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American Past Time
A novel by Len Joy

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Stephen is 25

Today is my son Stephen’s 25th birthday. He’s a graduate student (Chem PhD) at NYU. I’ve been wondering what I should give him for his birthday. Money or gift cards are practical, but let’s face it – he’s living in Manhattan and barely surviving on a TA stipend. Any money I give him is just going to go for stuff like food and rent. So instead of cash, I am devoting an entire blog post just to him. Long after the few hundred dollars that I might have given have been consumed, this blog page will endure.

Happy Birthday Stephen!


My son was born on Sunday, December 9th, 1984. On the Friday before he was born I went out for drinks with my work colleagues as we often did on Friday nights. We usually started at Alcock’s on south Wells. After a couple of hours someone suggested, as they always did, that we migrate north to Hangge Uppe’s on Rush Street. That was a fun place for thirty year olds with no responsibilities. Suzanne was about ten months pregnant at the time and with every beer I was more and more certain that the baby was not going to arrive for at least two or three more days. But as we gathered up our coats to grab a cab for Rush Street, I decided I’d better go home just in case.

I count that as my first parental sacrifice.

The other day I got off the el at Clark and Division to meet a friend at Barney’s and I walked right by Hangge Uppe’s. I hadn’t been back there in twenty-five years.

We went into the hospital early on Sunday morning. Too early. They put us up in this holding cell for the rest of the night and we moved into the labor room about mid-morning. Fortunately they had a television. I was watching the Bears game – I wouldn’t normally do that while someone was in labor, but this was the game where Walter Payton had to play quarterback because McMahon and Rusty Lisch were injured. Not a game that anyone would want to miss. About midway through the third quarter, Suzanne started yelling at me. She’s never really been much of a Bears fan, so I had to turn off the set. The Bears lost the game.

Stephen was born at 9:31 PM. We’d been in labor for hours and hours and hours. I was really tired.

So was Suzanne.

The first thing Stephen did was pee on the Doctor. For many years I felt as a metaphor that didn’t work, because Stephen was such a good kid, fun-loving, but studious and definitely not a rebel. But now that I have taken all of these writing classes I realize that he was being IRONIC.

I try to keep these blogs under 500 words and I am already there and Stephen’s only three minutes old. I still have tons of embarrassing stories to tell, but I guess I’ll have to wait until next year. Happy Birthday Stephen! See you on Christmas Eve.


  Five days after Stephen's 3rd birthday Nicole arrived. In this picture they are not being ironic.
Christie was born two days after Stephen's fifth birthday. We were great tax planners.  >


Ania Vesenny said...

Len, this was such a great post! Happy Birthing Day to you and S!

Len said...

Thank you.

Davin Malasarn said...

Great post, Len! And, happy Birthday to Stephen. Go for the Ph.D.! It is infinitely rewarding!