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.