When I think about “you”, I can’t help but think about where it all started, the day that random choices, last minute decisions and a missed flight led to the best part of my life. It was November 2001, and I had flown into Jacksonville, Florida for a few interviews with some law firms to try and secure a summer job as a law clerk. Unfortunately, those interviews were also happening the week before law school finals started, so half of my suitcase was packed with books, flash cards and outlines. Every spare minute of my time was going to be spent studying. That was the original plan, anyway.
Thursday night was always “college night”…maybe it still will be when you reach that age. This one happened to fall on November 15, 2001. My very good friend, Adrian Lohse (I hope you get to meet him someday…he’s a hell of a person, a hell of a good friend) had opened his home to me for that weekend. That night he asked if I wanted to join him and some others for a drink or three. Being the responsible student I was, I said no. That is, right up until about five minutes before he was going to leave…you’ll find I’ll change my mind like that sometimes…last minute. Apparently, it’s not just a woman thing. Or if your mom is being a comedian – which she often is – she’ll just say I’m being a woman. I’ll laugh, lightly smack her on the butt and tell her she’s being a smart…well, you can’t hear that word yet. Anyway, you’ll see a lot of that from us.
We loaded into Adrian’s car and drove to TGIFriday’s on Atlantic. Almost immediately after entering the restaurant, Adrian saw some friends and our fraternity sweetheart, to whom he wanted to introduce me. We walked to the table, and that’s when I saw her. She was sitting on the right side of the booth at the inside spot. Her brunette hair was long and smooth. She had a black sweater on with the sleeves pulled down so far that just the tips of her fingers curled over the top of the openings. Immediately, I thought to myself, I want to say hello to this girl. And, thankfully, for both of us (*smile*) I got that chance.
We talked almost that entire night…except for one brief interlude when I went to buy your mom a drink and she left to talk to another boy…. Thankfully, her friend Tamara recognized what a catch I must have been and immediately pulled her away from that other boy to talk to me again.
Fast forwarding a little bit, we made a date for Saturday night, November 17, 2001. I took her out for a casual dinner, we had a glass of wine and then we watched a meteor shower on the beach. It was best first date I’d ever been on, and I don’t think either one of us wanted it to end. However, I had to fly out on Sunday to get back for finals. Or so I thought. When I showed up at the airport they had no record of me with a reservation for a flight to Des Moines, Iowa. After about fifteen minutes of frantic efforts to locate my reservation, one of the counter workers noticed that I was supposed to have flown out on Saturday, not Sunday. Whoops. Amazingly, they had a seat left in first class, and they didn’t charge me a penny. Yep, best weekend ever.
A short eleven years later, it was the anniversary of when we met. Your mom and I celebrate a lot of anniversaries. We like to keep those moments special, remember them. And “Eleven” – that’s a number you’ll hear a lot about from your mom. It’s her favorite, and it fit that it was our eleventh anniversary when we talked about you for the first time.
I was sitting on the chair and just talking about possible date locations with your mom when she got up and left the room. Not knowing quite what was happening, I patiently waited. That’s when she came back out and, without saying a word, she showed me the “positive.” It took me a second or two to process what I was actually looking at…but when it hit, I jumped up off the chair and nearly broke your mom’s ribs picking her up and hugging her. Yeah, I guess you could say I was excited. (The “holy-crap, I’m-going-to-be-a-dad” moments came later. *grin*).
For about two months now, I’ve watched you grow through a couple of ultrasounds and from talking to your mom about what she’s feeling inside herself. But those are stories for another post, I suppose.
Possibilities, Coincidences and Blessings…all of the things that brought me to your mom and, ultimately, to you. Sometimes I can’t quite believe that after all the time I spent looking for “her,” it was a trip to Jacksonville from Iowa, a last-minute decision to share a drink with friends and – what I never do – forgetting my travel plans, that led me to the best parts of my life. First, your mother, and now you. I’m a lot excited about the future, a little (and sometimes more than a little) worried about all the things that will happen between now and…well, the rest of my forever, as a dad, but I do know that between this now and that forever, I’m going to work at being the best father and the best life steward that I can be for you. I love you, Baby Erickson (I keep suggesting “Chaz” if you’re a boy and “Petuna” if you’re a girl, but I think your mom has nixed those ideas, so “Baby” is all I’ve got right now. *smile*)