Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Strain during the 'cane

(I’m getting better with my Daily News/NY Post-esque sensationalistic titles, don’t you think?)

2 weeks ago my wife and I had another ultrasound for the kid. This was the 20 week biggie (although it was really more like 21), where they take a lot of measurements and can even tell you the sex of the child if you want (we don’t). So after they checked the tires, changed the oil and cleaned her windshield, the doctor told us that my wife’s fluid level was a bit low. She has to change one of her meds and come back in two weeks for a follow up. Good news mixed with a little worry, but hopefully nothing major.

A few days later I get a call from my step-father, checking in and making sure everything is going ok. He’s a great guy, and I genuinely enjoy talking with him. It’s a nice contrast talking to him versus my mom, who isn’t very personable and likes to keep things basic and superficial. You know how it goes, the mom who asks how you’re doing but really wants to tell you how bad things are for her. You get the chance to say some things, but it feels like what you say just isn’t heard. With my step-dad it’s like talking to someone who’s generally interested in what you have to say, and you have a good back and forth with him.

Pre-baby we were likely to talk to each other once every few months, and that only varied if there was a holiday, birthday or some other special event. That’s changed to some degree now that the baby is on the way. I looked at this as a chance to maybe get a little deeper than talking about the weather, a chance to bond over her experiences being a parent and mine in becoming one. There’s been a tiny bit of that, but things are going back to the way they were in terms of frequency. The last time I had spoken with her was probably a few weeks prior to this ultrasound.

A couple days after talking to my step-father I get an email from my mom: “Where are the new pictures of my grandchild?????” No “hello.” No “How are you doing?” Not even a “How’s the weather out there?” If she had asked that last one, I wouldn’t have even questioned this email. Things are fine! A bit breezy, but… However, I got pretty pissed about the fact that she couldn’t even fake interest in how we were doing. She just needed to see those pics. Little was written, but a lot was said in my mind. So I sent her the pictures stating, by the way, that my wife and I were fine. I got a response saying, “I know. I spoke to your father.”

This pretty much set me off. How could she not even fake interest in our well-being? I didn’t get a response that claimed she was absentminded about us due to her excitement over her grandchild. I got a response that said, “I heard about you from someone else, so I don’t need to bother asking myself.” I know it was only a couple of days in between the call with my step-father and her email, but c’mon! Sadly, I have to even wonder why I got worked up over this, because it’s really par for the course. I guess I just had a little hope that things might go differently now that the kid is on the way.

Over the next day or two, New York started getting a little worried about Irene making her way through town. The news channels were warning of her arrival, and telling us what to do in order to prepare. A number of people I spoke to at my job told me of how their parents called to see if they were ok. Some even had their parents saying to hop on the next available flight and just wait for things to die down here. All I could say was, “I haven’t heard anything from my family.” My wife’s parents called and emailed, making sure we had supplies and that our apartment would be ok. Even though I expected to hear from them, it was really great to hear of their concern for our safety. It felt good to know people were worried about me. I felt loved.

Then on Saturday morning, the day before Irene was supposed to hit us, I got a text. I was at the gym when I heard the familiar tone. I looked at my phone and couldn’t believe my eyes. My real father, the guy whose DNA I share, wanted to make sure we were ok and prepared. I hadn’t spoken to him in 2 years, and about 15 years prior to that. He has his own family, 2 kids in college and a business to run. Yet he cared enough to check in on us. It took me by surprise, for sure. But damn it felt good. I even ended up calling and talking to him for a while. And just like with my step-father, it was a real conversation. He gave me some tips on hurricane prep, and I caught him up to speed with our end. I still have lots of questions about what happened with his marriage to my mother, and he’s willing to share his memories with me in time. I think I’m ready to hear about it. We’ll see.

Later that night, around 8 or so, my mom finally calls. It’s a brief conversation, mainly because I’m pretty short with her. I want to think there was concern in her voice, I want to think that she was worried for us. I’m sure she was, but it was veiled in questions about what we were doing to prepare and what the news was saying. She wanted me to keep her posted, I told her we might lose power and I’d have to conserve my battery. Her response was reiterating that I should keep her posted.

In the end, we made it through Irene with power and very little damage to our block. A few trees down here and there, but mostly just leaves and branches in the streets and sidewalks. We got lucky, and I’m thankful for that. I’m also thankful for the opportunity to learn how to prepare for something like this. I would never have thought to freeze water in Tupperware and use it to keep our refrigerated food cold if the power went out. It was nice to work together with my wife to make sure we had supplies and were prepared as much as we could be.

