I work in hospice.
This statement has never been written in either of my blog columns. I checked. I actually just conducted a Google search to confirm it. The omission is likely due to the fact that I write about birth, and cribs, and babies punching Santa. Hospice seems out of place here.
However, end-of-life care often evokes conversations relevant to my experience as a young father. My professional work is about family, and loyalty, and legacy. These themes transcend context, and occasionally reach far enough to punch this young father right in the mouth. I find myself smacked with the frightening yet liberating reality that I start dying now. The process starts today. The ways in which I work, and love, and serve will influence the legacy I eventually leave behind, as well as the manner in which I leave it. I am reminded each day that the life I live is meaningful, that it has consequences, and that it affects others. It affects my wife, and it affects my son.
On the rare occasion that I am asked to define my role as a hospice worker, I share that my efforts revolve around meaning. I base my care on that which the patient and family have found most meaningful over the course of their lives. Alongside these brave individuals and their families, I engage the mystery of death and affirm life. I validate faith and the commitment of the individual, and support him or her as life closes. Everything we do revolves around that person’s journey. Reconciliation and legacy abound. Heartache is ever-present. A few good laughs are often shared.
I am writing all this to remind myself and others why I began writing about parenthood in the first place. At the end, all we have are stories; Beautiful, sacred stories that bind us and sustain us. Faith, family, and hope are all founded in story, and in death these stories collide.
Today, my stories are joyous, and they are mine forever. Oliver is crawling, smiling, and occasionally raising his eyebrows at ladies in the supermarket. He is awesome. His stories add meaning to my life, and I feel as though I am aware of this now more than ever. Most of all, I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect on our relationship now with enriched perspective, rather than later. If not for my job, that perspective would not exist.
So here I am, because of that “terribly depressing job,” anticipating our adventures together with newfound excitement. I look forward to watching Star Wars with Oliver for the first time. I look forward to sharing my faith with him. I even look forward to getting him his own dog, and then watching as he figures out that tails are not leashes.
All this excitement … brought about by that terribly depressing job.
Over the course of my happy and not-so-long life, I have developed a list of food items that I find irresistible, consisting of foods that I have consumed while living and travelling within the U.S. I recently shared this list with Oliver, and he surprisingly responded with "Oh snap, dad. Me too. I have a rich and complex pallet." I have asked him to share some of his favorite foods here, alongside my own. Here they are, in no particular order.
1. Arturo's Puffy Taco in La Habra, CA
Carne asada, grease, salsa, some more grease. This tastes like Los Angeles, and Los Angeles is delicious.
2. Barbecue Chicken Boli from Stuff Yer Face in New Brunswick, New Jersey
This stromboli is inarguably one of the greatest things ever created by humankind, right behind the Egyptian pyramids and the Snuggie.
3. Pastrami Sandwich from Hoagie Haven in Princeton, New Jersey.
These sandwiches are intelligent, slightly elitist, and very delicious. Thanks, Princeton.
4. Phở from OB Noodle House
in Ocean Beach, San Diego
I know, I know. This can be purchased anywhere, and your Vietnamese friend's mother can do a better job than this place. You are wrong. I am right. Slurp it.
5. Bottle Room Burgers from
The Bottle Room in Whittier, CA.
These burgers come with grilled onions and blue cheese. And happiness. They come with happiness.
6. Mary's Donuts in Santee, CA
This place makes fried burritos with fruit filling. Who cares? They make donuts.
7. Pizza from Pizzamania
in Whittier, CA
This list makes me hungry. Somebody order pizza.
1. My Fist
There is a reason why my legs are not in the picture. I already ate them.
2. This Trash Can
It is shiny, it occasionally is lathered in crusty spilled food , and I can see the reflection of my face while I lick it. What's not to like?
3. The space between the couch
and the carpet
Dad likes burritos with anything in them. I like this small crevice in the same way.
4. This Computer Cord
I never get to taste it for very long. Shocking. Dad and mom pull it out of my hands right before I can get it in my mouth. The mystery makes it more delicious.
5. This fake gorilla, found next to real gorillas at the San Diego Zoo
Too early to give an honest critique. I want to eat a real gorilla and then compare the two.
6. Eye Glasses
I don't know what Laser Eye Surgery is, but I bet it doesn't taste nearly as good as these things.
9. Tags from under the rug
Jay-Z made a song entirely about tags. He totally gets me.
Dear Little Baby,
After we bring you home from the hospital, we will choose how to present you to the world. Many of our peers have chosen forms of social media. These are online platforms that allow a grown man to show the inside of his wife’s uterus to all of his friends without feeling awkward. Future dads get to say, “Hey high school friends, come and check out what I put in that uterus! Trust me, it’s going to be a baby.” This way, it becomes much easier to display pictures of the actual baby after it’s born, no matter what it looks like.
