Tag Archives: child

MECHANICAL DONUT: CHAPTER 7

 

Hey, baby! Whether you’re here because you like the comedy or the train wreck, it’s Cancer Monday! And this week is a double whammy because you’re getting chapters 7 and 8 together! Oh, my goodness. What a deal.

So. If you’re all caught up and want to continue reading, please do! If you’re new here. WELCOME. This is a story about when I had cancer. Sometimes it’s happy. Sometimes it’s sad. Sometimes there is just fierce ambivalence to the force of life. Click here to jump to the beginning and start reading this tale of wonderful woe from the very top.

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For the past few days, I’ve been drinking a radioactive concoction called barium and trust me, there is neither anything berry or yum about it. Seventy-two hours ago, a small yellow package showed up at my front door postmarked from the hospital, asking that I mix this powder with water and drink deeply. How to describe it? So many competing tastes and textures. If I were being polite, I would say it has the consistency of semen swimming in powdered eggs (powdered lumps included) and tastes of Elmer’s glue with just a hint of mint.

So no, it’s not terrible but it is bad enough to make me plug my nose and gag while I try to chug it as quickly as possible lest flies mistake it for what it smells like and begin to lay eggs in it.

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The chemical drink, I’m told, causes my insides to “light up” and reveal any inconsistencies with a “normal, healthy human,” which, as far as I can tell, I am not. I’m not exactly sure what this procedure will be, but I assume they have some kind of machine that will take pictures of my insides; some kind of giant X-ray. I’m imagining lying on a bed and smiling; it’s school photos all over again. THEN I’m imagining going across the street to Denny’s because I saw that they’re featuring their seasonal pumpkin pancakes right now, and I feel like I deserve a little comfort food.

A male nurse with black hair and a soul patch approaches me with a gown and says, “OK, Mr. Brookbank, we’re going to get you in and out with your CAT scan. First, we’ll have you put this gown on and then we’ll get you all hooked up with your IV and blah blah blah.” Everything else he says turns into static. My eyes shift to my wife, who grimaces. I say, “Uh . . . OK . . . OK. Do you . . . do you have a restroom I can change in and, uh . . . have a panic attack?” and the male nurse with the soul patch says, “Yes, absolutely. Right this way.”

Inside the bathroom I change into the knee length, butt-revealing gown and stare at myself in the mirror; blue eyes filled with fear, wispy beard standing on end, skin the color of bad eggs. I don’t give myself a pep talk. I don’t say anything. I just stare at my reflection and try to imagine what it feels like to not be afraid of needles.

“Everyone is afraid of needles,” my wife says and I respond with, “No. Nobody likes needles. Not everyone is afraid of them. I don’t like the cold. I’m not afraid of it. You don’t like onions. You’re not afraid of them. My fear is deeply psychological and . . . it’s very . . . you wouldn’t understand. They’re pointy and silver and . . . They’re just so fucking pointy and silver!”

The Internet tells me the complex is called trypanophobia, an illness so foul that they actually had to give it a name no one could pronounce.

Soul Patch calls my name and escorts me into The Room. The door shuts and clicks behind me. In the middle of the floor is a giant Mechanical Donut, 6-and-a-half-feet high with a bed that rolls in and out of its delicious center. Next to the circular, steel pastry is a robotic arm that has a bag filled with clear liquid dangling from its “hand.” It is this clear liquid, I understand without being told, that will be shot into my veins to assist and activate the barium.

I ask Soul Patch how long he’s been doing this and he says, “Coupla’ years,” and I say, “I mean IVs. How long? Are you good at it?” and he says, “Oh. Yeah. Couple years. I’m good.”

Yeah, right. Your voice has the confidence of an eighth grader buying beer. Intern! Intern! Intern! And for the first time I find myself intentionally trying to focus on the pulsating lump of my lump, trying to distract myself from the needle.

