BREAKING: I’m going to be a dad.
Yes. A father. In the non-profit industry of responsibility, it’s a promotion. The promotion. Starting in August, a mewling seven-or-so pounds of helpless squirming pink will be in my hands. My wife and I will be responsible for every move it – yes, “it,” we won’t know the gender until next month – makes, for helping it navigate its life story. All while the world – strangers and family and friends alike – watches from afar and – consciously or not – judges our performance. Just like we used to. You know, with all those “other people’s kids.”
Did you know irony tastes like panic? A neurotic kick with not-so-subtle notes of anxiety.
Yes, sleepless nights and panic-filled days are beginning to stir, but I still could not be more delighted. I hope you’ll indulge me over the next few months, let me pen my moments of eagerness and uncertainty in an effort to assemble this 1,000-piece puzzle of first-time fatherhood.
If this were a comic book, it’d be an origin story. We’re still in the prologue phase. Kal-El has just escaped Krypton safely, is still hurtling through the lonely stretch of space in a little ship. Earth is a blue dot on the horizon.
And somewhere on its surface, two first-time parents are waiting.
Issue No. 1: Patience
The first three months of my wife’s first pregnancy have been a parable about patience, an animation of someone drumming their fingers while steam pours out their ears.
When she found out back in December, – when the story “broke,” as they say – she had to wait to tell me. I was sick. (see also: pretty much dying). The bug I’d caught was some destructive hybrid of ebola and the virus from ‘Walking Dead.’ I lost nine pounds in four days and spent a majority of that period twitching and writhing on the floor like I’d just gone cold turkey on heroin.
But, as most people with functioning immune systems are apt to do, I improved. My wife told me she wanted to start the weekend off by heading to National Creek Falls, up near Union Creek and Crater Lake. It’s a secluded spot, accessible via hiking trail. A large waterfall hisses in one corner while a perpetual mist blankets the air. Creeks trickle happily nearby.
I asked my wife to marry me at the spot. That should have been my first clue. The second was that she said I should bring my video camera to do some nature filming.
That was a ruse. We’d only been there a few minutes when she had me set it up on a tripod and told me she wanted to give me an early Christmas present. Cool, I thought. As instructed, I got in front of the lens and closed my eyes and felt something rectangular press into my upturned hands. I heard the “BINK” of the camera beginning to record, the whir of the tape.
“Open your eyes,” my wife said.
I did, saw the picture frame and flipped it over.
Remember that scene in “It’s a Wonderful Life” where Mary cross-stitches the “George Lassos The Moon” picture for him? That picture stared back at me, only “George” was crossed out, replaced with “Ryan.” “The Moon” was also crossed out, replaced by the words “a stork.” It took me a few seconds. Then a quiet synapse in my brain ignited. Ghostly hands twisted once-disconnected wires of comprehension together.
I screamed the word “WHAT?” I looked up at her and said, “Are you…”
She nodded eagerly, grinning. She was six weeks along at that point. I hugged her and told her I’d never been so happy or scared in my life. I meant it. We codenamed the tiny mass of cells “Chip,” because it was the size of a chocolate chip when she told me.
Six days later, on Christmas day, we showed the footage to her parents. They thought they were just watching a little nature video I’d whipped together. My mother-in-law had a meltdown. She stamped her feet and grabbed her face as it went red and tears poured down. Joker-caliber laughter boomed in their living room.
My mom cried too when we told my family over Skype, hugged my sister who just looked stunned. My dad smiled and his face went pensive as he journeyed to the Land of Overanalysis/Nostalgia, a popular destination resort for first-time grandparents.
My brother. Lord, my brother. His reaction started with a proclamation that he “KNEW IT.” He put his face right into the computer’s camera and blocked out everyone else. He decided “Chip” should be called “Gunner” – regardless of gender – and could not stop grinning.
A list. He sent me a list of names.
The opus of reactions was a late-in-the-day Christmas present for me.
An agreed-to public announcement embargo of Feb. 14 has passed now, and my family did it without slipping. Not to say there weren’t moments of pleading to break their collective vow of silence earlier. That’s inevitable.
People just have to share good news, I think. Bad news is easier to bottle and store, forget about. Good news comes gushing from taps into foam-topped pints we down with gusto before slamming them down on the counter and bellowing for more.
Issue by issue
That’s all for now, I think. I’m closing this first issue and putting it back in its protective cover.
I wonder if comic book writers get frustrated at having to see their story unfold in courses, that their audience can’t see their completely-realized tale all at once. Because, frankly, I’m there right now. When it comes to my first kid, its health and my wife’s health as she keeps it warm and nourished and growing, I almost want a spoiler alert. To know. If only to stop shaking that Magic 8 Ball and continually watching the message come up “Cannot Predict Now.”
My brain has probed some odd places lately when it comes to Chip. I wonder what its voice will sound like, what it will look like, how it will sound when it cries. What it will be afraid of. What it will be enthralled by.
Even silly things, components like whether it will be a Broncos fan like me or side with my wife and her Packers on Sundays, whether it will even care about football. Whether comics will be a vital part of its life’s lexicon, or if it will politely request I not wear superhero shirts out in public.
So many questions and dreams. More than I’ve ever had.
But it has to be this way, I suppose. Anything that requires process and patience has to be among the upper echelon of what matters. Homemade lasagna from scratch takes almost a full day of preparation for a reason. ‘Lord of the Rings’ is not a short story on purpose. ‘Breaking Bad’ is a story that can’t be told as a two-hour movie intentionally.
For Chip, for my Kal-El, the journey to Earth is going to take time. The 1,000-piece puzzle is going to be assembled at a tortoise’s pace. The story will told in chapters, in single issue comic books. Not full volumes. Not in weekend Netflix binges.
I’ll try to savor each issue, Chip. Please forgive the restlessness I exhibit along the way.
I’m just so excited to meet you.