Yes, I know. It’s been a long time, as Robert Plant put it. A long, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time.
In the interim since my last post, my inbox has been flooded with emails, my phone crammed with texts, my Facebook Messenger packed to the rafters.
“DADA! Where are you?” “More posts!” “OMJFC I’ll die if you don’t write something new — mad quick!”
That’s not true, of course. The silence surrounding my absence could swallow several galaxies, and still leave room for a quasar or two.
So it goes. A writer without self-pity is like a junkyard dog who ain’t mean.
Hanging over Jack’s latest sojourn to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for his somewhat regular cardiology checkup were two portentous questions:
- Is the Munch a manwich-sized baby, or yet a mere morsel?
- Can Dada stop staying up late to give him an extra bottle?
By now, regular readers (all three of you) know the stakes: if Jack is hefty enough for his parents not to give a flip how much food he has dumped down his gullet every day, that means he’s hefty enough for his residual VSDs to be relatively insignificant.
Then there’s the minor matter of how an entire year of abbreviated sleep is kinda sorta killing his father, but let’s not put cart before horse.
Every father knows (and privately chafes at) the barest, most brutal fact of evolutionary biology: once we expend our seed, we ourselves are expendable.
Boo hoo, says the Man. At least you don’t have any extra holes in your vital organs.
Jack’s behavior during these visits has deteriorated from churlish crankiness to aggressive noncompliance. Or active resistance. Or tantruming.
Point is, I now have to restrain him in order for the nurses, techs, et al. to do their jobs as he squawks, shrieks, grumbles and gripes.
Occasionally, he hits pause on the miscreance to flash his 24K smile, to radiate that golden charm, that beatific soulful essence that makes him (I’m sorry, parents of other children), the most beautiful baby ever born.
Then he goes back to being a dick.
It’s confused me. What, I’ve wondered, causes the switch?
This time with Sharelle, the nurse doing his weigh-in and blood pressure monitoring, I figured it out.
Sharelle was attempting to put on his BP cuffs. The Munch was kicking his legs and arms and squawking like a rioter resisting arrest.
“Don’t you wanna know what your blood pressure is?” Sharelle asked with a wry grin, as she concentrated on lassoing Jack’s ankles.
I told her about Kevin, her predecessor, and the last time we came in. I told her about Kevin’s exasperated chant.
Sharelle laughed. She stopped trying to hook Jack’s extremities and, smiling, she locked eyes with him.
“We’re almost done! We’re almost done! We’re almost done!” She patted her knees in time with the chant.
Jack immediately stopped squawking, smiled at Sharelle, and let out a long, windy coo that I swear to god almost sounded like, “Yeahhhh!”
That’s when it hit me. Jack gets unhappy with folks who can’t pay attention to their job and pay attention to him at the same time.
Hope you grow out of that, kid — sooner the better.
I didn’t look at the numbers on the scale as I lowered him for weight check. I didn’t want to see. Then I dressed him and put him back in his stroller.
Sharelle had moved over to the computer terminal and was typing at the keyboard while we waited to be passed along to the next obstacle. I was rifling through the commando bag when she announced his weight.
I looked up. My brow furrowed as I pulled my phone out to enter the number into the baby app. The number seemed foreign for some reason.
I stopped typing and looked up. “What was that number again?” I asked.
She repeated it.
I peered at her skeptically. She peered back.
I shrugged. Maybe the number wasn’t as big a jump from the last entry as it seemed.
I entered the number, swiped screens on the app, and tapped the button to pull up the Munch’s growth chart.
“HOLY FUCKING CRAP,” I blurted out.
I immediately clamped my lips and looked up sheepishly at Sharelle. She seemed amused.
“ ‘Scuse me,” I said.
She regarded me with a sly grin as she stood up at the computer terminal. “It’s all right,” she said. She leaned down in front of Jack with her hands on her knees. “Quite a big jump for the little man.”
I stared at Sharelle, open-mouthed. Jack’s weight had skyrocketed 7 percentiles in less than a month, from 3rd to 10th. If he continued to grow at that rate, he’d be in the 90th percentile by the time he was two years old.
I realized I was standing there, slowly shaking my head.
Sharelle stood. “Hey, dad,” she said. “It’s great news.” She was smiling at me in an it’s-okay-to-breathe way. “Really.”
I wished she hadn’t said that. My throat started to close up and the space behind my eyes began to swell, the way it does when I have to cry but I just can’t.
“Right?” she prodded.
I didn’t reply. I couldn’t. I couldn’t tell her that I don’t believe in great news. I don’t even believe in good news. Great news is next year; good news is next month.
I couldn’t hope to articulate to her that I don’t believe in next year or next month, because believing in next year or next month requires thinking about next year or next month, and thinking that far into the future feels like stepping out onto a ledge and closing my eyes, and I’m afraid. Anything beyond tomorrow —
I just can’t.