Tuesday, July 29, 2008

First Try

My first try at making my own header. It's kinda fun! Not thrilled with the text portion, but I ain't had a lotta time. I used Mythology Vol. I by Centric Studios, and Crack Brushes I by hawksmont Universe, both found on brusheezy.com. I could waste hours and hours playing with that stuff.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Kid Swap

Today I took Robert McGee and Freckles to Volente Beach as a reward for good behavior during our time together this summer. Their mom, Social Worker Sister-in-Law ("SWSIL") took the day off and kept Thumper all day so that we wouldn't have to stop the fun for baby feedings and baby naps and baby diapers. Thumper had a fabulous time; he didn't stop talking about it from the time I picked him up to the time I put him to bed. In fact he's probably still in there talking about it. Of course, I still don't know what all they did, because I can't understand a word he's saying.

Volente Beach was a fabulous time, too. I should tell you about it, about how I got sunburned despite copious coatings of sunblock. About how Robert McGee and I almost went right over the top on the Sidewinder! Twice! About how Freckles bathing suit was full of sand and how she almost lost her brand new Kit Kittredge t-shirt, but didn't. And how Texas Twister was closed, probably because somebody got stuck in the middle, or maybe got their head chopped off, or ran into a giant spider, or maybe just kept spinning and spinning and spinning and spinning...

I should tell you how Aerie's out of town working, and how as soon as we pulled into the garage, Thumper asked, "Mama?" And when we came in, he looked out the back door and asked, "Mama?" And how he grinned when he heard her voice on the phone when she called to kiss him goodnight. I should tell you about all of it, but now that the boy's in bed, I've got to shower all the sand and lake water off me, and I've got copy to write, and a bagful of dirty diapers and leftover Thumper food to unpack, and a kitchen floorful of pots, pans, and Tupperware to put away that Thumper played with this morning while I packed his bags, and a breakfast to pack for him to eat while we get our oil changed tomorrow, and a zzzzzzzzzzzz.....

Friday, July 25, 2008

Have I Told You?

I suppose this probably falls into the negativity and snark category, but...

One of the benefits of chatting up the mothers at the playground is socializing. I get to talk to real adults and enjoy the pleasantries. Another is the normalization of the experience. I get to feel like not such a Rowr! Fee fi fo fum! villain for now and again yelling at my kid. Man, some of them folks is way more villainous than me. I. Than I. And the third benefit? I get to fill up with sinful pride because my kid's a friggin' genius!

Yep. Genius. Certified. Your child is five months older than mine and doesn't really have any meaningful words yet? Oh, mine says a bunch of words. Burp and toot. Excellent sense of humor on that kid. Toot particularly, and his own toots even more so. And gargle. He says gargle. He pronounces it "gah-goo," but he uses it in the proper context. His Mama's a bit of a mouthwash-aholic, you know. He says Mama, too. "Mama" means "more," too, but usually it means Mama. About half an hour before she comes home every day, he asks me, "Mama?" And I say, "no, not yet." But boy, the "mamamamamama!" that comes out of him when she does come home. And then they go gargle. And "boom-boom" for blueberry. And "bye bye," and "night night." And "bye" for the birdies that congregate on the feeder in the backyard. And cheese. And juice. And car. And doggie. And I could go on, but I don't want you to feel inadequate.

And speaking of doggies, whenever we read We're Going on a Bear Hunt, on every page, I ask him where the doggie is. And do you know, at least half the time, he points right at that doggie? And then he giggles in the most charming way when I say, "woof woof!" He has an excellent sense of humor about animal noises as well as bodily noises. And speaking of animal noises, when I sing "Old MacDonald," he says "bock!" when I mention that Old MacDonald had a chicken, even before I say it. And "Mmmmmmmmmm" for the cow. Not even one yet. Did I mention he's not quite one yet?

And yes, he's walking. For about a month and a half now. Yes, he's very steady, thank you for noticing. Yes, he's quite the climber. It is exhausting watching him all the time to make sure he doesn't fall, but that's the price of genius, ha ha!