The other thing I learned from this experience is how differently I would have acted towards my own child if this happened to them. I want to keep tabs on them until the day I die. If I hear that there’s going to be a stampede of hamsters in his/her town, I’m going to call and email and make sure they’re ok and ready to kick some hamster butt. Or just stay safely out of the way, whichever they choose to do. I don’t want a strained relationship, I don’t want my child to not want to talk to me or have me in their life. So in a way I’m thankful for how my mom has been. At first I was upset and frustrated, but that changed to introspection and the desire to be a better parent. I guess that circle of life shit is actually pretty true. You try to give your kid what you didn’t have, learn from your parent’s mistakes and try not to mess the kid up too much. Here’s hoping I can do even a bit of that.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

12 years

This past Sunday marked the 12th anniversary of my marriage to my favorite person in the world. 12 years! And I'm 35, which means we've been married for our entire adult lives. Some find this commendable, while others couldn't imagine being married that young. I'm pretty much astounded that I've held someone's interest for so long. I'm not really that interesting, am I?

We got married right out of college, mostly because we were infatuated with each other, but also because of the timing. We were planning on moving to Japan to teach English as a second language, and we knew if we waited too long we'd lose touch with a lot of our friends. College creates incredibly strong bonds with people, but life directly after you graduate can be frustrating, demanding and may force you to move on in many ways. Seriously, who wants to find a real job and become and adult after you've just spent 4 years at the best summer camp, I mean learning institution, ever?

So we moved to Japan and had one of the best life experiences we've ever...experienced? Had? You get the point. I'll save the details for another post, however it is a time we cherish to this day and we hope to visit again in the future. The important part is, my new wife and I were living on our own, and in a foreign country! Talk about jumping into the deep end right away. But when you're young, fearless and taking it on together, it seems like anything is possible. Ok, it helped that there was a McDonald's right down the street. And that the menu was in English, and the people who worked there tried really hard to practice their English on us. What were we supposed to do, not talk back? Plus, McDonald's in another country is actually good. Trust me.

Moving back to the States was a challenge. We had no home, no jobs and we were in culture shock after living in a country where a large soft drink was meant for two people, not one. So we took what we could find and just started winging it. Neither of us had a clue what we wanted to do with our lives when we were in college, so that didn't really give us much direction. We were also inexperienced at living on our own, paying bills regularly and living like a married couple. Japan was kind of like a long working vacation, but now we were forced to get serious and get on with our lives.

After a few year-long stints at various companies, we settled down for a while in my wife's hometown. My wife got a job working at the same company her father was at, and I quickly jumped ship from the retail gig I had and joined her. Picture this: you wake up and see your wife, get ready for work together while griping about having to go there, drive to work together, pass each other in the building you both work in, take lunch together and complain about work, go back to work, drive home while complaining about work and then spend the rest of the night avoiding each other because you've done nothing but see each other all day! Wow that's a long sentence.

We spent lots of time together, but not necessarily "together." When the only thing you really have to bond over is how much you like or dislike a co-worker, that should send up a signal flare that things need a-fixin.' We didn't really see this, and it drove a wedge between us. So what is the most logical course of action to try and remedy a problem such as this? Therapy? Wait, I know, move to New York City!

Our life in Japan made us realize that we needed something bigger than the Midwestern lives we grew up with. 2 shopping malls and a road containing nothing but chain restaurants just wouldn't cut it. Luckily for us a good friend (and her then boyfriend) were moving out of their apartment on the UWS and they offered the lease to us. We jumped at the opportunity, packed up a U-Haul and headed East (insert Beverly Hillbillies type reference here).

But what of this divide you spoke of? Is it still dividin' like a divide does? After we got settled in NY, we took a good look at the state of our marriage and realized we needed to do something to fix things. Actually, it wasn't until we were both in solo therapy that we realized this. So off we went, getting all therapeutic up in this. And where do we stand now? Well, she's still a foot shorter than me, but our marriage is doing much, much better. We're able to recognize problems and patterns more consistently, and more importantly, talk about them! Who knew that the biggest part of being married is communication?

So what's the point? Why did I just ramble about our problems when I could have been reminiscing about all the good things we had these past 12 years. I don't know. Wait, yes I do. We're still together and stronger than we've ever been. We've done things that many people will never do in their entire lives, and we've also grown as a couple and as individuals. These past 12 years have been filled with many ups and downs. I can't say that I wouldn't want to change some things, but all those things have shaped us into who we are today. And looking back, I can't imagine spending those times with anyone other than the person whose face I wake up to every morning.