Sunday, October 8, 2000

How I Almost Became A Father

Floating down the mighty Mississippi on a warm autumn night under the stars, the smell of the river seemed foreign as the boat wavered gently on the wobbly waves. Standing for the most part alone on the bow, I closed my eyes to the flowing wind in hopes I could feel more like Huck Finn and less like Kate Winslet. I peeked to see the caves on the bank of the river looking rather spooky. In a time when it's easy enough to find those who will listen but just as hard to find those willing to hear the all too familiar, I whispered a plea/prayer to the river, secure in the knowledge that the river will always be there. But my voice was drowned out by the simmering sounds from the Bruce Henry Trio that shimmered up to the Harriet Bishop Paddle Boat's deck from somewhere down below. The subterranean Savannah Gatsby ghost jazz brought to mind yet another era as the boat floated back towards the illuminated skyline of downtown St. Paul.

As we docked and my feet struck the familiar land, Huck Finn disappeared. My recently hacked up coif (as opposed to hacking cough) bristled in the breeze. I got home to the enclosing familiar and found history had been written on the WB: Buffy killed Dracula. Not quite reverentially shaken I sat down to finish some long overlooked put off tasks. I finally sent out all my Rosh Hashanah cards. There is something simply therapeutic about the start of a new year. I wished all a happy 5761. But as I paid my bills I found myself writing 5760 on my checks. Then I personally celebrated National Mental Illness Awareness week by putting on a Brian Wilson CD. I thought it may be prudent to note to my best friends and closest rivals- there is something going around that you can't exactly be vaccinated against. I learned that last week those who wanted to "check" into United and St. Joseph hospitals for a little rest were out of luck. The hospitals were booked solid unless you had an ambulance ride.

The week was full of jarring juxtapositions. One day I'm sitting eating lunch with a man from Ghana who seemed to gravitate toward me in a room full of people because I was about the only other person of color in sight. The next day I'm back at my poorly lit desk wondering what can possibly come next. My mind races and my voice is increasingly unsure. I get out. Out and about. Do some searching. I have a mental list somewhere in the back lobes of my brain, somewhere behind the memories and far past the dreams, of all the things I need to get done before I end up on the wrong side of the dirt. And then out of the corner of my increasingly blurry and difficult vision I see something I've been keeping my eye out subconsciously for a long time. A friend asked me to look for a certain sentimental and hard to find CD, and if I found it she promised to give to me her first born child. Thinking joyfully for her I've struck paydirt I naturally stress a bit over my impending fatherhood. Alas it wasn't the right CD. No diaper shopping in the near future.

I stress too over many of the aforementioned bills (debts) that have to do with my house. There is always a project around the corner, always a payment to be made so much so that it's easy to overlook the health of being in the position and able to afford a house. The absolute best revenge of being such an inept homeowner has been my garden. To be able to come home and pick a fresh tomato or carrot to enjoy has been sublime. Taking care of the garden has been hard but rewarding work. Taking care of the yard similarly qualifies. Wanting to fertilize my grass one more time before the hard freeze I get up early one morning to spread the fertilizer (ironically on the same day as the first presidential debate). I set my alarm for 6 a.m. It goes off as I'm in a semi-insomniac snooze. I look out the window to pitch blackness. It tests my meddle- can I walk a straight line in the dark? What is the purpose of daylight savings time? But I get out, and spread the chemicals praying next spring I will be able to distinguish the weeds from the randomly selected.

"You saved me, in a difficult time. I saved you last night. It was at cost of a lie, but I made the sacrifice freely, and out of a grateful heart. None in this village knows so well as I know how brave and good and noble you are. At bottom you cannot respect me, knowing as you do of that matter of which I am accused, and by the general voice condemned; but I bet that you will at least believe that I am a grateful man; it will help me to bear my burden.
-Mark Twain
"The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg"

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