The Birth of Wheels

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Dear Wheels,

It’s been almost a month since we welcomed you into the world. I was hoping you could make it to June 10, so your birthday would be number palindrome, but you came a day earlier than that. This means you may have to suffer through some lame teenage boy jokes when you hit high school. We’ll teach you to say your birthday is June 9. You will never say six nine, okay?

You rang out your first cries in the exact same room your brother did two years ago. You came out with the same black shock of hair on top of your head, like the top of a carrot being plucked from the ground. You weighed 6 pounds 6 ounces and measured 19 inches tall. You have long eyebrows, long fingers, long toes. You have what we affectionately call in our family “turtle lips,” where the top overhangs the bottom like a crisp little beak. You have grey-blue eyes, the color of the ocean in the morning twilight. (That might change, but we’re holding out hope.)

You’re beautiful.

You look so much like your brother.

You don’t look anything like your brother.

I don’t know how that juxtaposition is possible, but it is. And you do.

Your entry into the world came at 10:50am. You were originally scheduled to be born on the 17th in a scheduled c-section, but the doctors decided that was too far away. Your mother’s blood pressure was dangerously high and when asked what was the best way to alleviate that symptom, the doctor said, “Have a baby.”

So we went into the hospital on the 8th. The anesthesiologist decided it was better to wait until the morning when they had more support for the c-section, so we waited until the 9th. Unlike your brother, your c-section was not an emergency so I had time to enter the room with your mother. After they had injected local anesthesia and it took effective, they ushered me into the room to sit next to your mom. We couldn’t see anything. Just a blue tarp covering the doctors from view. I was not allowed to stand up until they said it was okay to stand up. So we waited. Then they said okay. I peeked up, and there you were, slathered in a pile of placental fluid. I willed myself not to look at your point of origin into the world, your mother’s open abdomen, but my will is not strong.

It’s a moment of profound humility in a man’s life, when he sees his wife’s internal organs not presently internal. Women are strong, Wheels. I could never make it through what your mom has now done twice.

I met you for the first time at the warming table. I cut the umbilical cord, which was already cut off but you know…ceremony. It’s surprisingly difficult to cut. I blamed it on me being a lefty.

And there you were, and there we were. We spent the next few days in the hospital. Your brother came to stay with us. When he wasn’t trying to climb up in the bed to say hi to you, he was outside in the garden trying to track down rogue pillbugs or roaming the seemingly abandoned west wing of the 4th floor like the kid in The Shining. He did great.

You did great. You’re a nursing whiz kid, Wheels. Figured it out within seconds and haven’t stopped eating since. The double chin you’re now sporting is a testament to that.

I’m going to write a lot to you, Wheels. A lot. I get the feeling that you’ll need a little more guidance than your brother, not because of who you are but because of who the world will try to say you are. In all honesty, I have very little clue how to raise a strong, independent, free-thinking woman who is unafraid to stand up for what she thinks is right, defends her loved ones passionately and wrings out every last drop of enjoyment life has to offer her.

However, I married one such woman. Your mother and I have a lot to teach you.

We love you, babe. Welcome to your family.

-Dad

 

 

The Black Friday Miracle

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Dear Blue,

 

I feel sorry for Thanksgiving. It’s a stepchild holiday, caught smack in between the juggernaut consumer holidays of Halloween and Christmas. It’s the holiday that is always in the back of the family photo, forgotten behind Aunt Easter’s ugly sweater and Uncle 4th of July’s crazy long Kentucky waterfall gloriously cascading over his shoulders. Mostly, Thanksgiving garners the favor it does not on its own merits but on its place in the holiday timeline. It marks the halfway point of the holiday season…

 

And just one day after that is Black Friday. If a race starts with a pistol, then Black Friday is a Howitzer, laser focused on igniting consumers in a blaze of spending that won’t end until 11:59:59 on December 24, Christmas Eve.

 

As a family, we enjoy Black Friday. It’s a long established family tradition. Your grandfather maps out strategies for door buster plundering like he’s General Patton planning his assault on Europe.

 

Your mother and I, we do the bulk of our holiday shopping every year during Black Friday. This year was no different, except for the obvious fact that you were present for this one. Because you were present, we did not do any midnight raids or anything similarly crazy. We went on Friday afternoon, and in our tiny window between your afternoon nap and bedtime routine, we managed to get about half of our Christmas shopping done.

 

And we got American Hustle on Blu-Ray for $6. Score.

 

Giddy on savings, we left the store and drove home, ready to start dinner. Then, the unthinkable happened.

 

“Uh Mike…where is the backpack?” your mother asked.

 

The backpack is your diaper bag, Blue. It has your shoes, your blankets, your hats, you diaper changing pad, your bottles and I left it all in the shopping cart back at Target.

 

Generally speaking, I was overdue for my DuhMike moment. I average about one per year, and thus far, I had managed to avoid the moment for entirety of 2014. Past DuhMike moments (in case you’re wondering what qualifies) include missing a flight by an entire day, putting a pair of pants into a washing machine…with an ipod in them, and getting my car stuck on a fire hydrant. The fact that I had lasted an entire year without one of these moments while sleep deprived and exhausted was a minor miracle.

 

We drove back in a flash. I looked in the cart and it was gone. I asked a man in an SUV nearby if he saw anything. “No,” was the answer.

 

Curse words, my response.

 

I checked in the store and it wasn’t there either. They told me to check back in a bit to see if it has shown up. Then they took my number to call in case the backpack arrived. Two hours passed and we got nothing. Through all of this, we started going through the different stages of grief. By the third hour, we were moving through acceptance. It sounds silly to be this ate up over a backpack, but it wasn’t just any backpack. It was YOUR backpack, and I lost it. I felt terrible.

