Thursday, August 8, 2013

18 and 3/4 months.

He is 18 months, and change.  18 and 3/4 months.  The fractions matter.

I walked into daycare, and he happened to be looking out the window of his classroom.  He waves.  I see him saying “da-da!” before I can hear him.
Out we go to the car, saying “bye bye” to everyone he sees.  He waves with the palm slightly curled, twisting at the wrist from side to side.  It’s very regal.
It’s Chinatown with his father, like innumerable Jews before him.  Rice gets everywhere.  We tip well.  Fish filet!  Dumplings are torn into Rubin sized bites without the innards.
As we left Lao Hunan, and slowly wandered the enclosed carless length of the strip, that kid was in one of the best moods I’ve ever seen in a human. He takes big steps, chattering away, making games out of everything he can touch, greeting all with a smile and a “Hi.”  I learn so much about people as they respond, or don’t. 
He’s the mayor of wherever he goes.

We come home, and play in his room.  “Book?” he usually brings me a small assortment, so he can then get in Official Daddy And Rubin Reading Position and have some choices.
This time he brought me every single book on his shelf.  I kept accepting them, piling them on my lap, laughing, as he stomped back and forth.  It was bath time before we even read anything.
In the tub, the erasable multi-colored crayon is king.  “Star!”  “Cir-el!” Square is hit and miss. Triangle is still too hard.
He lets me brush about ¾ of his teeth.  I shouldn’t keep leaving the upper left for last.
He’s all giggles on the table as I towel him off.  I become a human hair dryer, and he blows air right back at me. 
In his green shorts jammies, it’s time for just one book.  I hold up the index finger, trying to make the point clear.  He goes and grabs “Goodnight Moon.”
That’s your grandson and namesake, mom.  He chose your favorite children's book, and go-to gift.
We read the whole thing.  He likes the little old lady whispering hush.
Lights out.  “Stars!” on his wall have to be touched before he can lie down.
He chatters himself soothed, as he always does, and is just now quiet as I try to not forget a minute.


I’ve been busy living life with him, and fulfilling so many other responsibilities.  Writing this blog has faded from priority.
Some things I never want to forget:
·        Our trip to New York for Grampa Herb’s 80th birthday.  His NYC cousins were so loving, their homes so welcoming.  It strikes me that he’s slowly realizing it’s not just home that can feel this way.  The world might be full of hugs, safety, and joy.  What a gift to have family.  There were a lot of good role models there.  Herb is the goods.  I didn’t know about 1/3 of the people at his party, because he has an active, vibrant, full life with Joan.  Here’s to not quitting, and allowing misery or grief to rule.  His kids are so proud of him.

·        When we go to a park, and there is grass to roam; options abound.  We might play with a “ball!” He might flip-flop on a hill, happily falling over and over.  If the stroller is on its back, the wheels and mechanisms fascinate.  And the best is this.  If I lie down and throw my arms open calling his name, he usually stops whatever he’s doing, grins, and walks/stumbles towards me.  He throws his body against mine, and I roll back and forth, holding him up, spinning him around.  We laugh and holler.  What’s better than that?
·        The farm with his Gramma Ruthie, Pops, and mama-side cousins is really healthy for our downtown boy.  He ate berries right off the plant.  “YOU CAN DO THAT?” Sometimes, kid. He loves cousin Shelby; wants her to hold him all the time.  He took a first golf cart ride with cousin Mason driving, daddy holding Rubin absurdly tight.  It rained on us, and we got soaked and filthy like boys should.  The payoff was the giant rainbow, visible for miles around with not a single city building to block ROY G. BIV. 
·        The other night, he won.  He was in bed, soothing himself with chatter.  30 minutes.  An hour.  At about an hour and 15, it was a touch more whiny and I decided to weaken and bring him a drink.  I walk in, and he says with a cocky tone “Yeah…milk!”  Suck it, dad, I just made you my milk bitch.  How does that feel, dad?  You lost a stand-off.  Get used to it. 

Every day he seems to show a sense of pure joy at getting to live another one.
Our job is to make that lasts as long as possible.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Year One of Rubin In Full; Written On Demand.

