Friday, January 8, 2021

Back Up and Running

My son and I like to roughhouse. We love playing football at the field at the end of our street, which lately always seems to turn into some sort of Braveheart battle scene. We play basketball. I go hiking in the woods with my dogs. We ride bikes, climb trees, wrestle. I’m pretty much his tackling dummy/stunt guy. Everything he wants to do, I’m game.

But… my back.

At forty-five, I guess I might need to slow down a bit. But I tweaked my back over the holidays (could’ve been the street hockey goal he got for Christmas). I never stopped doing what we do, until I couldn’t do what we do.

I gave it a day, then two. By day three it was still bad. I couldn’t walk or sleep, and my posture was crooked. My wife, a lady I watched give birth to a child without the help of any epidural or medicine at all, was hardly sympathetic to my whining. The next day I called the physical therapist.

My appointment was three days out, so by the time I walked up the street, feeling darn good about magical healing powers I might add, I was considering cancelling altogether.

I mean, this stuff was for old people, right? Ladies in walkers, old men with new hips, that sort of thing. I was only a bit sore, at least until I coughed and almost cried.

The therapist welcomed me in. We’ll call her Tara. Before I could tell her I thought it all might be a waste of time, Tara pointed out the way I was slumped to the side—which I totally thought I wasn’t doing.

She looked me over, and to my horror didn’t laugh me out. Didn’t tell me to go run off with the young bucks. Nope, she asked me to lie down. She looked me over. I kept on about how I was fine. Tara said she had to get “Jim” because he was a strong guy.

Odd, I remember thinking. Why would she need a strong guy?

Before I could think much more about it, Jim walked in. A barrel chested guy with broad shoulders and a penchant for rolling his neck, he looked me up and down holding back a smirk. He told me lie back and relax and grab the sides of the bed, as he began admiring my shoes. He straightened my legs out, as I sat back and laughed.

Oh, okay, I laughed, telling him all the silly stuff my son and I do together, I mean, you know how--WHAT IN THE WORLD DID YOU JUST DO TO ME?

Jim yanked my leg with the force one might use to start a lawn mower. Something clicked, and after my initial shock, I noticed and immediate difference. “That ought do it but maybe we should do one more,” he said, a wild look in his eyes.

I walked out with a second appointment. I was feeling like an old man. I mean, my back was significantly better but gone were those awesome days in my twenties when I’d hurt myself and wake up the next day good as new.

But I’m on the mend. Just no more hoisting my kid up on my shoulders. And I’m not ready to give up Braveheart football or street hockey or much of anything else. No way. I’m armed with new muscle activating techniques, some youtube stretches and strengthening exercises. I mean, as I’m writing this, I feel ready to go...

To my next appointment.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

A Few Things...

 

Go back to any post on this blog in 2013 and it’s easy to see my kid is my world. So what happens when a new baby comes along? Well, I’m supposed to say my world has evolved And it has. But…

It’s different.

Of course I love the new baby. Don’t be silly. But it’s like I’ve entered this strange new place where it’s now baby world and kid world. We have jibber jabbering and baby talk in one room and a boy whose whole life has changed way too much in one year in the other.

I mean, not only does my kid (and everyone) have this Covid thing endure, with school shutting down last spring and now this hybrid stuff without friends. Toss in a baby and the new dynamics of our family and well, we're off to a rocky start.   

Again, I don’t claim this problem as ours alone. It’s not original. But I don't write about everyone's experiences, I write about my own. And this is new to me and it’s no easy adjustment.

My son loves his new sister. He’s great with her. They play and he’s already deemed her a “princess warrior.”

But, well, babies cry. And they need lots of attention. Again, nothing new here but we’re talking about a seven year-old who’s emotional state isn’t always solid ground as he’s trying to navigate the world’s many problems. 

And so sometimes, when the baby is crying and it’s getting harder and harder to control our son’s downtime from technology our lives now depend on, as we work to figure out when it’s okay to play games or do schoolwork or otherwise zone out and just look at pictures he’s taken on his digital camera, it can get dicey to say the least. And I’m working from home in a laundry room, trying to work a day job, write sometimes, sell books at others while my wife is exhausted from going back to school and breastfeeding and being the bad guy who gets on our son about school work to the point I almost seems like my son and my wife’s relationship is just one more casualty of this stupid year in Covid...

It can be exhausting, you know?

So uhh… How do you fix this?

You don’t, that’s how. You realize you’re with the people you love most in the world and it’s best if you just look at the bright side because otherwise you’re not doing anyone any favors here, especially a new born baby.

So here we are, in this new, bizarre, hybrid, online, work-from-home environment. We have a baby. We have a kid who only goes to school a couple of times a week. We are so far removed from our lives only just one year ago that it’s hard to fathom.

But…

The other night, my son and I were at the dinner table. He was moving pasta around on his plate and we were playing chess (hey, don’t knock the dinner habits, at this point it’s survival). I had the baby sitting on the table with us and he was making faces at her, trying to get her to laugh. At four months, she’ll giggle and smile occasionally, try to tell us something in baby speak.

But then…

She started laughing. Like, real, belly laughs. Simon kept on with the faces and she was hiccupping and giggling up a storm, just filling up the house with the healing power of baby.

After all the fights we’d had lately, all the family arguments and the adjustments to having this new life form in our house, it was a moment I’ll never forget.

Seriously, these little moments are what it takes to keep me going. We have our health, our house, each other. I can complain about everything else but what does it matter?

For a few moments I was filled with enough joy to keep plugging along. To remember what is important. Christmas was small this year, a few yard visits with grandparents, a few neighborly hellos and a house full of warmth and cookies. Just a few of everything...

