How do you become a father? It sounds like a ridiculous question. Way back in prehistoric times when Jack was a wee lad the question was asked by the older brother of a friend. He answered with a cackle, “stick it in and bounce up and down.”
I think I was about seven or eight. Can’t say that I remember for certain. But I know that I didn’t have a clue what to stick where or how you were supposed to bounce while doing that. I didn’t ask either. Funny to think of it, but by then I already knew that sometimes you nodded your head and pretended that you understood whatever was being discussed.
Flash forward a few decades. I am 30 years old and in the process of trying to get the wife pregnant. For years this has been verboten. Much effort has been expended in trying to practice the bouncing up and down and a few prayers have been uttered in the hope that the miracle of life doesn’t happen this time.
It is a strange feeling, this trying to get pregnant thing. I have heard stories from friends who are unable to get to pregnant that I need to relax. One of them tells me that he hates having sex. I look at him with wide eyes and ask why. He tells me that they have been trying forever and the wife is losing her mind.
She has implemented a regimented schedule for sex and is having trouble sleeping because that thing that we didn’t want to happen in college won’t happen now. I look at him and ask if he is serious. He tells me that when they first started trying it was like manna from heaven. He couldn’t provide enough servicing and that somehow heaven has turned into hell.
I hear other stories that are similar and a bunch in which I am told that all he had to do was look at her and nine months later a baby would pop out.
It is all a bit disconcerting, but I am excited about it. I figure that everyone is different and I will just have to see what happens. As it works out it doesn’t take all that long. In fact, we get the news one day before we leave on a trip.
The airport makes me think that I am starring in a movie. Kids are screaming and parents are scrambling. Wives are yelling at their husbands to help or get something out some bag. I am not scared. Grew up in a house full of kids with parents who seemed to know what they were doing.
Still, I am wound up. I know that this time I have jumped off the cliff for real and am trying to learn how to fly before I hit the bottom.
Days later I am standing in the middle of Manhattan holding my oldest nephew. He is little, just an infant. I hold him in front of me and stare at him. He stares back.I ask him to tell me a story and he burps. I ask him if that is the best that he’s got and he gurgles.
I put him in his stroller and we cross the street. A car comes perilously close and I yell at the driver. My sister screams at me about being in New York and that people are crazy. I stare at her and ask when L.A. turned into podunk.
I am streetwise. I am 5’10 two hundred something pounds and I will not let anyone hurt my nephew. At that moment it occurs to me that if I feel this strongly about protecting my nephew it is only going to get more interesting when my kid arrives.
On a side note I look at my sister and tell her to push the damn stroller. They don’t build them with men in mind, at least not normal sized men. Later on I find out that my friend who is 6’2 has an extension put on his stroller so that it is more comfortable to push around.
Flash forward a bit and my son has arrived. He is small enough to fit in my arms like a football. The two of us are alone in the condo we live in. I am telling him stories about anything and everything. I ask him how long I have to wait for him to talk so that I understand what he wants, tell him that it is true that the world can be his.
He takes a nap in my arms and I think about how crazy this is. Not so long before one of his great grandfathers tells me that you never stop worrying about your children. I say something like “really” and he starts laughing, tells me that even though my father is in his fifties he worries about him.
My son and I sit on the couch, or should I say that I sit on the couch and listen to him snore in my ear. I stare off into space and wonder what the future is going to be like. Who will he grow up to be and how will I help him get there.
It feels like a lifetime since those days and yet he is still young and there is so much left to do and to learn. And that is the underlying lesson and message of this post, I am a father. I am a good father, but I am still learning how to do it.