Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Happy Birthday, Colleen Louise Welch

My daughter, how you changed my world.

The day you were born was a tale of sensory extremes unlike anything before.  I'd never been so terrified and excited, nervous and anxious.  I was at your side for several months already, though our eyes were yet to meet.  I dreamed of the sounds you'd make.  To hear your heartbeat without the aid of technology; just my ear to your chest.  I was in love with you for so long already.

I, am your safe place.

When your mother delivered you into this world, I'd have surely heard your heartbeat then.  Mine had come to a screeching halt.  I was paralyzed with fear.  Not a spoken word or coherent thought could escape me and no matter how much courage I had mustered to that point, it had vaporized in an instant.  You see, your umbilical cord was wrapped around your neck twice.  We knew beforehand that your first moments would require swift action from those in the delivery room, but you would be safe in qualified hands.  Except I forgot that everything would be fine the second I saw you.  The visions I'd replayed for months on end of a baby girl taking her first breath and calling out to the world that she had arrived, well, they weren't like I'd seen on tv.  The room was silent, and you weren't breathing at all.  Your eyes and mouth were closed.  Dark purple above the cord, and pale white below.  The fear that ran through my veins and bones and into my soul, is something I'll take with me to the next life.  I don't even know if a tear ran down my face.  My entire existence was suspended in the few minutes that lasted an eternity.

I did say your first moments were a series of extremes, though.  That means in both directions.  Shortly after your silent entrance into the world, two doctors who reminded me of Men in Black, cruised through the door and placed you on a table.  These guys were the real deal.  Heroes, moving with calculated speed and precision.  Emotionless, only because their hands moved with the experience of a thousand years.  No time for thought; just execution of plan.  Had I been able to break my shoes free of their concrete bond to the floor, I may have better witnessed their efforts.  But I couldn't move, and wouldn't breathe.  If you couldn't, I didn't want to either.

Soon, we all heard in real life what had thus far only been drawn from fantasy.  The cries and first breaths of a newborn baby girl.  Colleen Louise.  Electricity surged so hard through my nerve endings that I still could not function.  It was the most overwhelming experience I'd never been prepared for.  The strongest feelings I thought I'd known, I had no idea whatsoever.

An entire anthology of 'firsts' had just begun.  Fresh ink to the inside page of a lifelong journey that is being your father.  Your first breath.  First cry.  First nap in my arms.  First night at home - your home.  Time appeared motionless at one moment, and running away from me the next.  All I could do is soak you in with every second I had.  And I still do.

Long before your first words, you told us so much with your eyes.

The reason I live to make every minute we have count the most, is because we will have to endure a lot of minutes apart, too.  My job is different than a lot of other dads'.  At times, it seems as though we never leave each other's side.  Inseparable, from pancake breakfasts to Mickey before bed.  Cloud nine and never coming down.  I wish we could never come down.  But you'll learn in time (I am still learning) that it can't stay that way forever.  Your dad will have to pack his bags, and fly south to work.  We will have to spend some important days away from each other, and that will be very hard for both of us.  I miss you every day when I'm not home.  Ok, I miss you when it's 8:30 and you've only been sleeping upstairs in your bed for a half hour.  Separation anxiety is a two way street, and grown ups aren't immune.  Sometimes, the feelings build up all day that when I'm alone at night, I can't avoid crying my eyes out.  And you know, it's ok if you do, too.  It won't make you weak, and it doesn't mean you've done anything wrong.  Not every tear fallen comes from a sad place.  I think the ones I shed for you, come from the best moments.  I miss you the most because of the greatest times we have.  Some days will be sad, but a lot more days will be the best kind.  For me and you both.  That's why I fly to work.  When I am home, we are home.  We can do anything we want, whenever we want.  Right back to cloud nine.

I'm afraid I won't be with you today, Colleen.  You may not remember, but I had to be at work for your first birthday, too.  But I've got great news.  Cakes and ice cream taste good every day of the year, and we will share ours together no matter where I am for your birthday.  That's a promise for all of time.  We can have chocolate cake and chocolate rice cakes with cream cheese because those are your favorites.  Maybe even chocolate milk?  I won't get ahead of myself yet.  Let's just say there's a lot to look forward to.  We can pick any day we choose on the calendar to celebrate good times.  It's our world.

The most contagious smile.  Yours, that is. 

Since I've been your dad, I've seen you learn to roll over, and learn to crawl; to sit up and then stand; to walk and even run.  I've read you stories, and now you've even read some to me.  We've played on swings and slides, and thrown rocks in puddles.  Danced in the kitchen and played catch on the porch.  You showed me how to slide down the stairs on your belly and I showed you how to ride your tricycle.  I cook our lunch and you set the table now.  We are partners in all things worth living and loving, you and I.  I am so grateful to see you grow more beautiful every day on the inside and out.  You are the most loving and caring, intelligent little girl, with a limitless compassion I never knew could live inside someone so young.  I've learned more from you than you might ever learn from me.

Some people may think you are too young to understand, but I know better.  You are smart enough to know that things haven't been easy lately.  Dad has been travelling down a pretty rough road, and hasn't always been able to hold it together in front of you.  I do my best but just like you, I'm human.  We all have our moments.  I am sorry you have seen me fall from grace at times.  You deserve the world, and it is my life's work to deliver it to you.  In the past few months more than any time in my life, I have struggled to find a purpose for my own life.  It is because of you, a beautiful three year old girl, that I've never come up completely empty.  You give me purpose. It is you, with just the look in your eyes, who places the light at the end of my tunnel.  I know that no matter what lies ahead, you will be there with me.

I hope today is everything you deserve it to be.  You are my whole world even when we are a world apart.  Have the best cake and ice cream and a pink spoon.  Red bubbly juice to wash it down and maybe even an extra Mickey because today is about you.  Here's to another year of puzzles and playgrounds, swings and slides, pancakes and french toast, Goofy and Donald Duck.

I love you,



  1. Absolutely amazing! As a Daddy's girl and Army Brat, I can tell you that she will remember and cherish this.

  2. Jake, you came up as a memory I shared the day you lost your job. So, I thought I would just check in your fb page and see how you and your wife were gettin' on. Then I found this. As a woman that never had a daddy to Love me, I felt such Joy for your daughter to have You as her daddy. I pray for the best that The Good Lord has to offer you and your family. Teach her that JESUS Loves her so much, HE gave her you! Shalom, Katherine Lee.

  3. Man, you are an incredible writer. Really. As a Dad of 3 older kids (21, 18 & 16), with the youngest being our daughter, your words strike a deep cord with me, brother. As I read the sentence "In the past few months more than any time in my life, I have struggled to find a purpose for my own life.", it made me think when I've wondered the same, and made me want to share a book title with you "LEAD...for GOD's Sake!" (by Todd Gongwer)...I downloaded it from Audible a few weeks ago to listen to it on my long commutes...a cool & powerful story...something you might also find some personal meaning, and easy to listen to on flights on/off hitch. Peace, Brother.