Friday, December 20, 2002

Best Christmas Present of All

Our son called Wednesday night. He had been ill and I was concerned he might have gotten worse. Instead, he had news of the best Christmas present of all. No, he wasn’t sick any longer and with a strange December lightning storm flashing and crashing outside, my wife, Linda, learned the good news.

“I’m going to be a grandma!” she shouted. “That’s the best Christmas present of all.”

A few minutes later I heard her tell our son, Terry Jr. that he should “put water and flour into the drippings.”

“I hope you’re not talking about the baby,” I commented.

No, Terry needed a lesson in making gravy.

When Terry and Rebecca’s good news finally sunk in, I shouted, “All right! I’m getting a video camera!”

“Did you hear Dad?” Linda asked our son. “Yes, he’s always said he would get a video camera when the first grandchild came.

“When you find out if it’s a boy or girl, let me know and I’ll have all the clothes it needs by the time it’s born!”

Oh, we know many things can happen in the next several months, but right now, we are rejoicing.

“I’m going to be a grandma!” Linda shouted several times after getting off the phone. “And, you’re going to be a grandpa!”

I have been reading Ernest Hemingway’s, “To Have and Have Not.” I had put down the book when the phone rang. Afterward, I picked it up again and realized that in a few short minutes everything in my life — in our lives — had changed.

I used to watch my language much more closely when our kids were little. I was more careful about the jokes I told, the TV shows we watched. There were children present.

Lately, I had forwarded e-mail to our son that I would never had shared with a 10-year-old. Somehow, you treat a 23-year-old different than you do when he is 2 or 10 or 12.

In about seven months we will have a little one in the family again, the good Lord willing.
Terry’s call came at a good time.

That morning, our physician, Dr. Craig Johnson, reminded me “it is time” for my first colonoscopy. I turned 50 this summer and, it appears, the test will be an annual event from here on out. Yes, middle age has definitely approached.

I waited in his examination room while his nurse made an appointment with Dr. Stephens.
I had second thoughts.

“Is it really necessary?” I asked.

“Let’s put it this way,” Dr. Johnson said. “If you have the test and they find polyps, the polyps will be removed. If they find cancer, they will remove the cancer and you will probably be all right. But if you don’t have the test and cancer develops, you will probably die.”

If and probably.

I asked Linda Wednesday night (before the call came) if I should go ahead with the colonoscopy. Then I learned about a grandbaby expected this summer — well, I have a lot more to live for. I may even lose some weight! (Nah — let’s not go crazy!)

By the way, I really am more excited about holding that wonderful gift of God when he or she comes than in getting a video camera.

I will never forget the nights Terry and Amanda were born. Nor will I forget how they looked the first time I held them or how they smelled.

Terry was born in Cairo, Ill. He was the only white baby in the hospital nursery.

My in-laws and I were admiring our baby when a little black girl came down the hall to visit the nursery.

“Which one is yours?” the polite little girl asked.

We waited until we were outside, in the parking lot, before my in-laws and I burst out laughing.
Our kids are spoiled. They both had me wrapped around their tiny fingers from the beginning. Do you really think Terry and Rebecca’s baby will be different?

One of the neat things: The due date might JUST MIGHT be close to my birthday. That is significant only because both our daughter and my wife were born on their grandfathers’ birthdays. It would be so cool to go for three in a row!


Thank you so much for your Christmas cards. They have been a delight, both the paper and the Internet e-mail varieties. True to form, we are just planning our Christmas cards. But, guess what we will be telling folks this year!

Frank Phillips is The Times managing editor. He can be reached at or at the office, 446-2216.