#9: on the occasion of my niece’s birth, Feb. 13

This is one of those things where I feel like no matter where I start, it’s starting in the middle. So, whatever, here we go:

Gillian and I wandered around the hospital, following signs (or so we thought) to reach the birthing center, and, yet, somehow we ended up in the heart surgery area. I feel confident we followed all the proper signs; however, that confidence is shaken by the fact that when we left later, I led us out the wrong entrance and we had to walk around the hospital outside in the balmy weather of sub 30 degrees. Gillian was thrilled.

I’m not good at this. “This” = any highly emotional moment that involves me having to interact, celebrate, show, or in any way participate. So, Gillian and I, by way of some helpful hospital worker (I think), who spotted us wandering around, I guess obviously lost, and let us know that we had to take the elevator up to the fourth floor. There we were stopped by two ladies at a desk and eventually allowed to track down the room where my niece supposedly now existed. The idea of her existence was something I hadn’t really come to grips with. I, obviously (one would hope), was fully aware of the pregnancy and thus the typical outcome of said pregnancy. I, however, had no idea what to think of actually becoming someone’s uncle. There, in the hallway as we looked at door numbers, I realized I was about to encounter a situation for which I had no previous experience upon which to draw a typical reaction and I knew that my confusion had absolutely no measurable connection to what was happening to my sister and brother-in-law and I knew that having such thoughts was highlighting the self-absorption I so easily accept as part of myself (would there be any other way to accept one’s self-absorption?).

Hospitals, in general, weird me out. The sterilization of the whole place is too much for me tto handle. Mostly because I don’t believe the sterility is authentic and am, therefore, convinced that I’m going to come down with some never-before-discovered flu from some really remote place in Peru (or, perhaps, that thinking has been influenced because I’ve beenn watching that show The River on ABC, which is pretty damn terrible, something that shouldn’t be surprising considering it’s being filmed by the dude who did the Paranormal Activity movies that are awful [I’ve seen two of them and can’t bring myself to actually watch the third one. If you ask why have a sat through two of them, I will point out I’ve seen every Friday the 13th movie, every Halloween movie, including remakes, and even sat through Freddie v. Jason]. Anyway, The River is terrible and anyone who says it is scary has no experience with such horror movies because each “scary” moment so far is really eassy to predict. But, I digress).

Here’s what went through my head when we walked through the door and I saw my sister sitting there with such a tiny, tiny person, sleeping quietly, bundled up, and my mom on the little couch under the window and Charles – my best friend, my brother-in-law – standing watch: “Ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmy, I should say something appropriate, I should congratulate everyone, I should hug everyone, ohmygod look at her, she’s so little, I can’t believe I’m an unce, holy shit Gillian is an aunt, we are Uncle Joel and Aunt Gillian, I can’t believe how small she is, I think I’m in love and I hope she grabs my pinky and holds on because that’ll be awesome and adoorable.”

Here’s what I said: “Look at her little alien head. That happens because the skull is still malleable, right?”

Here’s my explanation: ?

Like I said, I’m not good at this. I have long lived in the bubble of my own world, not doing much to participate in my family. This is not because I want distance from them; in fact, they are some of my favorite people in the world. This is because I am horrible at being involved. I get bogged down with my own life, to the degree that I forget there is a world existing elsewhere that doesn’t involve me unless I actively pursue it. This can also make mee feel uncomfortable, in general, but also around my family. I sometimes wonder if my distance is accepted to the point that I’m not expected to be involved, which, considering myy standard mode of operating, would not be surprising, but it still makes me sad. The question I don’t know is if the sadness is at all justfied or just makes it easier for me to remain distant. No matter how you look at it, though, I still need to pull my head out of my ass.

Let’s say you’re a normal human being. I’m glad for you.

The world as I know it is easy to get lost in. I drive Gillian bonkers because I get swept up with the idea of moving, pretty much anywhere and everywhere. I watch House Hunters and House Hunters International and suddenly I’m looking up the city on Google, reading its Wikipedia page, spewing random facts about population and weather, and using Craigslist to get an idea of how much a place costs to live. My phone’s weather app follows, literally, more than 10 cities, just so I can compare weather and then grouse (to Gillian, of course, as if she’s not aware of our current weather  and that it’s warmer in Phoenix) about how it’s been sunny for 6 straight days in blahblah and let’s move tomorrow and doesn’t blaahblah seem awesome and why are you punching me for reading this to you, Gillian (totally random, but does anyone use the word “grouse” any more? I typed it and suddenly thought it wasn’t a real word).

I don’t know what compells me to do these things. I chalk it up to wanderlust. But what I know is something changed when I saw Charlise for the first time. It doesn’t mean I still don’t get lost in the world; it doesn’t mean I don’t get swept up by the idea of somewhere new; it doesn’t mean I still don’t want to move where it’s sunny most of the time; it doesn’t mean I will be any better at staying in contact. What it means is, in this world that I find so fascinating and sometimes scary and want to explore at almost any cost, including my wife’s sanity, there is a person, a tiny, adorable person, who I hope realizes how hard her parents fought for her to exist, parents who, on multiple occasions took in her uncle because he had screwed up again, because he had gotten himself so lost he pretty much stopped existing; who have been her uncle’s best friends and sages; and I hope she realizes that her uncle might not always be on top of things, but she has an aunt who will always remember every important date, who will make sure phone calls are made on birthdays and that really bad gifts are not purchased and who has helped make me a real person; I hope the world is still worth getting lost in as she gets older; I hope she realizes Nanna and Big E are the hippest grandparents ever; I hope she doesn’t listen to bad music. But most of all, I hope she realizes that it was as easy as seeing her open and close her eyes to know I loved her with everything an uncle can (or, let’s be honest, that’s tied with the bad music thing [and, see, I did it right there: I can’t let a real emotion exist without undermining it]).

Congratulations to Korin and Charles. I love you both.

One thought on “#9: on the occasion of my niece’s birth, Feb. 13

  1. There once was a tiny little boy, crawling around on a floor in a small house in West Virginia. He was like most tiny little bundles of parental joy. As I looked upon this shirtless crawling diaper with limbs waggling wildly in seemingly spasmodic twitches I had the realization that there on that floor, looking up at me with a silly grin and trials of slobber dripping from his chin, was an actual living being, that had come into this world through the efforts of my brother and his wife. This little being was in fact my nephew. It was a rather difficult thing to grasp in its entire full scale [and I am pretty certain that I still have not]. It was not until later, as I was teaching this wiggling mass of standing up drooping diaper how to walk that it finally came home to roost that I would always be Uncle Don. My life changed with that awareness. Not the way I lived it, nor the mistakes I would make along the way, but simply the understanding that here was someone that may someday need or want to talk to me, to get advise, or to cuss me out for being the long lost missing uncle. It always made me smile, from that day forward, to hear news of that young man and what he was doing. I have never been the most involved member of my family, often not talking to anyone for several years at a time, but through it all, no matter how badly I screwed things up, I always had my brother to lean on. That support can make the world a lot easier to fight. I am very proud of who you are, what you have become. And it is surprising to me, how much I can hear my own voice echoing in your words. I feel what you write and understand it very clearly, but cannot find a good way to express it either. You are doing a marvelous job of speaking the thoughts for both of us and I thank you!

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