It's hard to believe, but my First-Born, Jennifer Lynn is 32 today. Wait a minute! What's going on here? It feels like I just left The Expecting Fathers' Waiting Room at North Side Hospital in Youngstown. A glorious day that started out with not a cloud in the sky. I sat on the ledge of a huge window on the third floor watching the 1st shift trickle into work. It was starting to sink in that I'm now a father. Would I remember my vow as a rebellious teenager to never raise my child like my parents did? My turn now, to mold this kid into every thing I wanted her to be. As all of us parents know, easier said than done.
I was a young father. At 22, I was very energetic and excited about our first child on the way. My wife and I went to weekly Lamaze classes as I prepared to be the coach when my wife went into labor. I'll never forget, "Three Hees and a Hoo", one of the breathing techniques that we practiced religiously. My wife was in labor for 22 hours and was on the verge of needing a C-Section. After a dose of Pitosin, things happened quick. My beautiful daughter was born! 8 pounds, 9 ounces, full head of dark hair. Hell, the kid looked ready for first grade!
The television mega-hit, "Roots" was on the weeks leading up to her birth. I couldn't resist when the nurse handed me Jenny in the Delivery room. I kissed her on the forehead and lifted her skyward saying,"I Name you Kunta Kinta!", mimicking the scene in Roots when the lead character was born. I got a good laugh from The Delivery Team and a scornful look from my wife.
One of the first things I did when we brought Jenny home from the hospital was to go to a Nursery and buy a tree for her. A 5-foot beautiful Mountain Ash was planted in the back yard right next to where the Swing Set would go. At the base of the tree, I put in a small cement plaque with her name and date of birth on it. In later years, she made sure she told everyone that it was HER tree. The tree would also become first base for kick ball games.
When Jennifer turned two, I became a full-time Fireman. Working 24 hours on, 48 hours off, gave me a lot of time with my daughter in her formative years that most dads didn't have. I was able to attend a lot of pre-school field trips and events. I especially remember the trip to the Christmas Tree Farm. Being the only dad there, I was elected to cut the tree down the class selected. I think I still have bits of Pine Tar on my hands and arms, not to mention soaked pants from having to crawl under the tree. I can't imagine how many scores of pumpkins I carried back to the bus from The farm field Halloween trip.
Most Saturday mornings while my daughter was of pre-school age, It was "Mommy Time". My wife had the morning to herself to do whatever she wanted to do. Shop, visit friends or relatives, or just sleep. In nice weather, Jenny and I took off on my ten-speed bike with her strapped to the child carrier on the back. Our first destination was Casey's Restaurant in Poland for breakfast. All the folks there fussed over this adorable little girl and Jenny reciprocated with laughs and giggles. I do remember bringing home a free kitten from a house along our bike trail. The poor little thing scratched me from head to toe by the time I got it home.
One of our favorite things to do when Jennifer was about three was playing, "The Price Is Right!", her favorite show. Jenny would go to the top of the carpeted steps and wait for me to yell from the living room, Jenny Benny Rupe, C'mon Down!" she'd slide on her butt down the steps and ran across the floor into my arms, where I would lift her high in the air and say, "You are the next contestant on The Price Is Right!" She would always squeal in laughter. To this day, I Still call her Jenny Benny. She may be a mother herself, but she'll ALWAYS be my Little Girl.