November 23, 2010
My first and only kid was born two years ago, and I almost didn’t live to see him. A month before he hatched, a jumbo brain tumor knocked me unconscious. I turned blue and was legally dead for a few moments before my eight-months-pregnant wife applied mouth-to-mouth. An ambulance came, hospital workers shoved my head inside that awful MRI tube, then the doctor man sawed open my skull to remove a fistful of ick that had been growing for two decades.
So my son was born into chaos, but his birth was no accident. The summer before he popped out naked and screaming, his mother and I deliberately tossed her packet of birth-control pills out of our car while barreling down I-75 north of Atlanta. All that summer and fall I kept shooting until I hit the bull’s-eye, and by November 2007 mama was with child.
I was in the operating room when the little man entered this big world. As they wheeled his mommy away to stitch and clean her up, I cradled him alone near his incubator, rocking him back and forth and singing to him as his tiny pink hand clutched onto one of my fingers.
His bad luck is that fate handed him a crazy dad to explain why the world is so crazy. His good luck is that his crazy dad loves him like crazy.
He has my eyes, nose, mouth, and oversized head. Like me, he laughs out loud at inappropriate times. I suspect that like me, he was also born expecting the world to be fair.
I”ll turn fifty next summer before he turns three. Right now it’s all about the toys and the bubble wands and the bright colors and the big balloons. It’s the DayGlo lumps of Play-Doh and the eye-scorching TV cartoon shows. It’s the nicknames I call him such as Li’l Mr. Monkey, Squinty McGinty, and Gooney Bird. It’s the goofy-ass songs I make up and sing to him such as “Pig Man” and “Babytown.”
He’s been the Boy in the Love Bubble for two years running. What rips his mom and dad’s hearts to pieces is knowing that one day soon, we’ll be forced to pop the bubble and send him out there.
And that will be the grandest and most delicate task I”ve ever faced”explaining to this tireless and bright-eyed little guy how painful, vicious, filthy, cruel, base, sick, despicable, unjust, shallow, and insane this world can be…without fucking up his head in the process of explaining it all. I”ll have to explain some fucked-up things about my life…without fucking him up.
Sooner or later, someone will be mean to him. Someone will disappoint him. Someone will make him cry. And I”ll have to strain with every fiber not to stomp the perpetrator into oblivion.
Pretty soon he”ll be asking questions about the world around him. How do you explain the Dark Side to a toddler? What do I tell him about nuclear weapons and Islamic beheadings and AIDS? What sort of spin do I put on the fact that some people can”t see, hear, walk, or wipe themselves? How do I let him know that most folks are liars? Do I avoid telling him, depending on which doctor you ask, that his own dad might be dead before he’s in junior high?