Something new on the blog today-- I'm welcoming a guest blogger, my good friend D.B. Grady. D.B. wanted to write to my (loose) theme of transition, but except for a stint in Afghanistan, he's lived his whole life in Baton Rouge. So he's writing on a transition of another kind. Take it away, D.B.
It's a thrill to write for Angie's blog today. She is truly the Obi-Wan Kenobi of freelance writers, thoughtful and generous in word and deed. Her guidance led to my first paying gig, and she continues to inspire with assignment after assignment. She's written for more magazines than I've read. (And I am late in submitting this piece to her, so clearly I've still got a lot to learn.)
After mentioning the Red Planet Noir virtual book tour, she was kind enough to offer her website for me to scribble on. She suggested the topic of transitions. It soon became very clear that there's been only one real transition in my life, and that is to fatherhood. Everything else was a warmup act.
I don't remember much after my daughter was born.
Amelia is fifteen months old. She may as well be fifteen years. Everyone's heard, or said, "Oh, they grow so fast." They're understating things. Amelia is like a runaway stagecoach. One day, she could roll. One day she could sit. Then she was crawling. Standing. Cruising. Walking. Dancing. "Mama." "Daddy." "Dog." Baby food. People food. She presently chatters endlessly in her own secret language. I remember the first time she laughed, but don't remember why. I remember the first tooth, but don't remember when. Sometimes when she's tired she'll give me a little kiss.
A couple of months after she was born, I dropped by my old office. Everyone commented that I'd lost weight. I hadn't noticed. I hadn't been eating. It never even occurred to me. There wasn't enough time. (I've since made up the difference, and then some.)
I didn't sleep for a year. That's how it felt, anyway.
Nothing can prepare one for parenthood. It's binary; there is Before Baby and After Baby.
Before Baby, I noticed every screaming child within earshot. Now I go to Chuck E Cheese and it barely registers that I'm not at the library. It's as though I've become a Zen Master. Like there's an IV of Halcion dripping into my bloodstream.
When Amelia was born, I wondered why she was crying, or why she wasn't sleeping at night.
Then I started worrying when she didn't cry. Why she was sleeping for eight hours. I started waking more than she did.
After becoming a father, so many things start to make sense. Life is clarified, and the important is put in perspective with the truly important. And this is the most important thing I will ever do. I work from home, and am grateful for that opportunity. To watch her grow, learn, think and figure things out. She explores the house -- no cabinet is safe. When she finds something of interest, she usually creeps toward me with hands outstretched, not for permission, but for approval. "Look what I found, daddy! This is the new best thing in the world."
Fatherhood is a tremendous responsibility, but it is never a burden. When I grow frustrated, it is always at myself, for not knowing what to do. She is learning faster than I am. There is no resting on my laurels, no kicking my feet up and taking the week off. Every day brings a new discovery, for her, and for me.
Recently, I met an old friend and her husband for lunch, and we brought the babies. (Are fifteen-month-olds still considered babies? I don't even know that.) She is an artist in Washington DC, and works from home. She lamented that she would do anything for a daily, four-hour block of uninterrupted time with her craft. I'm a writer; I know the feeling. Then she said, "But it'll only be like this for five years. Then she'll be off to school, and I will never get to spend the whole day, everyday, with her again."
As Amelia fed herself Apple Jacks from a ziplock bag, I did the math. Three and a half more years. And I felt terribly sad.
They grow so fast. I'll never catch up.
D.B. Grady is the author of Red Planet Noir.
He can be found on the web at http://www.dbgrady.com/.