Many of you out there who regularly read my newspaper column know about my 7-year-old son and our lives together here at Grand Canyon.
There was once another child in my life, born when I was just a teen-ager. No, I’m not the father, but she was very important to me in ways she’ll never know. On Friday, she had a child of her own.
Jessica was born in 1981 in San Diego, the only child of my sister, Donna. This was the same year my parents split up. And I was a mixed-up teen-ager, unable to make a decision on where I wanted to live.
That summer, after I had left my mom’s apartment to go stay with my dad, he asked me if I wanted to go to San Diego. The idea was for me to stay out there with my brother and sister while dad got his life together.
I spent most of my time at my sister’s house. Cute, little Jessica was there, of course, and they lived in a house about 10 blocks from Ocean Beach.
Over the course of that summer, I spent a lot of time with Jessica. Donna was busy a lot of the time with everyday life, and I was glad to help take care of the baby.
I started to think of her as my own little girl. She was very special. Jessica always smiled at me, seemingly not caring if I was an awkward teen-ager or had all these problems back home.
The best times I had with her were on simple walks to a nearby park in Ocean Beach. I’d put her in the stroller and off we’d go to have some fun in the pleasant summer San Diego weather.
After those weeks in California, I eventually headed back to Arizona and ultimately Nebraska to finish high school while living with my dad. I will never forget that San Diego summer.
In the years to follow, I always made sure I bought a birthday present for Jessica each year and sent it to her in the mail. You see, her parents didn’t exactly get along, just like mine, and I wanted her to know she always had Uncle Brad around.
It was difficult to actually go see Jessica in California. After high school, I went to college in Nebraska and then began my newspaper career. But every once in a while, I’d get out to San Diego to see her.
I can remember all of those visits ... the time we went to a movie on a school night and I got in a little trouble for keeping her out too late ... the time we went for pizza in a little restaurant in Poway ... time at the pool where she lived.
Four years ago, she graduated from high school. Brandon and I hopped on a plane one afternoon and made it just in time to see her receive her diploma. That was the last time we saw her.
Jessica now lives in Broken Bow, Neb., and Friday afternoon, she had a baby boy. I had talked to her the previous day and she thought she was having a girl based on an ultrasound. But surprise, nature has its ways.
When the baby was born, I was covering a middle-school basketball tournament and missed her call. On the message, she sounded "out of it" and even said the baby was 9 1/2 inches long. I was relieved to find out later he is 19 1/2 inches long.
Many of us in the family were worried about Jessica, because she’s had some medical problems and this has been a hard pregnancy.
I gave her my toll-free number so she can call me anytime, anywhere. She called again late Friday from her hospital bed, not able to get to sleep.
We had a nice conversation for about a half-hour as she gave me the play-by-play of her delivery. But the real kicker came when she told me the baby’s name — Brad.
(Brad Fuqua is editor of the Grand Canyon News).