It’s 79ºF outside, and the sun has already been set for nearly two hours; it’s probably five degrees warmer inside our little rented house, even with six fans running and all the windows opened wide, and almost all of the lights turned off.
Outside, there is a Blood Moon, a large Harvest Moon flying high in the Eastern evening sky, and it is fully engulfed in the Earth’s shadow: A lovely Super Moon Total Lunar Eclipse.
My wife is currently sitting on a lawn chair in our driveway, watching Luna as it passes through Terra’s umbra. She is sitting, enjoying the coolness of the near coastal breeze with a laptop on her lap; she is blogging.
The toddler is asleep in his crib, soft snores mingling with the insistent whisper of the fans; the older kid (who enters a new year of life come midnight) is curled up in our bed, worn out from two lively days filled with Birthday Party, Bounce Houses, Friends, Too Much TV, Too Much Sugar, Too Much, Overly Tired Parents and a Total Disregard for Bedtime Protocol.
The Dog is sprawled out behind my chair, possibly dreaming of a world where he has opposable thumbs, a high whiskey tolerance, and perhaps his own key to the front door.
Me, I own a key to the front door.
It’s 5:12 a.m., and my eyes pop open, moments before my alarm decides to open up and yawn; it’s early enough that I’m not sure if I’m awake yet. I taste my breath, and it tastes vaguely of whiskey and too much like death.
The Birthday Boy is still asleep, not yet stirring. The Dog is still asleep farting his old, grassy farts. My Wife is tipping into the living room like only the newly awaken can.
The Toddler wakes up, whimpering; it’s an odd awakening–not his usual “I AM LORD OF THE REALM, HEAR ME LAUGH WITH THE JOY OF LIFE!” that he usually rises to. He is clinging to his mother, shivering, heart racing, inconsolable.
We swim through the next minutes like drowning children clawing towards the edge of the pool; moments blend like cups of water poured out into the sink: The little one cries; the older kid wakes up, asks for TV; the dog wakes up and sticks his nose up someone’s ass; the doctor’s exchange is called and “yes, I need to speak to someone now” is said; water is given and rejected, food is given and swallowed; explanations are given to a first grader; keys are lost, found, lost again, found again; a diaper bag is stocked; phones are picked up and put down; shivering, heart racing, inconsolable; a conversation is had and “going to the ER” is said; a child is kissed; a child is kissed; a husband waves; a father waves; a parent worries; a parent worries; a child asks to watch T.V.
I fail to say Happy Birthday.
It’s 6:45 a.m. and I’m standing inside of curtain H in the ER room; it’s cold and it feels good in contrast to the near constant heat and humidity of the city and of the house. The Birthday Kid is fidgeting in the most patient way a kid can be on his 6th birthday; he fidgets in the way a kid can do in an emergency room when he knows that his baby brother is OK.
The baby is OK. The doctor has looked at him, poked him, prodded him, listened to his heart, looked him in both his ears and pronounced him OK. My wife is satisfied: the kid is back to himself; no fever, no longer shivering, no longer clinging.
He moves. He moves more than his brother; he’s everywhere, into everything, hungry.
I kiss my wife, I kiss my child, I gather up the older one with a hug and a prayer and I’m out.
It’s 12:40 a.m., Monday morning, 2009. The room smells like blood, and antiseptic, and sweat and shit. There is a bright light shining off of a bloody and yellow napkin covering my girlfriend, baby-mama, Deb. Everyone is talking all at once, but it’s all happy, tired sounds.
There is a small, almost far off wail, and I realize that it’s coming from the little purple, pink, brown, hairy creature in my arms. He is crying and it is the most beautiful noise in the world.
Deborah is laying there in that undignified way that only women who have just given birth can get away with. Her legs are in stirrups, her arms are reaching for the baby in my arms, and she is crying and smiling both all at once; she is exhausted from a long back labor; she is exhausted from pushing on no food or rest; she is exhausted from screaming curses in German.
The nurse asks us if we’ve thought about a name to go on the sheet later. Deb and I look at the child in our arms, at each other and then at the nurse.
We give him a name.
It’s 9:30 a.m. I have been drinking Cokes like they’re going out of style. The adrenaline has worm off, and I’m unsure if the sweat beading up between my shoulder blades is from the heat of the house or from nerves.
The toddler is asleep, sprawled out in his crib, deep breaths coming steady and strong. His butt is in the air like some tiny baby Kilimanjaro rising out of the flats of some Tanzanian mattress. His sleep is calm, solid, reassuring.
My wife is working from home; she has decided to stay close to the baby in case…just in case. She is feigning calm and relaxation. She is calm, but not relaxed. She is OK.
The Dog is curled up in his bed, bored, aware that something is happening, but still without thumbs to commit ritual suicide. He takes turns letting out long sighs and stretching in a Yoga pose, too long nails clicking on the tiles.