He signs, too. Did I mention that? We haven't been keeping up with the signing so much since he speaks so well, but yesterday, when I asked him if he wanted to take a bath, he made the sign for "bath." Unprompted! All on his own! And I haven't signed that to him in probably two or three weeks! A genius, that kid! Genius!

I wonder why no one calls us for a playdate?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I'd never heard of Mike Mills. Wait, isn't he the other guy in R.E.M.? Oh, never mind. When suttonhoo linked to him, I liked it, especially the graffiti and the Thumbsucker graphics. So I added Thumbsucker to my Netflix queue and bumped it to the top. I fully expected it to fit my perception of independent movies: a long (or long-seeming) exploration of quirky characters, an exploration of a meandering path that has no destination, an experience at the end of which I'd apologize to Aerie for making her sit through it. And it did fit that perception, sort of. Except for Keanu Reeves' cigarette-smoking dentist. A dentist/spiritual guide. I found myself inexplicably thinking of Danny Aiello's chiropractor/spiritual guide in Jacob's Ladder, though that movie was a very different sort of experience. But in Thumbsucker Neo is kind enough to summarize for us, and lo and behold, I suddenly liked the movie. I guess I prefer my art spoon-fed:

"I don't know. I guess I stopped trying to be anything and accepted myself and all my human disorder. You might want to do the same.... No, really. Look, Justin: there was nothing wrong with you."

"It felt like everything was wrong with me."

"That's because we all want to be problemless, to fix ourselves. We look for some magic solution to make us all better, but none of us really know what we're doing. And why is that so bad? That's all we humans can do: guess, try, hope. But Justin, just pray you don't fool yourself into thinking you've got the answer. Because that's bullshit. The trick is living without an answer. I think."

Monday, July 21, 2008

Our Morning at the Playground

"Rock. Rock. Pecan. No, don't eat it. Don't eat it. Careful, there's a step there. No, don't eat it. Wanna slide? Wheee! Don't eat it. Stick. Careful, there's a step there. Don't eat it. There's still a step there. You OK? No, don't eat it. Leave your shoes on. Doggie. Doggie. Birdie. No, don't eat it. No, yucky. Want some water? No, don't eat it."


You know, if you take a kid who walks like a drunken sailor even on carpet in his bare feet, then put shoes on him and stick him in ankle-deep gravel, suddenly he's bustin' out the John Ritter pratfalls all over the place.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Queer Eye for the Straight Guy told me long ago that I should trim my body hair. And I believed them. They never mentioned the hour-and-a-half time commitment, though. Man, I'm hairy. It takes forever, and I hate it. But when the boy becomes engrossed in pulling on the chest hair poking over the top of my shirt collar, it's time. Bonus fun: I never feel quite so gigantic as when I'm measuring my entire surface area by a two-inch swath.

Friday, July 18, 2008


I am a 36-year-old white man who is (as far as I know) in violation of no laws. Yet, when a police car cruises past, I immediately tense up. I look at him. No, looking at him looks suspicious; I look away. No, not looking at him looks suspicious. I pretend to be engrossed in something else, much as I do when the panhandlers pass by.

Of course, if I'm driving, there's reason to be nervous. If he wants to, he can always find some justification for pulling you over. But I was on foot today. Jogging. With a sleeping baby. I probably couldn't be less interesting to him if I tried. But still, I got nervous. I think it's a reflex, a response conditioned into me when I was younger and stupider, and there were more reasons why a cop would want to stop me, and more reasons why I really wouldn't want him to.

Now, though? I'm harmless. But still: don't look him in the eye. It'll just provoke him.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

10: The New 9?

I've begun to suspect that Thumper's napping patterns may be in flux. It's hard to tell, because he's had a cold since Friday, and having a stuffed up nose can mess with your sleep. But for a long time, he had been as regular as clockwork: 9am-11am, 2pm-4pm, 8pm-7am. Lately, though, he's been fighting it. I can't recall if it's just this week, because a week with a sick baby can seem so much longer. I think it may have been before he got sick, too. He fights it. He complains for sometimes a good half hour, then he wakes up a good half hour earlier than he used to. So he's only getting an hour or a little more per nap instead of his usual two.

