The Long Path

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My wife and I used to spend our Sunday afternoons at the wine bar. Tucked into one of the corner couches, wine glasses in hand we talked for hours. Dreaming and imagining and creating a life built entirely with words. Our family was conceived on those afternoons. The “us” that we  would eventually become originated right there. Together we looked forward into the world of marriage and careers and children, imagining how we might craft a life that felt like our own. It was a deeply precious time.

I’ve been thinking about those afternoons a lot lately. Preoccupied you might say. Nostalgic for the days when this life was nothing more than a beautiful idea. When the whole thing could fade seamlessly into the background when the check came. Because it’s hard to think these days. There is not a lot of space for contemplative dreaming. Life with young children is hardly a life of the mind. It is perhaps the furthest thing from it. It is a life of the now, the right this moment. And as much as I know that this too is a gift, on most days I don’t really understand it. The gift of it I mean.

As impossible as it seems, our actual life is even richer and fuller than our theoretical one. The reality is so much more than we could ever have imagined. Of course the more is where the trouble gets in. The distance between the theoretical and the actual is entirely a matter of amplitude. More joy, more anxiety, more beauty, more exhaustion. More, more, more. All of it is just so very much to manage, to hold. And there of course is a piece of the lesson. Life isn’t a thing to be managed. Grasping only tightens everything up. Less holding, more opening. That’s what is called for.

Unfortunately there is quite a bit of distance between knowing a thing and knowing it. That long path between the head and the heart. That’s where I spend my time these days. Creeping always towards the safety of the mind while this lovely, impossible family tugs me into the wild fray of the heart. I can think of no better way to spend my days, but I can imagine plenty that might be less chaotic. Luckily this life offers little space for imagining.

Now we spend Sunday afternoons in parks or alongside train tables. We pour milk and wipe bottoms with the sounds of little boy laughter and hysterical wailing alternating in our ears. There is precious little space for words, but I’m beginning to discover a space that exists outside of that. Finally. A space of doing and being, together. It’s not the safe, tidy space that we once shared. It’s more than that. During those moments when I have the grace to open up and let all of it in, it’s almost more than I can bear. My wife disentangles our youngest son from our oldest while explaining (again) that in this family we respect someone when they tell us “no” and I catch her eye. Just for a moment. She is weary with the conflict and the nearness to bedtime, but when our eyes meet she has a smile. Just for me.

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All Heart

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There is a canyon as deep as it is wide that separates the land of two children from the dizzying expanse of three or more. A family with one or two children is lovely and mostly manageable and can be contained at almost any table and within any vehicle. When you start adding more than that, words like lovely and manageable take on a different kind of meaning. In every conversation I’ve had with parents of larger families (and there have been many bc if I see you with three or more kids I’m talking to you, full stop) the third child is the tipping point. The game changer. Once you’re outnumbered, adding a few more players to their team matters little. You have a big family.

And that is where I have been for the entirety of the year thus far. Wandering around blindly within that divide. Trying to see my family  more clearly. Grappling with the question of whether we are a family or a BIG family. While my wife has been certain of her desire to live in the land of the big family I’ve not been so sure. This has been an interesting experience for us, this being on separate pages. We’ve been united in our feeling that we’ve got another one in us, however in a (for me) unsettling role switch, my wife has been able to leap right into “Let’s do it!” while I’ve been paralyzed in “But how?”. I’m not talking here of the mechanics of baby-making, but rather the daily concerns of maintaining some level of sanity (how much is enough really?) and fostering a sense of safety and well-being for everyone under our roof. Most of the time I just can’t see it. These are challenging goals in our current configuration as a foursome, so what could that possibly look like should we become five?

We don’t know. We have absolutely no idea.

Of course we don’t.

We didn’t know when we had Yogi and we still didn’t really know when we had the Monk. We’ve been entirely clueless about the whole thing because there IS no way to know. I can’t say that I approve of this particular law of the universe but that matters not at all. It is just true. This family business isn’t rational. It’s all heart.

I can wander around forever and I’m never going to figure it out, so I’ve decided to stop wandering. (See, there are certain decisions that can be made rationally!) I’m finally sitting down. Snuggling in right beside my wife who has been waiting here for me, knowing I would find my way eventually. We’re going to do it. As it happens, our family is a big one.

It’s Been a “No Third Kid” Kind of Week

My wife knows that things are getting dicey at home when she gets texts that say simply:

“No Third Kid. No way.”

It’s not so much a threat or a statement of intent as it is a release valve. A way of saying to the universe (and my wife) that I’ve had enough thankyouverymuch. I’m all full up and the very idea of even one extra thing makes me want to sit down and cry. Preferably with no one sitting  in my lap or trying to “brush” my hair.

So, it’s been that kind of week. The lowlights include:

  • Two trips to the pediatrician.
  • One night in the ER.
  • Cancelled date night.
  • Yogi’s first trip to the dentist.
  • A night of intermittent tornado sirens requiring wee hours family togetherness in our (creepy) basement

Yeah. My wife and I had both been sick the previous week, so this week began with an extended game of family charades. We had both lost our voices and since nobody else around here can read we were left with a sad, frustrated kind of gesturing as our sole means of communication. Think charades with people who don’t have any idea how to play charades. Clearly we were off to a great start.