I ask him what the CAT scan is for, and he noncommittally answers, “Oh, you’re a new patient, and we just like to do preliminary work on everyone prior to surgery,” and I say, “But specifically my pelvis, abdomen, and lungs?” and he says, “Uh . . . yeah . . . sort of everywhere, but yeah. There, mostly,” and I think, “Shame on you, kid. You’re not old enough to buy beer and that is a fake ID.” I think, “I know what you’re looking for. You’re looking to see if it’s spread anywhere. You’re looking to see if it’s growing. You want to know what to do if the surgery doesn’t work or if you’re too late.”

Soul Patch tells me to lie back and I do, reluctantly. He tells me to hold out my arm and I do, reluctantly. He holds my wrist and starts to slap around my forearm with two fingers. “How,” he asks, “are your veins?” and I tell him I don’t know. He asks if I’ve drunk any water recently and I say, “A little,” and he says, “Uh, OK. This is usually a bit easier if you’ve been drinking water but we’ll see what we can—” slap, slap—“do . . . . ”

My eyes are the size of dinner saucers, and my hands curl into fists of fear. I want to scream for Jade to bring me water, water, WATER!!! A cup, a glass, a gallon, a hose, anything. We’ll see what we can do??!! What does that mean?? I imagine him sliding the needle under my skin and into my vein, missing and probing, fishing, hooking, sticking, stabbing, wiggling, my wrinkled and hibernating vein exploding over and over, blood leaking out and running all over the floor. In my mind, Soul Patch keeps saying, “Oops, oops, sorry, again, once more, my bad,” until I finally just pass out.

“There ya go.” I look down, and it’s done. He tells me to lie back and keep my arm with the silvery, pointy needle sticking in it above my head. “Keep it pointed at the ceiling,” and I say, “The needle—is the needle still in my arm?” and he says, “Uh . . . no. It’s just a small rubber hose,” and I say, “Can I bend my arm without getting poked?” and he says, “Uh . . . yeah. I’ll be in this room over here and I’ll give you directions over the intercom.” I try to bend my arm and feel a little poke. Intern! Or maybe it was just the tape pulling at a hair. I don’t know. But I bet that needle is still in there. In my arm. In my vein.

Soul Patch’s voice comes over the intercom, and I turn my head to the left. He’s in a booth that looks like it’s being protected from radiation caused by nuclear fallout. I have to pause and wonder what sort of danger my body is currently in, what sort of rays I am about to endure. I try to remember what it was that The Fantastic Four were hit with when my train of thought is interrupted.

“Remember to keep your arm up—at the ceiling—like you have a question.” The only question I have is, When will this be over?

I have no idea how unanswerable that actually is.

The tech, from his bomb shelter, says, “And here comes the dye.” I watch the fluid come down the bag, through the tube, and into my arm, and then I’m pretty certain that I have legitimately shit my pants. Everything from my abdomen to my thighs is steaming hot.

The intercom comes back on. Soul Patch says, “The dye may cause you to feel like you’ve . . . wet . . . your pants,” and I shut my eyes and take a deep breath, trying not to focus on the warmth in my pelvis.

The bed jerks and slides into the donut. I open my eyes and read a sign taped to the top of the donut hole: DO NOT LOOK DIRECTLY INTO THE LASER. A female robot voice comes through the donut, The Bakery God, and says, “Hold. Your. Breath.” And I do. And I shut my eyes. And I pray. Not to the bakery god, but to That Faceless And Eternal Being. I do not blame you. I do not understand. Help me.

“You. May. Breathe.” The robot says and the bed pulls me out of the donut sanctuary. “Doing OK?” Soul Patch asks, and I say, “Yeah,” but in my head I think, Not so great . . . . Did I shit my pants?

The bed jerks forward again and the robot tells me, “Hold. Your. Breath.”

What hangs in the balance of this test? What will these results reveal? The thought of this being the beginning of something bigger crosses my mind, and I try to push it away. For me, surgery is the end. There is a definitive period afterward, and I go home and go back to work and that’s it but . . . .

