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…How I Got Here (part 1)

September 14, 2011

After our date night dinner, my daughter, Emily, was chilled by the summer air conditioner draft blowing on her bare shoulders. My 9-year-old daughter then asked if she could sit on my lap while the waiter brought our check. While holding her on my lap I thought about how I wouldn’t be able to do this in 11 years. She would be 20 and I would be 53. I know it happens in this place, but it usually isn’t the guy’s daughter. In nine more years, she will be leaving home for college, and my job as a child-raising parent will be behind me. How did I get to be middle-aged with a family, a mortgage and a mini-van? The road to this point has not been what I planned, but the family road trip has been pure comedy. As it has been said before, it is not reaching a goal that gives meaning, but rather the journey.

My story of marriage and raising girls started in this exact restaurant almost 20 years ago. I was somewhat depressed and embarrassed about the fact that I had a college degree and was waiting tables, but I had to support myself while I waited to begin graduate school to study business and finance. Once I finished school I would be ready to take on the world, be a titan of business and control my destiny. Somehow, things played out differently. One day a very pretty girl sat in my section, which happened a lot in this restaurant, but she was special and somehow different than the others (and not because she was one of the few that paid attention to me). Given my complete lack of ‘game’ (as the kids call it these days) and inability to pick up on a girls’ interest in me, she had to basically hit me over the head to ask her on a date. So, I called her, we went out, and we were married a year and a half later.

I tell people all the time that being married without kids is basically like being single, and our kid-less days were no different. No REAL responsibility. Then, the time came when we decided to expand our family.

Let me begin by saying that getting your wife pregnant is OVERRATED!!!! Having a baby sounds so easy when you are told your entire teen life that one false move will put a bun in the oven. We didn’t have that problem. In fact, getting pregnant was the problem. For many years I thought the decision to have a baby would involve long romantic rainy days at home with my wife, by the fire place, without clothes, interruptions or distractions. The disappointment of my reality mirrored that of a thoroughbred stallion who after winning the Triple Crown expects to spend the rest of his life in the hills of Kentucky with hundreds of mares and phillies siring foals. The reality of siring racehorse offspring is that the stallion spends his days in a pen with a teaser pony and a collection device – MASSIVE disappointment. My romantic notions (shaped by Hollywood) were lost in the reality of waiting rooms and collection devices.

I knew my wife would be subject to a series of tests, but I had no idea that ‘we’ together and ‘we’ meaning me would be ‘tested’ and ‘checked’ as well. Let me just say that nothing can prepare a guy for that first trip to the fertility clinic for the ‘initial’ check. You walk in, pay your money, and are then escorted down a hallway lined with rooms resembling something like a sterile brothel.  The weird part is that I didn’t see or hear another person after paying my money. It was like something out of a Quentin Tarantino movie. Instead of a mistress, each room comes with its own recliner chair (and yes… butcher paper on the seat), a cup and a set of directions. I was more than a little intimidated by what looked like a cup the size of an ice tea tumbler. I didn’t need a lot of direction, but I read the instructions anyway to see if I could learn something new, and to make sure I didn’t screw something up. If you have gotten this far in the baby-making process, the last thing you need is any reason AT ALL for your baby-obsessed wife jacked-up hormones to kill you because you messed up the semen test. My mother taught me to line the seat of public bathroom seats with toilet paper, and gratefully someone had me saved me the trouble by putting doctor office paper on the seat cushion of my lounger. I didn’t let the thought of all the other guys that had used this same seat enter my mind, however, I would have been more than a little bummed if the seat was still warm.

I’m already embarrassed and humiliated, and I just got to my room. I won’t go into the instructions, illustrations or other aspects of the ‘patient experience,’ but let me just say that the whole experience was surreal. I wish I could say the visit was worth the money, but the whole thing was weird and I didn’t even get a kiss when it was over. When all is said and done you basically hit a button to let the nurse know you are finished (per the instructions), and then you RUN out of that place – again, I didn’t see a soul.

It now made sense to me why they make you pay in advance, because not me or any other guy wants to chat it up with the receptionist after that ordeal. Not only that, but I don’t think they want you using their pens after the fact (nor would I want to grab one out of a cup by the window). And just when you think it can’t get any worse – it always does. You go through this whole ordeal more than once. A LOT more. By the end, it was like Groundhog Day…the same routine and I was on a first name basis with everyone.

NOTHING takes the fun out of your love life like infertility. The tests, the timing of things, the frequency – all take its toll. Even a scheduled nooner lost its appeal. I think for a while there were porn stars getting less than me. And near the end, I think we were starting things off with a handshake. I sort of felt sorry for adult movie stars after that experience. It all sounds fun until someone tells you the time and place you need to perform. We eventually figured out the problem, and two turkey basters later we had two daughters. Just like that.

You see, I married for love. This is what that means. One day you are working away trying to make the mortgage on a house (like that was smart purchase) when you wife calls the office and tells you… “I am at a trunk show and found some smock dresses for the girls that are a good deal.” Let me begin by saying that if the terms “good deal” and “trunk show” and “smock dresses” are used in the same breath you are in huge trouble. Unless you are a guy who dines al fresco and debates the proper temperature at which to sear ahi tuna with other guys over white wine spritzers, you are not going to know what in the world a trunk show or smock dress is prior to marriage. And then, it’s too late. It’s like those unfortunate souls who are told only after joining a cult they have to forage for their dinner out of trash dumpsters behind restaurants. This is a calculated measure on the part of American women. If men knew the financial implications of “trunk shows” and “good deal,” they would opt for a mail-order geisha contortionist and give up on the notion of love altogether.

