For Keegan, the world is a happy wonder. Those eyes, from day one, say as much about Keegan as anything could. Everything in the world is amazing, wonderful and exciting, and you simply must spend all your time exploring, experiencing and finding new things with more enthusiasm than one little body should be able to hold. Anything else is beside the point. My dad simply says, with a chuckling wonder, "He is so full of life." It is hard to be around him without smiling and feeling a little of that enthusiasm rub off, even on an old soul.
He is so stinkin' funny. Hardly a week passes around our house without at least a deep chuckle over something Keegan says or does. By way of example, one night, as we were doing our daily scripture reading, Kathleen asked the kids if they thought the son of one of the kings in the book of Mormon would turn out to be good or bad. Keegan was the only one to guess bad, which of course the son turned out to be (the book of Mormon being what it is), and Keegan exulted. Kate said, “Keegan, you must follow that old adage, expect the worst, and you will be pleasantly surprised.” Without missing a beat, Keegan responded “that must come from a fortune cookie.” Another regular routine around our house occurs at dinner, and involves asking each person what was sweet and what was sour about the day. When it became my turn, I said that the sweet about my day was kissing my wife when I got home from work. Keegan immediately interrupted, “oh brother, here we go again.” A final case in point, which I have shared with everyone on our christmas card list: shortly after school began this year, I asked Keegan how he liked kindergarten and if he was learning anything. His answer: "It's all just yada yada yada yada yada, blah blah blah." Chinese immersion or not, I think his answer would have been the same. He is a constant source of smiles.
He loves everything that lives. Keegan is a soft heart when it comes to anything alive. Bugs, frogs, fish, crabs, whatever it may be, must be gently cared for, and never hurt. The innocent reverence he has for life is pretty special, and quickly reminds that you are far too jaded about the miracles all around us. I may have reported this earlier, but it illustrates the point exactly: one day Keegan caught a spider, and insisted that we let it go outside. As he did so, he exclaimed, “now it is in the sweet, sweet day!” That is so typical of him, his love, and his enthusiasm. I hope to always remember that.
Dogs really are the best things ever. Whatever Keegan's love for life generally, it pales in comparison to his love for the canine species of it. A quick story to illustrate. If you know Keegan, you know he is a Momma's boy through and through, and you would expect that nothing could stand between him and his love for his mother. Well, his cousins have a Pug named Mushu that we occasionally dog-sit, and as we did so one night, he told his mother, “Mom, you are the most beautiful thing in the world . . . next to Mushu.” On another dog-sitting occasion, I heard him following Mushu around, and repeating, over and over, “home is where your dog is.” Somehow, the fact that he would feel so strongly about such a loyal, joyful, happy-go-lucky species fits him perfectly.
He is fearless. Keegan loves adrenaline almost as much as dogs. When he has done something that initially scared him or was hard for him, and survived, he gets a contented look of satisfaction on his face, with a wry little smile, that just makes you laugh inside every time. It may be the death of me one day, but it is awfully cute right now.
He sings all the time. His heart is so full of joy that he just sings all the time. It all started one day about two years ago. I was in the kitchen as Keegan ran in from outside to the half bath in the next room to go potty. I heard the door shut and the toilet seat slam down, followed by two moments of complete silence. Then, bursting forth in alta voce came a stirring rendition of Tao Cruz's "I'm only gonna break, break, a break, break your heart!" which continued the whole time he was doing his business, then washing his hands, and running back outside again. He has been singing at the top of his lungs almost every moment ever since. His rendition of "Scripture Power" in Sacrament meeting last year may never be forgotten in all the history of the 54th Ward.
He says the greatest prayers. Each night as we finish scripture study, we take turns saying a family prayer out loud. Keegan is doing just great at this. Very frequently in recent days, he has begun to thank Heavenly Father "that we can be a family together" and asks him to help us "be kind to each other, love each other, and help each other." One night, he gave a very long list of unprompted thank you's to Heavenly Father, including for Jesus, our house, and Christmas. His mom then prompted him to bless those who were sad, which he repeated, then added, “and please give them lots of hugs and kisses.” He is so kind-hearted and loving, and his prayers are really special. I hope he never loses that.
He really gets and loves the family thing. One night after a visit from Grandma and Grandpa Bailey, Keegan asked me to take him outside to swing on the swingset in our backyard (one of his favorite activities). As we walked down to our swingset, unprompted he said, “I love Grandpa.” I said, "yeah, he is a really great guy isn’t he?" and the following conversation ensued:
Keegan: "And he is your Dad right?"
Me: "yes, and Grandma Gayle is my mom."
Keegan: "I love her too. Were they nice parents?"
Me: "Yes, they taught me everything I need to know.”
Keegan: “And you grew up and married a really nice girl, right?"
Me: "Yes I did, that is your mom, and she is great."
Keegan: "And then you had kids, right, Kate, Alden and Keegan."
Keegan: "And I bet Kate was first, right?
Me: "Yes she was, then Alden, then you. But last the best of all the game, right?"
He smiled like the cats meow, and ran off to swing, with a satisfied look that said, "ok, I get it all now."
A couple of months ago, Keegan announced he would write a book “'How to Have a Great Family' By Keegan Bailey." When I asked him what would be in it, he provided this description, in exactly these words:
"Step One: Be kind to them
Step Two: Love them
Step Three: Hug Them
Step Four: Kiss them
Step Five: Always be ready on time for school.
Step Six: Never let the Cat in the house.
He may well have that family thing wired. What else could you possibly need to know?
He can charm the devil right out of you. Whether you are mad, sad, or just feeling crazed, Keegan pretty much knows instinctively how to charm it right out of you. He is by far and away our best sharer, always giving part of any treat or delicious bit of food he receives to other members of the family. He even does this with chocolate, which, if you knew how much he loves chocolate, really says something, and always makes you feel better. But his ability to charm is not limited to sharing. One day last fall, we had just finished a hike in Yellowstone, and were all very hungry and a little cranky. His mom patiently made every one of us sandwiches from the back of our car in a cold, windy parking lot. After all of us were served, she made her own, which she then promptly dropped to the dirt, leaving her visibly frustrated. Keegan saw what happened, walked over to her, and said “Get your face down here so I can give you a kiss.” On another occasion, his mom and I went out on a date together, happy to get away from the pandemonium and constant attention demands from our kids. When we returned, he gave us both big hugs, and said, “guys, I really missed you. I am so glad you are home.” You just can't stay mad for long when he is involved.
At the risk of TMI, there is just one other thing I would mention about Keegan tonight. A couple years ago, as Kathleen approached 43, and I approached 48, we realized that neither one of us would do very well with a downs-syndrome or autistic child, and our advancing age made that an increasing possibility. Somewhat reluctantly, we decided I should get a vasectomy, which was a lot cheaper and, I am told, less painful than the alternative for Kathleen. We finished the procedure, and I climbed gingerly into the passenger seat of our car. As we left the driveway of the doctor's office in Salt Lake and began the return trip to Bountiful, I suddenly saw in my mind Keegan's smiling face, and the thought hit me: 'no more little boys.'
I cried all the way home, unable to stop.
Of course, I certainly feel the same about Alden and Kate as well, but perhaps because he is the youngest, or perhaps because he is just so flipping beautiful, I am still sad that we didn't get to try for another Keegan.