What if . . . .

What if the cancer has spread? Lungs? Stomach? Liver? Is this possible? Yes. Yes, it’s all definitely possible. But is it probable? I pause, trying to be logical and not emotional and yes, I realize, it is probable.

“You. May. Breathe.”

Will I die in six months? Could I die in six months? I could die in six months. If it has spread, what are my chances for survival? The Internet tells me that, depending on what kind of cancer I have, it could be anywhere between 30 percent to 90 percent survival rate, which is basically like saying, “Maybe you’ll die. Maybe you won’t,” and then shrugging unapologetically.

“Hold. Your. Breath.”

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Like all good hospitals, ours made us wait the entire weekend before giving us the (maybe) life-changing results of our test. Over those three days, every stomachache turned into stomach cancer, every pain in my finger exploded into bone cancer, every headache transformed into brain cancer. By the time they called back late Monday afternoon, I had diagnosed myself as a tumor wearing clothes.

“What are my results? My, uh, my test results?” and the lady on the phone says, “I’m not allowed to give out that information, sir,” and I say, “I know. I know you’re not. But it’s OK. It’s me, er, my body. It’s my body. It’s not a secret to me,” and she says, “I just really can’t, and actually, I just don’t have access to the information. The doctor would, however, like to speak with you.”

Outside, thunder claps and lightening strikes and the camera zooms dramatically into my face and I hear the soundtrack of my life play dun-DUN-DUUUUUUN!!!

I take a half-day off work the next day and drive back to Arcadia to visit with Dr. Honda, the friendly neighborhood urologist. When I arrive, all the receptionists know me by name and smile and welcome me in and everything is just too friendly. Jade and I sit down and she picks up the same copy of Better Homes she’d been reading previously and opens up to the page she had habitually dog-eared.

A woman calls my name and both my wife and I stand up. I start walking forward while Jade casually slides the magazine into her purse. The receptionist leads us back through a narrow corridor crowded by old people with various urinating issues. We take a seat in the room where I was told I had cancer and Jade says, “Is this where he told you?”

And I say, “Yes.”

And she says, “Where were you sitting?”

And I say, “Here.”

And she says, “And was he right here?”

And I say, “Yes.”

And she says, “Did you cry?”

And I say, “No. I said, ‘Rats.’”

She glances suspiciously around before sliding out her hot copy of Better Homes just before Dr. Honda knock-knock-enters. Jade shoves the magazine back in her purse like she’s just been caught trying to purchase extra-tiny condoms. The doctor shakes my hand, and I introduce him to my wife. He smiles and says, “Nice to meet you,” and takes a seat.

To his right he sets down a regular manila envelope with my name scratched onto the tab. Inside that envelope, I think, is everything. My future is just out of my reach.

He makes small talk with me and asks how my job is going, and I answer in short but courteous statements. He finally says, “Welp!” and grabs the folder and opens it on his lap and here comes The News.

“You have,” and he slides his finger down the page, turns it, examines the second page, “stage one cancer.”

I drop to my knees and tear my shirt and wail and scream and curse the Earth and the doctor says, “That’s . . . uh . . .that’s the kind we already knew you had,” and I immediately sit back on the paper-covered table and compose myself and say, “That’s great!”

Dr. Honda says, “It hasn’t spread. We’ll do the surgery and that should be it.”

YES!” We are going to (literally) cut this villain off at the pass and bury it alive. Goodnight, dickwad!

“Just out of curiosity,” I ask, “How high do the stages go?” and the doctor says, “Four. They go to four.”

 

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If you’re reading this with us weekly, thank you. The above chapters were such a bizarre place for us. Fear, uncertainty, anxiety. What is going to happen is a good question but what IS happening is maybe the better one.

Next week we’re going to get into sexy finances. That’s right, sweetheart. Chapter nine is about sperm banking. World’s most awkward excerpt below . . .