“Remember when I showed you that picture of a skeleton wearing a Luchador mask? Well don’t worry. My baby has a face now, so it’s cuter.”
This “show-off the baby” stage is actually quite daunting. It does not help that The Lion King has given me terribly unrealistic expectations. First of all, that primate holds the baby with so much confidence. I can’t hold a baby without fearing that his arm might fall off like he’s a faulty super hero figurine. Secondly, the crowd’s excitement is terribly misleading. Whenever I watch that opening scene, I tend to imagine that some of the animals aren't so enamored with the royals. It would make sense. There have to be some griping, pissed off antelope sitting by the lake somewhere. They can’t all be dancing in unison. Somewhere, far from the circle of life, there are some bitter antelope. They likely knew Mufasa in high school and thought he was a punk bully with a nice mane and a rich dad.
"Boooooo! Booooo! I hope the monkey drops that kitten, you tyrant! Boooooo!"
These thoughts have left me with some apprehension. Should I show you off? Will people cheer? Those hypothetical antelope haunt my dreams. I can imagine other dad bloggers flipping through pages of Facebook baby images, and rating them Cute OR Not. I fear for your ranking.
Still, I cannot imagine that anyone would have a hostile reaction to you. People love me. People love your mom. I never ate anyone’s family and shrugged it off as “the circle of life.” When I post pictures of you on Facebook, or hold you above my head in a crowded grocery store, everyone will cheer. They should, because you are going to be mind-blowingly cool.
Greetings, Little Guy.
I hope you never find yourself convinced that enjoying sports is the "manly" thing to do. Many guys don't care about sports. Sports exist, and both men and women can like them or hate them. End of story. If you decide that you loathe sports, I will fully support you.
Cool. Now that I got that disclaimer out of the way, I need to inform you that over the next four Halloweens, I plan on dressing you as a baseball, a football, a hockey puck and a basketball. If you are a slender baby, I will change those costumes to a wooden bat, a first-down marker, a hockey stick, and Phil Jackson. I love sports.
Good news (for me): You may eventually share my passion for sports.
Bad news (for you): You may also share my utter lack of athleticism.
I am a terrible athlete. I tried fixing this for years, but all my efforts were fruitless. Milk didn't do this body any good. Being allergic to several nutritious substances has not helped. Exercise was only effective when I managed to not hurt myself. Then, the guy at the GNC store got irate when I asked him for quality Human Growth Hormone at the mall. I initially tried to be discreet and asked for "the good stuff you keep in the back," but the guy was bothered by my inability to wink. I kept scrunching up my face, and I closed both eyes every time without fail. That was the day I learned that my poor coordination would keep me from cheating effectively. Damn you, failed motor skills.
Don't get me wrong, little baby. I've had my fair share of athletic triumphs. When I was 10, I won a small trophy at a regional karate tournament. During my fight, a stubby man-child punched me in the throat. I laid gasping on the floor for a few moments, uncontrollably heaving as the judges stared at my rising and falling rib cage. I was probably trying to find my parents' faces in the crowd, so I could mouth the phrase "goodbye" as I took that final gasp. Then the judges decided to disqualify my opponent for inappropriate conduct. Victory was mine! They let me gather my thoughts and mouthpiece, before watching me get vanquished by a small child in the next round. Third place trophies are awesome.
In high school, I was an accomplished pole vaulter. They let me use a special pole because of my extraordinary ability to weigh half as much as most teenagers. It was purple, and I gave it the name Excalibur. Before every meet, I would strut around the runway like a confused animal, holding Excalibur and staring blankly at opponents. I also spent some time practicing my form, which seems extremely unlikely when one sees this picture.
The track coach even gave me the Sportsmanship Award plaque. It's the award they give to that guy who makes everyone laugh while being terrible at all athletic activities.
I continued to showcase my athletic prowess in grad school, where I joined a talented intramural softball squad. They needed me. I talked a lot of trash, used the term "wheelhouse" as much as possible, and I brought an extra glove so they would let me play. It was a good time. I particularly enjoyed it when we got to play against real athletes. One guy chose to play with his shirt off, likely because his torso was built in a lab somewhere and he wanted to show us the achievements of modern science. This dude took sports seriously, so I doubt he was all that happy when I came running around first wearing a pink helmet while yelling "he put it in my wheelhouse!"
This is not necessarily your future, little dude. You may be a hell of an athlete. But you might want to work on your charm, just in case.
Dear Little Child,
I have been in two man pageants.
Let that sink in for a moment. Take a swig from that milk bottle, count to three, and continue reading when you think you're ready. Breathe in. Breathe out. Good.