So today I thought I'd see if he was ready for a change. I took him for a jog at 9am to see if you would stay awake or doze off. He stayed awake! As I jogged, I thought about the blog post I would write: "The long-feared day has come! Not the end of oil, but almost as dire: the end of morning nap!" How am I going to shower? How am I going to get anything done? I pictured how we'd share a little mid-morning snack of yogurt and a cereal bar, and how he'd probably have a nice long nap after lunch, during which I could blog and screw around on the internet write some copy and clean the house. And you know what else this means? Playdates with the SAHDs! He'll actually be awake for 10am playdates now!

But he fell asleep about a block from home. He even stayed asleep as I got him out of the stroller and carried him to his room. His eyes popped open when I laid him down, though, and he complained bitterly for about ten minutes. He's quiet now. I guess 10 is the new 9. This is good, though. If I can exercise while he's awake, I can do other things while he's asleep, like write some copy and clean the house blog and screw around on the internet.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I've Been Warned... Again

I received an email from BFF today, which had the title of this post as a subject line. Well, actually it was, "You've Been Warned... Again." It contained a link to this video. BFF has for years preached the impending end of oil.

At about 4 minutes into this, Matt Simmons says this in response to a question about what will happen first in the next 6 months and then in the next 6-10 years:

"I think unfortunately, the probable scenario is that we're going to basically keep dropping our inventories and feeling good about it hoping that basically that will bring around a price collapse, assuming that might be actually demand declining when it's not, and then we're going to have a shortage. And if we have a shortage, we'll have a run on the bank so fast your eyes will spin, this is basically where everyone tops off their tank. And we haven't run out of oil, but we could literally run out of usable diesel and gasoline, and then we have the great American disaster, because within a week we don't have food."

BFF followed the link with his own exhortation:

"I've said stuff about Peak Oil in the past. Now we've finally hit mainstream media and attention. If you haven't taken steps yet. You better get with it. I'm not talking Y2K where nobody knew what's going to happen. But a predictable decline in resources, especially oil which affects supplies delivery and the supplies themselves. Our culture and lifestyle is where you need to imagine radical change in appearance and operation in our lifetime. More difficult for your kids. The unknowns are how fast or slow a decline. But where we are going, or the eventual outcome is clear. Not trying to scare anyone, just make it in your long term plans how you and your family will get by. We've been spoiled for a really long time. The party's about over. You are not going to be able to depend on the usual outlets nor continuous supplies. There's no one to blame. And you're on your own. The gov't won't be able to keep it all afloat or working (think Katrina). You'll have to depend on yourself and whatever you can create yourself or with your neighbors, networks, and local communities. This ain't gonna happen over night, but neither will what you need to create and who you need to connect with."

I lapsed into a horrible doomsday fantasy that BFF periodically inspires in me about the Collapse of the System that will come with the inevitable End of Oil. The fantasy's all about how we have done nothing to prepare for it, live in nothing like a village, have no renewable agricultural or water resources at hand, and how we and our beautiful baby boy will all die in the rioting, the looting, the starvation, the disease.

I don't think BFF is crazy. Well, he is in some ways, but I believe in the inevitability of the end of the finite resource petroleum. I believe that it is more central to our way of life than we'd like to admit, and that with the industrialization of China and the ever-increasing rate of growth of the global population, we will consume it faster and faster and faster. I don't know that new systems to replace the ones so dependent on oil will be in place soon enough to avoid catastrophe. I hope so. I hope that the economic pinch of high gas prices will make people think more and more about it. But mostly, I just don't know that I can or want to change my lifestyle to become independent of petroleum, even when the prize is saving myself and my family.

But then the boy and I played with an empty box, chased a kitty around, and joked together about burps and toots. I think I'm able now to go back to pretending that all will be well, that the myriad solutions will arise and put themselves in place before that Great American Disaster breaks upon our small, happy suburban shores.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Ah, Belikin

I'm doing pretty well on my goals this week, except for the drinking. I've met my workout goals, which makes me think I should up the goal to 4 per week. I probably should wait and see how it goes over the next few weeks though, so I don't set myself up for failure. I've watched less TV. I've read more. I'm still working on the negativity and the complaining about other people, though, especially in traffic. If Thumper is paying attention in the back seat, he's going to learn some real doozies of curse words to bust out on the Grandmas some day.