Jocelyn Geboy and the fine folks at CHiRP, Chicago Independent Radio Project, do a fabulous series called The First Time.  Several readers present stories of their first whatever the theme is, and a song mentioned int he reading is then performed by a band filled with people I absolutely adore.

I say yes when asked.  It;s just too cool to turn down.

This was my reading for First Time; First Child in January of 2013.  Rubin, your momma shot the video that's linked below.

Some of the following has appeared in this blog previously.  But here it is, archived in full, for Rubin to read someday.  If the internet exists.  He can just link to it via his mandatory brain implant he gets at 18 from THEM.

Here's the full video on YouTube:

And here's the story of Rubin Ford Spiegel.

I’m the youngest of five.  I always thought I wanted to replicate the gaggle.  In fact, in things like bands and radio shows, I have replicated that gaggle of five, with my role playing out about the same.
But in terms of the spawn gaggle, well life, it took over.  Life just wasn’t that interested in fulfilling the long term vision of teenage Spiegel.  It decided I should be, in loose order, sexually awkward, financially chaotic, ambitiously selfish, and romantically visionless.  So, the dream of a gaggle was lost to the ether.
I thought the concept of a child at all was gone too.  But something wonderful happened.
I lost some weight, found my balls, metaphorically, moved west and back, disentangling from all sorts of things.  Suddenly I was free to find and be found. And so was she.
Our timing was perfect.  Older, smarter, mostly unencumbered, and emotionally open. 
One day, she happened to leave some information from a sperm bank lying around on the coffee table.  “Oh, that?” she said…”just something I’ve been thinking about.  Clever girl. 
“You know, I have some sperm right here.” 
So, we decided to talk about possibly collaborating to create a short person.  We set a date for “the talk.”  We sat down at Rootstock on California, with wine, charcuterie, and our notes.  In my little blue pad were the pros and cons of procreation.  The stats and reasoning added up to hell yes.
I loved being pregnant.  My role was fun.  Admire her transformation.  She’d occasionally give me a Proud Belly Walk By.  Help to ensure a warm, safe host for our little parasite.  Fetch milkshakes.  Read weekly from a scientific bible about the progress of our project.  I mean, we were building a human…from…nothing. From pre-existing parts. From stuff we just had floating around, genetics we’d traveled with for decades.
Our fetus was courageous. 
In utero, there was an Amniocentesis.  It had to be done.  So there is our boy on the screen, impossibly small at 20 weeks, clearly living, pulsating.  And as the enormous needle suddenly inhabits his sensory radius, he lunges for it.  And again, reaches for it aggressively, directly.  We do something between squeal and shriek.
My boy doesn’t cower in the corner.  He doesn’t freeze with concern.  He looks like a bear swiping at salmon a foot below the surface.  He is dominant, and determined.
His pure instinct towards that needle has progressively been interpolated by me to read as “Hey! What are you!? You’re new!  Can I use you? What can you teach me? What are you doing here?”
I hope he’s always that unafraid of strange interlopers.
I can say with assurance that poker, at a casino just out of state, late in a woman’s third trimester, is the equivalent of lighting a cigarette while standing on the El tracks.
The train comes.
She texted me at 10:07. "You need to cash out and start coming home. Now." I jumped up, sat down, called her from the table, and heard tell of step 1. I thought of Cat Stevens. "Water has Bro-ken..." The scraggly fellow degenerate to my right said "Dude, are you having a baby right now?" Why yes, shiftless punk, yes I am. Cheers, good wishes all around.  I walked/ran to the car, blurting out to everyone and no one what the moment was.
I loved giving birth.                       
Our little grumptastic Yoda of a newborn came out as the old Jewish man he was destined to be.  “Hello…..I’m here!”  “Oy….I vouldn’t do dat again.” 
Then, and now, his face changes every time I look at him. Emotions in the post-partum room flow freely, massively. His skin is unlike any texture imaginable. This fatherhood thing is better than any drug conceivable. Our friend Ray called it “the ultimate human trip.” Perfect.
I’ll forever remember the moment when Matt LeBlanc won a Golden Globe for his acting on the cable series “Episodes.” Never saw the show, don’t care.  But at the moment he won that award, I was changing the first black tar meconium diaper of young Rubin’s life. The shiny, thick substance just kept oozing as I cycled through somewhere between 8 to 14 baby wipes, with homegirl laughing wildly from the bed. It was a lot like the Exxon Valdez disaster, but more disgusting.  And, I’m pretty sure the same amount of wildlife was damaged in the process. Seagulls drowned, seals gasped for air, and the news media shook their heads disapprovingly.
Here's the deal: I had always been the guy growing up who wanted to, and perhaps could do, about 7 different things.  And I’d be the same proportions of happy and a little regretful while doing them.
There are now 2 times in my life that this sometimes conflicted, okay often conflicted man knew with certainty that he was in exactly the right place, doing exactly the right thing. One was sitting shiva after my mother's death, a stretch of 8 days in which she was honored and celebrated as deserved. And the second was those first few weeks of parenthood. 13 days of paternity leave.  There's no place in the universe, with no social or professional opportunity, that merits my time and attention more. I found that extremely comforting.
But eventually I had to leave the cave, go kill a wild boar, and drag it back home. I have to do that most days, in efforts to maintain high cave quality.  And as you begin to add the rest of your life back in, the challenge emerges.  How quickly, efficiently, can I race back home? 

