The instant I saw my son in the hospital delivery room, I immediately understood, with startling clarity, that I had been working toward that moment my entire life, yet I wasn’t prepared for it. I had attended birthing classes with my wife, read baby books, and otherwise equipped myself as best I could. But you can’t truly be ready for the first magical glimpse of your child any more than the child is ready for his first breath. There we were, father and son, both gasping for air and squinting into the light of a new world.
This has been a year of momentous change for me. My wife and I purchased a new house and car, and welcomed our first child, in the span of a few months. For consistency, I also decided to squeeze a new job into the schedule, or maybe I should say a renewed job.
After a three-year hiatus to pursue freelance opportunities and write a novel, I’ve returned to the Beacon as contributing editor. If there is indeed a circle of life, I have rounded back to the place where my adulthood started a decade ago, when I was part of the small crew that founded the Beacon in May 2007. I was 22, a baby. I’m now 32, as of August 23, with a baby.
Fisher Parks Reece was born two weeks ago on August 10. He knows nothing of the Beacon, of deadlines and word counts and coffee jitters, but when he is old enough I will tell him that the Beacon helped make his father into a man strong enough to make him. He will likely dismiss it as weird dad talk, but hopefully, as the years pass, he will see and appreciate its truth.
When I was hired at the Beacon, I had recently graduated college in Buenos Aires, Argentina, through a University of Montana exchange program, and had so far used my degree as a springboard to poverty and couch-surfing. Initially, my Beacon employment didn’t change my living status much: I moved from a friend’s floor in Missoula to editor Kellyn Brown’s sofa in Kalispell.
I eventually bought my own house and took up the hard business of pretending to be a grownup. Even more difficult than that charade was the real business of starting a newspaper. Through long hours, trial and error, and youthful determination, we managed to get the Beacon on its feet despite our elder statesmen – Kellyn, Dan Testa and Lido Vizzutti – being only 27.
I remain extremely proud of that achievement, and of all my first six years at the paper. I now return to the Beacon refreshed and eager to build on those years, as well as the extraordinary work of the staff over the last three years. My colleagues here are extended family, making up the bulk of our baby shower guest list. Dillon Tabish arrived at the shower with a tower of diapers, unwrapped and swaying precariously in the summer breeze. Fisher is wearing them today.
He was in one of those diapers the other day when I was holding him and suddenly grew panicked that he wasn’t breathing. I pressed my hand against his breast. Then I felt it, right there in his tiny chest: the very rhythm of life, the only intervals of time that matter. From now on, amid the deadlines and fast-paced newspaper world, my clock will forever be set to that gentle thumping. I am whole.