But really, drinking seems to be the toughest one for me. I don't [like to] think of myself as an alcoholic, because I function just fine. I don't miss work. I don't go into rages or beat my wife [because she'd kick my ass]. I get up every morning at 6:30 to take care of the boy. I mean, it has its negative effects on my life, but it's not ruining me. And I sure do like it.

I've been watching Alpha Dog on the treadmill the past couple of mornings, and there's a fifteen-year-old who goes to a party as a kind of guest of honor. Everybody knows him, everybody's his friend. He drinks, he smokes, he loses his virginity to two girls simultaneously after a rousing game of skinnydippin' Marco Polo. I watched it and thought, "That kid's doomed. He's going to spend the rest of his life chasing that moment, going from party to party trying to get it back, and it'll never be the same. But he'll keep on trying."

My first drink was a teaspoon of schnapps that Biggest Brother brought back from a year-long trip to Germany. He was eighteen; I was six. I remember that it was the most horrifying taste I'd ever had in my mouth. I thought that if this is what drinking is, I'm never going to do it. Why would anybody want to pour that toxic acid down his throat?

When I was fourteen, though, I took a two-week trip to Belize with my father and two other Boy Scouts. That trip was an [at the time] under-appreciated experience that really did open up my eyes about a lot of things. I learned that much of the world cares passionately about soccer, and we're the only ones who call it that. I learned that people live in crushing poverty and work back-breaking jobs. I learned that chicken necks in the stew can be a luxury brought out with pride and generosity for guests. I learned that treasures of the past aren't always preserved in museums; they sometimes rot away in the jungle far from the eyes of people. And the ones that are preserved in museums and private collections are sometimes there because they were stolen away illegally, for money. I learned that capitals can have dirt roads and open sewage canals. I learned what a junkie was.

But I also learned that not all nations have a drinking age. My father and I stayed with separate host families, so when the father of the host family asked me at dinner my first night if I'd like a beer, there was no one but me to say no. And I didn't. Belikin Beer was everywhere, and I drank as much of it as I could. And it was a wild time. I recall going to a party with my host brother, a party in a field on the edge of town. The people were so friendly and accepting of me. The music was pounding and joyful and alive. I remember lots of reggae and "Feeling Hot Hot Hot" sung by somebody other than Buster Poindexter. I remember saying no, thanks to the ganja and being afraid that people would laugh at me, but they didn't. I recall being told that I got my companions and I kicked out of a nightclub, though I don't remember that at all. I remember running through streets laughing while someone far behind us yelled and yelled about how he was going to shoot the white boys up with heroin, shoot them up right in their heads.

There were so many things about that trip that we did sober that were the best times of my life: swimming in a blue hole in the jungle, with no one else around; picking burlap sacks full of oranges, then eating them in the back of our broken-down truck, waiting for help and reading Oscar Wilde aloud to each other; hiking to Mayan ruins and watching the Belizean Boy Scouts hack up a huge python with their ubiquitous machetes; playing pool and drinking Coke from glass bottles; watching A Cry in the Dark in Spanish at the movie theater, along with a variety of kung fu movies. But to be honest, it was the drinking that really capped it for me. I felt more outside of myself, more a part of the world. And of course I [thought I] was doing it without my dad knowing, which had its own appeal.

So that was the beginning. I came home that summer and immediately fell in with the younger siblings of Big Brother's cool friends and the party circuit. By fifteen, harder drugs were in the mix, though it took me to seventeen to overcome my mother's warning that, because of the pneumonia I had when I was two, I'd die if I ever smoked. By the time I got to college, drinking was a well-ingrained habit. I used it to decompress during the days that I worked full-time and went to school full-time. I used it for the same purpose through some particularly rough marital troubles in the late '90's. And I can use just about any excuse at all to worry about it next week, or next month. So by the time I got to the point in my life where I don't think I need or want it as much, I'm pretty well-conditioned to do it anyway; there's an excuse.

