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Monday, July 12, 2004

36 weeks

After an interlude to comment on the growing politization and futility of America's terror fears and efforts to combat domestic attacks, it's time to return to the "Get to Know Your Otis" series. Today we tackle another tough one.

Tell us how you are feeling about the upcoming birth of your first child. --Su


Saturday night, after a day of moving a friend from a small apartment to a spacious mountain estate, Mrs. Otis and I set out to have a little fun. Another friend was throwing a downtown party that sat on two home lots. Live bands played on a makeshift stage. They smoked an entire pig, rented porta-johns, and generally rocked the night away. As we mingled through the crowd and bobbed our head to the bands riffs and raffs, Mrs. Otis looked up and said, "Your baby is being so quiet."

I thought what I didn't say. "I haven't heard it make a peep in months."

That's one way of saying, where Mrs. Otis lives minute-to-minute with the reality of our future parenthood, I only face it when I see my wife's belly or when I allow myself to consider that this time next month, I'll likely be giving my child's name to the people who fill out the birth certificate.

It's not that I don't want to think about it, because I'd really like to be able to consider it seriously. My problem is, I have a hard time ruminating on things that I can't comprehend. When I try to think about the beginning of the universe, the existence of a higher being, why people hate, why people die, and how my mind works, I often think long enough for my temples to throb, then I think about something mundane. Like mayonnaise. Or marbles.

That's the thing. I don't know how I feel about the birth of my first child because I have no idea what it will mean. There's a part of me that feels like everything in life will change immediately and forever. Those spur-of-the-moment trips to parties, quickly-decided weekend trips, and late-night gatherings on Mt. Willis will be a thing of the past. Then there's a part of me that thinks that life will change for a while and for the better, but we'll still be social and fun people.

There's a part of me that feels completely unprepared on every level to be a dad. While I have a means of income, I don't make much money. While I'm generally responsible, I'm specifically stupid. While I have aspirations, I'm paralyzed by possibility. Those things, combined with several other factors make me look in the mirror and occasionally freak the fuck out.

But, then there's the part of me that knows that poor people have kids all the time and do just fine. My folks were pretty poor when they had me and I turned out...okay. While I am specifically stupid, I've been known to show remarkable moments of clarity when faced with serious decisions on responsibility. While I have aspirations, I'm young...sort of.

Last night, my dog was tired. She's had a long day and just wanted to sleep. When it came time for me to crawl into bed, I found her already there and asleep. I pulled her 13-pound frame up next to me. She rested her head on my arm like it was a pillow and fell fast asleep. I can only imagine the sense of peace that offers is one hundred-fold when it's with a kid.

Today, Mrs. Otis reached her 36th week of pregnancy. From what I understand, that means if she should have the baby before her August 12th due date, the baby would be just fine. That means that if she should go into labor this weekend, I could be the father of a healthy kid by the beginning of the next work week. While this likely won't happen, it's a bit sobering.

That brings me to this little reality: No more beer.

Sure, that sounds a little silly. I know it is, but that doesn't overshadow the fact that I have a case and a half of beer in my fridge and two more cases in the garage. It doesn't overshadow the fact that while I am "generally responsible," I do spend many an evening propping up my downtown bars.

Don't think I'm lamenting anything here, because I'm not. There comes a time in every man's life when he must take the tap off the keg and get his deposit back. This happens to be that time for me. I'm not saying that I've got a seat reserved on the wagon, but for the foreseeable future, the boys at Yellow Cab are going to have to find someone else to take home on Friday nights.

I'd like to go back and erase the preceding three paragraphs because the make me feel a little bit like a lush. But I won't, because we're being honest here. So...there.

In the next week or two, I'll pack the bags for the hospital. I'll outfit the family cars (jesus, we're about to be a "family") with car seats. I'll review the three routes to the hospital and make sure my cell phone is perpetually charged. When I go out of town on June 19th, I'll spend eight straight hours freaking out about getting back home. And eventually, Mrs. Otis will saying something to the effect of, "Hey, it's time to go."

Heesh.

Here's something. I've never taken on a perpetual responsibility. The end of my responsibility to my child will end when I give up the ghost and not a second before.

Heesh, again.

But then there is this: Within a few months, my parents will get to start spoiling their grandchild. I will get to start a project in which I plan to teach my child to say "chartreuse." Eventually, that child will call me dad and give me a hug when I'm feeling overwhelmed. One day that kid will form a sentence in which he/she uses a simile or metaphor. They'll make something they are proud of and give it to me. Eventually, that kid will be smarter than me and I'll be proud of that fact.

How do I feel? I have no earthly idea.

I more scared than I've ever been and more excited than I've ever been, but that doesn't quite sum it up.

I guess you have to have been there to know.

And I'm almost there, folks.

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