 

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The woman behind the desk hands me a cup and says, “Back through that door on the right. No lubrication. No spit,” and she looks directly at my wife and I say, “Oh . . . Ooooooh . . . .

We walk through the appropriate door and find ourselves in a room roughly the size of a hotel conference hall. Everything is white. Everything is sterile. The fluorescents buzz in the ceiling. On the walls: Georgia O’Keeffe.

Of course.

Sitting next to the door is a small table cluttered with Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Editions. Motivation. In the center of the room is a chair that can only be described as something you would get a root canal in. It’s black, leather, and constantly at a slight recline. I sit in it and assume that this specific posture has been scientifically proven to help nervous men climax in public places.

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Evidence to the Extraordinary

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“Is sasquatch real?” Quinn asks, out of breath, as she runs up to me. I’m sitting at the table drawing faces on marshmallows we’re about to roast. Is sasquatch real?

 

There’s a part of me – that quick gut reaction part – that tries to quickly blurt out, “No,” just so I don’t get embroiled in an endless conversation of “Why? Why? Why?” with my five year old. But instead I bite. “Is sasqatch real? That is a very interesting question because it doesn’t have an answer. Have you ever heard of a question that doesn’t have an answer before?”

 

She shakes her head no. Quinn is very inquisitive and both her memory and ability to comprehend large concepts is sometimes frightening. She looks at me with wide eyes and crunched eyebrows. I can tell that she understands she’s breaking new ground.

 

“Well, Quinn. Some people believe in sasquatch and some people don’t.”

“Why?”

“Because there is no proof of him. Do you know what proof is?”

“No.”

“It’s something you can say is real. I have proof that this marshmallow is real because I’m holding it in my hand and I can touch it and I can see it and feel it. Another name for proof is evidence.”

“And you can tell that I am real because you can see me?

“That’s right! You’re very smart.”

“So sasquatch is not real because nobody can see him.”

 

This is where it gets tricky. How do you nurture a sense of awe and wonder in a child while still painting an accurate portrait that they will understand without drowning them in information? That’s a tall request. How do you explain how large the galaxy is to a child that doesn’t have true concept of what a mile looks like? It all needs to be boiled down to these very simple kernels of truth.

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“Sasquatch might be real because nobody has ever seen him. I know that’s a big idea for you. Nobody has ever seen him so we cannot say with certainty that he is real or false.”

“Can you look it up on your phone?”

 

I appreciate that Quinn views my phone as a gateway to all knowledge and truth because, at its core, that is exactly what the internet is. The Great Digital Oracle.

 

“The answer is not on my phone. Nobody knows the true answer.”

“There are no pictures?”

“Yes, there are pictures but nobody knows if they’re real or faked.”

“Like a man in a suit?”

“Your astuteness frightens me sometimes.”

“Oh! Thanks, Dad. What is uh-stood-ness?”

“Lots of questions. Let’s not get side-tracked. You should also know that there are some people that say they’ve seen sasquatch and have touched him but most other people say that they just made it up.”

“Why would they do that?”

“I don’t know. Publicity?”

“What is publicity?”

“It’s like when you do something so that a lot of people hear about you.”

“Why?”

“Because some people like to be the center of attention.”

“Why?”

“Alright, listen. Let’s focus on one thing. Ready? What did we learn? Sasquatch is . . .”

“Maybe real.”

“Because . . .”

“Nobody has seen him and we cannot prove it.”

“That’s right. It’s just a story until someone has . . .”

“Evidence.”

“Bingo.”

 

I pick up my marker and start coloring in the eyeballs on my marshmallow, creating life.

 

Quinn scratches her head with comically large actions. It’s like a very theatrical cartoon character taught her what it looks like when people “think”. Lots of head rubbing and going, “Ummmmm.”

 

“Yes, Quinn? Do you have another question?”

 

“Is God real?”