Thumper woke up with a cold today, and he's way off his usual eating and sleeping schedule; there's an excuse. And if you drink on Wednesday and Thursday, you might as well drink on Friday; there's an excuse. And if you drink on Friday, Saturday's a goner, too. So I guess I'll applaud myself for my successes, not beat myself up too bad for my failings, and just keep trying. Now who wants a drink?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Pardon Me...

But I just had to share this with you. This is what I do all day.

Carry on.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I Got More Bosses Than the New York Mafia

As an usher at the arena (and soon at the stadium), I work under usher supervisors. There are nearly 100 of them. The usher supervisors are in charge of and evaluate the ushers working at their station during any given event. There are also two Assistant Event Managers that may be in charge of any given event or work together to run larger events, like concerts. They're in charge of the ushers and the usher supervisors. There is also THE Event Manager. He's the one manager to rule them all and in the darkness bind them.

As a part-time Computer Services employee, also at the arena, I am subject to the supervision of the Computer Services Manager.

Both Computer Services and Events are under the sway of the Associate Director.

As a babysitter, I work for my big brother and his wife.

I'm a database consultant with one client.

I'm a writer of web copy, also with one client.

So, at last count, I've got 107 bosses.

Oh yeah, and I'm married. 108.

Heh. Just kiddin', honey. I love you!

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Fundamentals of Comedy

THUMPER: *Farts* Hee hee hee! Tut!


T: Hee hee hee! Tut!

R: Tooooooooot.

T: Hee hee hee! Tut!

R: *Burps* Excuse me!

T: Hee hee hee! Bup!

R: Burp.

T: Hee hee hee! Bup!

R: Buurrrrrrpppp!

T: Hee hee hee!

He's a prodigy, that boy. I couldn't be prouder.

Self-Improvement Project 2008-2009

As I was huffing and puffing along on the treadmill this morning (the first time I've been on it in a couple of weeks now), I had an inspiration: instead of pulling the plug on the blog because it's not making me happy right now, I should use it as a self-motivation tool. There are so many ways that I think about improving myself, but I never follow through on any of them. I need to create a concrete plan, a schedule. I could be healthier. I could be a better husband. I could be a better father. I could be a better friend. Of course, I actually stopped exercising in order to write this post, so I'm not off to a good start there. But here are my thoughts. Let me know what you think.

I'm going to post some weekly goals for myself, then I'm going to post weekly about whether or not I met those goals.

Goal #1:
Exercise for 45 minutes per day, three days or more per week.

I've talked about my weight here before, and that's a major goal that I never seem to meet. The best weight loss I've ever achieved was when I participated in weight loss contests at work. I perform best when I'm competing against someone else, but I think it wasn't just the competition, it was also knowing that my results would be public knowledge. So if I make my results public knowledge here, maybe I'll fare better. I'll post my weight and weight loss too, just to add that little dash of motivation by humiliation.

Goal #2:
Drink two days per week or less.

I drink too much. I don't talk about it much. It's a dirty little secret. I use it as stress relief, unwind time. But it clearly contributes to my weight and health issues, and I think it contributes to my negativity. I'm not a kid anymore. I should cut that shit out.

Goal #3:
Watch TV for two hours or less per day.

I watch too much TV. I see Thumper staring at it, and I worry about his future in the electronic media age. It's mind-numbing. It wastes time that could be put to better use. I'm not a kid anymore. I should cut that shit out.

Goal #4:
Finish one book every two weeks.

This one will go hand-in-hand with #3. And we're talking actual paper books here. Audiobooks are great, especially for driving, but there's no substitute for a real paper book. I know some speed readers, but I ain't one of them. I think this is an achievable goal. Maybe I'll step it up to one per week eventually.

Goal #5:
Stop being snarky about other people.

Even when they're not around to hear it. I don't want to be so negative anymore. This one will be hard for me, but it's important.

I think 5 is good to start with. I could add at least one more about diet, but I think I'll start with this and build on it as I succeed. Two other minor goals will be:

Respond to comments more often. It's good for relationships, as long as you keep Goal #5 in mind.

