V: “There is a wig in that tree!”18 March 2023
Me: “Where’s the wig?”
V: “Right there!” (Points with her middle finger at the tree)
Me: “You mean the nest?”
V: “Yeah!” (as though saying, “Of course, what else would I be talking about?”)
No matter how you phrase it, heart surgery sounds big. Especially heart surgery, where they replace two valves and part of your aorta. Well, that sounds really big, and in reality, it is. There is no sugarcoating an operation of this magnitude.
I find it difficult to confront what I feel.
My dad went in for heart surgery Tuesday morning, and I visited him at the hospital for the first time yesterday. The surgery went well. He looks good, but I can tell my dad is nervous about being in the hospital, and he can probably tell I am too. Hospitals universally freak me out. My hospital experience has, for the most part, been both ok to terrible.
When my 3-year-old Daughter D’s ongoing school cough turns out to be RSV, she is hospitalized with a blood oxygen level of 87%. A two-day stay and a $7,000 bill with insurance later, she is fine—but the worst three days of my life.
My Mother has multiple UTIs that land her in the hospital. During COVID is the worst of these as she is unable to advocate for herself, and we cannot visit her. But she pulls through mainly because my sister persists in asking essential questions.
Those experiences all come flooding back when I go into a hospital. The feeling of helplessness. The confusion. The endless beeps and clanging alarms of machines. I want to scream at whoever will listen, “Is this normal?! Why is it making that sound? Surely, something is wrong?!”
Like I am the only one who can see the one thing every doctor/nurse/specialist has missed. Like I’m House in an episode of House. But it isn’t like an episode of House. It’s a hospital with trained staff who most likely aren’t concerned with whatever it is.
It’s (probably) not important.
But it is difficult to stop the compulsion to ensure everything is working correctly. To fight off the nagging fear of every other time I’ve been in the hospital that something is or will go wrong. To have some control.
It is the same reason Julia and I decided not to give birth in a hospital. We both felt that pregnancy should not be treated like an illness or operation. We wanted our birth experience to be away from that clinical world and return it to our home and family, away from the machines, doctors, and scalpels. Luckily we had a situation where that was possible, and there were no complications.
The result is that my positive feelings about hospitals are limited. This is pretty universal. Hospitals generally suck. No one wants to go to the hospital. We typically find any reason not to be in one. But occasionally, we do find ourselves there, dreading the passing minutes.
For my Dad I will go and will update you once he is back home. Thanks for hearing me out.
Update 21 March 2023: Dad is doing well. Not sure what I expected, but at four weeks out, he seems to be mostly recovered. I will update you on my youngest daughter V, who decided to follow her grandfather to the hospital with a broken collar bone. Yeah, not as fun, but she, too, is doing fine and, three weeks out, is almost completely recovered.
Julia: “This is cool, I found an account of a woman who studies narcissism on Instagram”This Evening
Me: “Literally all accounts on Instagram study Narcissism.”
Update: For folks who want to go down my wife’s rabbit hole:
Del told me a great thing when I first started out at Second City, he was art director. I used to get by winking at the audience in my behavior and making smart jokes. And Del pulled me aside one day, after a show, and said “Some day you are going to look into a mirror and say ‘I’m so cute and I’m only 45 years old.'” And it sort of sobered me up and taught me there was more than just scoring with the audience, it wasn’t about just getting a laugh. Del taught us the dictive [sic] that if you concentrate on making everyone else around you look good, it makes everybody look good. …which works in life as well as it does on the stage.Harold Ramis at Del Close’s Death Party
My 6-year-old daughter, D, recently went with my wife, J, to see Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. A Christmas present for mother and daughter. Upon realizing she would not be going with them, my 3-year-old, V, began to cry inconsolably. I whisked her to the Subway as she cried for her mother. To lessen the hurt, I explained to V, as we descended the stairs, why we weren’t going as well.
“You see, it is a very scary musical. It doesn’t have any of the singing and dancing you like. It is not like Matilda, or Shrek [The Musical], or Wicked.”
She replied through sobs, “Yeah, and I want to see the David Bowie Musical.”
This is a magical time in children’s lives where they assume that everything they can think of indeed exists. My six-year-old said the same sorts of things at V’s age. Everything they like is available through all forms of media. And hell, who am I to argue with a David Bowie Musical, right?! It is a world packed with possibilities and endless new experiences. Everything is new, exciting, and possible.
I look at this optimism, which really encourages me in my life. I haven’t felt that “everything is in front of me” optimism for a while. Turning 45 didn’t help. My parents turning 83 made me realize our time here is most certainly limited, and we all have less time than we think to do the things that matter. I worry about regret. Everything gets harder as you age.
