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By Staff | Dec 30, 2011

When I was young the slogan “Don’t trust anyone over 30” was in vogue. If that statement remains true, then my wife and I can no longer trust our eldest son.

How could this happen? How could we, children of the Forever Young generation, have a child who is that age?

This is distressing news, mainly because it means I can no longer claim that I’m 40. By the way, I’m now 45.

I can clearly recall the day my wife revealed that she was expecting. She began by saying she had some news, then started to cry.

I was a relatively inexperienced husband and wasn’t sure how to interpret the tears. I knew there were “sad” cries and “good” cries; I just couldn’t tell which this was.

My wife composed herself and said she had been to the doctor, who had confirmed her suspicions: her recent symptoms weren’t just the result of a lingering cold.

“We’re going to have a baby!” she exclaimed before the waterworks began anew. I got a lump in my throat and hugged her close, finally perceiving that this was a “good” cry.

The child decided to arrive at the threshold of winter, specifically, the day after Christmas. We brought him home in an oversized Christmas stocking that had been given to us by the hospital’s Ladies Auxiliary.

We named our Christmas baby Paul. Nelson is an extremely common last name and we knew full well there would be other such Pauls in the world. But we didn’t want to burden the little guy with a bizarre moniker such as Baby Face or Admiral.

It swiftly became clear that having a baby can bring profound changes into one’s life. A tiny infant can be an immense source of worry and wonderment.

We were bedding down for the night one evening shortly after we had brought Paul home. From the crib, which sat just outside our open bedroom door, there came a stream of otherworldly squeaks, squawks and chirrups!

We clambered out of bed and stood by the crib. The baby was fast asleep, but would often wiggle and stretch while emitting astonishing sounds. I wondered aloud if the hospital had mistakenly sent us home with a gremlin.

A mistake. I quickly learned that the maternal instinct is one of the most powerful forces on the planet, strong enough to make even the toughest guy eat his words and beg for forgiveness.

Paul was colicky, so his first months were challenging. I would come into the house from doing chores and my wife would immediately place the caterwauling child in my arms and say, “I have to get out for a while!”

She would then walk around the farmyard while I paced the floor and rocked the noisy bundle. He cried like someone who had just won the lottery only to discover that he had misplaced the winning ticket.

There were times when neither of us could comfort him, so we would take him to my parents’ house. And as soon as my mom picked him up, Paul would quit crying! My wife would ask how she did it, to which Mom would reply, “You learn a few things after having eight babies.”

Paul had changed remarkably by the time we marked his first birthday. The colic was gone, he could do some tricks and had become self-propelled. I think all babies should start out a year old.

We soon found that the child possessed a razor intellect. Toys were not just playthings; they were objects to be disassembled so as to learn their secrets. A See And Say was duly dissected, its electronic innards poked and prodded.

An old printer of mine was found in a million pieces. It was explained that this was done in order to obtain its coveted stepper motor.

I had no notion what a stepper motor was. Besides, how does a parent argue with a 10-year-old who is obviously smarter than said parent?

Kids of my era grew up building model cars and airplanes; Paul grew up assembling actual integrated circuits. It wasn’t uncommon for our vacuum cleaner to clatter as it pulled stray diodes, resistors and transistors from the carpet.

This didn’t bother us, though. We were simply glad that the vacuum cleaner had escaped dissection.

Despite his deep affinity for ultramodern electronics, Paul has a soft spot for old tractors and steam engines.

I also enjoy such things and, more importantly, can comprehend them. Turn us loose at a steam threshing jamboree and we’re happy campers.

My wife is extremely proud of Paul and will often cry a little when she speaks of him.

And after 30 years, I still get a lump in my throat, too.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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