I was 22 years old when I learned the news. Pregnant. Double blue lines = positive. I knew there was a possibility it could happen as I was allergic to the ‘pill’ and I was new to using the calendar method. It was 31 years ago, and I vaguely remember being terrified; however, that didn’t last long because we were extremely excited to have this child; once we told our parents, the excitement grew! He had me on a special diet of broccoli and seafood and when he was at work, I craved French fries and cinnamon biscuits from the fast-food restaurant that I could see from our front door. I don’t recall being sick in the beginning, and as co-workers asked me about my experience, they would exclaim, ‘You’re having a boy!’ Fast forward to about the 5th month of pregnancy, I awoke one morning recalling a very vivid dream. I dreamed of a baby with bright red curls, pale skin, and green eyes. I chalked it up to the fact that I had been focusing on the Two Angels (painting) by Raphael. The image would not leave me, so I decided to attempt to create an impressionist painting of a Madonna and Child as one of my assignments. I never really did master the impressionist style, but the 20 x 30 painting was completed, critiqued, and given a B. Some of my friends admired it and I told them; I think it’s my son. This mystery child wanted to interact with me before he was even considered viable; he entertained a few of my classmates as he was actively moving and communicating with me from ‘the inside’. I could tap and move my hand on the outside; he would tap (and mirror) and follow where I moved my hand. On March 7th, 1990 I delivered a 9-pound 11.5-ounce baby boy at 5:10 am at United Hospital in Downtown St. Paul, Minnesota. He was perfect! The first thing I noticed (other than his large size) was his creamy white skin. I had never held a newborn before, and I really didn’t know what he should look like. He was mostly bald except for three tiny tufts of red hair on the back of his head; when they gave him a bath and returned him to me, the little tufts were gone. The nurse told me; they fell out when she attempted to comb his hair for his first picture. I was angry and immediately thought…and so it begins. The thing. The great human equalizer. It was in that moment I knew that I would forevermore wear my heart on the outside of my body. I had strange moments where I felt completely overwhelmed thinking, who will take care of him when he’s 100? To protect and care for another person so fragile, small, and helpless is a daunting thing when you are just 23 years old; my baby boy, I named him Levi. Levi was a sturdy baby, and it wasn’t long before I had complete confidence that this was going to be great. He grew quickly and was by my side day and night until he was about 6 months old. In the fall of 1990, I returned to college, leaving him just four hours a day in a local daycare. I didn’t like it, but I knew it was necessary; I knew that one day he would grow up and ask questions. I knew he was watching and absorbing everything even when he was just sitting on a blanket with his toys in the middle of the room. I was keenly aware that a day would come when we were both adults, discussing adult topics and this awareness kept me squarely focused on him; I didn’t partake in the things that other 20 somethings were doing and as the years passed, I brought him everywhere! To Mexico, to Europe, to Florida and many other states. We attended art openings, carnivals, festivals, and fairs. At the Esther Bubbly show, he fell asleep in my backpack and was incredibly heavy! I walked around bent forward to counterbalance his weight as the people admired him; I think the reason I obtained her autograph is because she took pity seeing my struggle of trying to view her show and remain motionless so he could sleep. For the next six years, Levi was my morning, noon, and night – he was my sun, my moon, and my stars. As soon as he could communicate, I realized he was going to be funny. He was smart, observant, clever, inquisitive, thoughtful, and VERY funny! We rode an elephant in Florida, and he kept pretending there were different buttons to control the beast and one day, out of the blue, he walked into the room with his pants jacked up to his armpits and said, “Did I do thaaaaat?” He instantly had the room in uproarious laughter. The other side of Levi was conscientious, and he was a worrier. When he was just 6 years old, he matter-of fact said, “Don’t forget to pay for that Mom” when we were in line at the store. I was angry when I looked up to see the crooked brow of a middle-aged woman giving me ‘the’ look. I quickly paid, packed, and marched him to the car. He was innocent, he didn’t mean anything negative; he was just being a thoughtful planner incredibly early in his life. So much that when he was just 11, he begged to be allowed to walk the hallways of his middle school weeks before the first day; he wanted to count the steps, draw a map, and make his plans for navigating the 7th grade. There have been countless discussions, dinners, trips, sporting events, holidays, and other regular and extraordinary moments together. This son of mine was both of the “Two Angels” depicted by Raphael. He was sweet, hard-working, dedicated, and diligent. He earned athletic medals, academic awards and praise from teachers and the community. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from high school and Summa Cum Laude from NMU. At 26 years old he graduated with a PhD in chemistry from Wayne State University. This was the compliant angel. The other angel, the defiant angel, well, he hacked the school district intranet and shut it down (instructing others on doing the actual HTML keystrokes) he changed the Lions Club Marquise from Breakfast with Santa to Breakfast with Satan. Monthly we would receive simultaneous letters; your son is in the top 2% and your son is at risk for being expelled due to attendance issues. Then one day he announced (2012) “Mom, what’s done is done.” From that moment forward I knew my cherished time was over. I got 22 full, incredible years with this child. In 2012, Levi met Kelly and together they set out on their adventure. The person I had always hoped was out there showed up and the day they were married was the day I passed the crown. They now carry the pen and write their story. I love them both and am so incredibly proud of the things they stand for; just as it was so very long ago, one line became two before my eyes, it seems just as quickly, one son became two incredible people that I call my kids. Tomorrow my green-eyed ginger cherub turns 31. He is exactly what I hoped he would be. Fun and fun loving, yet serious and determined to make a difference; to leave a mark. I know he wouldn’t appreciate me calling him a cherub because when he was just two years old, I used his face as a canvas to recreate the “Two Angels” painting. He’s protested that picture ever since saying, “Mom, what the heck were you thinking?” To which I reply, “Son, I was a 25-year-old art student with limited resources and huge gratitude for this beautiful creature in my life.” Parenting. It never gets easier. Like a painting from the Italian High Renaissance, its richly layered in velvety colors and far too complex to easily unravel the meaning; and like a cherished 500-year-old masterpiece, parenting becomes more valuable as time goes by – as one’s life passes by. The lasting beauty is the mystery of what the artist might have been thinking as he was painting. It may have been done many years ago, but the understanding of it, the dissecting of it, is never done. Happy Birthday Dr. Levi Alexander Ekanger! I love you,


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