Friday, October 31, 2008

I have spent so much time on this site writing about ordinary things, trying to make them compelling or interesting, perhaps remotely "significant", and then when something seriously significant happens, finding just the right superlatives to maintain the proper arc of my own little suburban life story is suddenly impossible. When the truly significant things in life happen, there's no turning to books, movies, art, or other anecdotal evidence. There's only the soulful suppression of emotion, so that the mind can contain the truth, and yet the mind finds it can't do it, and then the heart turns to God (dragging the mind kicking and screaming.)

Birth. Death. Life. Existential superlatives. I met a stranger a few months ago who said she appreciated my blog. (Thanks!) She pointed at the Little Ditchman and asked me, "Is that the most significant thing?" She was smiling when she asked it, so I wasn't sure if the question was rhetorical. The correct conversational answer was "Yes" of course, but I hesitated because a few other significant things suddenly came to mind. Then she mentioned how I wrote once about some shadows moving across a hardwood floor. I guess I thought that was significant at the time. Now my wife and I have brought another child into the world, and I don't know what to say.

He's sitting here at my feet right now, and he is a Perfect Little Thing. I presume my father thought the same of me when I arrived, as everyone's did, and I like to think God thought the same of all of us at our creation. The birth of your child is that moment in life when God is standing next to you with His arm around your shoulder, smiling and nodding. It's a sublime experience. And if you know better, you rest your head on His shoulder.

Because you're so frickin' tired! There is nothing more stressful than birth. Torture unto death comes close, but even then, at least, the hope of the good afterlife is in the back of your mind. At birth every ounce of faith and strength is required of you, and all that amid a determination that this new life will be altogether more successful and secure than your own, and all that amid the fear that you will fail. Women are to be admired for their beauty, and are for the taking care of -being the weaker sex and all that- and here they are in an ugly display, enduring more pain than a man can imagine. And men, well, all we know is how to fix things, solve problems, protect the women, and there we are so suddenly helpless -all while we await the arrival of our children.

Mrs. Ditchman woke early Wednesday morning, about 2:30AM, with some good sharp birth pangs. She was up until sunrise, and when I got out of bed and made coffee, I came around the corner and saw her at the top of the stairs with that I'm-a-woman-and-you're-going-to-have-to-trust-me-on-this look. And that's when she said it: "We need to start preparing," and she stated it with authority. Now, I'm a man, but with a statement like that, I will not argue.

So, yes, Wednesday's post was a bit of a fib. I was trying to calm myself. If I had mentioned that my wife was showing signs of early labor, the phone would have started ringing off the hook, and you never know if "early labor" is going to last a few hours or a few days. Anyway, most of the contractions subsided and we made it to the Little Ditchman's dance class. At about 4 that afternoon, things started to well up from within the family womb. We called Matt and Holly to babysit. They showed up at 7:30 and we were racing out the door, not wanting to give birth on the Interstate, or at least miss the window for the epidural. Matt stopped us to pray on our lawn and the only thing in my head at that moment was we don't have time for this! (I was wrong.)

When you arrive to check in at the hospital, they look you over to see if you're really in labor. I'm sure they've seen it all in there, as some women rush to the hospital after a gassy burrito, but when they saw Mrs. Ditchman coming down the hallway, nurses were sent to prep the delivery room before we reached the desk. We checked in at 8 o'clock. Three and a half hours later we were holding Keaton. Everything that happened in that three and a half hours is too humbling for me to admit, for my wife is a musclebound champion of utmost superiority who has single-handedly preserved my family name for at least another generation. (My dad would be so happy.) Anyway, if you want to hear all those entertaining details, I'll be happy to share. Buy me a beer. (But check with my wife first to see if it's okay.)

The spawn of TMST is a golden angel! A boy of such perfect features, animals emerge from the forest in a servile display of slavish devotion. Clouds part above the freeway as you drive north, and rainbows appear where there is no moisture. Strangers at a distance find themselves smiling for no apparent reason, just being in the presence of such an affecting and uncommon elan. His comely face caused every nurse and hospital page to swoon adoringly and I was forced to ask for a second security anklet. The building's sound system played ebullient music, each song dedicated to our new son, with admonitions to visit the holy child in maternity room 114. We had to ask them to stop so the princely lad and his Mother could get some sleep, but ascetic janitors banging their foreheads on the loading dock walls from missing the visiting hours kept us awake. Anyway, I'm a proud father.

We are blessed with a healthy child. The Little Ditchman, my greatest worry in the whole event, seems to be taking it as expected. There is some acting out, but we're trying to spread the love around. Parents have the responsibility to doll out fairness. Though our desire for all things to be fair in the world outside our home will never be satiated, we can teach what it's supposed to look like. With the arrival of the second child, you hit the ground running on that lesson.

It's Halloween! I'm going to go carve some pumpkins. We're going to take the kids (!) out trick-or-treating and show off the one-day-old to the neighbors. I'm going to surprise the Little Ditchman and dress up as Superman. Candy for everybody! Life is beautiful! You're all invited over to meet Keaton. We'll have to work on a blog alias for the little guy. I'm sure he'll be fine with whatever.

P.S. I posted the other day that I didn't know how our little family was going to look. Time told, and now I know. It looks like this: