Richard Haddad, who lives in Westminster, Maryland with his wife Valorie, is the father of five children, Steven, Jason, Ashleigh, Jonathan and Erin. Recently retired, he has written on the side – articles, essays, fiction and satire – since college. The letter below was prompted by the birth of his first grandchild, Alex Nicole. Previously, Richard contributed guest columns to this blog about all of his children, including letters to his daughter Ashleigh and his son Jonathan on the days they were born, and a four-part series about his disabled daughter Erin. Links to those columns appear at bottom (in between two more photos).
My Dear, Beautiful Alex Nicole,
I’m embarrassed to admit that I was completely unprepared for the effect your birth would have on me. Naturally, throughout your mom’s pregnancy I was really excited by the prospect of becoming a grandfather for the first time, and I was also very happy for your mom and dad who were obviously already in love with you. But I was totally surprised by the emotion in my reaction when you were born. I’ll never forget that day.
Your dad had been doing a great job of keeping everyone in the family posted on details like when your mom would be admitted to the hospital, and how your delivery would be managed by the hospital staff. That was important to all of us because we all lived out-of-state and wouldn’t be able to be there ourselves. And then on the night your mom was admitted, he began sending us a stream of in-hospital photos that just erased the hundreds of miles between us.
But I still didn’t expect to be so mesmerized by your face in the photos he sent starting about a minute after you were born the next day, or the emotional rumbling inside me that would follow. Your perfectly adorable face – your petite features, your dark hair and striking dark eyes – played a role in that reaction, I’m sure, but the realization that you were a part of my offspring – my son’s daughter, the first in the next generation of my family, just hit me like a rock.
And then the couple of days we spent with you a few weeks later when we visited you at home, cuddling you and touching your silky skin and kissing you and just staring at you for hours at a time (hypnotized as if we were staring at a roaring fireplace, as Grandma Val said) were just incredible. I couldn’t come up with the right words when trying to describe that experience to my friends afterwards, but that didn’t matter to those who are also grandparents because they knew exactly what I meant.
Another thing that so impressed me on that first visit was how lovingly and tenderly your mom and dad handled you and looked at you and looked at each other. Your dad has loved children from the time he was a boy himself and there was never any doubt in my mind that some day he would have a family of his own. He actually began practicing being a dad at the age of fourteen, when your aunt, his sister Ashleigh, was born, and we could see then what a loving parent he would be some day by the way he interacted with her.
With a mom and dad as devoted as your parents are, you are going to have a fantastic upbringing, my dear Alex Nicole, and I’m excited by the prospect of being a part of that. You already have a large extended family in your grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins, and we’re all very family-oriented people, so growing up is bound to be a full and busy and loving experience for you.
I’m so happy to have you in our family, and just a little more than a month old, you are already a major presence my life and in the lives of other family members. Thank you for being. I love you.