Monthly Archives: April 2012

Tetrakaidecaphobia

from the greek “tetrakaideca” meaning “fourteen” …  meaning fear of the number 14, or in this case, of having a 14 year old.

Luckily, I don’t really suffer from this disorder, but for most of my life I certainly would have if you had asked me to imagine ever having a kid that age.  But here I am, and alive to tell the tale.

If you’re expecting something mushy from today’s blog, you’ll probably be disappointed.  As I’ve said numerous times over a number of years, I couldn’t have ordered a better kid custom made from the factory.  That’s as sappy as it’s going to get today I’m afraid.

Instead, I was just sitting here after seeing him off to school kind of laughing to myself about a few things, figured I might as well share since there’s at least a few of you who don’t know these stories already but easily could have heard them if you’d been around at the right moment.  Nothing here that hasn’t been told fairly publicly before, and my son already knows all of them so there’s not much risk of unintentional embarrassment here*

For example, there’s the one about how I lost the car at the hospital.  It could have happened to anybody, honest.  We showed up at the hospital in the wee hours of the morning, pulling into the handy dandy predesignated parking area outside the E.R. set aside for dropping off mothers-to-be.  Once the we got the paperwork started, they pointed out that I needed to move the car since spaces were kinda limited, so I did.  Came back , finished up all the prep work and room assignment, etc. so forth and so on.  It became apparent that we might be in for a rather long day.  After maybe a hundred or a hundred fifty pages of the novel I brought to pass the time, I figured I ought to go move the car out of the pricy short-term parking & into the more reasonable long-term parking.  Yeah, it was an excuse to slip out for a smoke or three, but it did need doing.  Down the hall, into the elevator, down to the ground floor, out the door to the parking garage and … umm.  Oh,it’s over here … no it isn’t.  {smacks forehead} Silly me, I put it over th … no.  Hmm.  Took about an hour to find it.  I only missed by about four FLOORS worth of parking deck on the first try, ground I slowly covered on foot, getting a little more frantic by the moment.   Luckily my wife was at least able to feign amusement when I finally got back to her room.

Then there’s the one my wife actually likes to tell on me from the following day.  Well, actually the same day since he was born a bit after midnight on the 16th, but you know what I mean.  We get through the birth, and all of the stuff that follows while they document & record & measure & weigh & all that other stuff.   After a while back in the room they take the beloved newborn away for a couple of hours to … well I still don’t actually know what the purpose was, other than maybe to let the parents recover a little bit or something.  Maybe they’re giving him tips & tricks on how to handle parents, whatever.  At that point I’d never seen anything more beautiful than the little rollaway bed in the corner of the room & out like a light I went.  Couple of hours later they bring the baby back and deep in the embrace of sleep I hear a voice.  I don’t actually remember much more than that for a while, but I’m told that the following conversation took place.
Her: “Honey, Will’s back.
Me: “Does he still look the same?”
Her: “Yes.”
Me: “Good”
Me: snore

Of course there are others:
— My reaction to parenting classes
— My reaction after discovering some crucial things that parenting classes omitted
— The look on his tiny face when we were alone at home with him for the first time, just the three of us.  He slowly looked at her, then me, then back at her, and back at me … and we both knew in that moment that he was thinking “Oh s***, neither of them have the foggiest idea what they’re doing”
— Our introduction to colic about April 30, as we became “The House That Dreaded Sundown”
— A wide range of others too numerous to mention.

Time sure does fly, but it sure can be fun … most of the time.

Happy birthday Will 🙂

*When I embarrass my child,  as I frequently do in order to live up to my sacred responsibility as a parent, I prefer to do it on purpose.  More fun that way.

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Staring down the barrel …

… of a 45.   Or today, more accurately, simply of 45.
As in years.

Send away for a priceless gift
One not subtle, one not on the list

Birthdays are pretty cool things when you’re young.  Every year seems like a big deal when you’re little.   10 is cool because you get to double digits.  13 feels pretty incredible.  15 teases you with a learner’s permit.  16 actually lets you drive & you likely get your first taste of freedom. 18 is pretty big, 21 is massive.

A constant  through a lot of those birthdays – other than close family always being there I mean – was getting the same primary present for years:  a complete set of Topps baseball cards for the new season.  One of my earliest lightbulb moments was figuring out that the annual set cost was right in the birthday gift sweet spot.  What I didn’t realize was that I’d look back 30+ years later and still remember the anticipation and anxiety that went with waiting to see if UPS showed up with them on/before my birthday.  The thrill of seeing those 500 or so pieces of cardboard, each one so familiar and yet brand new (and unstained by some of the world’s worst bubblegum) was one that was rarely matched.

Send away for a perfect world
One not simply, so absurd

The birthdays that follow can, under certain circumstances anyway, become a bit of a blur.  But for me, even with some standard ups & downs (and a few less standard ones maybe), they were generally no big deal at worst, even fun times occasionally.  One of those even featured the only birthday party of sorts ever thrown for me by anybody that didn’t raise me.

Before anybody thinks I’m complaining or anything, let it be known that I’m not a birthday party guy by nature, kind of like I’m not really much of a holiday person either, but to this day that random act of kindness still stands out in my memory as one of the coolest birthdays ever.   It actually had quite a few elements of an unmitigated disaster as it turned out — a story that I’ll withhold the details of to protect both the guilty and the innocent — but the thought behind it was very very cool.

And then the tide started to shift.