When I was in high school, I participated in a Mr. GQ contest. I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to showcase what I considered to be a perfectly adequate sense of humor. Several popular kids had been involved in Mr. GQ the previous year, and I was eager to gain some notoriety with a clever, surprisingly comic performance. I planned on utilizing my strengths: comedic timing, knowing what irony means, and a winning gap toothed smile.
This is the story of my high school man pageant. We were asked to develop a five minute long talent showcase, in which we did our best to impress a judging panel that consisted of community leaders. I had described my talent presentation as an "Interpretive Dance" for the event program, but I had no idea that one of the judges was a professional dancer. Your father, as you know, is not a good dancer. I have a few basic moves, a love for Michael Jackson, and the ability to kick fairly high. I had developed a dance routine to Michael Jackson's BAD, and had attained a sweet costume ensemble, complete with a multi-zippered jacket, a disgusting old wig, a fully brimmed hat, and one glorious sequin glove. When I say "I developed a dance routine," I mean that I had watched the music video several times and had practiced a series of pelvic thrusts that best mimicked the King of Pop. I also had prepared to stop and pose at strategic moments in the song. I planned to place my gloved hand on my chin and drop to one knee, staring seductively at the audience, each time Michael Jackson said "Who's bad?!"
On the night of the pageant, I was thinking that my efforts would bring resounding success. I should have been thinking holy hell I can't dance and my best move is an offensive display of pelvic gyration. I definitely should not have invited my church youth group leaders. They had driven from a different city to see the event, and later confessed "We are really glad that we didn't bring our little girls." If you are reading this now, youth group leaders, I apologize for what happened that night.
My performances in the Formal Wear and Club Representation categories went fairly well. I was representing my school's Cross Country team, and decided to dress as a bearded Forrest Gump. I ran out on the catwalk and mumbled some clever joke through my beard, before quickly sprinting backstage and changing into my formal wear. I dressed in a simple black suit that I had borrowed from the costume closet in the Theater Arts Department. The night was going according to plan.
Once the talent portion had commenced, I knew that the odds were heavily stacked against me. One guy played guitar extremely well. Another dude broke pieces of wood with his bare hands. I started to doubt that the audience would understand my ironic, nuanced interpretation of this pop classic. It was too late for doubt. The lights were dimmed, the crowd was hushed, and sh*t was about to get crazy.
It started well enough. I moved my hips to "dun-dun-d-dun-dun" and the performance was being well received. I quickly flipped my hat off my head, and threw it into the audience with style. I may have hit a guy. The music pounded on, and I used a bouncy walk-step as I moved from one end of the stage to the other, waving at the crowd and my parents. People were enjoying this. I attempted a moonwalk, and the crowd roared. I threw some kicks. Huge applause. I started thrusting my pelvis. I couldn't hear the music, because the cheers were so loud. That's when I realized that I was 25 seconds into a five minute song, and I was out of material. I had never performed the entire song when I was at home. I likely figured that I would just get caught up in the moment and improvise.
Unfortunately, I did. I proceeded to shake my pelvis at everything. I may have even pointed at people as I did this. I am certain that my hand gestures were wildly inappropriate. I imagined every Michael Jackson music video I had ever seen, and just thrusted to the beat. This was not interpretive dance. It was disgusting.
At some point, the cheers started to die down. If I were to guess, I may have heard people yelling "do something else!" or "mom why won't he stop?" I was at the end of the catwalk, immediately in front of the judges. I had thrown some ill-advised kicks and made prolonged eye contact with a judge. The people were becoming restless, and I knew that I needed to get the crowd involved again. I ran back up the catwalk to the center of the stage and started doing my poses again.
Just as things were getting bleak, I got this brilliant idea to take off my jacket and throw it into the crowd. They had loved when I did it with the hat. While continuing to thrust, I grabbed at the zippered edges and proceeded to slip off the jacket. Unfortunately, one of the zippers had caught onto the old wig, and my head whipped back as I tore off the jacket. My eyes rolled back like I was an evil Disney witch. The wig came off with the coat, and the crowd roared. I attempted to discern whether they were laughing with me or at me, but concluded only that the show was interesting again. Years later, I was given the opportunity to watch this performance on video. I watched this moment in particular, as 15 year old me just stood there, wearing only a white T-shirt and form fitting pants. He stared out at everyone and looked terrified. His costume was off, the song was almost over, and he had nothing left. Suddenly, 15 year old me looked resolved. He was calm and collected. He paused, made some unnecessary gesture with his right hand, and proceeded to pelvic thrust for the final 45 seconds of the song. It was really gross.
I hope you never do something like this. I hope that you have some class. Given that you are my scrawny little baby, however, I am confident that you will share my affinity for unintentionally offending large crowds of people while embarrassing yourself. This is all going to happen again, little baby. Just know that I plan on recording every second of your brilliant sequel. You're going to make me really popular on You Tube.
Greetings, Minor Leaguer.