 

Feeling this way, I decided to give Target one last try. I went back to the store and again get the same response. The backpack had not arrived in the store. Dejected, I Charlie Brown sadwalked to the back of the store, resigned to begin the long process of replacing your lost things. I started with Tommy Tippee bibs.

 

As I was walking back to the front of the store to pay, my phone buzzed.

 

“Hey, this is Target Guest Services. Were you just looking for a pink and black packpack?”

 

“Yeah, the one with the baby stuff?”

 

“Yeah dude. It’s here.”

 

What the what?

 

I made my beeline to the front, doing that weird walk run that is somewhere between a powerwalk and a pee walk. Sure enough, it was your backpack. And it was back in our possession! How was this possible? Was it just floating around in the parking lot for two hours? Did no one notice it? Did the guest services people just miss it?

 

Unfortunately, we’ll never know.

 

Here’s my theory:

 

I keep going back to the man in the SUV. We’ll call him Roland. Roland was there when we left, there when we got back and he had a kid in the backseat. We were in a section of the parking lot that was not heavily trafficked so it was doubtful someone would have picked up a cart from the corral where I left it.

 

Unless they saw me leave the backpack there, which Roland did. He takes the pack, then lies about it and hightails it out of there when his wife is done shopping. At home, he tells her about the backpack he found. His wife, Ethel, tells him that she thought his days with sticky fingers are long gone, and that she’s disappointed with him.

 

This triggers a huge outburst from Roland because he’s stressed out about finances, particularly after Ethel just bought a $1000 worth of Christmas gifts from Target. In his mind, he has to steal because how else can they get by? Not on his The two of them trade bitter resentful comment after bitter resentful comment for close to an hour and a half. During this time, their 2 year old kid, Tom Bo, decides to go check out the backpack Roland picked up from Target and begins to rummage through the contents.

 

The fight continues. Ethel and Roland graduate from verbal jabs at each other over each other’s actions at Target and go straight to throwing marital haymakers. You know, the kinds of things you say you can never, ever take back and shake a marriage right down to its foundation.

 

So marriage in shambles and divorce lurking nearby, Roland takes a deep breath, sighs, and says, “Fine. I’ll take the bag back.”

 

Before he does, Tom Bo drops a block into the backpack, which we find later that night. It is this block that was the key to the whole story, because we had blocks just like it. In fact, we thought it was one of our blocks until we counted them up. We had all 12 of them, which meant this block, the 13th block, came from somewhere else.

 

It came from Tom Bo. And even though he didn’t get to keep the rest of the baby stuff, Tom Bo did get to keep his parents together.

 

Or that’s our story anyway. Regardless, it was a miracle that pack ended up back with us.

 

-Dad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Savor The Moments

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Dear Blue,

Everyone keeps telling us, “Savor every moment.” Mostly, these are casual niceties that pretty much mean absolutely nothing because there are plenty of moments, PLENTY, that are not meant to be savored.

This past Thursday, for instance, I drove down to the hospital to drop off your mother’s disability paperwork. Even though we live within walking distance of another hospital, you are going to be born a half-hour away at Kaiser Sunset, this magical stretch of medicine situated on Sunset Boulevard, just across from the Church of Scientology and bordered by fruit sellers hawking fresh crops of papaya and cherimoya. It’s…interesting. It is not particularly enjoyable driving there, however, so when I had to drive there just to drop off paperwork, I was not “savoring” the moment.

I parked the car and headed into the disability office. Here’s something you might not know, Blue. It is federally mandated that any office dealing with paperwork must be the most boring, drab and emotionally oppressive place on the planet. They gotta bring people down somehow because we’re all so flat out PUMPED to turn in paperwork. (We’ll cover sarcasm later, Blue.)

That said, when I arrived at the office, I grabbed a ticket and waited. Then waited some more. Then, when they called me, and I went to turn in the paperwork, the very polite lady manning the desk took one quick glance at the yellow forms, pushed them back across the desk towards me and said, “You’re going to be so mad, but these are old forms. You can register online now.”

Savor the moment.

So I trudged back to my car, defeated. However, because Kaiser Sunset is “retro” and only takes cash or check for payment, I had to find my way to the street on foot and get to the bank a few blocks away in order to get cash to unpark my car.

I’m a true believer that everyone has a few special skills that no one else possesses. Everyone always admires the really cool special skills, like singing or acting or writing, but there are all kinds of special skills that people might possess and they never, ever discover because they are just that obscure.

One of my special skills is getting lost in parking lots. I’m super good at this, and on more occasions than I can count, I somehow manage to find my way down some stairway not meant for me that leads to some hallway also not meant for me. Some day, I will find a use for this skill. I have yet to find it.

So there I was, wandering around this hallway deep in the bowels of the hospital parking lot, trying to find my way to sunlight. It took me close to twenty minutes. There was no clear path to the street from the parking lot, because this is LA, Blue. Walking out to the street is a silly thing to do here and you only do it if it’s absolutely necessary.

I smelled pee. Not my own. I took a small amount of comfort in knowing that I am not the sole possessor of my super special skill.

Savor the moment?

An hour later, I was home. The trip meant nothing. Accomplished nothing. But here I am, writing about nothing. Somehow, doing exactly what I thought was only a saying that meant nothing. Funny how that works.

Savor the moment, Blue. You’ll need to remember this during all the unsavory ones.

-Dad