Here are pictures from a more peaceful time.
Here are pictures from a more peaceful time.
Quin had a question before I took Sarah to the hospital: "How does the baby get out?" I gave him a vague answer about how moms are magical people. He came back with his theory about a "tiny cut on the tummy" and he wanted to see if his mom had one. I evaded that opportunity but then, just like when you thought Columbo was done yet he'd condemn the accused with one, final damning question, Quin asked, "Well then how do you know when the baby is ready to come out?" I was able to play the male camaraderie card and say we men would really never know, but moms do. It wasn't enough, and I'm happy about that. What I'd essentially relayed unto my son was that men are clueless and he'd just have to get used to it (he'll have to learn the hard way some day.)
A day later, as Sarah gently rocked and cooed our new baby girl, Quin went after her with the interrogation. Sarah caved and told him: "The baby came out of my privates." I cringed. And to my surprise, Quin left it alone. It was all too much. And that should be a lesson to all women out there. If you want to paralyze a man, like maybe your boss who's dogging you about being late, then just drop the lady parts on him. Once you say something to the effect of "female problems" or any reference to monthly timing, the male will cave to his debilitating disbelief in simple yet necessary biology.
I thought about this as I looked at my new baby girl. She's absolutely the most adorable creature this side of puppy Paco, yet I'm still unable to wrap my head around the fact that I have a daughter. A girl. A tweener. A teen. A woman. The timeline shot across the chasm and left a lightning bolt impression on my brain. A few cells clumped into a few more and a few more and the next thing you know they're not talking to me because I said the wrong thing about the cute boy in glee club.
Honestly, it's not any of those issues, or Disney's bullshit princess intrigue, or the undying mystery of femininity in general that had me unable to grasp what I was holding. First of all, babies are fricken magical. They pull all the serious out of the world, trivializing everything, and in a tiny six-pound spot you're riveted by what really matters. And you hope to god you're not the one to fuck up pure beams of crystalline with doubt's dirty exhaust and smudges of cynicism
OK ENOUGH. You get it. Babies are awesome.
So Sarah and I shocked the delivery room with our disbelief that we'd just had a baby girl. I don't know what it was, but I guess we never thought we'd have a girl...or not so much in that we were trying for any specific sex, but it only crossed our minds in a hypothetical way. And that little va-jay-jay had me shout "It's a girl?!" in a question mark exclamation point sort of way. I was incredulous and Sarah was too. "It's a girl?"
"Oh crap, it's a girl," I confirmed Sarah's query as the nurse lifted the baby into her mother's arms. "It's a girl," I repeated again before hanging on to the bed railing for the support necessary for a guy who has issues with blood.
That all seems like a month ago but our little girl is just two days old. The expansion of time has given me an inclination as to what the shock was about. It's not just that I'd tangle with one of her first baby poos and have to call for help against her lady crevices, but her arrival is a broad swipe at being a grown up. We've had fun with our boys, but I could always tell Sarah wasn't done with the baby thing. Now, it's for real. We've lived in this weird purgatory between doing and undoing, where we don't often make decisions, rather just keep moving in and out of days until they're weeks and years. Now, we've completed the major reason most creatures even exist. We're done breedin'. We can shut that door behind us and try not to freak out over how good things can be. We've got our unit; our penises, our vaginas, our DHA and even a car that was made in the last five years.
So take heart little girl, we weren't really shocked about who you are. We were blown away at who we've become. And we're very excited to have you with us. Maybe one day you can explain to your brothers how it all happens.
Let me tell you a story about Pete Ewy. My sister and I were in Virginia after his heart surgery. One night we couldn't get back onto the base, so I asked the guard if we could call my brother. He asked who my brother was and his rank. I told him I was pretty sure he was a chief. "Chief?" he asked like it was a big deal. I told him, "Yah, I'm pretty sure, but he's just my brother so..." The guy got pretty motivated and took extra care to get Laura Ewy and me to our room. I told him my that brother used to sit on my head and fart so he wasn't a dignitary or anything. Still, this guy was undeterred in his service. That was weird, but it helped me appreciate the twenty or so years Pete had put into the military. I'd discovered just how big my brother was. Sure, he got out of that hospital and resumed his weight lifting and five-mile jogs, but he was larger than his physicality.
