Happy Birthday, Stephen

A birthday story. In semi-chronological order.

35 years ago today — May 28, 1980 — was my first day of full-time professional employment. Tribune Company, 435 N. Michigan Avenue,  23rd Floor, Tribune Tower.

I had graduated three days earlier. Yup. Three days.


Nothing like getting right down to it.

A month to the day later, June 28, I was getting married.

I had life all mapped out. College graduate. World by the tail. I knew what I wanted and we were moving forward with executing the master plan, starting today, May 28, 1980.

I had no idea what was going to happen in the years that followed. Years that look far different than the path I was headed down then. I could not have imagined how different my life was going to be. If not for a series of twists and turns and good fortune, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

This isn’t about me. It’s about you. But for sake of background, from May 28, 1980:

Wedding. Separation. Moved home (to Grandma and Grandpa’s). Divorce (no kids). Met Mom. And met Sarah and Andy. Gave Mom a ring. Married Mom; that same day, I became a dad. Moved to Arizona August 1985. Doug born. Moved to Gurnee December 1986.

Remember this? Apache Lake, Arizona, 2006.

Remember this? Apache Lake, Arizona, 2006. Stephen and Martha.


We settled in to our home in Gurnee, two blocks from Aunt Bernie and Uncle Stan, and Sarah and Andy settled in at St. Patrick School after jumping from school to school (Chicago, Rockford, Tempe) since fall of ’84. Mom stayed at home and I was as adventurous as ever when it came to jobs. Three different stops by 1988.

And then 27 years ago today — May 28, 1988 — you were born.

Stephen popsicles 904129_10201237710811808_2121718102_o

Healthy eater from way back!

You were always on the go. Never slowed down. In fact, we knew beyond a shadow of a doubt when you were really sick. That’s the only time you slowed down.

Stephen 6th birthday 1510930_10152124423427114_1194564090_n

Pretty sure this was your 6th birthday by a quick count of the candles.

Those years in the green house sure flew by. Martha was born 15 months after you. By your sixth birthday (1994), all you guys were already stuck with me as a full-time accessory. Mom started nursing school in 1990. In 1992, I got fired (“laid off”) for the second time in two tax seasons. I was through with attempting to be a good employee and I commandeered the living room for my office. Mom helped me start my own full-time tax business.

The years flew by. Your grade school years were a blur.

Stephen's birthday 483967_10152124428412114_405289852_n

I don’t think this was your birthday party. I think this was at Mr. and Mrs. Brokaw’s house. But it had to be around the time we moved to Winthrop Harbor.

Cub Scouts and basketball and Martha to Girl Scouts and of course everybody had to go almost everywhere we went. Then the move to Winthrop Harbor, first the blue house and then into our house on Fulton in November 1997. And soccer. And baseball.

All of the sudden, everybody was in high school.

A blur.

Stephen 11144946_10153373740037840_7812351075886637232_oSarah and Andy got married. You became a master rollerboarder (Grandpa’s term for skateboarding). You joined Zion-Benton’s cross country team in your senior year. Wow!

Stephen in car around 2007 55184_547157656455_6128157_o

Not sure which car this is. I think Will took this photo.

You have always — ALWAYS! — done things your way. I’m not sure you give yourself enough credit for that.

Your 24th birthday party.

Your 24th birthday party.

You are introspective, funny, bold, and super-creative. You don’t just “push buttons.” You walk up to the panel of buttons, lay your body across the entire panel, all at once, and ask “what does this one do?” You keep us on our toes and you keep us in stitches. And that’s not forced. You have a genuine gift of humor and lightheartedness. That’s a good thing.

Stephen Groundhog Day 2013 843843_10151413247567840_1188901950_o

Woodstock, Illinois. “Groundhog Days” 2013. Reliving the filming of Groundhog Day.

You also have a heart of gold.

You’re a good friend.

That’s why two men chose you to be their Best Man at their weddings.

Stephen toasting at Eilert's wedding 537634_10100389555001058_144978966_n

Toasting Eilert and Ari.

These are just a quick handful of memories of my baby boy (you will always be my baby boy, Stephen, no matter how old you get). You bring so much life into our days. You have so many talents to share with the world. You are good. You are honest. You are not afraid to discuss a difficult subject or tackle a difficult task. I love you and I am proud of you. Happy birthday, Stephen. May today be the first day of your best year ever.

Stephen, Andy, Sarah, and Martha looking on during the photo session after Doug and Amy's wedding.

Stephen, Andy, Sarah, and Martha looking on during the photo session after Doug and Amy’s wedding.


2 Responses to Happy Birthday, Stephen

  1. renee says:

    Stephen is the sweetest young man I have ever met! My life is richer having him in it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mary Dalton says:

    The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree! Like father like son. He learned those wonderful qualities from you and Kathy. How blessed you both are!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: