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I try to be the quietest person that ever lived when I get back home late from work and everyone is asleep. My foot placed perfectly with every careful step, but the utensil drawer is a disaster. The drag of a knife as I slide it out. The metal tinkle of fork tines in the night. The fundamental vibration as I ease it closed. I catch and pause my breath, listening. Still asleep, still asleep. But then the plate too hard, too hard! on the counter and the stove as I slip in the leftovers, it is the clanging crazy of a dumptruck or ancient elevator. There’s no way I can pull this off.
He sleeps on, though, somehow.
Just like right now, with Phish on at a good volume, he swings in the swing with his beautiful little melon head tipped onto his shoulder and mouth slightly open in the bliss of sleep, he rocks and rolls.
Oh shit, abrupt stop to music! Disaster is imminent!
Zeph is here with us every day. Every day he’s a baby and he has to do it the entire time. After all, there’s no relief from being a baby. You can’t crawl, can’t walk, can’t talk, can’t do anything but smile, study, gurgle and cry. Lots of crying, but not as much as some, I’m told. And so much laughter. I had no idea a three month old child could have a sense of humor.
I’m still in shock that there is a baby in our home. Our baby. Our place. And he laughs, all the time. When mommy comes home. When I come back in the room after being gone for a few minutes. When the blue elephant rotates into view as the Endlessly Small, Small World jingles from the mobile.
I wake up humming it and find myself drumming the tune on my steering wheel as I drive and drive my mind moving in so many ways to figure out how to behave in this whole new World. It’s a small one alright. He’s heavy and solid but easy to lift and when I’m rocking him to sleep again and again the entire World fits in his face.
The bottomless pit that lived in my stomach has a bottom after all. But this doesn’t feel like a bounce, this new journey into actual parenthood. I’m not passing the same sights on this path that I plummeted past on the way down. A threshold instead, perhaps. I fell so far down that I passed right through the bottom and started falling back up the other side.
The happiness I feel right now is sickening to others I’m sure. It’s that goopy, silly, happy joy that just makes me want to puke, except now it’s me. Frankly, I’m embarrassed to feel this good when I felt so awful for so long. It’s like a betrayal to that former self, to Silas, to how much we have lost and what could have should have would have been if we lived in a World where shit like our shit didn’t happen. But I can’t help it, I’m fucking ecstatic right now.
I thought I was going to be this happy, content, loving father to my son so long ago that I had given up expecting anything to turn out the way I wanted. What I wanted didn’t matter, clearly, so I had to be happy enough with whatever scraps I could salvage for three long years. And now suddenly I’m at a feast of awesomeness and I don’t have the stomach to fit everything in all at once. I’m taking it in moment by moment, and Zeph is all about the moment so it feels like we’re on the right path, together.
I love rocking him to sleep with Harry Hood and Graceland on the stereo. He melts me with his infrared smiles and atomic laughter. Not just giggles, these. Laughter. Fucking laughter from my 3 month old son because he likes making us laugh. That’s insanity, yet I see it every day. And he screams like he is being strung up by his toes when he’s hungry and the boob is not forthcoming as rapidly as he’d like. He’s got this one little shriek that cuts through any sound in the world. It probably hits the moon if he aims it right. And as sad and demanding and upset as he is when he fires it off, all we can do is laugh and look at each other and wonder how is he here? Where has he been? How can we be this happy when so recently and for so long, we were so, so sad?
Now, everything has changed once again. From nap nanny to playmat to tummy time to the carseat and a drive to grandma and grandpa’s house, it is go go go. We languished in grief for so long that it feels like I’m moving at lightspeed now, just trying to keep up. And the vortex hasn’t vanished, it just changed in an instant from darkness and chaos to velocity and light.
I can’t stop kissing him and I can’t wait to watch him grow.