Last week Thursday, on a long plane trip home, I watched the movie "Collateral Beauty". It is about a father who loses his six-year-old daughter to a rare form of cancer and questions his life and place in the universe. As a father myself, I couldn't imagine what it is like to lose a child. It has to be one of the worst experiences a parent could ever go through. Given I was watching it just before Father's Day, it caused me to reflect on my own experience as a father and how fortunate I have been to have a healthy son and grandchildren. The movie also reminded me what a life changing experience having a child is.
I became a father when my son Frank was born in the very early hours of May 9th, 1979. Natural childbirth classes became popular in the 70s and prospective fathers became more involved in the process. In addition to taking the classes, I had worked for the three year's prior as a medical photographer and had witnessed/photographed a number of births for educational purposes. It still wasn't that common to bring cameras into the delivery room but the doctor was a friend of mine and since I had experience photographing in the operating room, I was able to be there with my camera equipment.
Once my "role" in the delivery process was over, I quickly grabbed my camera and made the photograph above. This was back in the film days, so there wasn't any ability to see what you captured. I do remember inspecting the negative in the darkroom after it was developed and, seeing his hand in his mouth and the look on his face, thinking an appropriate caption would be: "Where am I and what just happened." He might have also thought who is this person with this camera attached to his face. Little did he know that for the rest of my life, a camera, in one form or anther, would be covering half of my face.
After phone calls to both sets of grandparents, it was time to leave the hospital (no private suites for the new parents back then). After the high of becoming a new parent, it was a letdown not being able to share it with friends and family. It was early morning and I wasn't tired but still experiencing the rush of seeing my son born. I was living in Milwaukee at the time, so I took a long drive along Lake Michigan. I was listening to the radio when the news came on. There was some breaking story that in the past I wouldn't have paid too much attention to, but this time listened to it with the ears of a new father responsible for another person and it was then I started to learn what being a father was all about.