I love baseball almost as much as I love you and your mom. Almost. You two still win, but it is much closer than I would like to admit. If I were to present these truths on a pie chart, and the pie chart happened to be made of real pie, you would be equally pleased with eating any of the three slices. It's that close.
When your mother and I first started dating, she had little understanding of my obsession. In fact, I never truly understood how strongly I felt about baseball until both entities were present, together, in the same place.
The first time I attended a baseball game with your mother, I intended on impressing her. This seemed easy enough, given the circumstances. She was seated fourteen rows behind the dugout. She was watching the game alongside a ridiculously good looking baseball expert. I bought her ice cream in a mini-helmet.
During the fifth inning, we could hear folks rustling behind us as a beach ball was being tossed back and forth. Adults smacked the ball from section to section as children giggled and chased. I looked at your mother and encouraged her to participate in the longtime stadium tradition. “You should hit it. It’s your first game. You have to hit it.”
Your mother was not tempted, and politely declined.
“But what if it comes to you? Just hit it.”
To this day, I have no idea why I was pleading with her. I hate the beach ball tradition, and I think that we should arrest the toolbag that first brought one into a baseball stadium. Still, I wanted your mother to hit the ball.
“Come on, here it is!! You have to do it. Hit it! Hit it!”
I am still not sure if she got caught up in the moment, or simply realized that this meant a lot to me. She flashed a broad smile, stood up, and swung at the ball.
I knew immediately that the ball was going to land on the field. She hit it REALLY hard. I also knew that it was tradition for the crowd to “boo” a person that hit a beach ball onto the field. I instinctively stood up, pointed at your mother, and booed. I booed until the next batter came up to the plate.
That is the story of how you almost never existed. Baseball is awesome, and I like it way too much.
Dear Little One,
You might not know this, but I was born two and a half months premature, and once weighed 2 lbs, 9 ounces. I received loads and loads of attention, like a baby movie star living in a fancy uptown incubator.
Years later, your grandmother took me to a festive miracle baby celebration at a nearby hospital. The party was held to celebrate the lives of prematurely born infants, years after their births. While my memories of the event are hazy, I remember that I felt important. Music. Clowns. Miracle Toddlers. It was a glorious Preemie Party.
Much like the folks that threw that shindig, I hope to remind you each day that your life is a blessing. I eagerly anticipate your adventures, your mistakes, and your triumphs. All blessings.
One day, you will come home from church camp, trash all your rap music and break up with your pagan girlfriend. That will be hilarious. Two weeks later, you’ll want your 2Pac albums back and wonder where your cool girlfriend went.
When you start Little League, we will all quickly discover that you are not very good. But fear not! Your hot mom and I will create a drinking game in which we crack open a beer every time you have a well-hit foul ball. We are really supportive. We will be even more supportive after a few foul balls.
Oh, the moments we will share.
As a toddler, I never understood why preemies were being celebrated. I now understand that people simply want to remind themselves that life is precious, and give thanks. I am grateful for life, little child, and I grieve deeply this week for the ones who have been robbed of its moments. The horrific events of this past week are haunting, and leave me with few words. I can only say that children are precious, and I feel this now, more than ever.
Hello future child.
As you may eventually hear from your friends at school, your father is a nerd. He has big teeth. He is allergic to everything. He wears your mom's maternity pants on accident. Let them talk. Just show them a picture of your ridiculously hot mother. They will immediately realize that your father
a) is extremely charming, and b) makes really smart investments.
I am like the guy that bought Apple stock in the 1980's, except that guy probably has more cat friends than people friends. I have people friends.
I also have your mother. Pretty soon, you will too. We win.
Listen up, Little Gladiator.
Once you battle through the fierce gauntlet known as your mom’s uterus, you’ll cross the finish line and land in the capable hands of your mother's doctor. You’ll hear a lot of noise, see several people, and there's a decent chance you'll get smacked in the ass by a doctor wearing a mask. Just go with it.
You will eventually find my face in the crowd. You might see some other faces first. Those are not your dads. Do not bond with them. Keep scanning the room for a gangly fellow with large teeth. I'll be the one mumbling "just don't drop it just don't drop it just don't drop it."
Dear Little Beast of the Belly,
As I sit here at my computer, a kidney stone is wrestling its way through my body. No joke, little one. I am currently waiting for the rock to finish its journey. I just told your mother that her baby is probably much cuter than my baby.
After I said that, I realized how insensitive I was being. You're my baby too. You and this wretched, jagged rock.
You're both my babies.
Stories and Letters
This Dad Blog was originally written as a collection of letters to my child, chronicling my awesomeness and warning of the chaos to come. Now that children reside in my home, it also includes essays on successes, failures, and lessons learned... and humiliating pictures... as well as rants, jokes, short stories and random videos. Read stuff!
I Also Write Here...