Yesterday was Aidan’s 13th birthday. I remember not so long ago doing chores with Liam close by my side and Aidan in my backpack. It felt like we’d never get the animals fed or milked!
Jobs that took a few minutes were drawn out with explanations, little hands that wanted to help, and interrupted by searches for missing gloves and nursing sessions. And now Aidan and Liam often do most of the daily chores, freeing Bill and me to do other tasks. Aidan is decidedly our most enthusiastic, dependable animal caretaker. He is out every morning watering, feeding, and moving the animals on the farm. He can often be found just hanging out with them - and observing them.
Any story about Aidan has to include his birth. He was born in the early morning dark hours of November 2. My labor went much more quickly than it had with Liam. So quickly, in fact, that our midwife, Gretchen, hadn’t yet arrived. So even though we had been expecting him for months, he surprised us! I took him in my arms and put him to my breast where he contentedly began to suckle. I remember just staring at him, trying to learn everything about him. I wanted to know how he was like Liam and how he was different.
It was just Bill, me, and Aidan – Liam was still asleep. We shared this magical secret, the three of us. It was as close to perfect as I think I’ll ever experience. Later Bill would nonchalantly tell others, “It was nothing; I’ve delivered hundreds of kids!” (We were milking about 130 dairy goats at the time.) Later I gently reminded him that actually, I delivered Aidan and he caught him. We did agreed it was a joint effort in many ways. Gretchen arrived about 10 minutes later and our families soon after.
Aidan has continued to surprise us. As a toddler, he was often torn between the excitement of following Liam on his adventures yet wanting the security I represented. As he got older and didn’t need me as much, he was wont to act first, think later – almost throwing himself into whatever he was doing. Predictably he suffered more accidents because of that impetuousness. He has scars on his forehead and upper lip from running headlong down a manger only to trip and bang into the corner of a metal waterer. He had to have stitches to repair a cut on his finger suffered from sliding it on the sharp edge of a cut stainless steel pipe. Once he cut his foot swinging a blade too hard when whacking weeds behind the barn.
On Mother’s Day when he was five, on a family walk down the road, he jumped out of the ditch, where he was looking at tadpoles in a puddle, to check if there were any on the other side. A car was passing by on this seldom-used country road, and Aidan crashed into the back end of it. Both his collarbone and leg were broken. He spent a couple of days in the UW Children's Hospital. Not surprisingly, the whole experience frightened us.
After a long summer of wearing a cast,using a walker, and spending hours watching an indoor beehive Bill set up for him while the other kids went swimming, climbed trees, and ran around, Aidan healed perfectly and joined them. And we all have funny Aidan stories that didn’t result in bandages. Like when Bill realized Aidan had been peeing in the gas tank of an old car that was waiting to go to the salvage yard.
Aidan still surprises us. Now it is with his knowledge of animal behavior, with his big feet, with his sensitivity for an injured chicken, with his willingness to go out and shut a forgotten gate late at night in the dark, with his intelligent perceptions of the insincerity of material possessions – all he wanted for his birthday was for the five of us to take a walk together. These surprises are all wrapped up in the contradictions of a quickly-growing, gangly body that still sports a little kid’s voice and a desire to poke his sister while riding with her in the back seat of the car!
He can drive me crazy making repetitive, annoying, squeaky sounds and moments later melt my heart when he seeks me out for a loving hug before he goes to bed. He is still very much the kid who goes off to do his own thing (usually now he's thinking before acting - thank goodness!) yet still needs to come back once in a while for a little reassurance.