The Unplanned

Dear son,

A few days before you were born, your mom and I had a stressful morning.

I awoke that Thursday to the sound of freezing rain falling outside our Chicago condo. Normally, I love the sound of rain, even that of the freezing kind, especially when I’m lying in bed. That morning, though, I had to be out in Mokena for work, an hour outside the city, at 10am, and before that, I had to stop by my office to pick up some equipment. This was my early days as a real estate broker, and my work that day was to photograph a house with a camera that would build a 3-D model potential buyers could virtually walk-through online. Adults are very busy, and if we can do something from the comfort of our computer or phone instead of doing it in person, we’ll do whatever is necessary.

But before that photo shoot, your mom and I had an 8am appointment with our new family doctor, your doctor, our first appointment, a “meet and greet”.

This appointment had been shoehorned into our day; it was supposed to have been the Saturday before, but when we arrived at the doctor’s office that morning, we were told the doctor had cancelled earlier in the week, and because of a communication breakdown, your mom was never called and informed of this. This was to be your doctor, the doctor we would trust any time you were sick, or we thought you were sick, in the first years of your life, and that his office had dropped the ball first thing did not give us confidence.

An 8am appointment on a weekday wasn’t convenient. As it was, I was probably going to have to leave the appointment a little early to make it to Mokena on time, even if the doctor was on time himself, something we didn’t have faith in, because doctors run late, it’s a fact of life, and you’re just supposed to accept it, and this doctor didn’t even show up to the first appointment.

Now with the freezing rain, I felt pressure to leave the appointment even earlier.

Sure enough, the doctor was 20 minutes late to the appointment, with no explanation or barely an acknowledgement from his staff. We were just about to walk out when he arrived, just a few minutes after I repeated a question to your mom I had asked on Saturday – Was it too late to look for another doctor? Her answer was yes; of the few the midwife team recommended, he was the only one accepting new babies. And, according to Yelp!, the doctor really was good, scheduling issues aside. Yelp! then was just a website where people could go and rate businesses and service providers, such as doctors. This was before it also became a tool to rate individual people for every single interaction we have with each other throughout the day, and oh God, I hope that really isn’t a thing when you’re reading this, just the premise of a really good episode of Black Mirror, which maybe I have made you watch by now.

Anyway.

When the doctor finally showed up, he said all the things he was supposed to say. He apologized for being late, he had been doing rounds across the street. He answered the questions we had, and a couple we hadn’t thought to ask.

I left and your mom stayed for about another five minutes. When we talked later that night, we decided we were satisfied with staying with this doctor, at least through your birth.

***

I hope I manage to hide this from you most of the time, but a lot of things give anxiety. Near the top of that list of things are these:

  1. Driving in inclement weather.
  2. Being late.

As I drove away from the doctor’s office, I looked at how slow the traffic was moving, and I knew I was going to be at least a half-hour late for my 10am appointment. I called the broker listing the house I was photographing to let her know I’d be late, and all things considered with the weather, she was more than understanding. Most people are understanding when you communicate openly and honestly.

So now I didn’t feel so bad about being late. But then there was the driving. The roads weren’t bad driving out of the city, but about a half hour out, along I-80, I hit a stretch of road that was all but a solid sheet of ice. I slowed down to 20mph while the cars passing me in the left lanes were going at least 20 more than that.

There came this point when I felt the tires weren’t connecting with the asphalt at all, just ice, and I felt the car wanting to drift. Coming up in my driver’s side mirror was a semi-truck in next lane.

I said one curse word over and over again, in quick succession. In about three seconds, I imagined these events unfolding: I would drift into the left lane, and the semi-truck, unable to stop on the ice, when plow into me, tear that puny Hyundai Elantra apart, killing me in the process. Your mom would get the news at work later. In the hours and days that followed, she would work the timeline of events through her mind, remember the two text messages she had sent me a few minutes before, telling me her department at work had given us a very generous gift card on top of all the gifts they had given us at the baby shower the night before, and she would wonder if those texts were what had distracted me and caused the wreck. Then I imagined her devastated and grief-stricken, giving birth to you a few days later without me there, overwhelmed at the idea of raising a child on her own. I imagined you growing up without me getting to be there to see it.

All of that, in three seconds.

But then the car corrected itself, and the semi passed. A mile later, the ice gave way to more manageable slush. I eventually made it to my appointment, an hour late, but the residents were more than understanding. The house took almost four hours to shoot. Because of that and my lateness, I had to cancel an appointment I had later in the evening with a massage client. The client, too, was forgiving.

The work day turned out fine.

***

I called your mom after I dropped the equipment off back at the office. She had plans for dinner with friends after she left work, and I just wanted to say hello, but while I had her on the phone, I realized I had time to pick her and drive her to dinner. The restaurant was just a five minute walk from her work place, but getting to see her for just a few minutes would do my soul good. But then it turned out she had an hour to kill before her friends arrived, so we went to the restaurant early, and we had a bowl of soup and a Guinness (well, I drank the Guinness, your mom drank ginger ale) and discussed the doctor’s appointment and told each other about our days before I went home to let Jessica Jones out.

That unplanned hour, getting to share your mom’s company for a little bit, was the highlight of my day. The best moments in life are almost always the unplanned ones.

At home, I made a proper dinner, then I put together your stroller, drank a little whiskey, and watched Star Trek. Well, I tried to put your stroller together. Truth be told (and you are probably well aware of this by now), your mom is much better at those kind of things. So I got the stroller started, and she helped when she got home.

***

There’s a temptation to take scary moments like when I thought I was going to drift into the semi’s path and try to spin them into a life-changing moment, some great lesson about not sweating the small stuff and embracing what’s important in life. The truth is, most people have the tendency to sweat the small stuff a lot, but moments come along every once in a while to remind you how precious life is, how special the little, unplanned moments are, and you’re grateful for the reminder, but then life wears away at you until you forget, and you need to be reminded again. A repeating cycle, a lesson learned over and over.

And that’s okay. It’s a lesson I’ll teach you as you grow up, but I’m pretty sure you will teach it to me much, much more.

 

 

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