Instead of dumping Twitter, use it to borrow One Good Thing's concept of writing about one good thing per day. Every day I'll Twitter one thing I'm happy with myself about and one I'm not.

I've never been good at following schedules, etc., but since becoming a SAHD, I've kept a calendar of all of my babysittin' and usherin' days. That calendar has become very important to me. I think I'll try to schedule out my goals and incorporate them into the calendar, since I've already become accustomed to consulting it. Maybe I'll even become one of those Seven Habits dayplanner types...

Nah, let's not get carried away.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

1. Cute Picture 2. Cute Anecdote 3. Existential Angst

Here's Thumper on the patio enjoying two gifts from his grandparents. I think this is my favorite, though the others are cute, too. The look on his face says to me, "The camera, again? I'm trying to read here..." Which is funny, because there's nothing he likes better than hamming for the camera. Except maybe for trying to find out what a camera tastes like. The other funny thing is that you wouldn't know it from the picture, but this is moments after I set him up for a fall that bloodied his nose. I opened the sliding glass door to the patio, but I didn't point out to him the track in which the door slides, so he tripped over it and landed flat on his face. He's made huge advances in bipedal locomotion over the past couple of days, but he still doesn't really pay attention to what's in front of his feet. Much like a curling stone, he needs a sweeper.

So, yes, his first bloody nose. It's not his first injury, nor his first from which he recovered quickly. Mrs. Rodius remarked that it's kind of scary. He could give himself a concussion (and the rate at which he's whacking his noggin on various pieces of furniture these days, it's not out of the question), and we'd say, "Eh, he's fine."

There you go. Cute picture. Cute anecdote. I've been having trouble blogging lately because I'm starting to feel like all I really have to contribute is is tales about the development of our little man, and I'm wondering if that's enough. It's really not feeling quite as earth-shakingly consequential as it did in the first few months. In fact, it's starting to feel quite mundane. Not the doing, so much, but the talking about the doing. We're not the first people on earth to have a baby, and there's probably not much new to say about the experience. And apparently, without tales of Thumper, I haven't much to say.

And there's Twitter. I kind of wish I hadn't gotten on the Twitter, because if I was obsessive about checking blogs and checking email for comments, I'm doubly obsessive about refreshing the Twitter. And with the easy out of 140 characters, I get really lazy when it comes to putting together a longer post for the blog. Besides, Twitter is a lousy addiction: it's always over capacity, and it frequently eats posts, particularly the really good ones.

And of course, there's the whole social retard thing. In retrospect, I'm surprised that it took me over a year, but inevitably, I managed to piss off my cool new internet friends. I apologized, and sincerely. And I think it was accepted. But I can't stop thinking about it. Then I decided to just close the door entirely so that I wouldn't embarrass myself that way again. Which leaves me in a self-imposed isolation. Again. 36 years of doing it the same way, you'd think the lesson would sink in.

So I think about dumping the whole project. Which would be just like me: buy a domain name, get a makeover, then flush the whole thing down the toilet. But I think the last year has taught me that blogging is sort of cyclical; I get burnt out, then get refreshed, then get burnt out again. I best hang on to it. Some day I might have something to say again.


I should post more. I've been busy. And Twitter makes me lazy. So in lieu of an actual post, and with the rapidly approaching anniversary of the birth of my son, I thought I'd share with you the version of a birth story I wrote when I was still in high school. Man, that kid had no idea what he was talking about.

The Birth of a Child

With a sigh and a smile, Tom flopped into the big easy chair in his study. The house was empty and silent, and to keep the mood, he neglected to turn on any lights. The sigh was from exhaustion, both physical and emotional; the smile was the only expression of utter joy left to him as he had already used every other expression he knew.

At 9:13 A.M., Tom's wife gave birth to a son. A son! The sound of the word made his heart want to burst. William Daniel Grey entered the world weighing a healthy seven pounds, nine ounces and was every bit as indignant at his arrival as a self-important politician who realizes that he has been booked at the local Motel 6. To his parents' relief, he arrived in possession of all of his parts and with all parts in proper working order. Little William's eyes, when they were not squeezed shut in a tiny tempestual rage, were a clear and brilliant blue. In Little William's father's unabashedly subjective opinion, his was the finest boy to have ever graced the planet with his presence.