On a rainy night in Portsmouth my brother, laid out and hooked up to hospital machines, afforded me a the kind of accommodations most of us take for granted every day. It put into perspective the silent focus with which our parents watched those Tomahawks rocket off his first battleship. It made it clearer the respect that must be paid to those who don't know where they're going to end up for the next week, month or year. So, thank you, Pete. Now I have my own children who are comfortable and free to wreak havoc on one another, and it's in no small part due to you and countless others who dove headlong into a responsibility much greater than yourselves.
I've been wanting to write this for a long time. Actually, I've written it about a dozen times, but I never felt it was right. Sometimes it was too preachy, others it was just way too cluttered with information. Like I've always said about progressives: they have a very hard time getting across their message. Republicans are good. They announce they're going to lower taxes and kill terrorists. Neither may happen, but dammit at least they say it. Democrats stifle their message in the slow death spiral of overwhelming data. You'll hear it all the time. As in the instance of Climate Change, someone who does not believe it is occurring will say, "There was snow in my backyard this morning. What do you say about that?" Meanwhile, the environmentalist is inducing comas with a dissertation on atmospheric calculations. So I'm going to do my best to keep these short and sweet and relevant. If I stray, then punch me in the comment section.
I firmly believe that Climate Change (and I'm going to capitalize that shit because it's a goddamned monster) is the most challenging battle the human race has ever faced. It's not going to be easy because we rely so much on the agents that are altering our planet's atmosphere. I can't imagine having to pull a rickshaw to get the kids to school, and I'm not sure I'd like a world where can't light up a fireplace. Luckily, what we have to do isn't that extreme. Frighteningly, what we have to do needs to happen now.
The good news is that everything we need to do to maintain our planet for our children are things that we should be doing anyway. Even better, they are the things that will make us better. From personal gain to national independence, fighting Climate Change is a win/win. AND we can still kill terrorists.
Sometimes I wonder if it were all reversed. If we'd been able to start with renewable energy and then later someone stumbled across some oil. He'd have to pitch some investors on the idea of using it instead of wind and solar. "We'll have to engage in nonstop military intervention in faraway places," he'd begin. "We'll have to prop up a lot of bad guys, too, before spending trillions deposing them. There will be a lot of health issues; kids with asthma, increased cancers, and some desperate poor people in the Niger Delta will literally melt when it explodes."
There would be pause. I can hear a Christian objection of pumping black bile from the hellish depths of Earth and setting it on fire. And if the petroleum pitchman added, "Oh, and there's also this thing about the earth's entire climate changing and creating the single largest challenge the human race has ever faced," they would drag him out of the room. Oil, it would be determined, was not a good alternative. Besides, we didn't even have the infrastructure to make it happen.
It's funny, because that's about the only complaint we have today about moving to renewable energy. If we look to the future, solar energy doesn't come with children being blown up in Iraq or Americans dying in distant places all over the planet. There's nothing cancer-causing about wind and it seems that the biggest side effect of capturing energy from ocean waves is that you might have to relocate your family to the beach. I mean things look really good, but we're stuck on this infrastructure thing.
That's like not taking an awesome promotion because you don't have the right shoes. People every day go out and make the changes necessary to adapt to their lives, yet we seem to refuse, offering up this ugly scenario where for the first time in human history we're ignoring the adaptation necessary for the survival of the species. That's kind of embarrassing. I know my dog expects more of me.