I am deeply grateful for the demeanor of our son. He's fascinating, almost unerringly sweet, and curious.  What an incredibly healthy person to be around. Many many times, he has served as perspective renewal for me in times of stress.  Therapists call it "cognitive restructuring."  How can I possibly worry about insignificant neuroses while hanging out with him? 
That dude…that perfect little boy, is the one I’m supposed to make smile and giggle.  I spend my life, thankfully, working to entertain.  But he’s the one that deserves the songs and schtick, both impromptu and prepared.  Scratchy throat?  Tough shit, Spiegel, you have to gut your way through Hendrix’ May This Be Love at bath time.  “Waterfall….nothing can harm you at all…”  And don’t skimp on the vocal slide guitar solo.  Wahhh, wahhhhh.
Tired of talking and using your voice at the end of the day? Suck it up pops, and remind yourself why the 59th Street Bridge Song is a surprisingly good lullaby.  Make that kid dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep. 
He deserves my best energy.
Some of the most purely happy minutes of my life are sitting with him on the couch, speaking pure gibberish.  He has this perfect, precise way of moving his fingers through his lips as he buzzes them.  It's a sound made for the first time about two months ago, and I still can't get enough of it.  He’s telling me stuff.
There’s a beautiful intuitive theory behind fostering a child’s imagination and growth.  Dr. Sears says we are to acknowledge his efforts and achievements, and praise his speech.  Go that extra step with him, and help him think he’s gotten his message across.  He should feel good about speaking, and feel the joy of communicating, even if his skillset isn’t up to task just yet.
I love this.  You know what it is?  It’s improvisational comedy theory.  “Yes, And.”  In an improv scene, if you pretend we’re at a doctor’s office, I don’t say we’re not.  I talk about how sickly the receptionist is, or wonder why they have Penthouse in the waiting room.  Or something funnier than that, theoretically.  I acknowledge what you’ve set up, and further the narrative.  Same with Rubin.  Keep his adventure going.
He’s 1 now.  The matriarch got promoted, daddy works a lot, and so it’s time for daycare a couple times a week.  Terrifying.  But by day 2, he was fine when we left him there.  “Okay dad, see ya.  I got shit to do.”
The night before day 1, I found myself sitting up in bed, glasses on, filling out the necessary paperwork for the first time.  My parents did this for roughly 28 years over the course of five kids.  Ridiculous.
One of the pages asked “what are Rubin’s favorite activities?” Well, let’s see.  He’s 1.  Activities.  He likes to turn book pages.  Um…he enjoys splashing.  Crapping his pants…very good at that.  He likes to take things out of containers, occasionally, probably luckily, putting them back.  Activities.  He’s working on it.  
He makes me want to be a better man.  He makes me want to live a long time.  I still have my challenges, face my demons, find myself sleepless and embattled like we all do every once in a while.  But I have to be strong, for him.  I want to deserve him.  I have to earn him.
I’m sappy these days.  I’m thankful for the joy he brings.  Thankful for the health he’s been granted.  Thankful for the partner I lucked into.  And thankful for his existence, bringing levels of meaning I’d heard about, wanted, but still didn’t really believe.  
I want to go wake him up.