One of the happiest days of my life was when the doctors told me I could take my son home. He had been in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for almost two months. He was born premature, which I thought was ironic because I was in my 20s and not quite mature enough to be a father. Devon couldn’t wait to see the world. He was so excited about being born that he arrived a full two months earlier than he should have. On the day he was born, the midwife handed him to me just after they had cleaned and presented him to my wife. His big head and shriveled body looked more alien than human. He was only half the weight of a normal baby. I was too panicked to be awestruck by the miracle of life. I freaked out and said, “Here take him! Do something!”
Devon and I were loaded into the back of an ambulance and taken to St Marianna Hospital in Kawasaki city. The sirens’ muffled howl seemed like the perfect soundtrack for the moment. Everything felt surreal. I was in a slow-motion dream. The hospital was only a 20miute drive but it felt longer. When we arrived, a crew met us at the ambulance to take Devon to the NICU and me to a waiting room. I don’t remember much after that. I may have fallen asleep in the waiting room. The next image I have is of Devon being in a glass box with holes in the sides. The tube in his nose made it look as if the hospital were keeping him alive so they could eventually return him to his space craft. From time to time they bathed him in a blue light that made his box look even more like something from a sci-fi movie. When he opened his eyes, they were a bright blue that matched the light around the glass box.
Even the temperature of the room felt alien. I never checked the actual temperature but I assumed they kept it at 36.5°C (97.7°F). I went there every day for two months. I wish I had set a time lapse camera so I could watch him plump up like someone had inflated an inner tube. In the two months he had been there, his weight went from 1,500 grams (3.31lbs) to 3,000 grams (6.61lbs). His eyes had fazed from alien blue to deep brown. They say that premature babies can have a host of health issues, including breathing difficulties. Devon didn’t have any of those. After two months in the hot box, he was ready to come back with me.
The first day he came home, he was a chubby little bundle of drooling, pooping joy. I put on Grover Washington Jr. and Bill Withers' song, "Just the Two of Us" and rocked him in my arms as we listened to the song together. That was our ritual until he was too big and squirmy to hold. After that, we just listened on the sofa together. He couldn't say “Just the Two of Us”. It was too difficult for him to pronounce. Instead he would shout, “Tuba das” whenever he wanted to hear the song. Last night Devon came home from college for a visit. He couldn’t remember the name of the song so he said, “Can you play Tuba Das.” We laughed and laughed. I put the song on and we sat at the table and listened to Bill Withers sing and Grover Washington Jr. do his iconic sax solo. "This is exactly as I remember it." He said. The chorus rang out from the loud speakers, "Just the two of us, we can make it if we try... Just the two of us you and I." Actually, there were four of us sitting at the table, but nobody seemed to mind.