But that laugh. Simon’s face. Things may have fell off some from where we were but it’s proof we can get it all back. We can be happy together.

We can make it.

 


Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Bella the Beast

 

The first baby napped. A little bit of playtime in the morning then boom, nap. Up for lunch then he snoozed through most of the afternoon. He napped before bed. He was regular. Life was regular.

This time around. Nothing is regular.

She’s a sweet little girl, I think. When she wakes up, she’s bright eyed and looking around, the trees really get her attention. The world is a special place, and she’s loving the view.

But after five, ten, fifteen minutes max and her brow wrinkles. Her color turns from a milky white to a deep crimson. The lip juts out and...

Three…

Two…

One…

The beast is here.

The beast will claw out your eardrums with her seek-and-destroy screams. She will slap you into submission. She will shriek, wail, pause to fill the lungs before she roars again. You don’t want to be short a bottle or breast when this thing is hungry.

She is just beginning to coo and jabber but blink and these little moments vanish. Usually, it comes with a smile, enough to melt your heart until she destroys a diaper on your lap. And then the beast returns with a vengeance.

When she sleeps, we tip around the house like cat burglars. Any creak on the floor and we exchange wide eyed looks, scowls, everyone ready to turn on one another in an instant. In the case our seven year old forgets the little beast is sleeping and comes rushing in flushed and loud—you know, being a seven year old—my wife and I lunge for him, a single finger to our lips. Shhhh!”

She’s not quite two months old and seems to realize her absolute power over us. She can change plans on a dime. She can get what she wants. All she has to do is threaten to blow and she will be returned to Mom’s arms, ready to nurse.

I know things will change. I’ll go back to work. We’ll all go out into the world again. Maybe we’ll look back at this time together and remember the good moments. The soft coos and the rare smiles. The impromptu walks with my seven year old on my lunch breaks. This very easy morning commute down the hallway. My open window, the birds’ morning songs and the slight breeze in the fall leaves. The…

Oh, baby’s crying. Gotta run!

Thursday, September 17, 2020

This Time



I'll start with the obvious: Pregnancy is a woman’s job, through and through. It's not for guys, it looks... hard. Anyway, I'm lucky to be married to an amazing woman. Let me explain.

So here we where, at the end of this baby making process. We had a due by date and everything was sort of on standby. My in-laws drove down to hang with our seven year old and the plan was to play the waiting game.

We didn’t wait long.

While I’m working from home, my wife was still going to school to teach online. (Read that again if you have to, it’s the subject for an entirely different blog post)

Anyway, the day after my in-laws arrived, my wife went to work and I logged on. At lunch, I took for a quick dog walk. I returned to find my mother in-law waiting outside. She said something like, “Two things…First…”

She leads with the news of the Fed Ex man, something about a damaged package. And then, “Oh, and Anne is coming home. She’s having contractions.”

I look up. “Um, what.”

Sure, I knew we were at the any-day-now stage, but that day is today?

Yep, my wife pulls into the driveway, and this time, unlike the other time, she’s struggling.

The first time she was all, no lets’ wait. Now she’s ready. Our seven year old watches on as his mother, hunched over and wincing, takes deep breaths. You know, contractions.

There’s no time to wait. We get in the car. We say a tearful goodbye. It’s all too weird, this second time around. The first time I was a mess, worried. This time I was a mess worried, but also leaving one kid to go have another. I know, people do it all the time, but we’ve been seven years as an only child family. It’s going to take some shifting.

And shift I did. We drove to the hospital, did the whole Covid check in thing, and whisked right up the elevator to the birthing center.

Bits and pieces come back to me. Of last time. While my wife is deep breathing, my mind is roaming, The little wooden stork’s the same, the floors are a bit more scuffed. No one in the waiting room. Oh look they redid the windows…

“Honey, focus.”

Right.

We ring the bell. We wait. I offer my wife a seat but she can’t sit. Honestly she's not doing so hot standing up, either. The last time—yep, everything will get compared to last time—she seemed far more comfortable as we waited in one room, then after a while moved to another. This time we're going to be lucky to make it through the doors.

We ring the bell again.

A nurse comes out. "Hi yes. Um, can you wait a minute. Yeah, we’re getting the room ready."

Seems it’s a busy day in the maternity ward.

We don't wait long. Something in my wife's pale, pallid face must have gotten the point across, because soon the nurse returns and we get in the room as they’re still mopping. My wife doesn’t notice. She locks herself in the bathroom, long enough to where I’m kind of listening for baby wails.

Then, she comes out. They help her into a gown. They ask if she wants an epidural. She nods, her head spinning exorcist style.

More nurses. A doctor. Seven, eight people, including the nice lady still mopping. My wife mentions the epidural again. They do some prodding.

“No time, girl. You’re having this baby.”

“Oh,” I perk up. If there’s ever a time for a man to feel helpless, it’s in the delivery room. Last time it was slower. Or maybe time smoothed the edges so it seemed that way. But last time I hung out, watched it happen. This time my wife is sweating, writhing around, looking for a shot of whiskey. We might as well be in a covered wagon because this baby is coming right now.

“That’s it. Push.”

And then, forty-five minutes after we walk through the doors. Baby.

A baby girl arrives in the world. She’s purple and messy and connected by a cord that supplies everything she’s needed up until right…now. It’s one of those all too surreal moments in life where you realize just how much matters and how little control you have over anything.

And people might say things are a mess right now. But it’s a good time to have a baby. We’re together, all of us. One, bigger, happy family. Stay tuned. This ought to be fun...