Today, 26 years ago at Scott AFB, Illinois, I became a mother to a happy and healthy red-headed baby boy we named Joseph Matthew Messina. Warning…this may get sappy. But hey, I am dying and I don’t know how many more birthdays I will be able to express my love to him….so bear with me. I also do this to embarrass the snot out of him. (although I don’t think he embarrasses easily) I had Joe exactly 6 weeks before Christmas. I knew this because that was how much I got off from the military to stay at home and bond with him. (So if you haven’t started your shopping yet, snap to it!) Joe is my built in reminder that Christmas is just around the corner and I need to get my ducks in a row. Joe didn’t have a lot of hair as an infant. What he did have was red and wispy…with olive green eyes to match. However, as time went on, those eyes turned a beautiful brown. From the get go Joe needed to be entertained. We had two labs when he was born, Hershey and Tahoe. They kept him entertained for the most part but he was not a baby you could sit somewhere and get things done. He had to be in the thick of things. When we were living in Colorado and Joe was in the 2nd grade, he had extensive testing done and we found out he had pretty severe dyslexia. Knowing how much extra time it took him to do assignments in school, I can’t tell you how proud I am of the fact that he graduated high school and college with minimal help from others. Again, he thrives in being able to be out in the thick of things, being active, and not behind a desk writing and reading. Joe has thrived as a infantry soldier in the Army National Guard because of this. Last year at this time he was in an intensive school for firefighting in Hutchinson, KS. Since then he has taken and passed his EMT class, and applied to more than a handful of fire departments. Although he got asked for a second interview to most of them, he was having a hard time being hired because he didn’t have any experience. That is a bitter pill to swallow…as you can’t get experience if someone doesn’t hire you! Well, this past week, there are a couple of departments nearby him that has decided to give him a chance. It has been a long time waiting! He has his foot in the door! I know he just wants to be able to have a steady income to help support his family.
Joe is brave. He has travelled all over the world and been to countries where he didn’t speak the language. He plays rugby and is in the infantry and has deployed to the Middle East. He also loves with his whole heart. He started dating Michelle his freshman year in college….almost 7 years later then are now married and he loves her so very much – it brings tears to my eyes, I am just so happy for them. He loves animals…his two dogs, Moose and Jenna, just love him to pieces right back. Joe is positive. He is almost always smiling and is really, really funny. I love spending time with him…not just because he is my kid, but because I just genuinely love him as a person. He is a leader and a problem-solver. These are gifts that not everyone has, and it is a blessing he has them! Joe is honest in his feelings. If he feels someone is being rude or unfair, he tells them. I am not confrontational enough to do this, but he is, and I admire him for that trait. He manages to look an awful lot like his dad, but is the spitting image of my Grandpa Neitzke. It really is uncanny how much they look alike, being 3 generations apart…right down to the curly red hair.
So today I celebrate the wonderful first 26 years of life of my oldest child. I did mention to him that he was now starting his second quarter of a century….and that I was also in that same quarter of a century. He didn’t appreciate that much! Because of COVID-19 and my health, I didn’t get to see Joe for 8 months this year. It was a long stretch of not being able to hug him. Thank goodness for video calls! I love you so very much….I am so proud of the man you have become….and the husband you will be. Thanks for bringing Michelle into the family to even up the gender count! Lily and I have been outnumbered for years! Here are 26 photos of Joe for your to enjoy!