I wanted to post this today, but in my loss for words I felt the need to escape. When everything hangs in the air, there is only one solid thing you can count on; a carwash - one of life’s few instant pleasures. I pulled up to pay and realized the pay station had a radio playing a familiar song, “Carry On” by fun. One of the few songs that has stuck close to my side over the past several years. “May your past be the sound of your feet upon the ground. Carry On”. It was serendipitous evidence I must power through and report.
The details are intense. It’s exciting, heartbreaking, life giving, scandalous, tragic, comical, etc... I feel nearly every human emotion has had an opportunity to peek out and surprise me. The particulars are confusing, worthy of their own book, but everything boils down to surprisingly simple and clear results so I’ll report them as such.
I am going to be a father in May.
The ridiculous part is that I’ve known news of this scale was on my horizon all year long. It’s quite funny to read over my previous posts, knowing ‘something big was ahead’, ‘shifting in the tectonic plates’, ‘remaining still until the right time’. For crying out loud, I even named a post, “Pregnant”. I had absolutely no idea what was going on, but in hindsight it appears my blissful ignorance was pointing to news of this magnitude.
We wanted to wait until the first trimester was over before sharing the news. I felt weird declaring this via the internets, so I started small. Last week I shared this publicly for the first time to a room full of strangers at a local dive bar in an evening of storytelling, called The Martini Moth. I didn’t know what my personal response would be as the last four years spilled out of my mouth. Of course, it ended with this most recent news, the creation of a new life. This had been such a secret I was curious what would happen when a roomful of warm bodies heard the most life changing news I’ve ever delivered. As is typical, a winner was voted on. As is comically fitting, I got second place.
(Side-note: After all, there was no way I could compete with the winner, a minister detailing a drunken night in the Castro District of San Francisco. He recalled the fuzzy moments of an evening where he ended up passing out and waking up the next morning concerned about the maintenance of his, ahem, dignity as a heterosexual. His story was a riot, I would have voted for him.)
Her name is Lori Slager. She owns The Sparrows Coffee, Tea & Newsstand on Wealthy Street in Grand Rapids. I suppose I've been buying coffee from her shop, off and on, for nearly six years. She is also the Executive Director of the Creative Youth Center. It wasn’t until last November when we officially met and she asked if I would help her tutor kids for the CYC. I agreed and our friendship began.
Personally, I had given up on the idea of having kids. Lori, who also went through a previous divorce, had been trying to have kids for nearly eight years. Unfortunately, the doctors told her she would be unable to have children. I remember an early conversation where we had written off babies as being a part of either of our futures. She was unable, and as a father, I served as a liability to any family. Goodness gracious, we’ve certainly found a way to put our theories to test.
Lori will make a wonderful mother. It certainly seems she’s ready for this as she’s always willing to take the difficult path, be it running marathons, starting a small business, or creating an innovative tutoring program for low income and at-risk kids. She’s surrounded by kids nearly everyday. I remember the first time we sat down and I asked why she cared so much about tutoring. She got super-serious and told me the most important thing a kid can learn is how to write. No matter what scenario they grew up in, if they can communicate who they are and what they want, then they can do just about anything. I believed her.
We’ve told our family and friends, in which nearly all of my conversations have been similar. Shock, followed by a ‘you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me’ grin, and a corresponding comment about how on earth I’ve managed to make my life even more complicated. My sister may or may not have used the term, “hot mess” when she delivered a gracious hug known only between siblings. But everyone in both of our families has been beyond gracious. The same conversation typically snowballs into excitement regarding the addition of another member to our continually growing families.
In the past few months I have noticed my paternal instincts kicking in. I've become increasingly aware of seat belts and act like a nervous Australian Shepherd eyeing small children, withholding from herding them as they race around the room. I’m finding myself filled with so many feelings and emotions I didn’t know that existed inside of me. A buddy of mine told me after learning his own child was on the way, he felt a strong urge to start chopping down trees and building things. I realized my desire to create was swelling as well, but I’m not very good with my hands. Maybe I can start writing the baby letters.
So, I continue leaning forward into this cancer I was told would kill me. It hasn’t. I struggled through a divorce I thought would break me. It didn’t. And now, this surprise pregnancy makes me feel I should know the answers and construct a survival plan. But the plan hasn’t shown up yet. I wish I could push pause and hesitate for eternity, but Lori’s belly continues to grow like a strange countdown clock, ending previous stories and beginning new ones.
There are days where I am nearly certain I can’t do this. Aware the inevitable lack of sleep will lead to increased seizures and feeling scared to enter this ongoing commitment to another human with the knowledge of my own mortality. And there are other days where I find momentary courage to take this news as another knock on the chin and keep pressing on. To shrug my shoulders and accept that this, and maybe only this, could be the motivation needed to start building a new life again.
Life is so messy. I really should be aware of this by now. Sometimes people get sick. Sometimes people fall out of love. Sometimes a single moment combines the future of two individuals. But in any scenario, “May your past be the sound of your feet upon the ground. Carry On.”
This is simply the news of Lori's noticeably growing belly and my noticeably stiffening jaw. I am aware of the million ways to filter this story through the lens of how I want you to view it, or view us. I could tell you that Lori and I had been planning this, but we didn't. I could tell you this doesn't undercut other dreams we were imagining, but it did. Of course, there are numerous questions this post presents and I simply don’t have all the answers. Our only constant is a dedicated and growing love for this baby. Until then, we have decided to slowly move forward handling each day's issues as they arrive. Today, we heard our baby’s heartbeat. Tomorrow, who knows...
(*our completely ruined three-piece story of telling you we're pregnant.)