I'm always amazed when I watch television and someone being interviewed at some big, newsworthy event says, "This is the (greatest/happiest/best/saddest/etc.) day of my life." This just bothers me. I guess it is because I rarely see the event being covered as that big a deal. I remember hearing people say it when Barack Obama was elected and again when Michael Jackson died. While these would certainly be monumental occasions if you are very close to one of these people, these events just don't rank that high in importance for me on a personal level. That said, these extreme pronouncements due cause me to think about the happiest/saddest days in my life.
Fatherhood has provided me days that rank high on both the happy and sad days list. I'll start with the sad ones so that I can finish strong with the happy ones. Two of the most crushing days of my life took place within my first year of being a father. I was serving in Iraq when my daughter was born, and while I did get to come home for her birth (definitely one of the happiest days of my life), I also had to turn around and leave her when she was only two weeks old. I remember feeling like someone had ripped my heart out through my throat as I boarded the plane that day. I didn't know if I would ever see her again, and it killed me to think that she wouldn't remember me if I didn't come back. Ten months later, I was able to come home for two weeks of R&R, but I had to go through leaving my little girl a second time. Both times were made all the more difficult by the fact that I was traveling alone. Each time it took me about five days of traveling surrounded by strangers to get back to my friends in Iraq. Once I was back, everything was fine because I was able to be with other guys who were going through the same thing, and we helped each other get through it, but for those days when I was on my own on planes and sitting in airport terminals, the sadness was crushing. Luckily, that is the full list of my worst days.
The great thing about having kids is that they will give you more great days than you can count. Even simple days of grabbing a picnic lunch and going to the park rank higher than just about anything I experienced in life before kids. The day my wife said she would marry me and the day we got married are both in my top ten greatest days, but just about everything beyond that is time I've spent with my kids.
The days they were born are obvious ones, but I recently added another great day to my list. It is a tradition in our house that when one of our kids turns three, they get to go to a St. Louis Cardinals game with me. My daughter and I went to a game two years ago when she turned three. It was Father's Day, so it was a double-dip of awesomeness to get to share that with her. We had a fantastic time. She got a real major league baseball before the game started when a ball got away from the visiting Phillies and rolled to the wall in front of our seats. A member of the grounds crew drove up on a cart and tossed it to us. After the game, she got to run the bases.
This year it was my son's turn. I have to say that as excited as my daughter was for the game, my son was twice as thrilled. He is much more into sports, so he was more interested in watching the actual game, which was cool. Our seats were amazing. We were sitting in the front row of the bleachers above the Cardinals bullpen, so we got to see the pitchers warm-up, and my son managed to charm a baseball from the bullpen catcher. Like my daughter, my son got to run the bases after the game. The only difference is that my son is more timid than my daughter, so he wouldn't run them alone. That's right; I got to run the bases at Busch Stadium with my son.
I look at those two trips, both of which resulted in exciting one-run wins by our beloved Cardinals, official major-league baseballs for my kids, and a chance to touch 'em all on one of the most beautiful baseball fields in the world, and I can't imagine anything on a national or global scale, no matter how historic, meaning as much to me as that.