by Seth Eisenberg
Zachary and I met 28 days ago today.
He appeared fully present at the moment of his birth; squinting briefly from the blinding, white lights of the operating suite before cautiously opening his newborn eyes to scan the nearby faces of each of the doctors; searching carefully, I imagined, for clues to interpret the momentary trauma that lifted him in an instant from the warm, comforting, solitary embrace of his mother’s then familiar womb into the strangeness of a cold, sterile delivery room crowded with menacing figures hidden behind hefty blue surgical gowns, oversized masks, and white latex gloves.
A minute later, I was accompanying a young nurse and my infant son to a room several yards away where he was gently cleaned, weighed, measured, and foot printed before his tender, fragile, innocent body and spirit was placed into my arms and protection with the responsibility to love, nurture, guide, and support for the rest of our lives.
For the third time in my 48 years, two decades after the birth of my first son, Alex, and seventeen years after my second, Michael, I had become a father; my first child born into a 21st century, borderless, digital world wired with widely accessible technologies for communicating, creating, contributing, and inspiring barely imagined the last time I welcomed a son into the world.
Eyes bloodshot with fatigue and tears — heart pounding with gratitude, soul singing in joyous celebration — I reached out as the nurse tenderly transferred Zachary to arms that prayed, wished and awaited his arrival long before his intentional conception 37 weeks earlier. Together, we briefly returned to the operating suite for Stephanie, now a mother, to meet our newborn son before she was wheeled to recovery and Zachary was taken to the hospital nursery for further tests and observations.
At those moments, neither Stephanie nor I yet knew that her beloved paternal grandmother, Berta Berman, had taken the final breath of her 104 years just miles away and hours before precious Zachary – her only great grandchild who could continue her family’s legacy — would take his first.
Less than two years earlier, in my very first conversation with Stephanie, now my wife – the moments when my heart, mind, and soul immediately knew I’d found my bashert – she shared meaningful words about her deep love, respect and admiration for her great-grandmother. She spoke of Berta’s constant presence in her life, how she’d always delighted over visits together and the chocolate chip pancakes she regularly ordered for the Sunday lunches when the family gathered at a Miami Beach eatery each week. We speculated over the source of her longevity, joy and the bright spirit that always surrounded her, wishing our lives could be so blessed.
I had hoped to see the moment when Stephanie’s newborn child first peered into the eyes of his most senior, living ancestor and grasped her hand within his own for the very first time. When Stephanie’s mother, Regina, whispered news of Berta’s passing as Alex, Michael and I intently watched Zachary through the glass window into the nursery, I understood that her body had completed the mission begun a world away more than a century prior and that her spirit was with us now, and likely always would be with Zachary.
Eight days later, as family, friends, and loved ones joined together at Miami’s Temple Menorah to welcome Zachary Berman Eisenberg into the Covenant of Israel, I imagined her there – watching, smiling, cheering. Zachary was given the Hebrew name of Abraham, the first of our Patriarchs, in honor of Stephanie’s cherished maternal grandfather, as his Jewish life began with rituals and traditions dictated by G-d himself as recorded in our holy Torah’s Book of Genesis and honored from time immemorial.
Today, Stephanie and I awoke to our 28th day with Zachary. He slept peacefully through most of the night after our close attention to updated nursing instructions and ointment prescribed by our pediatrician at yesterday afternoon’s appointment.
His brothers – 17 and 20 years his senior – have welcomed Zachary with love, patience, and curiosity, embracing him regularly with tenderness and warmth as we adjust to life with our newborn miracle, learning daily to interpret his cries, movements, and rhythm.
Many times over these recent 28 days I searched my mind for vivid memories of Alex and Michael’s earliest days. While it’s easy to recall the profound love that instantly expanded within my heart upon the birth of each son, the void of detailed recollections is a reminder of how much I’ve grown, learned and discovered through the curriculum of my own life over the two decades since I first became a father.
Many have said our children raise us as much as we raise them. More than ever, I realize the significance of the healing, wisdom, perspective, and lessons fatherhood brought to my life.
I recalled how I felt as a youngster and later when I perceived my own father much more involved in the life of the son he brought to the world with the woman he married shortly after his divorce from my mother; the confusing emotions I suffered long into adulthood when my half-brother, Justin, shared meaningful stories of our mutual father’s positive, consistent, loving guidance and involvement in his life; the senseless anger and resentment I felt towards him because he’d had our dad’s active involvement, guidance, and support in his life for the years I’d often grieved his nearly complete absence from my own; surely misplacing blame for events that look and feel almost entirely different with the perspective of my own life experiences. Zachary’s arrival brought a depth of understanding, compassion, and forgiveness for my own false assumptions — and towards others as well — that would have been unlikely even from a year with the most skilled of analysts.
In 28 days, I’ve already learned much from Zachary; some lessons emerging from seeds long ago planted, others freshly inspired.
Each call for attention urges a renewed sense of patience, peace, purpose and appreciation for the nuances of movement and sound.
Each precious smile compels acceptance and profound appreciation for the light, love, joy and potential born within each human being.
Each quiet moment of rest – weary eyes heavy yet still locked in awe at the angelic face of G-d’s child — renews my own spirit and faith in the seemingly invisible miracles that dance around us all, carefully hidden from the five senses, yet fully present.
Each new discovery, witnessed through the eyes and expressions of our newborn son, summons deeper compassion, empathy, respect and connection to life near and far.
Twenty eight days of fatherhood; each moment priceless beyond measure, each experience a world within itself.
A son born into the digital, wired, 21st century world that witnesses daily technological breakthroughs has reminded me that nothing is more powerful than the grip of a baby’s tender grasp, quiet breathe, or gentle smile.
Twenty eight days of fatherhood’s blessings and miracles.