 

I set down my marshmallow and look into its flat, lifeless eyes and wonder if she intentionally sets me up.

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Crumbling Castles

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I play rough with my kids; really rough.  Horseplay, in my house, is not only accepted, it is encouraged.  I love sitting with them and reading books and cuddling up to tell them stories but one of my favorite things to do is to chase them through our home, tackle them, tickle them and then drag them kicking and screaming back to me as they try to escape my clutches.  I hang them upside down and howl.  I pin them to the ground and growl in their ears.  I crawl across the floor like a primitive man pretending to be a primitive horse, snarling and thrashing after them.  I pick up pillows and I throw them at their fleeing backs.  Hard.  I hit them behind their knees with said pillows as they run, knocking them to the floor.  Usually they’re fine but sometimes they bang their hands / arms / heads / faces against the ground.  This is the cost of horseplay.

They run and laugh and squeal and scream and hide and then beg me to keep chasing them.  If I get tired they slowly approach me and say, “Get… my… fooo-hooot….” and then they wiggle and waggle their ankle at me just out of reach.  It goes without saying that I’ve been kicked in the teeth and headbutted more than once.  Last month my son stuck his finger knuckle deep into my eyeball… twice.  That is not an exaggeration.  My eye was pink and blood shot and everything went fuzzy for several hours.  It was both painful and horrifying.  Sometimes I lie on my back and my daughter jumps off the couch and gives me two knees to my ribcage, causing me to spit out a harsh, “WHOOF!”  This is also the cost of horseplay.

My children love me and I love my children and we know that we are just playing and we’ve had many conversations about Good Hit / Bad Hit and how a Hi-5 is a Good Hit but slapping someone when you’re angry is a Bad Hit and… children just have a very interesting way of not only absorbing information and processing it but they’re also amazing at outputting certain… enlightenments, I guess is a good word… that hit you in the gut harder than their tiny fists.

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Two days ago my daughter walked past me and I stuck out my foot and tripped her.  She stumbled, once, twice, caught herself, turned around and gave me the stankiest eye I’ve ever seen.  It cracked me up.  I thought it was absolutely hilarious.  Further, I thought that SHE thought it was absolutely hilarious… which is why I do it whenever I get a chance.  I thought our little game was like, “I pick on you in an endearing way and you think it’s playful and funny and it’s our quirky little relationship,” but, my wife, who apparently doesn’t “get” the thing I do with the kids, she says to me, “You’re so mean to the kids,” and I say, “Mean?  Mean?  What is this, mean?  Oh, give me a break.  I’m not mean.  I love them and I’m playing with them!  They love to play!” and she says, “No.  You pick on them.  You’re That Guy,” and my stomach churns because, to me, there is no worse insult than being called That Guy.  It could mean any number of horrible things but, whenever someone says it, you know exactly which one they’re talking about.

I say, “I am not That Guy,” and my wife, refusing to back off her horrible, stupid opinion, says, “Yes you are.  And you’re hurting their feelings.”  Yeah, right.  Didn’t she see how I was laughing when my daughter stumbled?  Didn’t she see how funny that was?  I push myself off the couch and lie down on our floor, calling my daughter over to me, “Quinn!  Quinn… C’mere a sec…” and Quinn approaches me and I pick her up under her arms and lie her down on top of me, belly to belly so we’re eye to eye.  She doesn’t flinch and she doesn’t fight it and I say to my wife, “Yeah, she looks really afraid of me…

I turn to Quinn and I say, “Quinn…” and my three year old daughter says, “Yes, Daddy?” and I say, “Is Daddy mean to you?” and Quinn, without skipping a beat says, “Yes,” and I literally feel something in my heart pop and snap like a crusty bungee chord.  I want to put my daughter down and run away, hide in a closet, shut off the light and live the rest of my days in complete hermitude.  Quinn, unaffected, continues.  “You tease me… you tease me a lot,” and I just stare at her, into her eyes and I wish I had one of those weird whipping devices that the albino in The DaVinci Code had.  I need it.  I need to use it on myself.  I am a horrible person.

