The time and distance it takes to grow from zero to sixteen is the blink of an eye.
And, 8,409,600 seconds or so ago Owen Francis Mische came into this world.
It’s a humbling thing to think about – the seconds of our lives. Because, in a blink of an eye we all go from zero to something.
More than nine months before he came into our world Owen was the topic of a phone call from my wife to me as I drove to my office in St. Paul. In nearly driving off the road at the news that we were going to have a baby the rest of my drive to the office was a combination of joy, fear, anxiety and terror.
I was ready to have a baby. Whether I was ready to be a Dad was a different story.
Yet, nine months later when “Sweet Pea” came into our lives there was no turning back.
Not that there weren’t moments when my wife and I desperately wished there was!
Owen was born long after the doctors assured us he would arrive. He needed substantial prodding to leave the comfort and safety of the womb.
Finally, despite his determined resistance, Owen joined our family on this side of the world.
When the doctor handed me the scissors to cut the umbilical cord I readily admit I was torn between being totally grossed out and relieved that our baby had arrived.
When I finally got down counting the number of toes and fingers on his hands and feet I was struck by how wrinkly my son was. The vision we all have of babies is that they are cute and cuddly.
This is true – after they grow into those wrinkles. My Mom, a veteran of having nine children and being a multiple time grandmother and great-grandmother, has often remarked (although I am sure she will now deny it!) that newly born babies are not cute.
I would be telling a fib if I said that Owen was, at his immediate birth, a cute baby. He was a wrinkly baby.
Worse yet, he had a floppy eye lid and in a moment of new father fear I was certain he was born without a chin!
My son was going to be chinless!
Now, keep in mind that my reaction to most things that don’t look or work right is to immediately figure out how to fix them.
That I had absolutely no experience in fixing chins struck me at that moment to be one of the greatest failings of my life. If only I hadn’t opted for the easy career path and had applied myself more, studied harder and mastered math and science I could, right then and there, be developing a procedure to create a chin for my son.
Thankfully, science and God and nature stepped in and in short order the floppy eyelid unwrinkled and beneath the wrinkles out popped a chin.
In bringing Owen home I am certain that there were no traffic laws broken for speeding – unless you count driving too slow to be a traffic violation.
Putting him in his crib for the first time my wife and I were struck by the reality that when we had left our home for the hospital we were two – and now we were three – a family.
Sixteen years later we are four – a family.
Along the way Owen tested our resolve and commitment to being parents.
He was a colicky child and dealt in sheer exorcistic dread.
His face would turn purple. He would not sleep. He would scream.
Frankly, if his head had spun around on his neck I would have sprinted to our Catholic church and brought home a pail of holy water in which to douse him.
Eventually, those demons decided to find other children to occupy and we finally had a boy who we decided to keep.
We eventually burned the “Baby for Sale” yard signs and deleted the Craigslist ad for “We will barter our baby for your baby” listings.
Today, Owen is blowing past six foot two on his way to six foot three and beyond.
Along the way of his life he has grown into a young man who astonishes me with his unquenchable thirst for knowledge. He consumes books like a fire takes a forest. He has treated the vast and untamed frontier of information on the internet as a place of unlimited information but understands that it possesses no wisdom.
Quick witted with a dry sense of humor it can sometimes take a day or so for me to finally go, “Oh, NOW I get it!”
Owen has always worn his feelings on his face. Anger, fear, uncertainty, concern and joy and a million other emotions emanate from his face.
He was born with his mother’s eyes and smile. Like his mother when he is happy and joyful the eyes disappear into creases as the smile takes over their face. There are few things more glorious in my life to behold then when that happens.
Today, Owen turns sixteen. This young man with a deep voice of a grown man has been one of the greatest gifts of my life.
There’s not enough words to describe what I know about Owen. Nor are there enough stories to share about how he has already made such a difference in the world we live in.
I spent another one of the best hours of my life this week having a conversation with him about changing the world. Where Owen is at in his life is one of my favorite phases of his life journey. I don’t talk to Owen about the world around us – we talk with one another. We share ideas. We debate the pros and cons of solutions. He challenges me.
He causes me to think outside the outside box I try to think outside of everyday.
Last night my wife and I talked about how proud we are of who Owen has become so far. He is firmly rooted in his beliefs about fairness, equity, compassion, empathy and sympathy. He takes nothing for granted. He works hard at his job – he works (mostly) hard at his school work – and he works hard at learning and knowing about the world around him.
Owen has a strong sense of service, fairness, compassion, responsibility, duty, commitment and loyalty.
Two of my favorites stories about Owen just about sum up who he has become so far in his life.
One has to do with a class that is clearly not his favorite at school, and a project that was even far less his favorite.
Yet, he dutifully applied himself, understanding that as part of a small group project he had an obligation to do the work, to show up and to contribute to the group’s success.
Owen felt that another young man was being disrespectful to the rest of the group by rarely attending or participating or showing up. By failing to do so he put more burden on everyone else who did show up.
He made it clear to the young man what he thought about his behavior, while at the same time emphasizing his own sense of duty to others.
“Trust me,” he said. “Nobody hates being here more than I do…but people depend on me so I show up. “
This is the same boy who walked down to the grocery store to buy himself some donuts and when he walked out the door walked into someone who asked him for money. Owen didn’t give him one of his donuts. He gave him all his donuts and walked home.
He’s the same boy who feels obligated to put money into the Salvation Army kettle at work because he doesn’t want the bell ringers to think he is “a jerk” for not sharing the tips he makes over the holidays.
Throughout my life on this planet I have been honored and privileged to meet and know and work with some of the finest people I will ever know. People who, through their work and service, have made a difference in the world.
Owen Francis Mische is one of them.
At sixteen he has made a difference in the world by how he treats and views others around him.
He is committed to finding ideas and solutions that will make the world a better place. He’s not afraid to take a position. He believes in things. He has passion for music, for ideas, for people and for life.
Putting the future of the world on the shoulders of this young man is a tremendous burden. Yet, there’s no other pair of shoulders I trust more to carry it.
America needs more heroes.
For sixteen years Owen has been mine.