In these times of doing what you’re told
Keep these feelings, no one knows

Turning 30 about drove me nuts.  Err, nuttier than usual that is.  I worried, I fretted, I obsessed.  I was depressed going into it and coming out of it.  It’s fair to say that I grieved over it.   That was the first time that a birthday really bothered me, I didn’t like the way it felt in the slightest.  It was actually in a pretty good place in my life at the time but the symbolic nature of The Big 3-0 was more than I was eager to contemplate.  I had a phrase that covered it pretty well, had been using it for years, but at that point I really felt it … “I don’t miss the things I used to do but I sure miss the enthusiasm I did them with.”

I suppose I was just suffering from the usual combination of having delayed-onset-adulthood and the simple practical math of reaching somewhere around the tipping point of {gasp} middle age.  You know, that point where you realize there’s probably as much behind you as in front of you.

Little did I know.

Send a message to the unborn child
Keep your eyes open for a while
In a box high up on the shelf, left for you, no one else
There’s a piece of a puzzle known as life
Wrapped in guilt, sealed up tight

My 31st birthday was pretty much an afterthought.  Three days later I became a father.   I’m not sure I’ve given much thought to my own birthday very often since. That’s probably what shook me out of those 30-year-old blahs as much as anything.  I was too busy, too stressed, too anxious to be worried about getting old(er).  Talk about benchmark birthdays like 13 or 21 seems downright silly in comparison to how your life changes because of someone else’s birthday.

Apparently time moves a lot faster once you have a child of your own, because most of my own birthdays that have followed run together pretty thoroughly and anonymously.   Still, that sense of fleeting time that came to me with 30 certainly impacted on the ones that followed.   One way to sum up a chunk of my parenting philosophy might be “give them everything you can while you can”.   And by “everything” I don’t mean what you want them to have nearly so much as I mean things you want them to know.  The cold reality that you have no guarantee of another minute yourself, much less another year or years, adds a sense of urgency to that mission.  Sobering thought, downright depressing if you think about it too much or too long, but I believe it’s a valuable perspective to keep.

What ever happened to the young man’s heart?
Swallowed by pain, as he slowly fell apart

Among the birthdays that just kinda came & went was one that’s often a big deal to people: 40.  Truth is, it didn’t really bother me at all.  I think I cracked a few jokes about it even, just didn’t seem like anything to worry about.   I figured that was a sign that I had reached another milestone, the point in life where you’re sorta relieved (surprised?) to have stuck around for another one, might as well enjoy it.  But that brings me to a question: if 40 was no big deal then why does 45 have me kind of disturbed?

It’s not as though I’m obsessing about it like I did back at 30.  Truth is the exact timing of it didn’t really hit me full on until sometime on the 12th, I’m bad about knowing the date at any given moment like that (sign of old age maybe?  Nah, I’ve always been bad at that).  This is more like a sense of dread, the kind that causes you to sigh deeply,  distracted by a sense of general discomfort.

And I’m staring down the barrel of a 45,
And I’m swimming through the ashes of another life

What’s that old saying, about how the only constant is change?  I could probably figure out some way to handle that (like there’s a choice?) … but it’d be a sight easier and more pleasant if there was a little variety, this downhill stuff gets pretty old after a while.  I’ve taken my share of trips down memory lane over the past 15 years or so and, in doing so I can see the various eras in my life in pretty sharp definition.  I’ll skip the laundry list & my pet names for them, just acknowledging them should suffice for our purposes here.   Point is, there’s pretty clear transitions between one phase and the next … and I think I feel another one coming on.  Not in a mid-life crisis sense (do the math folks, “mid-life” was quite a ways back for me most likely), I’m pretty sure this is something … else.

My hair & my eyesight are racing to abandon me.  I’ve seen one career path become overgrown & peter out, the latest ain’t been the healthiest for the past few years either.   It dawned on me recently that I’ll probably go to more funerals in my future than weddings & births combined.   News in general is routinely too depressing for heavy consumption even for a junkie like me.  I feel like being “pissed off and mad about it” … except I don’t seem to have the energy to actually be mad about it.  What’s missing from the picture is  somebody else’s kids in my yard for me to shake my fist at while I’m shooing them away.   One day follows the next and at this point I feel like a passenger on the Titanic staring at the water thinking “that sure looks cold”.  Lest anybody go down the whole “so change it then” path here, I’m pretty sure those passengers would have loved to have kept the ship afloat,  reality had something else in mind.

There is no real reason to accept the way things have changed
Staring down the barrel of a 45*

It’s not like I don’t have my share of things to be happy/thankful/grateful about.  Got a great kid, a great wife, truly blessed to have both my parents still with me.  I may not see a lot of friends regularly, but I’m more connected to them on the whole than I’ve been in many many years (thank you Facebook).  Heck, I even make new ones now & again and they’re great (you gotta be pretty good to get there, I’m a tough crowd).
I still find pleasure in a few things too, technology has made my interests in both music and games (video/computer) more accessible than ever.  Still a couple of biggies left on my bucket list (will scratch one of those off with Will in a couple of months, good Lord willing), the list is kinda short at this point but I’m not going anywhere (willingly anyway) ’til it’s complete.   I don’t have much in the way of actual regrets either, or at least “too few to mention”.

In the end (with a nod to Jimmy Buffet),  maybe I should have called this “A Grumpy Guy Looks at 45” …  I just don’t much care for the way it’s been looking back at me.

*For those who may not recognize them, the really good words in italics belong to Shinedown.  I get the blame for the meandering stuff in between.

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