By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
Depending on what occurs between the time I’ve written this piece and when it appears on your newsprint, I may be a father right now.
Or I might be mere days, or hours, away from being one.
My wife, Deanna, is pregnant with our first child – a boy whom we’ve named Daniel – and is due on June 25 (or was due on June 25 as I write this on Wednesday afternoon).
People have asked how I’ve felt, and the answer has varied as the end of June has approached. Lately, I’ve been torn by paradoxical emotions: trying to get as many projects done as I can and attempting to slow down and enjoy life in its current form.
As much as possible, I’m trying to enjoy not having a baby.
That doesn’t mean I won’t relish having a child – I thoroughly anticipate Daniel’s arrival to be the greatest blessing of my life. I heard someone say recently that after a child is born, you have someone in your life whom you can’t imagine being complete without. I look forward to the experience.
But I also know that life passes in seasons, and these are the final moments of my current season. So I’m trying to make the most of it, grip it tightly before it inevitably vanishes, warm my hands in the final embers of youth, I suppose.
I’m also trying to get ready for a new person to be living in my house, and there is much to do. Even though I tried to convince Deanna that Daniel will not notice if his nursery is not pristine upon his arrival, I did not win that discussion.
Now it is Father’s Day, an occasion that has a new wrinkle for me this year, but one that really hasn’t changed much in my eyes. It is, after all, still a time to stop and thank my own dad for being the man he is.
In fact, as I’m faced with the prospect of having my own child, this Father’s Day holiday – as was last month’s Mother’s Day – is more than ever a time to reflect on both my mom and my dad as role models of the selfless parent I hope to be.
My mom was always the shoulder I could lean upon, the person with the skill to say just the right thing to boost me up and the first counselor I could turn to for advice. My dad was the strong, hardworking rock that held us together and inspired me to strive to be better.
I can only hope my wife and I are able to provide both to Daniel. I must work toward becoming the man my father is.
My brother, sister and I were always amazed by his ability to change emotions. We like to tell the story of the time we were at dinner and my sister was cutting up in the other room. We heard him yell at her after leaving the table and then saw him return and calmly crack a joke. How did he do that?
He is the man who struck terror in us when we heard him walking down the hallway and we knew we were misbehaving past our bedtime, and also is the one who greets cashiers at the supermarket with “ma’am” or “sir.”
A mechanical engineer, my dad has the amazing skill to fix seemingly anything. Usually he uses his superhuman powers to do projects for his children. My favorite thing to do during summers home from college was to sit with him on one of his many tasks, just to observe and learn and soak up spending time with my role model.
Between projects, his mind seemed to be restlessly fixated on what he felt he must do next. More often than not, it involved working for us.
I’ll never forget the night I left our home in New Orleans to start my first job in Birmingham. Unable to sleep, my dad awoke at 3 in the morning to determine how he would pack all of the furniture in the truck.
Nor will I fail to recall him sitting at a Mardi Gras parade proofreading my undergraduate thesis.
Louis Daniel Kieffer, my father, is the source of my son’s name.
He has always been my hero; the greatest man I’ve ever known; a paragon of honesty, morality and ethics and the example I’ve aspired to follow.
So as I embark on the most important journey of my life, I’m blessed to have him as my guide.