There were still several hours before the festivities would begin. In fact, it would be a good three hours before anyone else in the house would even be awake.
A few hours of sleep before the busy day would help, he thought when he had ascended the stairs and quietly crept down the hallway to his bedroom. But he decided to stop at the doorway to his sons’ room and leaned his head in to take a peek.
Knowing the effects of sleep deprivation from working the overnight shift, he wasn’t in the habit of stopping in to kiss them in their sleep. He never wanted to accidentally wake them. Today was an exception, however, and there he found himself, sitting quietly down on the edge of the bottom bunk bed, staring at the top of his oldest son’s left ear.
He always laughed at people cooing over ultrasound pictures. “I don’t care if it’s 3D,” he would scoff, “if I showed you another couple’s ultrasound, you wouldn’t be able to tell their baby from yours.”
He believed this was the case for the first week or so. Infants, for the most part look the same. Aside from distinct differences like hair, skin and overall size, few people could tell a row of newborn babies from one another. This was precisely what made his son’s left ear so special to him.
When the crown of his son’s head emerged during his wife’s labor (a process he, to even his own surprise, was not grossed out by in the least) nothing about it seemed particularly unique. It was the top of a baby head. Sure, it meant that his first meeting with his son, the moment he had waited months for, was finally near and that excited him. But if you’ve seen one baby head, you’ve seen them all.
The first distinctive thing about the boy to appear was his left ear. “There’s an ear! I see an ear,” he had exclaimed to his wife as if he hadn’t been expecting the boy to have any.
It was from that moment on that fatherhood set in. Years of love and affection, of worry and fear, of pride and joy were to come. Over the fleeting months following, he would achieve so many firsts. First poop, first smile, first word, first step. The wrinkled, fragile baby would become a hearty toddler, shoving French fries in to the face of his newborn little brother upon his return from the hospital to meet him.
Soon, it was off to school and into sports. The child’s brain seemed to grow faster than his legs, which they could not seem to keep in appropriately sized pants for longer than a month at a time. He was an avid reader, a budding artist, a stellar video gamer and great at being a son, brother and friend.
And it had all started when he had seen the tiniest little ear. That ear and the rest of the little boy connected to it, including the unassuming top of his head, had been one of the best things to ever happen to him.