The Family Heirloom My Family Doesn’t Know About

family heirspoons

Peter has much better memories about these than the wooden spoon his grandmother used to beat him with.

The Family Heirloom My Family Doesn’t Know About

Weird Man Finds Solace in Ordinary Object

I never thought much about family heirlooms. My parents, two brothers and I lived in a three-bedroom, one bathroom apartment with my grandmother, who owned the two-unit building. We weren’t the kind of family who could afford things we would consider heirlooms, at least not in the traditional sense. I would have considered a second bathroom a family heirloom. 6 people + 1 bathroom = no privacy

My parents are in their mid-eighties now. My brothers have each laid claim to one item we boys grew up with. For my younger brother, it is the solid gold coin pendant that was ever-present around my grandmother’s neck. Though now in my mother’s possession, my brother claims my grandmother promised that he could have it once our mother died. Fine with me.

My older brother has his eyes on the vintage slot machine that has been sitting in the building’s basement for more than fifty years. As kids, we begged my dad for quarters to play the machine, whose overly generous payout ratio kept us playing for hours. It would make a nice conversation piece in any rec room. My brother can have it with no argument from me.

Though what my brothers have chosen as keepsakes from our early years are worth thousands of dollars, what I have chosen is worth so much more. And I came upon it much by accident. Continue Reading…

What I Said To My Son on the Day He Was Born

Talking to My Baby

Peter

Doesn’t understand how babies work.

Crazed New Dad Thinks Sleeping Baby Understands Words

On the first night we had him home, I snuck into my sleeping baby’s room. There was something I needed to tell him right away.

“Happy birthday, Junior. I love you. You just got here, and already you’ve opened my heart.

“My plan was to teach you everything I know. But already it seems like you’re my teacher. You’ve taught me that I don’t need this wall I’ve taken a lifetime to build around my heart. You’ve opened my heart, and the love is just pouring out. I love you, baby boy, and I will always love you.

“I don’t know how to do much, but whatever I know, I will teach you if you want to learn. And whatever I don’t know that you want to learn, we’ll learn together. If you want to play guitar, I’ll teach you what I know. If you want to play basketball, I can teach you that, too. But if you want to do something else, something that I don’t care about, that’s okay, too. I don’t own you. I know that. I get the privilege and awesome responsibility of guiding you to adulthood, but I know you are not mine to keep.

“I am sure we will not always see eye to eye. But just remember that I love you. Always, and in all ways. I love you, Junior. I love you.”

I kissed him on the head, dried my tears, and left the room wondering what it is newborns dream about.

 

A Letter to My Son on the Occasion of His Birth

You are Love.A Letter to My Son on the Occasion of His Birth

[I wrote this letter to my son the day after he was born.]

I loved you before you were born. I loved you before you were conceived. It was love that brought you here. It is love that you are. You were conceived of love. You were born of love. You will live in love. And whatever else we pretend that you are, you are Love. You may be called baby, son, boy, student, brother, teenager, athlete, man, uncle, nephew, father and a hundred different names throughout your life, but know those labels describe the outer appearances of your life, not the essence of who you really are. You are Love.

You may think you have goals to attain, dreams to live. You have but one purpose: To think, feel, believe, and know that you are Love, and that Love is all there is. The path you choose to get there doesn’t matter. Make it whatever you desire. All roads lead home. Continue Reading…

Be Good, for Goodness Sake

the Princess

Principessa

The Highest Level of Do-Gooderism

Doing Good Deeds

My daughter, Principessa, is 19. At college, as part of a philanthropy drive at her sorority, she signed up to be a bone marrow donor. One in five hundred registry members eventually goes on to donate bone marrow. It’s not easy, painless or without risks. It’s the kind of thing that would make me say, “What? You want to put needles in my hips and suck out my bone marrow? No, thank you. But for this child, who not only like to do the right thing, but the good thing, it was an easy yes. Continue Reading…

Finally, the Birth

peeing there

Sometimes, you should just hold it.

The Birth Story

Birth Day Part 4

Man Witnessing Birth Experiences Bladder Crisis

“My pelvis is separating!”

10:30 PM

It’s tub time. Katrina’s contractions are increasing in intensity. The NP has been called and is on the way over (she lives across the street from the hospital). The nurses are filling the tub and waterproofing the IV, and I am setting up the video camera and putting on a CD, getting in the way of the important work at every possible moment.

Katrina steps into the tub, naked but for the plastic bag she wears on her right hand to secure the IV. The NP arrives and kneels next to the side of the tub to check the action. The lights are dimmed. I assume a seat on a rolling chair behind Katrina’s left shoulder. There is not enough room for me to wheel my chair directly to her left, so I lean forward and grasp her hand.