Tom spent the previous twelve hours on a continuous circuit between the bedside of his wife Elizabeth and the vending machines. He had only just left a few moments before at the gentle urgings of a matronly nurse. Tom, being the coward that many men are in the area of childbirth and other mysterious female processes, had elected with his wife's approval, indeed at her suggestion, to remain in the waiting room throughout the entire ordeal. He originally had every intention of experiencing the miracle of childbirth hand-in-hand with his wife, wearing a fatherly smile on his face, but when the time had actually arrived, Elizabeth had seen Tom's face turn ashen and had heard the strength drain from his voice, so she mercifully suggested that he remain outside.

Tom then spent the ungodly and unbearably long three hours in a cold sweat. He unconsciously fit every stereotype of the nervous first-time father to perfection by pacing continuously and talking to himself for the duration. His nerves were drawn pianowire-tight, and his nervous energy was at an all-time high. Tom did nothing to remedy this situation, and in fact spent most of the three hours pouring sugar into his bloodstream in the form of Hershey's, Life Savers, and Coca-Cola. Only the mercy of God kept him from collapsing into a diabetic coma.

At last the moment arrived. Tom's heart skipped a few beats when a small, somewhat mousy-looking nurse stuck her head into the waiting room and asked, "Mr. Grey?" Tom nearly jumped on her, making her flinch, with a myriad of questions at his lips, each so important that he was at a loss as to which to ask first. The nurse merely asked him to follow her, saying nothing else. She walked abominably slowly, and Tom realized that she was enjoying herself. Apparently this was the part of her job that she loved the most: watching the poor, tortured fathers squirm with anticipation.

Knowing this, Tom tried, but was unable, to calm himself and to end the ceaseless babble that was issuing forth from his lips. Without realizing that he was doing it, and in a period of mere moments, Tom managed to tell this amused nurse the entire history of The Romance of Tom and Elizabeth. With something similar to awe, Tom listened to the words flow out, unbidden by any human will.

The walk from the waiting room stretched on and on; Tom had never walked so far. The sterile, white halls stretched on to infinity, and a helpless Tom, feeling detached from his body and floating in some ethereal fluid, watched himself amble along, babbling contentedly.

At long last the nurse opened one of the hollow, wooden doors and ushered Thomas into the room. At this point, Tom's heart did not just skip a beat, it nearly stopped altogether. His wife was in the plain, white, hospital bed, smiling at him with a look of expectancy on her face. She held a baby; their baby. His face and his mind both went blank, and his wife could suddenly read no emotion in his face or eyes. Then his shock broke, and his eyes filled with wonder. In a breathless whisper he asked, "A boy?"

She nodded, laughing and crying, and held the boy up to meet his father. Tom took the baby with all the awkward care that befits a new father. In Tom's eyes, the boy seemed to be surrounded by a hazy glow, an aura. The father held his son for a time and thought of personal things. Eventually he looked around as if waking from a dream and went to his wife's side.

"William?" he asked as he handed the child reluctantly back to the mother.

"Hey! I thought we had decided on Daniel," she replied.

"William Daniel it is, then," spoke a voice from the corner. Tom looked up to see his mother-in-law, previously unnoticed in his understandably emotional condition. He went to her and gave her a hug, whispering "I'm a father!" in her ear.

And thus it was decided. William Daniel Grey. The rest of the day Tom spent in a haze; first he watched his wife feed the child and then went on a tour of the hospital, telling everyone he met that he was a father. Finally, when both his wife and his son were safely sleeping, a large and motherly nurse quietly suggested that he go home and get some sleep, all the while gently leading him toward the door.

So Tom went home. His troubles were only beginning, he knew. Would he be a good father? Would he do all the right things at all the right times? How was he going to get Little William through college? His were happy troubles, though, and he fell asleep in his big easy chair in his dark, empty house with his car keys in his hand, still smiling.
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