Thanks, I Needed That (Remembering My First Born)

by on April 13, 2020 · 2 comments

in From the Soul

by Ernie McCray

My acupuncturist, a lovely person and practitioner, just brought into the world a little girl. I emailed her:

“Oh, Julia,
what a beautiful
baby Olivia is.
Like her mom,
the woman
with needles
that heal,
the woman with
such a soft heart
(better to mother with),
the woman who plays Miles
for me
as I relax
head down
to the music
and the treatment
that soothes me
and eases
my mind.
Enjoy this bundle of joy.|


She responded: “Oh thank you so much, Ernie! She is a doll :-) We are so in love!” – to which I said “They’re so easy to love, aren’t they?”

With watery eyes, after sending that reply, I found myself reminiscing about my first born: Debbie.

It’s still so hard to believe that she’s gone, something I couldn’t have conceived of when she was born, coming into my life, as she did, so very much alive, crying at the top of her lungs – changing my life abruptly and eternally.

I mean when she was conceived I was a skinny All-State basketball player cruising the halls of Tucson High, a hotshot in a youthful society where zits ruled and common sense hid in shadows.

I thought I was on top of the world back then, with all the hoopla around my exploits on a roundball court.

I was making half-way decent grades and earning my own money and going through the usual silliness one goes through at that age, drinking cheap wine with my homeys out of brown paper bags, talking nonsense:

‘What’s the word?
What’s the price?
Thirty twice.
Who drinks the most?
Colored folks.”

Yeah, we actually said that.

We thought we were so cool, so hip. We laughed at the drop of a hat. We, jokingly, put each other down in rhyme. We were loud and proud and endowed with exaggerated imaginations, living like there was no tomorrow, and one day, somewhere in the midst of this pseudo-idyllic carefree existence, “Sweet,” my girlfriend announced to me “I’m pregnant,” and I could only stand there like I had been sucker punched by King Kong.

Man, if I could have just blasted off to the dark side of the moon. My very first question to myself was “How am I going to tell my mom about this?”

And I thought “It will have to be a good story, that’s for sure.” Then, “Oh, oh, oh, I got it, I’ll just start a conversation about, say, who was the greatest ballplayer, Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays. Yeah, yeah, that will work.”

And that’s what I did. Because, I guess, we liked talking about sports – and somewhere in my ramblings about homeruns and stolen bases and playing centerfield and throwing out runners and batting and fielding averages my mother, one of the truly bright people on earth, managed to cut through the smoke screen and said “This is about something else, isn’t it?”

That was the understatement of the century. And then, when I came clean, she said, with her head hung low and with tears in her eyes: “Hmm, hmm, hmm. Lord have mercy. I knew it. I knew it. I knew it…”

I felt two inches tall. And about nine months later Debbie came to be and there was very little in my bag of life experiences that had prepared me for my new-found responsibilities – except I was already a doer. And I found right away that being a father of a newborn child means almost never sitting down because there was always something to do.

Diapers to be changed. Diapers to be washed. Diapers to be folded. Bottles of milk and food to be warmed. A buggy to be pushed to the park. Goo-Goo games to be played. Nursery rhymes to be read. Little aches and pains to be kissed and made well.

And since I was going to school on a basketball scholarship there were points to be scored, rebounds to be grabbed, big bad dudes to be guarded, exams to be taken, term papers to be written, and a horde of part time jobs to be taken on because a full ride with a wee extra allowance for housing couldn’t cut it alone.

I toiled as a janitor all over town and worked as a lifeguard so people wouldn’t drown.
I parked cars, dusted cars, washed cars, polished cars, and gave cars the finger.
I fry cooked and cleared dishes from tables and scraped, washed, dried, sorted, stacked and cursed them.
I walked greyhounds around a racetrack.

Sometimes it was so overwhelming I would just break down and cry.

But, Debbie was the main person who helped me to survive as sometimes, when I neared my wit’s end, I would hold her in my arms and feel her cuddly disposition and sunny smile and see how bright and observant she was and my heart would melt.

She made my efforts in my struggle to become a man seem worthwhile. She was the ideal first child, giving me all I would need to be a better father to my children who came after her.

And to her now, somewhere out there, because of that, I have to say “Thanks, I needed that.”

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Barbara Lewis April 21, 2020 at 12:12 pm

Love, loved, loving it.


Mary Castleberry April 22, 2020 at 11:16 am

So touching!


Leave a Comment

Older Article:

Newer Article: