I recalled one moment in one of my favorite Disney films, Mulan. There's a deeper sense of family and love in this film that makes it stand out above the others. Mulan is a classic square peg who triumphs through adversity. With it she becomes a hero and receives the gift of Shan Yu's (the villain in the story) sword and the honor of the Emperor's Crest. when she returns home to present the gift and honor to her father, Fa Zhou, his response is powerful and one I shared with Amanda. I believe that any father of a daughter can resonate his words:

"The Greatest Gift And Honor Is Having You For A Daughter"
Fa Zhou

I could never say it any better. Amanda is an amazing gift from God and it is an honor that I have the role of her father. I only have had this magnified to me through some very serious adversity.