Paul Prather

Paul Prather: My best holiday gift was a new grandson

My grandson arrived shortly before Christmas — the best holiday present ever.

Hudson Boone Prather is my third grandchild in three years, and the first boy. He joins his sisters Harper, 2, and Hadley, 1. It would be impossible for me to love Hudson more than I love them, but I'm particularly pleased there'll be a male to carry on the family name.

He came into this world easily, all things considered, although that's more convenient for me to say than it might be for my daughter-in-law, Cassie.

I wasn't in the room to see the birth — I was waiting in the hallway. Those who were present said it was a quick delivery. Cassie's getting to be a pro at this baby-producing business.

Hudson weighed 7 pounds, 3 ounces, and measured 20 inches long. He arrived at 2:23 p.m. and quickly displayed a ferocious appetite. He's been eating non-stop ever since.

I entered the delivery room when I heard him cry. A nurse had carried him to the crib where they examine newborns, wipe them down and squirt medicine into their eyes.

As I watched Hudson wriggling there, I found myself cast back time, in a spin like those guys in the old TV show The Time Tunnel, to the night when his dad, John, arrived.

Hudson was a bit shorter than his dad was at birth, a tad lighter, but the resemblance was startling. He appeared less like John's son than John's clone — the same lean body, the same skinny legs and arms, the same face.

Somebody told me recently that all newborns look alike, but that's not exactly accurate. They all resemble miniature 80-year-olds, but even 80-year-olds are distinguishable from one another. I'm telling you, this kid was a clone of his father.

John's birth, though, was as harrowing as Hudson's was uncomplicated.

His mom, Renee, was in unusually intense pain, even for a woman in labor. I was sitting with her in the labor room in the wee hours of the morning, watching the fetal monitor spit out its printed data, when I saw the baby's heart rate plunge to zero. It rebounded, then plunged again.

I left to summon a nurse. She followed me back into the room, looked at the printout, blanched, then went for the doctor.

As it turned out — we didn't discover the cause until John finally emerged at 4:40 a.m. — his foot had gotten lodged under his chin in the birth canal and was cutting off his oxygen. It was what's called a compound delivery, a problem I'd never heard of until then.

The doctor pulled him out with forceps. John's right leg wobbled loosely to the side.

A second doctor came in to administer aid to John while the first doctor tended to Renee.

"I think his hip is dislocated," the second doctor said.

I'll never forget how helpless and scared I felt.

And yet, as it turned out, John was fine. His skull was temporarily mashed out of shape by the forceps. He was bruised. But there was no permanent damage. Soon his leg was in its proper alignment. (A day or two later his head was OK as well.)

A nurse handed him to me and said, "Mr. Prather, meet your son."

Looking at baby Hudson, I thought of the years that followed that nerve-jangling night: the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Batman movies John reran endlessly on the VCR, the hours we passed listening to classic rock music, the countless Sundays he played drums and guitar in our church's music group. There never was a better kid.

I recalled an evening when he was 10 or 11 that I've written about before. He was climbing the stairs to bed. Mid-way up, he stopped and looked back at me.

"You know what?" he said. "Sometimes at night when I'm going to sleep, I start thinking about you. And I start crying."

"Because you're mad at me?"

"No," he said. "Because I love you so much."

"That's funny," I said. "Sometimes I do the very same thing, thinking about you."

It's amazing what you can see when you look at a writhing, wet newborn. How much ecstasy you can feel. And how much loss.

I realize it might sound hackneyed to say that birth is a miracle. But it is a miracle.

Nine months ago, Hudson didn't exist. Then two microscopic cells united, unseen. Even a few brief weeks ago he remained a stranger hidden inside his mother's swelling womb.

Now here he is, a living breathing human, with gangly arms and legs and a timeless past of generations that date back to Adam in his blood and his own soul to claim and 80 or 90 years of a future yet to live and the seeds of generations yet to come in his loins.

It's untelling.

I'm so grateful to hold him. I pray all his days will be blessed.

And I pray he brings his own dad as much joy as his dad has brought me.