Archive for February, 2011

Dear Evan: How I Met Your Mother, Part Two

February 23rd, 2011

Dear Evan:

One of the reasons I’m writing these letters is because memory fades so quickly. I remember the signposts, the major events that studded the story of my courting Laura, but right now, as I stare at this blank page, the order confuses me. I turn those signposts into, to abruptly switch metaphors, puzzle pieces: If I said that to her then, I must have said this other thing later, or before. You understand. Your mommy’s already corrected my memories of your early scares (it was just eight days, apparently, that you were at the first hospital, when to me it feels like weeks) so I hope she’ll be able to fill in the blurred spots in this story.

I will admit to you that I overthink almost everything. The morning after the first kiss I shared with your mother, I wondered what had happened. After all, I lived in Chicago, and she lived in Texas, and that’s a huge distance to overcome. Distance was on my mind that morning; we — the new bride and groom, family, friends — went to breakfast, and Laura showed up late. I didn’t realize then how much she values sleeping in, what an effort it must have been to even get to the restaurant. She was half-asleep, but I took it as standoffishness. No, that’s not really a word. Pretend it is.

I kept my distance, then, but later that day I did manage to exchange phone numbers with her, and then it was back to Dallas, and to the airport, and arriving in Chicago.

I didn’t forget Laura. I mentioned her in letters I sent to your Auntie Em while she (your aunt, not your mother) was going through Air Force officers’ training. I called Laura once, from a street fair, trying to meet up with your Aunt Rachel, then her roommate. What I think is most important is what happened during one of my regular trips to Los Angeles for work. A co-worker there was your mother’s twin. The resemblance was uncanny, really. I stared at the poor woman, and finally explained that she resembled my sister’s best friend. Huh, resembled. Was a clone of. I texted that to your mother, from a pretentious bar at the site of an abandoned power station, that I’d met her clone in L.A. She wrote back that there was nothing like the real thing, and that broke the ice.

Fast-forward a few months, when your Auntie Em successfully lobbied for me to fly down to float the Guadalupe River with her, your Uncle Chris, their friend Lizzie and… your mother, of course. I admit it, I was nervous. I shouldn’t have been. The weekend went great; I was charming, apparently, and your mother and I shared another kiss or three. She kept close to me on the river, holding onto my foot for some of the time, testing to see whether I’m as ticklish as my sister. (I am.) She drove me back to Austin the night before my flight back. We talked during the entire drive, stopped at one of her favorite restaurants, had dinner and margaritas. It all felt right.

She had to leave early the next day to finish her drive to Denton, so I spent the time waiting for the SuperShuttle thinking about how to get back to Texas. From that night, I knew I was done in Chicago. I was coming home.

We talked daily after that, sometimes for hours, sometimes for seconds. Sometimes only by exchanging voicemails. It didn’t matter. The universe was already setting things in motion, or had before, but I was too oblivious, too smitten to notice. By the end of that year, I’d been handed a reason to move back to Texas, and I took it. But that’s another story.



Temporary derailed

February 22nd, 2011

Something was Wrong.

Nothing was wrong when I was dreaming, or in that half-sleep that comes between Evan’s 2 a.m. breakfast and when I wake for real. Nothing was wrong when my cellphone’s alarm went off, when I reached out and tapped the Dismiss part of the screen. Something was Wrong when I opened my eyes and my vision slid sickeningly to the left. I closed them, and the spinning persisted, then opened them, and scanned from the wall beside my half of the bed to the bed itself, my legs still covered in what felt to be sweat-slicked sheets, to the crib at the foot of the bed and the sleeping boy within, to the lump next to me.

I tried to stand, reached out a hand and braced myself against the wall. I couldn’t do it with my eyes open.

Laura made concerned noises. I forced myself up, and the feeling subsided, but only a little. I stumbled into the bathroom, thought for a long while, experimented, tried to fight the vertigo, vomited messily into the shower. Washing up helped, but (again) only a little. The first phenigran was promptly vomited (into the toilet this time); the second stayed put, and I slept. When I woke, the dizziness had receded.

It’s only happened once before in my life, but it scares me. I have no idea what happened, but it’s since passed.

In its wake, I was temporarily derailed. I’ve only done a quarter of my third draft of my second novel, based on very generous readers who donated time to what I hope will prove sellable. (Saleable? I hate that phrasing.) I got my taxes done, which is great, but not much else on my to-do list. Derailed. I hate the feeling. I hate the waste of the day, as yesterday turned out to be. I hate that I spent so much of it in medicated sleep instead of crossing items off my to-do list.

Today, back on the rails.

Dear Evan: Some Scares (So Far)

February 18th, 2011

Dear Evan:

I haven’t really finished telling you how I met your mother — or rather, I told you how we met, but not how I courted her — but I want to set aside that happy story and instead tell you about two times you gave us a scare.