However, since I don’t have that archaic whipping device, I decide to torture myself by just pressing on.  I need to hear it.  I need to hear all of it.  I say, “Does Daddy hurt your feelings?” and my daughter, instead of saying anything, she just sticks out her bottom lip (NO!  NO!  NOT THE QUIVERING BOTTOM LIP!  GIVE ME THE WHIP-THING!  NOT THE LIP!  NOT THE LIP!) and she just nods, her eyes wide and sad and… they’re just so… SAD!

I gulp hard and try to decide how much I hate myself right now.  Is it like an 8 or a 9?

My daughter, apparently recognizing my weakness, decides to deliver the coup de grace with the most despondent phrase I have ever heard a three year old utter.  She says to me, “You hurt me.  You hurt my feelings.  I take my feelings…” and then she reaches up and pretends to pluck something out of her hair before shoving it behind her back, “…and I hide them away.  I hide my feelings away from you.”

No, no, no, no, no, no, no!!!!!!!!!

I feel like I’m going to puke and then pass out.  This vision and view of the world I had in front of me is crumbling and blowing away before me like a castle made of stale bread.  I grab her gently by the shoulders as my eyes begin to fill up with tears of remorse and stupidity and selfishness and I say, “Quinnie, Daddy is so sorry.  Daddy is so sorry for hurting you,” and she looks at me and then says, “Ohhhh-Kaaaaay,” and just like that, I am forgiven.

Kids are incredible.  What a lesson in humanity this three old just schooled me with.  “Hey, Dad!  KNOWLEDGE BOMB!”  KER-BOOOOOM!

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My daughter gets up and scurries away, leaving me feeling broken and alone.  I call my son over, deciding to get all the dirty work out of the way at once.  If I’m going to be emotionally flogged, let’s just be sure to break me completely…

“Rory… hey, Roar.  C’mere a sec…”  My son approaches me and flops down onto my chest, knocking the wind out of me.  He laughs and pretends to bite my chin.  “Yaaaahhhhsssss?” he says in some weird Southern drawl and, like tearing off a Band-Aid, I respond quickly with, “Is Daddy mean to you?” and, in matched speed he answers with, “Nope!” and I say, “Are you sure?” and he says, “You’re not mean, Daddy!” and I say, “Do I hurt your feelings?” and he says, “NO!  You don’t hurt my feelings!” and there is a little wash of relief that pours over me.

Good, good, good, good, good…

I say, “Okay.  Thanks, buddy.  I love you.  Go play,” and I stand him up before  shutting my eyes to recount this revelation as he begins to walk away but… too soon.  He doubles back while I’m not paying attention and drops both knees into my abdomen, his laughter the only sound breaking through my pain.

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It’s just another reminder that, no matter how many parenting books you read, seminars you attend or videos you watch, there is no right way to raise children because each and every child is so completely and stupendously different.  Just because you have two children (and this goes double for twins) doesn’t mean that you have two of the same child.  They are people, like you and I, each with their own sets of bends and interests.  Each has their own sets of needs and desires and wants and what hurts the feelings of one may actually be the fuel that powers the second.

My children never fail; they are unceasingly unapologetic in their quest to build me into a better man, father and human.  They constantly remind me how far I’ve come but are sure to keep me humble by reminding me how far I have yet to go.

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Second Life

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For the last six days I’ve felt a bit like a con man existing with a dual identity.  The feeling was birthed on Monday, the same day my new daughter, Bryce Allison, was born.  It began as sort of this second life feeling that I was living in the hospital with my wife and daughter; the three of us quietly lying in a room, eating soup that tasted like dirty bath water and toasting our new addition over Diet Cokes.  It was this strange and private moment that existed just between the three of us; no grandparents, no siblings, no children.