I think about my grandparents who rationed, carpooled and grew their own food because of the growing specter of WWII. They did what was right for the greater good. The greater good...which seems like a great idea and is befuddling as to why we wouldn't do it again. Why wouldn't we all pitch in and make a change, many of them very simple and healthy choices, to help save the environment that sustains us? Well, according to recent reports, America is less about the greater good and more inclined to satisfy the individual. (I'm not sure if God would bless a country like that...but...I digress.) We're of an independent spirit and doing our own thing. It's what built America some have argued.
So what was my grandma rationing sugar for the troops? It seems like there was a realization that if you were only to look out for yourself, than you were threatening the country. Today, like in 1940, it is again the Department of Defense that is warning us about the dire consequences of our newest enemy. But this time it isn't the Germans or the Japanese. It is us. But I believe that we all have a desire to not die in a ridiculous superstorm and that we already have the solutions to curb climate change. Even better, we can fight the good fight on our own terms, and we can even do it through a rugged individualism that will, ironically, create a stronger sense of community.
Before we get to the doctor there's this important scene that takes place at a stop light just north of Fort Collins. I'm looking at my mom and she's so very small. The big beanie of gauze on her head doesn't help, even though it adds about five inches. It sits on her, weighing her down. It's all of the surgeries and tumors and medicine wrapped around her head in one more attempt to close it all up for good.
I've always had great empathy for my mom. This guy once asked me tips for talking about money with kids. I guess he's a Buddhist and wanted to share some stories with his Buddhist circle. Normally, I'd get a little intimidated by such an audience, but I just dove in. He'd uncorked one of the biggest emotional triggers in my life. I told him about the time when I my mom dropped me off for school and I ran back to her car to ask for a dollar for bowling in PE. She didn't have it, and it killed me that I'd put her in that position; the position of feeling shitty. All of us were empathetic kids. We knew too much about our financial situation.
I still remember the day when Pete and I found all that money in the woods and told everybody about it. Our verbose enthusiasm gave the rightful owner notice that he needed to get it back, and it infuriated my father to the point of very seriously saying; "If you fucking ever fucking find a box of fucking money in the woods, don't say a fucking thing, just put it in the truck." And he was serious, and I'm so mad at myself that I didn't at least slip a twenty into my pocket. That's maybe what I should have told the Buddhist guy: if you ever find a box of fucking money in the woods....
And we did. We did find the money. And there were gold coins, too. But I'll get there. Probably on the heels of some other emotional issue that story will come out about the drug dealer, his cute daughters and a country kid who took a shower once a week.
But it's that kind of adventure that I'd forgotten as I sat at the stop light in Fort Collins. It's that kind of living—eschewing the nuances that add up to the important things we overlook--that would have me get clobbered by a little lady counting pills in the passenger seat.
I guess it was just the sheer number of brain surgeries that had me thinking that it was ok to lift her from the hospital. Surprisingly, though, she was doing pretty well for the short time she'd had to recover in the hospital. And there I was, under another Colorado blue sky, whining about needing to get more done. My mother, who'd spent a lot of her life around loud men (myself included) didn't always get a word in edgewise. She waited until I took pause to pass the slow cars ahead of us. It was going to be a hectic trip, as I needed to get her to another hospital, and quickly. She was not deterred by my erratic driving. She carefully closed the caps on her weeks worth of anti-seizure meds and spoke.
"Jared," she said calmly but with a huge hint of witty sarcasm, "I don't have a job. I don't have a husband or a love life, I'd like a job but can't work and I have to count on my son to take care of me."
"OH god, I'm sorry," I said, thinking I needed to counter her with comfort.
"No, Jared, but I'm fine," she emphasized with the car pulling around an old truck in a no passing zone. And then she sighed and smiled and closed her eyes.
But I'M fine. I heard that. Even though she also added a very sarcastic "woo-hoo.”
And then, before nodding off in the cloud of blankets I'd packed around her, she told me she always loved following our adventures. "Our" being her kids. I didn't even realize how important that would be to hear, especially as I rolled onto the interstate, using two cell phones and my working wife to find out who and how to get mom into another hospital.