© 2002 by Spider Robinson; all rights reserved.
I know, you've heard it before—like all my best stories—but that's okay, I feel like telling it again.
Four sevens of years ago, at this hour, I was in a relentlessly soothing room—soothing layout, soothing decor, soothing ceiling even—soothing ceiling especially—having the small bones of my right hand crushed into paste by the merciless grip of a woman who was trying very hard to become your mother, and listening to her scream her head off. Nearly a full day she'd been in labor, by then, and she was as exhausted as anyone I've ever seen survive. I guess it was about this hour that she finally surrendered on Doing It Natchurl, and let them give her drugs to dilate her cervix and to hasten your arrival. She would not let them give her anything for pain, though she was in so much agony that both Mary Corrigan and I begged her to. No need: soon the drugs would kick in and you would show up for your party…
Something like five or six hours later they said to her, it's not a matter of choice any more: the cervix just will not dilate for some unknowable reason, and the kid just will not drop for some unknowable reason, and after so much hard work trying, both of you are approaching clinical distress. We are going in there after the baba, and your only choices are to be relieved at that or to be stupid; say goodnight and count backwards from one hundred…don't be an asshole, Mr. Robinson, of course you can't come into the ER, go have a cigarette…
On the way out to the parking lot, I bummed a pack of matches from a nurse. It was one of a series then ubiquitous all over Nova Scotia, with Tarot cards printed on them. Like many hippies, I had been absently collecting the set, without thinking much about it. Somebody had counted mine and said I was only short one, but then we got sidetracked before he could hunt through the stack and tell me which one. But I recognized it instantly when the nurse handed it to me. Death.
Well, they say the card you pick often means the exact opposite of what it says. Certainly I said it—then, about a million times, to myself, in the time it took me to smoke that cigarette. Then when I could tell by the smell and taste that I was smoking the filter, I speedwalked all the way back into the building, ran upstairs rather than wait for the elevator, sprinted down silent darkened halls until I reached the door to the Maternity wing…
…stopped in my tracks, and stood there like a cigar-store dummy for how the hell do I know how long, knowing that when I opened that door, somewhere down the hall ahead I would see a face, any one of several faces, and when I did it would see me, and when it did it would react, and if the reaction was not a smile I would need to become unconscious very quickly…
…opened the door and a nurse looked up and smiled at me and made a peace sign. Reboot heart—
She took me to a room, and carefully noticed only my broad grin, and not my tears or my uncontrollable trembling or my heavy breathing, and she said, wait here, and was gone. A minute later she was back, with other irrelevant carbon-based lifeforms, and you and your mother. Both as sound asleep as drunks, you sprawled on your belly between Jeanne's breasts, and I had about four or maybe five glorious golden awestruck seconds to contemplate and try to comprehend the new concept of the two of you, of something being that beautiful without it cracking the universe…and then both of you awakened at the same instant, as if somebody had rung a Zen bell somewhere, and your eyes opened and met and locked on to each other, and current started to flow between you, and I became just another irrelevant carbon-based lifeform, albeit one in a uniquely privileged position. You just stared into each others' groggy bleary eyes, for at least thirty seconds, information flowing in both directions.
Well, you've seen the expression in photos. The world did not impress you a lot. Way too bright, way too cool, way too loud, not cozy at all,and full of all manner of uncouth riffraff, like that hairy dork with all the teeth. (You hadn't recognized me yet as Belly-Singer; everything sounded different without liquid in your ears.) What I'm not sure the photos fully capture is the expression that Jeanne was beaming back down at you: trust me, girlfriend: it gets WAY better than this. You're gonna love it! This from someone who had just spent twenty-eight unbroken hours doing exercise equivalent to Navy SEAL training while in root-canal-level pain, and then got knifed. One look at you and she knew it had been a bargain.
Happy birthday to you, darling daughter. For every second of every minute of four sevens of years, I have been very glad you decided to come out and play. You make me a very
I’m sitting here at work trying to hold back the tears after finishing your email. Did anyone ever tell you that you have a real talent for writing?!? That was one of the most poignant, heartfelt, raw and touching pieces I’ve ever read (and the fact that it was about me is an added bonus!). Damn you for making me tear up at work!
I imagine you know already how much I love you. And how I thank my lucky stars each day that somehow someone decided that I would be the fortunate one to get you as a dad. (How I got lucky enough to have both you AND mom, I’ll never know…) imagine that I must of learned some hard lessons in my previous lives and was set forth in this one to somehow use all my wisdom, luck, and blessings to make the world better for other people. It’s the only explanation I have for why I’ve been given so much.
I can’t think of anyone else that has the kind of parent/child relationship that we do. But I think the world would be such a better place if there were more families like us out there.
Thank you for everything daddy. You’ve taught me so many wonderful and valuable things in my 28 years…when writing, always hook the reader with your first sentence…in love, never settle…value yourself first and this will help you to value others…life is short, so enjoy it to the fullest…everyone in the world is different, and that’s ok…
Intentionally or not, you have molded me into the person that I am. I credit my strength to having wonderful parents who always stood beside me, cherished me, cheered me on, and shared their knowledge of the world.
I’ll never be able to thank you enough.