Then sometime on Tuesday, my wife still in the hospital, I went home to watch my son and daughter so my mother-in-law could spend some quiet one on one time with The Baby at the hospital.  Back at home, while my kids napped I sat in front of my computer, working on a few projects, feeling like an impostor in my own home, like I were somehow hiding a piece of me from the children.

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Back in the hospital several hours later, I sit on the edge of the bed and stare at the sleeping baby in my arms and wonder how these two worlds will collide.  I’ve heard horror stories about older siblings not acclimating well to new and younger children; striking out and hitting them or covering them in pillows or trying to pull their eyes out.  Gasp, I hate to even consider it.

I spend hours thinking about it, hoping we’ve introduced them thus far properly; trying to decide how I can stitch these two existences together.  For anyone that’s never tried to integrate a new child into their family, the best way to describe it is to say that it’s like stitching a new limb onto an already completely functioning body.  You’re not sure how things are going to respond or work.

When we bring the baby home the children are both napping and so we take this opportunity to set up a large toy kitchen set (complete with food and utensils) as well as a wooden toy train set (complete with sliding doors) in our living room.  When they finally arise with blurry eyes and pillow creased faces, Jade and I say, “HI!  HELLO!  WE’RE BACK!  LOOK WHAT BABY BRYCE BROUGHT YOU!  LOOK WHAT BABY BRYCE GOT FOR YOU!  SHE KNOWS YOU LOVE TRAINS!  SHE KNOWS YOU LOVE TO COOK!  WASN’T THAT NICE OF HER?!” and we pause uncomfortably to see if the rabbits have taken the bait and, slowly, large (albeit shy) smiles spread across their seraph faces and they each go to work, Quinn making burgers and Rory wheeling in the beef.

Later that night Quinn is begging to hold the baby.  The next day Rory is clawing at my face, demanding his turn with Bryce.  I set the baby gently on his lap and prep myself for anything; the best, the worst.  He slowly bends down and, while I debate whether he’s going to gently kiss her or bite off her ear, he presses his lips against her forehead and says, “That’s my sister.  That’s Baby Bryce,” and then he smiles and I know everything will be okay.

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From 9am until 8:30pm I lead my first life; the life of a Father of Three.  I play with Rory and Quinn, pushing trains around on the floor and chasing them around the house, cradling a baby in one arm.  I growl and hiss like a monster, threatening to snare them in my grasps, the baby barreling along with me, bored and asleep, a piece of the game without even knowing it.

I take Roar & Quinnie to the park, I walk with Quinn to the grocery store, I read a book about shapes to Rory.  I change diapers and the children watch; Rory hands me wipes and Quinn hands me a diaper and they both ask, “What is thaaaat?” and point to Bryce’s shriveled up umbilical stem sticking out of her belly button like a dried root and… quite simply, it’s really difficult to describe what its purpose is, exactly, in a language a 2 year old will grasp.  I say, “That’s her… belly button… uh… umbilical cord.  It’s where she was getting food… she, uh… she ate out of it when… she was inside mommy’s tummy…”  I stop talking.  The whole thing sounds way too crazy to believe.  Both kids stare at me like I’m trying to address the Sasquatch mythos.  I try to change the subject by I telling Rory to pay attention because, “Someday you’ll be a Daddy and you’ll have to change diapers,” and he stares at me, looking kind of horrified but then lifts up a wipe and says, “I help you.”

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We dress the baby, which, by the way, is tantamount to dressing a kitten in a sweater, it’s small limbs pushing the exact opposite way you’re trying to manipulate them, contracting and stretching at just the wrong time.  We walk back out into the living room where Jade tells me that she and her mother are leaving me alone and I’m suddenly outnumbered three to one.  Knowing the odds are against me, I fire up He-Man and The Masters of the Universe and curl up on the couch with the oldies but goodies.  We watch He-Man save the day again and again, simply punching his way to success.  When evil has been thwarted and the likes of Skeletor, Beastman and Trap-Jaw have been sent running, he transforms back into boring old Prince Adam until next week when fate calls on him to unleash his secret identify – his Second Life.

