I met her on January 11, 1987. It was love at first sight; the first time in my life I had ever been in real, true, unconditional love.
I can still remember exactly how she looked: her hair dark, skin pink, cheeks flushed and rosy. It was hard to see her eyes at the time, due in part to the lighting of the room, but that day they appeared dark, and when I looked into them I felt as if I fell into depths from which I would never return.
Many of the details of that day are still clear. It was a Sunday afternoon. I had been up all night with my then-girlfriend. It was not a fun night; she spent much of it literally in tears, sometimes crying loudly. During the night, one of her older sisters came, offering her support. I felt alternately helpless, frustrated, and overwhelmed, but at no point did leaving enter my mind. Early in the morning, her mother, the family matriarch in every sense of the word, also showed up, as did her father, followed by three or four of her other sisters and a couple husbands of said over the course of the morning. As more people arrived to support her, I remember feeling both overwhelmed and somewhat useless.
I remember sometime around 11 a.m. leaving the room to eat something, to clear my head. I had scrambled eggs and toast and orange juice and bacon. I don’t remember much about the eggs or the toast, but I remember the bacon. It was really good bacon.
I left the room once more, briefly, during the early afternoon, needing a drink of water. Denver was playing Cleveland in the AFC Championship game. Her father was watching the game on TV, trying to keep his distance while being supportive. I returned to the room, where my then-girlfriend was lying on the bed, sobbing, while two of her sisters rubbed her back. I remember the look in the eyes of one sister; she was crying, she looked helpless, and she left quickly when I returned.
Within a few minutes we were joined by a man and woman in uniform. I was slightly terrified.
Shortly thereafter, my oldest daughter arrived, her voice loud and shrill and demanding to be heard. She became the instant center of attention. The longer she stayed, the more tears were shed, by me, by my then-girlfriend, by everyone.
As befitting my oldest daughter on her triumphant entry into the world.
Some of you may recall that John Elway led a 98-yard game-tying drive – The Drive – that afternoon. What I will remember is that at around the same time as Elway was making history with a performance football fans will never forget, my oldest daughter – a musician, singer, performer, clothing designer and amazingly strong, independent woman, whose eyes, by the way, are not dark but a stunning icy blue – changed my life by becoming the first official member of my own family.
I have been blessed to experience that same love four more times, at the birth of my other children. Each one is special, unique, and talented. Every one amazes me every day. My heart breaks with every pain in their life. My heart swells with pride with every accomplishment. There is nothing any of them can do – and some have tried, both intentionally and not – to sway my position as their staunchest supporter, firm foundation, and when appropriate, soft landing place.
Happy Birthday to my amazing daughter, who taught me for the first time that day how to truly love.