The Monk took an early week dive into the yuck when he spent so much of one day and night coughing and his breathing was so labored we decided he needed to be checked out. This decision was made on Monday at dinner time with an early morning peds call planned for the next day. With about 10 minutes left until bedtime Mr. Sick Boy took a header into the CD player. With all of his (not insubstantial) body weight. This guy has managed to injure himself in so many varied ways without even seeming to notice that I barely looked his way at first. But then….there was the blood. A lot of blood. And my wife saying “He needs a stitch” and both of them heading off to the emergency room. Leaving Yogi and I home to stew.

To be truthful, Yogi didn’t seem too concerned. In fact, he was mostly just excited that he could shine his flashlight directly on Monkey’s crib while he read his post-bedtime books. I had no idea that “don’t shine light in your brothers face while he is trying to sleep” expectation had been so limiting for him. I, of course, was another matter. Not only was my baby in a hospital being sewn back together, but I was also mentally preparing for the morning when Yogi would be meeting the dentist. The dentist!!!! For a normal person I’m thinking this might be a 3-4 on the anxiety jangle-meter. For me, it was a solid 12.

Blood, hospitals, needles in my baby’s head, the dentist, blood, unfamiliar hands/tools in Yogi’s mouth, stitches!!!

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to you, but the boys were just fine. Both of them. The Monk was drunk on baby Versaid by the time he returned with his new non-bleeding, stitched with four stitches forehead. He was feeling no pain. Yogi at the dentist did this Mama heart good. He wasn’t thrilled to be there, but he tolerated the various indignities that came his way. He was cool as a cucumber actually which is very far from what I expected. I came very near to over-hugging the entire staff on our way out. We had survived and they had helped us! In a supreme act of “knowing your partner”, my wife got away from the hospital and met us at the office so we made it a family affair. No one was entering into that fray alone.

After all of that, we FINALLY made it in to see about Monkey’s original ailment. The verdict? RSV, double ear infections and bronchiolitis. In regular people-speak, the kid was a mess. According to the doctor, Yogi would be right behind him. This bug was sparing no one. By Friday it was apparent that the doctor was right. Yogi was coughing and hacking and refusing anything like nourishment. I could convince them only of popsicles and even that took some tap dancing.

And then last night we got to hang out together in the basement. In the dark. With very loud and very scary sirens screaming outside. And wind. And coughing that makes its way into gagging. And fever. And accumulated fatigue from a long, hard week. And the most unexpected sweep of gratitude. Gratitude that these snotty, clammy, fussy people were mine. That if I have to have another week like that one, I hope I get to have it with them. There’s no rush though. Let’s not do it anytime real soon.

I Miss My Wife

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I miss my wife.

Last night when I settled into bed next to her sleeping self it occurred to me that we are on Day Three. Three nights of my running out of the house as soon as the boys are in bed and returning only after my wife has fallen asleep. Three nights without even the abbreviated connection that we’ve (mostly) settled into since becoming parents.

It’s been busy around here lately, but that’s not really so unusual. We are busy. Life is busy. Somehow in spite of our efforts to keep it simple and commit to only what truly matters and just take.it.slow the world continues to hurtle and spin both around and through us. A lot of it is wonderful, but it also makes me dizzy. Dizzy and disconnected.

Connection is one of my most favorite words. I love the way it sounds and even more, the way it feels. I crave it. There’s a high that comes from that moment of engagement, no matter how small. It can happen in the line at Target with the cashier or waiting for the boys at pick-up with another parent. All that’s required is two people tuned in to the same moment. It’s a little thing really, but even little things require attention. Perhaps they are in particular need of it.

There is so much to be done in every moment that it’s hard to create space for much beyond the doing. By the time I can really see my wife we have both been mauled (a tad dramatic, yes) by the day and there is still so very much to be done. We are tired and our tuners are half dead. I wish that this were different. I trust that it will be. Eventually.

For  now though, I just miss my wife. It’s Halloween with nothing but rain in the forecast so I’m looking forward to a whole lot of slow at my house tonight. No plans, no to-do lists. Just this family being together. And then after bedtime, just the Mommies. I’m going to tinker with my tuner this afternoon and see if I can get the thing going.

This being a grown-up thing is no joke.

A (partially) Superficial Break in the Silence

When things get loud on the inside, I have to get quiet on the outside. Balance, you know? It (mostly) works for me. So I ride these waves of outward, now inward, now outward again without ever really mastering the both-at-once. The little bit in, little bit out. Working on that one.

The awkward part of coming out of the inwardness is the how. What do you say when you’ve forgotten what your voice sounds like? Never knowing the answer to this one, I usually just keep quiet a bit longer. Well… not today. Today I’m using my voice to tell you two things that are very exciting.

The first is that my NOT having cancer is official! It’s so official that the doctor says my efforts are no longer needed. My body will go on NOT having cancer all by itself. No crazy person energy required!

