Michael Jackson might have sung about a shiny black rat from a sub-rate horror movie, but some of the lyrics are right on target for how my Ben changed my life.

About this time 33 years ago I was excitedly awaiting to meet the boy who would change my life, give it purpose and meaning, and make me realize who I really was, Ben’s mother.

In general, life was a scary place for a young girl in those early PTSD marriage years, but once I met my blue-eyed boy, the lyrics to “Ben” played in my head: “I used to say ‘I’ and ‘me,’ now it’s ‘us,’ now it’s ‘we.’” And I knew the meaning of love that can’t be understood until you’ve become a parent.

My beautiful boy rocked my world. We spent much time in the Bentwood rocker he’s holding on to.

Now that my babies have kids of their own, they know how much I love them. That’s a great thing, just as I learned how much my parents love (past tense in Daddy’s case) Cathy and me.

Back to Ben’s birth: He was a scheduled C-section. My doctor scheduled the delivery a week before his due date to keep him from going over 9 pounds, which the doc thought was a bit much for a small woman with a first Caesarean. He arrived a 8 pounds 11 ounces and with a beautiful round head.

I didn’t get to meet him for about three hours, since I had to be knocked out with twilight sleep – no epidurals for the allergy queen. But I roused myself enough in recovery to whisper to a nurse, “What did I have?” I knew in my heart all along he was a boy – we never even considered a girl name, but this was pre-sonogram to determine sex days.

The nurse confirmed what I knew and I groggily, happily went back to sleep. A bit later, another nurse brought him to me in my private room, and my world rocked on its axis.

I don’t want to embarrass my grown-man son, but I have to share a few things about the wonder that was my boy. By 5 months, he was pointing to the farm animals in our “Norman Rockwell’s Counting Book.”  We spent hours in the rattan Bentwood rocker reading. “Where’s the chicken?” Little finger pointed.

“Where’s the cow?” I asked one day shortly after he started pointing to animals. “Moooo,” Ben said as he pointed to the cow. Did that really happen? You bet.

Mother was determined Ben would talk before I did, and by 7 months, she had him pointing to lights and saying “eligh.” When you talk that young, some things come out in baby talk, but moms always understand. Trigger was “GrrGrr,” his second word. Mother and Daddy were both “GraGra” for a bit, until one day Ben dubbed Daddy “GrandBob.”

We had so much fun. He’d sit for hours putting lids on jars and taking them back off. He’d also run like a tornado in an old-timey, folding walker, crash into a piece of furniture, turn, run, crash into something else, also for what at least seemed like hours. Ripping pages from magazines was another of his favorite activities.

At 15 months, little Ben would bring me a Tom Petty album whimpering “TP, Mama, TP.” 

Music was already of major importance to him. That’s also the age he learned to work the stereo, a bit roughly. After we got it back from the shop we had to elevate it and he had to ask me to turn it on.

By 2, he could name every color in the 64-crayon box of Crayolas, and I swear to you that he knew Burnt Sienna from Burnt Umber. He also peppered his sentences with advanced adverbs like “absolutely” and “certainly.” Granted, he still had a baby lisp, but his vocabulary was vast.

I can play the piano!

Liz never got a chance to talk much because Ben anticipated and explained her every need. That baby boy relished being a “big brother” at 15 months. He used to raise my shirt to kiss the baby before she was born. After she arrived, he’d check her diaper, though he was still in one himself.

Ben didn’t sleep through the night until he was 3 years old. Things weren’t always easy, but he was always my precious boy, even when I wanted to throttle him. Now he’s my precious man and a daddy to beautiful Annabelle.

I’m glad he knows how much he’s loved.

Happy birthday, beautiful boy.

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