Bryce wakes up during He-Man’s second adventure and I lift her up and put her on my lap and stick my pinky in her mouth because I don’t feel like picking up breast feeding this late in the game.  Quinn reaches over and pats Baby’s chest and says, “Shhhhh,” and Rory says, “Baby cryin'” and I say, “That’s alright.  That’s what babies say,” and Quinn says, “Stop crying, Baby,” and Bryce does… then she sneezes and Rory says, “Say excuse me, Bryce,” and I actually look down at her to see if she’s going to respond, leaving me with a tale so bizarre no one would ever believe.

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The episode ends and I walk into the children’s bedroom, find their pull-ups and their pajamas and say, “Okay… I need you two to really help out Daddy tonight,” and I look at their pull-ups and I look at the baby in my arms whose screams are only being subdued by my finger jammed in her gob.  I say, “Can you guys put on your underwear alone?” and they both say, “Nope,” and I say, “I KNOW YOU CAN!” and I try to pump them up, “LET’S SEE YOU DO IT!  JUST TRY!” and they both pick up toys and begin examining them.  Rory pulls off his pants and says, “Daddy, help.”

I put the baby down and she immediately starts to grunt and grumble and so I act as quickly as I can while the children act slowly and distractedly, more interested in the gurgling pink blob than in getting their jammies on.  “HEY!  PAY ATTENTION!  HEY!  RIGHT HERE!  FOOT IN HERE!  HEY!”

I get the two Walkers dressed and now we’re all prepared; the three of us ready to take on the night… if only I had a breast filled with leche… or if this baby were eating from a bottle yet…  I text Jade and say, “Baby freakin’ like a Mohican,”  She texts back and says, “On way!”  I sit in the living room with the three of them, my tribe, as we watch Prince Adam do what needs to be done in order to keep Eternia together.  I have my left arm around Quinn, my right arm around Rory, buckled back over his chest and my pinky stuck in Bryce’s mouth, my body bent and jarred at an odd angle to try and keep my own city peaceful.

Jade returns with her mother and we put Rory and Quinn to bed and this is The Moment wherein my life typically splits.  The first half of the day I am a noisy monster, a troll under a bridge, a hide-and-seek master and commander but then, from 9pm-8am, I have a second life wherein everything is quiet and calculated and meticulous and delicate.  I sit on the couch and I hold the baby and we stare at Bryce and listen to the house settling and distant traffic.  Everything is calm and reflective like a pond’s surface.

We go to bed and, while our children and any current guests sleep soundly in beds and on couches throughout the house, we fall asleep knowing we’ll be up in a few hours with the moon still hanging high in the Western sky..  I shut my eyes and dream about a forest.  Jade nudges me and says it’s time to change the baby.  I sit up and turn on the light, turn on my phone, turn on music.  Pearl Jam plays, Bush plays, Soundgarden plays.  I’m standing in my baby blue boxer briefs and a white t-shirt, singing Black Hole Sun to a six day old while I change a diaper.  This is what it looks like when Grunge Grows Up.

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The baby pees on the changing table and I clean it up, pat her butt, put her diaper on, put the onesie on, put the jammies on and then think to myself how strange it is that I am genuinely and unabashedly unashamed that I just used the word “jammies”.

I lie back down in bed and place the baby between us, fall back asleep, dream of forests and… my bedroom door opens and Quinn enters.  She’s completely naked save for a bib with a pouch on it that’s been filled with gold fish crackers.  She squeals and says, “MY BABY IS AWAKE!!” and lunges onto the bed.  “I WANT TO HOLD HER!!”

Slowly, slowly, my two lives are merging into one.  The limbs and the body are uniting.  Life is moving forward.  Everything is coming together.

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