The Big 1
The kid turned one year old the other day. Normally, I try to eschew the schmaltz, but it's a pretty big fucking deal when your kid turns one. Historically, around the world, it has always been a big deal because of mortality rates. That isn't the case quite as much these days in modernized, first world nations. Still, one means you've made it through the trial period, like the regular season in hockey. The four or five weakest teams have been eliminated, and the remaining 78 enter the playoffs. One year old signifies, "Welcome to the Party."
Oh, and we threw him a party. Pirate themed. Mama dressed up like a wench; I was made to wear a pirate bandana--which I hated because I didn't know a lot of the people who were coming over, or at least hadn't seen them in a while, and I didn't want them to think I was one of these bald guys who wears bandanas to hide the truth.
Holden dressed up as a pirate, which is something I used to do. Not dress like a pirate, I mean get dressed up for my birthday party. I used to wear a full Yankees' uniform. I was 14. (And surprisingly I found it hard to get dates in high school.)
Lots of people came, he scored more presents than he'll know what to do with, we had burgers and pizza, and we did the whole let-him-eat-cake/face-full-of-frosting thing. It was a nice day. Except for the drum circle entourage entrance, lead by my perpetually tardy globe-trotting, troubadour, hippy-father-in-law. But Justine is half Puerto Rican, and I guess it's heritage.
When the day was over, and we'd finished cleaning the mess, I was struck with one thought more than all the others: I can't believe I've only done that 40 more times than Holden has.
40 times is hardly anything. 40 baseball games in a season? Over like that. $40? According to my old boss at the print shop, Alan, bums make that begging for change in an hour, which meant that they made more than him, so why the fuck should he bother working when he could just grab a cup, sit on the side of the street, and earn 100K a year? Either way, he sure as shit wasn't giving them his hard-earned spare change for their racket. (And this was in 1992. Fuck, these days, bums probably earn half a mil.) 40 is not a big number, yet it feels like I have lived thousands of these things.
This year with Holden went by faster than I can explain. Flew by, I guess. So much so that I feel compelled to now litter the cliches. Because it really does seem like yesterday that the baby's heart rate dropped and they whisked Justine into emergency surgery (as her brother Kahlil took pictures of me in my scrubs in a baseball catcher's position [the doctors had told us everything was fine. They sort of lied]).
Then they cut her open, and there was so much blood and gore, one of the technicians fainted, and I got really scared because I knew the doctors had been lying and that something might be wrong with this kid, who I never met but already loved. Everything started moving way too fast, and I started to panic, because that's what I do under the slightest bit of pressure, never mind honest-to-God life and death moments; and next thing I knew I had a little purple thing covered in what looked like a soft cheese staring up at me, making a little baby fish mouth.
That's not my kid in the second video. But that's what he looked like doing the baby fish mouth. Except, y'know, good-looking.
Petersen always talks about the scariest moment in his life being when they sent his wife and him home with their newborn son, Dylan, how he remembers thinking, "We're supposed to take care of this?" And it is a helpless feeling. You have those first few days in the hospital, and even though the baby is already in your care, nurses are coming in and checking vitals, taking the baby for tests (and you never leave the baby's side because your wife has made you vow never to leave the baby's side because your wife has seen one too many Lifetime "Switched at Birth" movies), and so you get this false sense of confidence, that if anything should go wrong, well, you're in the right place. Then the day comes (i.e., whenever the insurance company says it's time for you to get the fuck out) for you to pack your shit, wheel out your eviscerated, drained wife, and this little shriveled monkey boy, and be on your way.
There are a whole bunch of axioms you come across growing up, and you don't need an explanation, the "those who remember history" sayings, because they are obvious and even trite. But then the day comes where you experience something so deeply and heartfelt, has such an impact, you're like, So that's what that means! A bird is the hand is worth more than those two in the bush (and so you go to the backseat with the homely Sarah Fitzpatrick and get your first hand job because Melissa Cote and Tracy B. ain't dancing with you). So that whole "kids don't come with an operating manuel" didn't truly click until I was driving home from Kaiser, through Oakland, about a year ago, maintaining a safe and sensible 20 mph. I didn't know how I'd make it through an hour. Yet, here we are, a year later, the kid safe, sound, and healthy. Except for the gash on his forehead where he face-planted into the fire place the day after his party. He was riding his new pirate ship car and it was defective and one of the wheels came off. Wasn't my fault though. I didn't buy it for him.