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.

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