DEFINED:  A trunk show is often closed to men. It is where women sell other women “stuff” often referred to as “crap” by most men (i.e. where in the hell did all of this crap in our closet come from?) such as shoes, clothes and smock dresses under the guise that it was a “good deal.” It may be, but the “crap” was overpriced to begin with. A smock dress is a children’s dress that has embroidered characters such as birds, flowers…etc., much like a monogrammed name on one’s bowling shirt or work attire at a garage. Some women do “smocking” (the term for creating one’s own smock attire) themselves while others go to trunk shows and purchase these items made by political dissidents in a Chinese prison. But they look cute, right? Back to my story…

So my wife calls and says, “I am at a trunk show and found some smock dresses for the girls that are a good deal. Blah blah blah. The girls can both wear them. Blah blah blah. Matching shoes. Blah blah blah. Hair Bows. Blah blah blah. I saved so much money. Blah blah blah. We can pass these down to future generations. Blah blah blah $928.” My response: “Are you out of your mind???? Is Vera Wang making children’s clothes? I could have a house in Vail for what it costs me keep these kids clothed. What happened to Target?”

I will now elaborate on the social settings for which smock dresses are appropriate. These ensembles are usually worn to school, birthday party, holiday and church events where the kids spend their time finger painting and coloring with markers. They are expensive smocks, and I guess that may be why they call them smock dresses. Am I overreacting here?

So, a few days later I am fifteen cars deep at the McDondald’s drive-through. After all, I just spent $928 on Donna Karan smocks for my kids to finger paint in on Sundays, there’s not much left. When I am only seconds away from getting my order, the guy in front of me who ordered 12 Big Macs, 10 large fries (2 small), 4 happy meals, 10 cokes (2 diet) gets into an apparent dispute over a coupon for a free drink. At this point I am waving my last twenty-dollar-bill out of my car window offering to pay for everything in hopes of getting out of this line. The dispute is eventually resolved and we are off to the nearest sandwich joint so that I can get something for lunch.

After ordering my lunch with whatever change is left in my pocket, I begin preparing the eating surface for my kids. This would not be an issue if my kids weren’t sick every other week, which means I was usually sick on the off weeks. For some reason the U.S. military can vaccinate and decontaminate an entire battalion exposed to weapons grade small pox, but the best anyone can do for me in my germ battle is a powder fresh scented baby wipe. So, I use this in my virus war to wipe down the table and the high chairs as though this is going to prevent the bubonic plague like symptoms that will begin to present in the next 24 hours. It really is like trying to battle a forest fire with an eyedropper, but I will save this rant for another day. During the wipe down I make eye contact with a fellow who is eating with his two teenage daughters at the next table. Aside from an apparent drinking problem and a pack of unfiltered Basics peering out of his shirt pocket, he gives me a pathetic thumbs up. Not a “isn’t it great to have kids” thumbs up. Rather, it was more of a salute like that of a general sending troops into combat against hopeless odds.

Around the time my 1-year-old finishes eating, it looks like a member of the crimson jihad resistance movement detonated a car bomb at a KFC. There are chicken parts, french fries, sticky goo and something moist that defies adjectives all over the table and floor. I am faced with two choices at this point. A: I can walk out with my kids and never come back to this place again for fear of retaliation in the form of a something terrible done to my sandwich before it is served, or B: I can clean it up myself. This is a small town, so I go with B.

As I begin a cleanup effort that rivals that of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, I notice two young, attractive women smiling at me. I jump to the conclusion that they think I am sort of charming. Instead of laughing near me, they are laughing at me during this process. The illusion of feeling young and good-looking for a couple of seconds ended in total humiliation. Oh well. A portable leaf blower is really more appropriate for this job than a wad of napkins, but the key to parenthood is flexibility. The really humiliating part of all of this was when some old guy tapped me on the should while I was bent over cleaning up my kids’ mess to tell me the “toilet overflowed… and I had better get myself in there and do something before it gets really bad.”

After clearing things up with the older fella and loading up the kids in our mini-van (my life truly is a cliché), I finally head home. At this point, the novice observer would think I am on the downhill side of this piece of “Quality” or “Bonding” time with my girls. Not Quite. My little apple blossoms start to get the sleepies on the ride home. If there is one thing you DO NOT DO as a father, DO NOT let the kids fall asleep on the way home before naptime. Because if the kids miss their nap, that means that mom and (more importantly) dad miss their naps. If a mom with two young kids misses her weekend nap, then she is NOT happy. There is a saying in Texas, “If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”

Like I said in the beginning. I married for love.

-Stay tuned for Part 2 next week….

© Johnny Hea – 2011 All Rights Reserved

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3 Comments
  1. Glad you got in the game! You are a great writer. BTW, I got an invitation for a trunk show today but work obligations kept me from it. I thought of you! Looking forward to reading more!

  2. Page Fleming permalink

    I can just hear you saying all of this! Too funny and too true. Hope you are well and enjoyed the blog. Looking forward to next week.

  3. Reblogged this on Diary of a Girl Dad and commented:

    It’s Spring Break week this week and next, so that means re-runs of two of the original posts to that are the backdrop to all of my blogs. If you haven’t read them, I think you will really enjoy this week’s and next week’s posts….

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