My daughters pull me through the darkest days with their glass-overflowing optimism. I don’t know who I would be without them. It is both wonderful and terrifying to love them so much and for them to love me so much. To depend on my strength when at times, I feel I have less than I need.
It isn’t easy to articulate this stuff to my therapist, who doesn’t have kids. It is hard to relate to his perspective. He’s nice enough, but having kids fundamentally changes you. Sure, you can have pets, but a cat doesn’t change who you are as a human. It may change what you do. But not why you live your life. Kids do that.
This isn’t meant to shit on my therapist or people who don’t have kids. It is only to say it is hard for me to feel like I’m being understood. It is like trying to explain a Caravaggio to someone who has never seen a Caravaggio (see Above or visit Rome). Or heard David Bowie. Or watched Mon Uncle.
We are all getting older. The pandemic has forced many of us to focus on what is truly important. Unsurprising, most of the things we thought were important weren’t. We didn’t make time for the things that were, and now we have to put things right. There is no later. We may not make it to later. Later may not come.
My advice to you is to follow my daughters’ example. I want to believe in their world full of possibilities, and I invite you to as well. Expect the things that excite you to exist and if they don’t exist, make them exist. Let’s not worry about how we get it done. Let’s focus on fulfilling dreams and believing it is possible because they believe it is.
I see your point, sir. I suggest a new strategy, R2. Let the Wookiee win.C-3PO
When D was born, I really didn’t have any idea what to expect not only from the experience of childbirth, and a homebirth at that but of what babies and later kids would mean for my life. I don’t think it is ever possible to anticipate the impact children will have, and I, living in the moment, really did little to plan my next steps. Julia and I had our new bundle of joy and improvised as usual. At almost four years old, D is an amazing little girl who loves everything stereotypically girly.
- The color pink in every shade
- The movies Frozen or Moana or The Little Mermaid or…
- All things ballet
- Ghostbusters… all three movies. Yes, all three, even the reboot. Not really sure that is girly, but I love it.
As a parent now of a second amazing daughter V, I can surely say that all kids are different. The lessons I learned with D are not the same lessons I am now learning with V. I thought I had figured it out. One kid down, I got this, but that is not the case. It is also like every time you think you have parenting figured out, your kids will test the boundaries where you failed to prepare. Kind of like Jurassic Park.
All that being said, my daughters are the best thing I have ever done. Some folks out there may sneer, “YOUR CHILDREN ARE THE BEST THING YOU HAVE EVER DONE?” I get it. The idea that my hopes and dreams are projected on these two little girls who haven’t done much of anything at this point. Yeah, yeah. My life shouldn’t be wrapped up in my children. But on the other side, all the parents out there get it. My girls are my everything. They are literally the reason I want to get up in the morning (and often are the reason I wake up at 5:30). Their view of the world is why Donald Trump doesn’t fill me with ongoing fear. My daughters will be president. BOTH OF THEM.
They certainly have the best last name to get them there.
All this is to say, I also blame them for the lack of all my creative inklings. They are where I put all my energy. They are where my podcasts, my writings, my paintings, my doodles, and my dreams lie. Right now, all the energy goes to them. But, good news, we will all reap the benefit of these amazing engines of creativity and positivity. Eventually, the compound interest in these wiggly, giggly little bank accounts of humanity will pay out dividends of awesome things. I’m sure of it.
They already brighten my life exponentially. We all just need to be patient.
Dear Diary it has been more than 2 years since my last confession.
I have been listening to David Sedaris’ Theft By Finding, which is the first collection of old diary entries spanning 1977-2002. It made me realize I really don’t write as much so used to. Chalk it up to starting a family and having a career, but the writing thing just hasn’t been a priority lately.
Just today I was on my PS4 ready for friends to come online to play some games. I realized that only one person was online and not someone I normally play with. It’s times like these that I wonder if I’m missing something. Is it the Oscars, the Emmys, or do people have actual lives?I feel like I would be the one person playing games as a world war broke loose and would be utterly oblivious to the fact.
If it weren’t for J, I would be far less connected to the world, although her tastes usually center around the deaths of celebrities than truly horrific current events… of which there are tons. I’m often taken aback by how often people in my life, especially those at work love being the bearers of bad news.
“Did you hear, ______” is often the start of a sentence I wish I hadn’t heard.
It’s never “fireman saved a kitten” or “I made lasagna from scratch and it’s in the kitchen!” Instead its something far more… dubious.
Its cliche but true, bad news travels faster than good.
Bonsai provides freelance work contract templates for creative freelancers like designers and developers. Sounds pretty cool, will give it a try on our next project for sure.