Right now, you’re almost a week away from being four months old, and while your premature arrival puts you really at two months old (think that’s weird reckoning, try being born Feb. 29), you’re strong and healthy and getting fat rolls on your ankles and legs. Let’s not talk about the multiple chins. Your mother coos over them, so thrilled at your progress.

We both are. Don’t take this the wrong way, but when you were born, you looked like an alien, all chin and stretched neck and spindly limbs. You were, I have to say, remarkably developed, especially in lung capacity. The doctors warned us you’d need a ventilator; you came out crying and never needed a machine to breathe for you.

I’m dancing around the topic of this letter, aren’t I? It’s easier to think of the good, even if the bad has passed. So: The first scare, the first real scare, not some creeping worry about your health, came a little more than a week after your birth. You were in the NICU, and Laura was still recovering in a room nearby. Maybe it was two weeks. I don’t remember, exactly, and that’s the great thing about stress. It’s unbearable when you’re in it, but when you’re not? Anyway. I do remember rushing down multiple halls, so we were outside the actual Delivery suite.

The phone rang, and it was Miss Charlene, and now even her name is fading from my memory just three months and change later. She was our favorite of your nurses at Denton Presby, very smart, very calm, very willing to explain everything and anything. That’s why my heart fell when she said “How quickly can you get here?”

I hung up and paused. You were dying. I was sure the nurse wanted me to come see you one last time. Laura was still drugged up; no time to wrestle her into a wheelchair (she still couldn’t walk well, thanks to the emergency surgery). It’d have to be just me, so I rushed down the halls, through the sets of locked doors. I scrubbed as fast as I could, then burst into the NICU. I must’ve looked awful, because all of the nurses gave me quizzical looks.

“I wanted to know whether you wanted to hold him,” Miss Charlene said, and so I did, relieved.

The second scare was an actual emergency, so I’m not inclined to linger on the details. You were sick. Laura had found hard swollen lumps on your cheeks, and they were so painful you couldn’t sleep. The nurses kept a close eye out, but your doctor was stumped. He took blood. (You were a pincushion in those days.) He tried to get samples. he gave courses of antibiotics, hoping to get lucky and kill it. Nothing worked.

I remember one particular visit of mine, when I sat next to your incubator crib, not even able to reach a hand in and touch you. (We did that often, and you’d hold one of our fingers, the very tip, in your tiny paw while we talked.) You had been through so much. “You’ll be strong like Daddy,” I said, over and over, trying to will my own very effective immune system into your teensy frame. “You’ll get better quick.” My lip trembled. Miss Charlene tried to come talk to me, and it was all I could do to answer some basic questions without bawling. I made it out of public, at least, before I did that, before I broke down. I was just so scared.

It wasn’t all bad. You were stable — the infection was stalled, at least, by the attention — but your doctor decided you’d do better at a hospital specializing in children. It was an easy decision to make. Your mommy rode with you in the ambulance there.

I may be misremembering events again, because you were taken almost immediately to surgery upon arrival at Cook Children’s in Fort Worth. So, I’m not sure when they discovered you had a drug-resistant strain of MRSA, a staph infection. It must have been quickly, because I don’t remember having time to be even as scared as at Miss Charlene’s call. Bam-bam-bam: You were through surgery, where the fluid was drained, the wound cleaned, antibiotics administered. And that was that. You recovered, though you stayed at Cook for weeks getting bigger and stronger.

It’s humid and gray outside my office window right now, and I’m thinking about the work to be done today but really wishing I were home. You sleep so well when I hold you, fat and warm and comfortable, breath heavy with the milk smell. There may be more scares ahead, but right now, all is well.



The ol’ self-image mambo

February 16th, 2011

I don’t know what I look like.

Oh, I know in general terms: pasty, dark brown hair, gray bits in the sideburns, green eyes. And that’s it. Am I fat? I feel fat, but then I look at someone with a big pot belly and think, I work out almost every day. Am I maybe just seeing myself as fat because I was rail-thin for so long? Am I handsome? I don’t feel handsome, but then I look at my former romantic partners and think, While I prefer women who enjoy substance, surely they can’t all have been dating me for my wit and wisdom.

Once upon a time, I tried to explain to an ex-girlfriend. She stared at me as if I were crazy. “Play along with me,” I pressed. “When we’re walking down the street, and you see someone who looks like me, let me know.”

I can see other people. I can draw them. Actually, I worry that I stare at them too long, memorizing their features, sketching them on a mental sheet of paper, taking aesthetic pleasure in their appearances no matter whether they’re actually what we think of as beautiful. My spirits were high after that conversation: I could see other people so well, once the ex pointed out someone similar, I could apply that template over my own self-image!

She never spoke up, and soon we were apart. I haven’t asked anyone since.