“Should we go?”
“Yes, it’ll be fine.”
“He’s OK…you call me if we need to come back?”
“Yes, I will. If anything happens, I’m just calling an ambulance though.”
“OK. Are you su–”
“YES! GO ALREADY! Have fun. He’ll have fun.”
I turn to our bedroom where L’il D has been patiently watching Power Rangers for the last hour.
“Hey, little man! You got your socks and shoes on?”
“No…I’m watching TV!”
“Dude, I’m ready to walk out the door…”
“OH! Here I come!”
He hugs his Mom, takes my hand and out the door we go.
It’s 7:58 a.m., on a Tuesday, 2014, and my Wife has alternated between singing, cursing, asking for drugs, cursing drugs, and longing for her baby.
We…we are longing for our baby.
They’re taking a long time cleaning him up. We’re itching to hold him. Itching to warm him up on us. We hear his cries across the room; his voice is strong, and deep and so very, very close.
We have a student nurse. She has been wonderful, and gung-ho, and it’s her first birth, only her first real night on rotation in Labor. She is tentative in holding the child. The teaching nurse is giving her tips. The doctor is giving her tips. We are giving her tips.
Something takes and she carries our little boy to us, places him in Deb’s arms, and for the umpteenth time in as many hours, I start to cry.
The kid is stoic. He barely makes a noise as Deb pulls him close; we barely notice as most of the hospital staff leaves the room.
“Hey! Are you going to record his name?”
“Oh, you don’t have to think of something right away.”
“Well, we know his name…”
“Oh, OK! Let me write it down.”
We give him a name.
It’s 4:06 p.m. on a Monday afternoon and we have finally made it back to the car.
The Little Man and I have had a great day at the amusement park. I have nearly puked twice and L’il D is filled with sugar fueled energy and the madness that can only be had by a kid on his birthday. He repeats his words multiple times before finishing a full thought, a sure sign that he’s tired.
Of course he’s tired. He’s been up for forever a.m., he’s ridden roller coasters all day, he’s watched too much Power Rangers, and Scooby-Doo and Kiss and has had all the junk foods. And he’s excited to go home to see his brother.
We are both reeking of sunscreen and lemonade and ice cream; the smells are more pronounced in the heat trapped in the car. I’m struggling to suppress my own tiredness as it’s creeping over me; I crank the AC on high, put a vent directly on me, another on the kid and put the car in gear.
“…and Dad, and Dad…Dad that was soooo cool when we went down and turned, and then…and then, and then…”
“Yeah, Little Man?”
“…And then…we just went WOooosh!”
“Is that so? So tell me, did you have a good time?”
“I’m glad…you have a happy birthday, kiddo?”
“Yes! I di-i-id!”
“Good! Hey son?”
“I love you and your brother so much. I’m so very glad for you both. I’m glad for you. And I’m proud, so very proud of how much you love your brother. I love you, son.”
“I love you too, Daddy. To the Sun! To the Universe!”
“Did you have a happy birthday, son?”
“Happy Birthday, Kid…”
It’s sometime between 6:30 and 7 P.M., and I’m sitting at the computer staring at the screen, banging away on keys, pretending to write something. All the windows are open, all the fans are blowing, and yet it’s still 79º inside of our rented house.
The dog is curled up under my foot; his chest rises and falls, my foot cresting with each inhale. He stretches out on his side, careful to not break contact with my foot. He eyeballs me, waiting none-too-patiently for me to take him outside to pee
The Toddler is asleep. His soft snore rising above the dull, click-filled drone of the fan in his room. He has grown–objectively grown–since the early A.M. emergency room visit
My wife and I have made multiple visits to take wonder in the little one asleep in the hand-me-down, well loved, well worn crib. We wade through a sea of dirty clothes, a literal minefield of toys strewn about by days of play by two brothers. It is worth it to look at our littlest son.
He is beautiful.
My wife is sitting on the couch with the Birthday Boy, reading to him. We are attempting to wind him down from such an exciting day; books, and relative calmness and snuggles and patience. She is reading him a book I got him for his birthday, The Book With No Pictures. It is his third time through.
“Daddy, I hate your birthday gift.”
My wife winces “Oh! That’s not nice!”
“Why do you hate it?”
“I hate that you got me a book that doesn’t have pictures, and only has words, but I love how silly it is and the silly sounds that you…that you, um, that you, um…have to make.”
“Those don’t quite jibe, little man.”
“So, you’re telling me that you like my present.”
“I hate your birthday present, Daddy.”
“But you like how silly it is?”
“I’ll take that as you like it, then.”
“But I don’t like it.”
“You’re welcome, baby. Happy Birthday.”
He flops back to the couch, snuggles next to his mother, and asks her to read it again.