The second is that my girlfriend (Abby Wambach) got married last weekend!!! May she and Sarah Huffman (lucky dog) have a long and lovely life together.

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How cute are they? And more importantly, when will they start having babies?!!

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In my hunt for wedding pictures (no luck) I stumbled on this gem. Swoon.

Sometimes I Forget

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As much as this family aims to keep it simple and take it slow, life has a way of getting complicated and also fast. Too fast. Faster than my own inner rhythm by a pretty significant measure. But this weekend we shifted out of our beloved weekend groove and got out of town. Just the four of us. It was wonderful and terrible and exhausting and rejuvenating all at once, as I’m learning to be the way of family travel. I could tell you plenty of stories about the terrible and the exhausting, but that’s not the real story of this weekend.

The real story is better than all of that. It’s about remembering something that I’m sad to say that I had forgotten too often in this last year. The real story is that I love my wife. I love her bigger and wider and deeper than I ever imagined possible. And as fun as it is to talk about how impossibly hot and freakishly smart she is and how hard she makes me laugh, the love doesn’t really have a whole lot to do with any of that. It has everything to do with the fact that I cannot imagine building this life and this family with anyone else.

This weekend reminded me of all of the ways that we fit together. I love those ways and I wish that the buzz-buzz-buzz of life didn’t distract me from them. I guess this would be one of the reasons that people go on so about travel. No matter how much you may adore your familiar little world, getting outside of it does allow you to see it in a different way. A refreshed way. And I’m grateful for that.

So, here’s to my wife. She just carries on being her beautiful self even when I’m too tired and self-involved to notice. And here’s to marriage in all of its drudgery and beauty. I’m deeply grateful for the fact that I get to share this life with her, even though sometimes I forget. It feels like home when I finally remember.

I Now Pronounce You Married!!!

After being actually married for almost five years, thanks to the great state of New York and super-trustworthy (and fun!) grandparents we are now legally married. This means that we have another anniversary, which I can’t help notice is a rearrangement of our actual anniversary. This is (of course) entirely coincidental.

September 13, 2008     09/13/08

August 9, 2013               08/09/13

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I can’t tell you that I feel more married or different in any significant way, but I can tell you that I couldn’t be happier that we did it.

First there is the matter of enjoying a romantic getaway with my wife which is just huge. After planning on two nights, thanks to a flight cancellation we spent three nights in a hotel without children. THREE NIGHTS! I think you get what I’m trying to say here. Ah the luxury. When we weren’t applying for the marriage license and actually getting married, we were walking all over the city (at our very own pace), eating delicious food, watching a movie (Blue Jasmine) in the afternoon, taking naps and talking without any interruptions. It’s hard to get away with kids this young, and we did miss them and we did worry, but it was so, so worth it. Little people are tough on a marriage and it felt wonderful (and frankly necessary) to reconnect.

Then there is the fact of the courthouse wedding, which is actually (I had no idea!) quite a fabulous thing. I’m sure the experience varies wildly depending on where you are in the country, but I loved ours. There was a fair amount of waiting, but it was the excited, eager kind of waiting. The best part was being surrounded by so many different kinds of couples with the same goal. There were gay couples and straight couples, young couples and older ones, folks who were dressed to the 9’s and others in shorts and flip-flops. I don’t even know how many languages I heard.

I’d never thought about sharing my wedding day before, but I think it was the sharing that I loved the most. The fact of all us coming from all of our separate places to this one spot where, couple after couple, we would say these most important words. Not together exactly, but certainly in a kind of community. It felt good and deeply right. There was a lot of goodwill and well wishes in the air. I love that.

And then there was our witness. You need to have a witness when you do a courthouse wedding and when you’re getting married in another state this isn’t necessarily easy. Although we know a few people in NYC, it is hardly our neck of the woods. But….my mother-in-law’s (I can say that in a way that is technically true now!) oldest and dearest friend lives in the city and we asked him to join us for the ceremony. Joe is someone I’ve heard about over the years, but we hadn’t met. I knew that Joe was in his 60’s, that he was gay, that he had been diagnosed with HIV almost twenty years ago and that he and his partner had been together almost as long as I had been alive. I knew all of those things, but I didn’t get the enormity of it until it crashed into me while we standing outside the chapel.

The three of us were huddled together outside the doors, quiet after all the catching up (my wife) and getting to know you (me). I looked over at Joe and our eyes just held. It was only a moment, but in that moment I felt the crushing weight of all the history that had brought us here. All the people who have hidden and suffered and died and rioted and gotten sick and been murdered and on and on and on. And how different my own life has been. Standing there I felt dizzy with all the things that have been possible for me that were never possible for Joe. That were never in the realm of possibility. It almost got me, the sad shame of all that loss. Almost, but not quite.

I’m certain there was a sadness in his eyes then, but there was happiness too. Joe was glad for us and for our boys and I’m sure for his own life as well. He smiled and took lots of terribly blurry pictures and clapped with an enthusiasm that made it easy to forget that there were only four people in the room. After the kiss he hugged us both and later that night he and his partner toasted us with Proseco and lots of good conversation.

It was perfect is what I’m trying to tell you. I can’t imagine a better wedding.