“Do you want to cut the umbilical cord?” The doctor asked as he held my just-born baby boy. “No!” I said emphatically. Then I took the surgical scissors and went over to this little thing; this little baby boy that my wife and I had created. I’m sure with God’s help. And I cut the cord. The little thing was quickly taken away to the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit because he was so small, maybe two, four pounds. I don’t remember. Only that he was small. And perfect.
Brennan Richmond Whitmore was born December 9, 1987. And my life instantly changed. I wanted kids because I thought they’d keep me busy. I had a bounty of energy. What I didn’t know was that my newborn opened a reservoir of emotion unbeknownst to me. I fell deeply in love with this little guy.
To back up just a bit, I had gotten divorced from my first wife. Then dated a beautiful, kind lady with breast cancer who had recently passed. She was 36. We were together for the last two years of her life. When she died, she left behind a young, wonderful teen-aged daughter. The divorce and this lady’s passing put me in a strange position; to say the least, I was a bit confused.
I was at a meeting one night and a woman was waving at me, calling out my name. She cornered me outside after the meeting. I didn’t know who this person was but she was engaging and certainly encouraging.
The first thing she said to me that I remember was something like: “You owe me an apology.” “Excuse me,” I replied to this person I did not know. She went on to explain that we had attended San Diego State at the same time and were in a few classes together. I mumbled something in agreement just to get out of the conversation, unsuccessful I might add. She had me cornered and I was not going anywhere until she was done with me.
She continued to tell me in no uncertain terms that while in college I had insulted her in front of others and that I was an asshole. “You owe me an amends!” She kept demanding. “I am sorry for any harm I may have caused you,” I uttered, trying to get the hell away from this person. Finally, she relented and I was free to go.
I was later to learn that she was coming off a cocaine binge and trying to get sober. I did not remember her but being the way that I am, I asked her out on a date. Out first date was a funeral of a man that meant the world to me and others. We quickly became a couple. We married. She was kind. Smart and tough. Tough as nails.
She got pregnant. Brennan was the result. Now that you’re caught up. Here’s the deal: Brennan was in the Neo-Natal ICU for a couple weeks. My dad visited almost every day. Always there. Nearby.
I was encouraged by the doctors and nurses to touch my son. To talk to my son. There were openings in the plastic incubator they had him in where you could place your arms through and touch this incredible baby boy. He had tubes running out of every orifice of his body.
I had no idea what to do or say. I had just been laid off from my job at the L.A. Times; the first round of many cuts to come after my departure. Unemployed, no savings, married for four months, and living in an apartment where the landlord didn’t permit children. Scared was the kindest word to use for the state I was in.
I was petrified. I had never been responsible for anything in my life. Just along for the ride. See where it will take me. Well, there was something else now on this ride with me. A little baby boy fighting for his life and a bride with the courage of the bravest of the brave. The ride had become real. Plans had to be made. Jobs had to be found. A place to live had to be acquired. Life was in session and I had a job to do.
So, as suggested by the nurses and doctors to touch and talk to my son, I put my arms through the plastic openings and while I touched my son, my incredible little boy, I said in the most manly voice I could muster – I mean come on, this is the first thing I’m going to say to my boy, I have to at least sound like a grown up. I said: “Hi, my name is Steve Whitmore and I’m an alcoholic.”
Next up: A move. A job. A house. A magical life. Then, Oregon and all hell breaks out.