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Your Mom’s Old Apartment

Dear Harrison,

I was showing an apartment tonight to a couple of potential renters, and found myself just a block away from the apartment building your mom lived in when we first started dated. Just a little over a block away from there was Parrots, her neighborhood bar.

Our second or third-and-a-half date was there. Half because that night was really her birthday party, a lot of other people were there too, one an ex-boyfriend of hers who was still holding out hope they might get back together. I didn’t know that at the time.

But they obviously didn’t get back together, lucky for you and me.

Your mom and I had our first kiss in front of her apartment building. It was at the end of our first date. We had had a few drinks.

I said to her, “I think I want to see you again.”

She said, “I think I want to kiss you.”

And so we did. We then said goodnight, and I caught the bus home.

Depending on when you’re reading this, it might weird you out a little bit to hear about you mom’s and my first kiss. But before we were Mom and Dad, we were just Betsy and Dennis, two people who went into the evening thinking our date was going to be a couple of polite drinks before telling our mutual friend, Aunt Annie – who introduced us, and I’m sure she’s reminded you of that more than once – thanks, but no thanks.

But lucky for you and me, that’s not how the night went.

One day, when you’re a little older, I’ll tell you the whole story about our date that night.

Love you, son.

-Dad

Snippets from Early June, 2018

Dear son,

Often times, I’ll pull out my phone and record some video of you. The act of being able to quickly take a video, it’s all normal for you, and it’s normal for me too, but I also remember being 18-years-old and paying over $200 for a thing called a camcorder – a big, bulky, cumbersome piece of equipment that was much less convenient to carry around – just so I could capture video when I wanted. A portable video camera you can carry around in your pocket is still a little miracle for me at times, and incredibly common for you. By the time you read this, years from now, even the device I’m using to record these moments will be considered archaic.

Anyway, here are some random moments from early June, 2018.

 

One Year and a Month Old

Dear son,

You’re over a year-old now. Almost 13 months.

We threw a party for you a week after your birthday, in the back room of The Grafton, an Irish pub in Chicago your mom and I love. There was a lot of snow on the ground, and even more coming down that day, but our friends were still able to make it. Your grandma was even able to make it from Michigan, although at the last minute, because her train was delayed for a long time. You had a power nap on the way, and you slept in your carseat while your Mom and I decorated. Your mom went above and beyond with balloons and paper streamers, and party favors consisting of suckers, and rubber duckies, and a sticker of your smiling face on each little bag.

You woke up just as people were starting to arrive, and you were grumpy for the first hour or so, and clung to me or Mom more or less, when you’re usually very amiable about being passed around.

But then we lit the candle on your cake, the banana cake your mom made for you because you love bananas, and everyone gathered around and sang “Happy Birthday”, and you were surprised by all the attention on you, but not scared. I blew out the candle for you (Daddy needs to get back to the gym, it took a couple of tries!), and after that, you seemed to realize that all of this was for you, and you started having a great time and being playful with everyone.

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The party went on for a few hours, and then we drove home and a woman yelled at me out her apartment window for stealing her “dibs” spot on the street.

Such is life in Chicago.

***

You stayed home sick from daycare today. You have an ear infection, and you had a fever yesterday and through the night. But you woke up this morning with no fever, in a much better mood. We maybe could have sent you to daycare, but I had already arranged to not work today, so you and I spent the day together while your mom worked, and then went to “healing circle” with some co-workers, a gathering of different holistic practitioners who over their services in shorter, “sample” sessions. Your mom needed the recharge. The last time she had planned to go to one of these nights, a few months ago, we got word that day your first daycare, Rainbow Brite, was closing unexpectedly, and instead of her going to her healing circle and me sitting in a pub to work while your babysitter, Suzanna, looked after you, your mom and I went to a pub together and took advantage of the all-you-can-eat Friday fish and chips and freaked out and figured out what do to. That was a scary few days, but it worked out, and now you go to Ms. Lety’s place, and you love it there, and one of women who work there, Lissette, calls you her boyfriend, and your mom and I don’t know how we feel about that, but she adores you, and you light up when she answers the door every morning.

But anyway, you stayed home from daycare today, and we spent the day together. This is the longest you and I have spent together without mommy. We hung out in the morning, and ran some errands in the afternoon. We took a short walk with Jessica in the early evening, and then dinner and bedtime.

Bedtime was rough. You did not want to go down, and I tried everything – medicine, more water, more milk, more food. You were having none of it. I finally caved and texted your mom for ideas, and just when she was about to leave, you finally fell asleep, and now I’m writing this.

***

How does it feel to be your dad? I still feel like I’m becoming him. It still doesn’t feel real. I expect one day to wake up and it’s just me and your mom, and you were never born, some cruel joke, because I was never meant to be a parent, never to be trusted with that responsibility. In this scenario of mine, I wake up and not even Jessica Jones is around because I can’t be trusted to care for even a pet. I still feel every day like I’m just doing my best, and that best is barely enough. When it’s just you and me without mom in public together – like today, at Target – I expect someone to come walking up to me and ask if you belong to me, I can’t be your dad, because who would trust me to be a parent?

But then, I am also filled with a joy being your dad I’ve never experienced before. It’s sometimes said that parents come to love their children more than they love their own spouse. I don’t love you more than I love your mom. My love for you is a different kind that feels more profound, perhaps, because I’ve never felt anything like it before.

And I can’t wait to see how that itself grows in the coming weeks, months, and years.

I love you,

Dad

What You Owe Us

Dear son,

I was feeding you dinner tonight while Mom was out having a celebratory drink with her colleagues from work; they had a big win this week, her particularly.

It was a four-course meal: White cheddar cheese, peach cubes, peas, and banana.

You’ve gotten into this game the last couple of weeks where you like to give your food away. Sitting in your high chair, you like to hold pieces of toast down for Jessica Jones to snatch, who is glad to come back again and again.

Tonight, you started holding your peas out to me. The first one, you snatched back and put in your own mouth, but then the second and third, you put in mine, giggling all the way.

These words slipped past my lips: “May I live to be an age that you have to feed me one day.”

A thought. A prayer.

It’s one that nearly brought me to tears. I was 37 when you were born. That’s not particularly old, but yes, I often wonder how many years I have with you, if I will get to live to be the age to see you have your own children, if that’s the path your life takes. I want to see the circle of life fully come around, and reach the age I need caring for, to see as much of your life as I can.

But then I started overanalyzing it all as I am so often prone to overanalyzing everything, and I want you to know, I really don’t want you to ever have to feed me. I don’t want you to ever feel you have to do anything for me, or your mom. This is something she and I have talked about a few times. We never want to be a burden to you.

If we’re lucky enough to get to old age, let the nursing home staff feed us and change our diapers, and listen to me tell the same stories over and over again. We brought you into this world, but we want you to know you owe us nothing other than going out, making your mark, and being a good human to others.

No more, no less.

Love you, kid.

-Dad