If you’re a faithful follower of my blog, you may already know that many of the birthdays in our families are shared by more than one person. You’ll probably also know that I focus on the anniversary of a person’s birth as a chance to reflect on how each person makes the world a better place. Today, I have two such reflections. First of all, the perinatologist I work with is (hopefully) enjoying her birthday. It’s so obvious to me that she has worked very hard to learn all there is to know about babies and expectant mothers, and as a result of her efforts, she is afforded the chance to actually make healthy families. It’s pretty amazing work. I’m blessed to be the photographer that gets to document these little miracles.
But, more important to our family are the contributions of my father in law. My father in law, Tim, (unless you’re his grandchild, in which case, you’ll know him as Grandpa Loo) is also celebrating a birthday today. Like most people, I’m sure that his contributions to the world around him are many. But, in particular, he has two amazing contributions to the world that have changed my life in ways I cannot measure. His children, Heather and Ryan, are two of the most amazing people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. I can only imagine that they inherited a lot of the characteristics I like about them from Tim.
Tim is quick at witty observation. Spending an afternoon with Tim is like watching a Seinfeld episode for the first time. Tim has a knack for catching the tiny nuisances of life that we tend to over look, then demonstrating for us how those nuisances are inconsistent with the meanings we are intending with our words. You’d be surprised how many aspects of culture, etiquette and language we state incorrectly and loosely take for granted. And, much like that first time you watched Seinfeld, this brand of humor is not always natural to understand or enjoy. After a few minutes with Tim, you’ll be far more aware than you’ve ever expected about such ideas. And, if you’re like me, a person who enjoys trying a hand at wordsmithing, you’ll be left in shock at how simple and logical these ideas are, and how you’ve overlooked them countless times. And then magically, you begin to enjoy this type of banter, and almost start thinking of ways to challenge his thoughts. My husband and my boys have definitely learned this observation of logic, and it came to them so effortlessly, that I imagine literal thinking is just inherent in their genetics. One of the earliest displays of this observation happened when we purchased white carpet for our living room. We told Jake he would “have to eat all the food in the kitchen from now on.” We were shocked and surprised when he started crying… surely eating in the living room couldn’t have been that important to him? His explanation for his tears echoed his grandfather’s precise use of words: “But Dad, if I eat all the food in the kitchen, I will get a BELLY ACHE!” He was reassured that he need only to eat food in the kitchen, as opposed to the living room, and we all shared a good laugh. (Jake has yet to learn the art of putting a witty spin on his observations, but it’s coming, believe me. Ryan has this skill, but is still learning to finesse it.)
Tim is also kind of a scrapper. If you win his favor, he’ll tell you stories of his youth, and you’ll quickly notice that Tim is fearless. I was once faced with a type of situation that only seems to happen in Hollywood. I knew I was not safe, nor were the 5 children with me, and as I frantically forced my mind to work, I could only reason that I’d be safest to get the family to Tim. And, as expected, he did get the situation under control and I felt safer knowing I had him our corner. But, this is sort of a double edged sword in my family. On the one hand, it’s frustrating when Benjamin follows in his Grandpa’s fearless footsteps and plummets to the Earth after climbing up his loft bed incorrectly, again and again, because, “I don’t break my arm, Mom. I just dislocate.” On the other, you can’t help but feel safe and secure and admire the way that both Heather and Ryan fearlessly protect their own. In the times of greatest peril, both Heather and Ryan calmly but swiftly deal with situations in a way that I think most cannot. Ryan jests that he’s never in his life thrown a punch and never had to, and yet there’s no doubt that he will take care of business in a way that leaves his family out of harm’s way. And Heather? Let’s just say that she’s weathered storms that destroy families and individuals alike, and somehow, she always comes out stronger on the back end. Tim once told me that he and Patty took care to raise them both to be tough, but especially to instill a sense of gentle in Ryan and a sense of strength in Heather, which are not characteristics often true to their respective genders. I applaud their efforts, as Heather and Ryan are certainly amazing individuals.
Finally, Grandpa Loo knows how to enjoy life. Tim is smart enough to gather the concept of not taking life to seriously. (After all, no one really makes it out alive, now do they?) He knows how to enjoy good company and a good brew. He has certainly instilled the ability to have a good time within my husband. I appreciate being able to laugh and enjoy life each day with Ryan. And though the distance prevents Heather and I from having quality time together often, I believe when she has time to let her guard down, she also knows how to enjoy herself and relish in the things that life is really about.
Oh! And he’s one hell of a photographer. The pictures he took at my wedding are by far my favorite.
Happy Birthday, Elaine and Tim. Thank you for the wonderful contributions you make to the world around you!