My son’s name is Dawson

By Josh Friesen

Not long following my son’s birth, I approached the scale to get my first good look at him.
I was a hot mess. My wife and I had been sobbing tears of joy onto each other, and after entering our 28th straight hour without sleep, we were running on pure adrenaline and little else. It seemed like everyone in the room was spent, including our newborn.
He wasn’t happy. After all, it wasn’t long ago he was nice and cozy in his own little cocoon. And then all of a sudden he’s got bright, artificial lights harassing his eyes, foreign hands prodding his body and the harsh chill of hospital air surrounding him.
Overall, it was happy pandemonium — an exhilarating swirl of chaotic glee. But it was blurry.
Then I touched the tip of my ring finger to my son’s palm and felt his tiny hand wrap around it. His grip was strong. The fog suddenly lifted. Everything was clear.
It was May 7 at 1:20 in the afternoon, and I was a father.

***
I’ve always had a special bond with my dad. He’s not perfect — he’ll tell you he’s far from it. But he doesn’t give himself enough credit; he’s always been a hero of mine. Being his son always made me want to be a dad.
I think of all the things my dad taught me — how to throw a football, how to do a somersault, how to dive into a pool. Then there’s the bigger stuff — integrity, honesty, kindness. Things that really matter. I’ve always wanted to pass those attributes on to my own child someday. It’s because of my dad’s lessons I have that blueprint now.
The night before my son was born, my dad told me about the 1999 U.S Open golf tournament. Phil Mickelson was wrestling with himself whether or not to play in it; his wife was in the hospital expecting their first child.
Eventually, Phil’s wife twisted his arm enough to make him play. So Phil entered the tournament carrying a pager. His wife would beep him if things started to go down. She ultimately ended up having their child the day following the tournament.
Phil’s frenzied pursuit of his first major tournament championship would have to wait. Payne Stewart, already a father, sank a 15-foot putt on the 18th to beat Phil by one stroke.
After Payne’s clutch, tournament-winning putt, he shook Phil’s hand and then took him by the back of the neck. The dad told the dad-to-be, “There’s nothing like being a father. There’s nothing like being a father.”
Payne Stewart died in a plane crash four months later. The legacy he left as a golfer is nothing compared to the impact of those six words. The video of that exchange is available to watch on the Internet. I’ve watched it about a dozen times and can’t seem to shake the tears that always begin to well up whenever I do.
“There’s nothing like being a father.” That’s one more lesson I’ve learned because of my dad. He couldn’t have taught it to me at a better time.

***
My son doesn’t do a whole lot right now. He doesn’t walk. He doesn’t talk. He doesn’t take out the garbage. But if you need someone to poop, eat and sleep, he’s your man.
Despite the fact that his activities are limited at the moment, I can’t get enough of him. I can look into his eyes or have him sleep on my chest all day long. As a father and son, that’s pretty much all the bonding we’ve done so far. And the thought that we have so much more to look forward to makes me giddy.
I want to take him to the movies. I want to play catch with him. I want to teach him how to ride a bike. I look forward to helping him develop talents he’s good at. Will he someday throw an 88 mph fastball? Will he star in his high school’s fall musical? Could he be a first-chair cello player? I don’t know yet. He’ll be really good at something, and it’s going to make his parents proud.
But for now, those things will have to wait. And that’s OK because there’s nothing I’d rather do today than watch him yawn himself to sleep.

***
My son was born 6 pounds, 7 ounces. He was 19 inches long with a head of hair as black as his dad’s. He grunts a lot, and you know he’s about ready to cry when his face contorts into an awkward grimace. My son gets the hiccups, and it seems like he’s not quite sure what they are. When he’s asleep, I put my ear near his head so I can hear him breathe. When he’s awake, his eyes dart around the room. My son seems curious. He’s not sure what to do with his arms just yet; they are always outstretched and grasping at the air. My son makes eye contact with me and I get goosebumps. When I wake up in the middle of the night and see my wife’s arms around him, I get misty-eyed.
My son’s name is Dawson — Dawson Summit Friesen.

Josh Friesen is the copy desk chief at the Idaho State Journal.