Twenty-seven years ago, my pregnant wife awoke me at midnight to say she was in labor. It was now Saturday morning, and we were moving around the duplex we were renting searching for her prepared hospital bag. Then I heard, “Is the camera in the bag?”
“Yes! The camera is in the bag!” I yelled back.
I called her parents because they were going to drive a half-hour from Cedar Grove, Indiana, to Oxford, Ohio. So, we waited as the contractions came faster and faster. At a little bit before 2:00 AM, Jill’s water broke. Oh, man! Why didn’t we just ask the neighbors to cover for us until her parents got here? We sure were stupid. Oh, and Graham slept through everything! Of course, he was the one we were worried about.
Just after Jill’s water broke, her parents showed up. So, we hopped into our 1987 Chevy Nova and made the two-mile trek to the hospital at which I worked. I had called ahead of time and the nurses were not busy so they got ready for us. That was the advantage of a small hospital. While in the car, I timed the contractions and they were only two minutes apart! I wanted to drive faster, but my wife kept yelling at me to slow down! I was NOT even going over the speed limit!
According to the medical chart, Jill was admitted to the Labor Room at 2:30 AM. The OB on call was not hers. He popped his head in the door.
“Do I have time to wash up and gown myself?”
A nurse yelled back, “If you hurry! This baby is coming now!”
Now, I know what you are thinking: two-and-a-half hours of labor? Yes. I am not lying. At 2:36 AM, a nine-pound, 23-inch baby boy came rushing out of my 5’3″ petite wife. The doctor took one look at our new son and said, “Give that boy a Big Mac, cuz he’s hungry!” Sure enough, after Seth Alexander Keller had his initial testing complete, he was hungry. So, he ate pretty much right away. And, for 27 years, that baby has grown into a fine young man who just graduated with his Master’s Degree in Sociology/History. His goal is to become a college professor after getting his PhD. But, right now, that’s on the back burner. So, what does my son’s birthday have to do with Tom Petty?
Well, after staying at the hospital until around 10 AM, I left my sleeping family to celebrate my child’s birth the only way I knew how to. I went to the record store. After getting congratulations from the store’s owner, I looked in the new albums and found a promo copy of Tom Petty’s first solo album, Full Moon Fever. So, I bought it.
When I got home, Graham got out of bed (he was a late sleeper back then). I told him that he has a baby brother now. Remember, Graham was four back then. He said, “Great! But I peed the bed.” Well, there’s a reality check for me! We got him cleaned up. He was happy to see his Grandparents Brown were there for him.
While Graham and his grandparents entertained each other, I got cleaned up while listening to Tom Petty. This album seemed to be talking to me, just like all Petty albums seem to do. The whole album seemed to be about early adulthood and parenthood. It’s all over the album. I was floored that Tom was expressing my most intimate feelings and worries.
From the feeling of not being in control in “Free Falling” to standing up for your family with “I Won’t Back Down”, Petty kept expressing everything I was feeling at the time. Shoot, there’s even a little lullaby called “Alright for Now”. All of a sudden, I felt like I had some strength to be a parent to two boys now. For that short hour of getting ready to go back to the hospital while listening to this great album, I gained the confidence to be “Dad” to two boys. And, it has been an honor to be called “Dad” by these two intelligent, bull-headed, caring boys.
At noon, Graham, Grandma and Grandpa Brown, and I all went to the hospital to see Jill and meet the newest Keller, Seth. Later, we were all joined by my parents and step-parents and my brother Stephen. FYI: Seth was the only baby in the nursery that day, and Jill was the only mommy on the maternity floor.
So, Tom Petty, thank you for releasing Full Moon Fever near my son’s date of birth, so I will always have that album associated with him. Plus, it’s a great record containing some of Petty’s best writing. Still, I prefer my Petty with a full dose of Heartbreakers.
Oh, I forgot to mention that I forgot the camera on the kitchen table during the rush to get to the hospital. Sheepishly, I brought it to the hospital later in the day and got pictures of everyone holding Seth, including his big brother Graham. One other piece of irony, there was a full moon that morning of the day I purchased Full Moon Fever. cue the music to the Twilight Zone.