When Katrina has a contraction, there are words of instruction and encouragement. When the contraction ends, there is silence. We wait for the next one. Katrina has slipped into another world in an attempt to manage the pain. The jets are turned on, and Katrina gets a little more relief. She is glad to be in the tub. It is providing some relief. From time to time, the NP goes deep-sea fishing to stretch things out down there. I am getting increasingly uncomfortable, and I have to pee really badly. Continue Reading…

Get Me a Comfortable Chair, My Wife Is Having a Baby!

recliner

Now, that’s what I’m talking about.

The Birth Story

Birth Day Part 3

The Birth Evening

5:48 PM

“Don’t you want to go get dinner?” Katrina asks me.

“I’m not really that hungry.”

“I think you should go get dinner and bring it back up here to eat.”

Katrina is starving, and is not being offered anything of substance from the nursing staff. She wants to eat off my plate without my being able to complain for the last time.

I get a surprisingly good plate of pasta from the hospital cafeteria, and Katrina is ripping through it.

“Just give me one more bite,” she says for the eighth time.

7:10 PM

Katrina is doing her math, and she doesn’t like her answers. Progress is slow to nonexistent, and Katrina does not want to start the Pitocin drip at midnight, deliver early in the morning, and be wiped out tomorrow. If she’s going to need the drip eventually, she might as well get it now. The nurse/practitioner, who lives across the street from the hospital, is called.

I head out for another refill of water. This time I notice that there is a touch strip on the machine. When your cup touches the strip, water comes out. Suddenly, every trip to the water dispenser replays in my mind. From the beginning, I had been pushing the spout housing, which has nothing to do with the dispensing of water. The two nurses who I stood between must have thought I was an idiot.

7:30 PM

The Nurse Practitioner gives phone approval for the drip. The nurse repeatedly unsuccessfully jabs Katrina, trying to get the needle into a vein, but she cannot do it. She moves to Katrina’s other hand, and finally gets it in. We start walking the halls again, wheeling the drip along with us and trying not to get tangled up.

Back in the room, Katrina asks the nurse if I can have a better chair from one of the other rooms. The nurse hauls in an overstuffed recliner from the room across the hall, and I am in heaven. I fully recline it for only a second, afraid that in five seconds, I could be sound asleep.

A new shift of nurses has come on, and a new, more sympathetic nurse gives Katrina a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Every once in a while now, Katrina gets what she calls a “good” contraction. I am still timing them, and there is still no pattern.

I am still useless.

Next: Finally, the Birth

Birth Day Part 2

hungry hungry hippo

Hunger does strange things to a pregnant woman.

The Birth Story

Birth Day Part 2

Birthing Boredom

“Maybe we can bore this baby out of you.”

12:06 PM

Lunchtime. Katrina’s lunch consists of water. Thinking ahead, I packed two sandwiches and an orange, and placed them in the refrigerator in the hallway. Next to the refrigerator are a sink and an ice and water dispenser. I attempt to refill my water bottle, but cannot figure out how to get water out of the machine. I place my bottle below the spout and press the guard piece that surrounds the spout, but nothing happens. I press it again, and I get water all over my hand. I readjust the bottle, press the spout guard and intermittently get water into my bottle.

Katrina is tired from walking, but walk we must, so it’s back to the halls. Katrina’s left hip cracks with every step. I am still timing every contraction, and they still show no signs of entering a pattern. And they are weakening.

“I’m glad we’re the only ones walking the halls,” I say. “If there were another couple, the first time we’d pass them, we’d have to say something pithy like, ‘They’ve got you walking, too, huh?’ or, ‘I’m glad to see we’re not the only ones who need a jumpstart.’

“Then the next time you see them there’s an awkward ‘hi.’ Then the next time, a nod. And from then on, you try to avoid eye contact altogether.”

Katrina says nothing. She just keeps walking and cracking. Continue Reading…

Birth Day

The Birth Story

birth

I know he’s in there. (artist’s rendering; not an actual photo)

Birth Day

Husband of Birthing Mother Complains about Being Uncomfortable

We dropped the girls off at their father’s house and headed over to the NP’s office (which is attached to the hospital). She determined that Katrina was dilated enough to break her water, so we walked over to the hospital to do just that. But the door we had used when we took the siblings’ birthing class was available by electronic pass only, so we had to take the elevator down one floor, walk to another elevator, take it up one floor, then negotiate the labyrinthine halls to find the birthing center, all while loaded down like pack mules with Katrina’s bag, the baby’s diaper bag, my bag, the still camera bag, the video camera bag and a tripod.

We were shown to the birthing suite at the end of the hall. The whirlpool tub was big, and out in the open, unlike the tub we had seen on our tour, which was in the bathroom. I felt like we lucked out, until, that is, I saw that the only chair in the room was a wooden rocker. The tour suite had a big, padded recliner, a chair I would be happy to have in my (unfinished) home. But this thing was just plain, hard wood. Continue Reading…