18 June 2017

Can I Get A Witness?

Father's Day. Sunday, June 18th, 2017. A gray day, alas, but weather has its own agenda. This is a repost from January 9th, 2009. It is also the reason I cajoled myself out of bed this morning.


Two minutes. That is all it took. Two minutes and I went from driving over to get bagels for breakfast, to standing in the hospital crying through a hot mess of tears and letting the wall hold me up. Instead of ham and cheese on sesame, I was staring down at the blood on my hands and thinking, This may be the best day of my life.

Of course, it didn’t start out that way. It happened when I least expected it. That’s always the case, is it not? Ha. I should know that as well as anyone at this point. Sometimes I believe that I am a poster child for chaos theory in action, a swirling edge condition in my own loopy web of strange attractors.

I don’t mind it so much anymore. I have been seasoned by this randomness, like a cast iron skillet with fifty years of hot cornbread under its belt.

This particular burst of quantum activity originated, as so many of them do, with my daughter. Today was our weekly ‘Father and Daughter’ bagel day, so we were driving on our way to the bagel store in a nearby neighborhood shopping center. The land fronting along the road that borders the shopping center had remained undeveloped for a very long time, but late last year a building began to take shape at the corner lot. In a particularly timely bit of irony, the new building going up is a bank. A BANK, in this time of economic meltdown; it is to laugh.

Being an architect, I have been following the building progress with more than casual interest. Being the curious child that she is, Wee Lass has also been following the building progress. Every time we pass it, she comments on it (“Look, Daddy, is that bricks?”) or on the people (“Daddy, are they working on a Saturday?”) or the machines (DADDY! Did you see the big scooper? WOW!”); she also remembers what she saw on previous visits. She has commented many times on how many ‘sticks’ (her word for the metal studs) had been put up, or how many ‘rocks’ or bricks were on site. She even noticed before I did, that the aluminum windows had been installed after the roof was closed in. There has been very little she has missed.

This morning she was her usual chatty self as we drove past the new bank building. There has been a lot of progress recently, so much so that Wee Lass interrupted herself to excitedly exclaim “Daddy, the building is finished, are they going to be inside?” The building isn’t almost finished, as the professional in me noted, but she was excited and it wasn’t worth trying to explain. So I agreed and said that yes, they would be inside soon. She was going on about the bricks and the trucks outside, my attention started to wander. Then she started asking about other buildings.

“Daddy, did they build buildings when you were a little boy?” I laughed. (No dear, just straw huts. Jeez, am I pre-historic? Oh, well)
“Yes, they did.”
“What kind of buildings?”
“Banks, stores, other things.”
“Did they build a hospital for you when you were a little baby, Daddy?” What, where did that come from? I chuckled.
“Yes, there was a hospital when I was a little baby, sweet pea.”
“I was in a hospital when I was a little baby, daddy.” Yes, I heard.

By this time we had pulled into a parking space. Just as I was getting out of the car, she said “I cried when I was born a little baby, daddy.” I remembered that, too; I replied “So did I, sweetie.” She seemed incredulous. Then it happened. As I was getting her out of her car seat, she looked up at me and said “I cried when they took me out of mommy’s tummy, daddy.”

Thermocline. A boundary condition in the body of water in which I am drowning. Warm and thin above, cold and dense below. The temperature drops rapidly, sharply as I break the edge, swirling in turbulence. I am engulfed in cold density. I am in the hospital, wondering what in the hell just happened.

I remember noise, and light. There was a lot of beeping in the background, people in hospital scrubs and masks, voices low and professional talking about “blood pressure” and “She looks good” and “Are you alright?” It took a few seconds for me to comprehend that last question was directed at me. I turned my head slightly to see a nurse next to me, her face smeary through the flood of tears filling my eyes. Glancing over her shoulder, I could see someone lying on the table, body draped in bloodied surgical blankets. I remember then that it was The Spouse. She was kind of still, but no one seemed to be worried. A sigh of relief, she was awake. I told the nurse in a croak that I was okay, I’ll just lean on the wall for a bit. She smiled sweetly, and turned to attend to some other business.

I slumped there, still crying. I turned my head back to the right; the body of Wee Lass lay out before me on a stack of white towels in the warmer. She was trembling and pink, wailing at the top of her freshly opened lungs. There was a little cap on her head, blue and white knit clinging to her tiny skull.

She was beautiful.

On the table next to the warmer was a pile of gauze and some heavy stainless steel surgical scissors. The gauze was slightly stained, little crimson patches shocking against the snowy fabric. The scissors appeared to have been used. It was at that moment that I saw that Wee Lass no longer had the umbilicus attached to her navel. It had been cut. I reached out my hand to her, letting her tiny fingers grope and squeeze the tips of my fingers. I imagined it to be the caresses from the soft, wavy tendrils of a sea anemone. A fresh flood of hotness spilled down my cheeks. Through the watery haze, I could see a dark smear running along the side of my hand. I bent down for a closer look. It was blood, almost dried.

It hit me that it wasn’t my blood, it was hers. It must have happened when I cut the cord earlier. I am stunned, a fleeting spike of revulsion through my gut, to be replaced by a wave of warmth. My daughter’s blood, the very stuff of life, highlighting the wrinkles and lines of my skin. Curious, I raise my hand to my lips, placing them gently on the crimson stain. The blood is not wet, and I kid myself that its warmth is what remains of the heat as it left my daughter. A light blooms in my skull, and I know what I must do. This blood is not the oil of Exodus, but it will suffice. I brush my hand over my brow, blood against the skin anointing me. On the warmer, my daughter wails at the top of her lungs, a tiny hurricane welcoming me into the Church of Life.

Thermocline. Flailing desperately to free myself from the viscous deep, I swim hard into the warm water above. The surface breaks over me in a million silver drops. I find myself blinking hard and Wee Lass is looking up at me again, half out of the car. She says it again:

“Daddy, I cried when they took me out of mommy’s tummy.”
“I remember, sweet pea.”

I cried, too.

1 comment:

"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...