Friday, May 24, 2013

Comeuppance Bathed in Ranch Dressing

I trust me.  I've met me.  Yep, myself and I have spent lots of valuable time together.  You can learn a lot about a person by being them.  I know what I'm good at, and what I'm thinking.  I know when I've reached my limit, and when I'm just getting warmed up.  That level of comfort with my own capabilities usually leads me to prefer my method of doing things.  Some would call me a control freak. I would call it......ok fine, I'm a control freak.  I don't do it out of some dark narcissistic place, or because I fear others' success.  I'm not sure why I do it.  I guess I'm just willing and almost craving to accept both the credit and the blame for everything I do.  That's much less scary to me than not having had a hand in my own doings.

By asking me to join you on a road trip, ostensibly you've asked me to drive you somewhere.  By planning a cookout, you've challenged my ability to grill the world's best burger.  Don't even get me started on the subject of board games.  I'll be rolling the die for our team, thank you very much.

There are many things in your life to control, if you really consider all of the decisions you make and behaviors you exhibit on a daily basis.  It's a bit overwhelming, actually.  That's probably what leads people to agoraphobia.  By trapping themselves away, they are more capable of controlling the limited amount of stimuli to which they expose themselves.  I wouldn't consider myself to be anywhere near that extreme of a case, but if you see me at wal-mart buying blackout blinds for the windows and mason jars to pee in, do me a favor and get in contact with a member of my immediate family.

And just when you think you've got your little master plan worked out, when all the pieces are in place, and when the storyline finally makes complete sense, that's when someone drops a bomb on you.  For me, things were going well.  I had a new career, a beautiful new wife, and a neat little shotgun cottage in a seaside town to call my own.  The world was my oyster.  Things were going great at work and newlywed bliss was, well, blissful.  Then I heard something so slight, almost a passing thought, that would rip any semblance of control from my grip.  One night, while I stood watch on the Coast Guard Cutter Blackberry, Amanda called so we could talk about our day.  We joked, planned the coming weekend, and finally, she gave me a shopping list of things to pick up on the way home from watch.

Shopping List:

Diet Coke
Pregnancy test

Wait.  "What the hell was that third thing, again?"

That's right, boys.  Six months into my newly formed marriage, Amanda became pregnant with Jackson.

Fear crept in.  Cold sweats and stomach knots.  The whole shooting match.

Youthful arrogance is the world's fiercest paper army.  The first beat of the real life's war drum dashes your might and leaves you with the empty realization that you are, in fact, a pompous fool whose age had outgrown his maturity.

 Weeks crept by.  While trying to explain relativity Albert Einstein stated:

"Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT'S relativity." 

That's almost perfect.  My version goes like this:  "Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour.  Overreact to every sensation, movement, and noticeable step of fetal maturation over a gruel period of nine months, with absolutely no ability to sooth or fix anything, should something go terribly wrong, and time will move slowly enough for you to count the cricket farts at dusk.  THAT'S relativity, and it's possibly God's cruelest joke on humanity."

Sure, it's a bit wordy and graphic (insectually speaking), but entirely accurate.

All the same, the mental anguish I was experiencing over my lack of control of pregnancy would soon manifest itself into one of the purest imaginable pictures of comeuppance.

About four months into the pregnancy the Coast Guard sent me to "A" school.  For eight weeks I would live away from my pregnant wife and spend my days learning my new job, in a classroom setting.  I met a friend at "A" school named Michelle.  Upon hearing that my wife was pregnant, Michelle offered to switch watches with me so that I could go home every weekend to spend time with my wife.  This was a kindness I'll never forget.  Every Friday, I would load my little Saturn sedan up and drive three hours back to North Carolina.  Every time I arrived, I knew what was in store for me.  Amanda would greet me at the front door like I'd been gone for ages.  The type of romance usually reserved for newlyweds, and since that's exactly what we were, we lived the stereotype.

The next day, we'd drive twenty minutes to Wilmington with three tasks to accomplish.

Task 1:  We'd hit a few different baby stores and purchase a few new blue items for our precious baby boy.

Task 2:  We'd go see a movie.  The theaters were usually kept pretty cold, so this was a nice break from the North Carolina summer's heat.

Task 3:  Hooter's.

Amanda loves the Hooter's restaurant chain.  The lure of fried pickle perfection and spicy buffalo sauce allowed her conscious to overlook the fact that we were being served them in a self-esteem wholesale warehouse spurned on by a myriad of missed daddy-hugs.  When your baby wants wings, you give her wings.

So Saturday after Saturday we performed our little ritual and Amanda couldn't have been happier.  This all changed on about my fourth weekend home.  Somehow, while I was gone for the week, Amanda's cute little baby bump had shifted to what resembled a basketball smuggled in her shirt.  No longer did she greet me gleefully at the door.  Instead, I knocked on the door and through the window I noticed a very different reaction.  She looked at the door, rolled her eyes, took a deep breath, and fist fought with gravity to get to the standing position.  I almost passed out.  

Everything went great the next day, until we pulled into the Hooter's parking lot.  There I sat, staring at my very pregnant wife.  Sure, the look on her face was a brand of voracious anticipation usually reserved for children on Christmas morning, as dreams of pickles scorched in vegetable fat danced in her head.  The look on my face was the realization of what was about to happen.

Sure enough, as I seemingly dragged my poor pregnant wife into Hooter's to scope community college dropouts in shorts the size of band-aids, "Amber's" and "Kourtney's" (spelled with a K so you know she's spunky) perky smiles turned into scumbag scorn.  I spent the next forty five minutes with my head staring straight down to avoid eye contact.  I wanted to scream.  I wanted to stand up and say "Look, this wasn't my idea!  She loves it here.  Her heart goes pitter patter for wing sauce.  For God's sake she's got sauce up to her elbows and a smile a mile wide!  I'm not the kind of guy who drags his pregnant wife to Hooter's to scope out 19 year olds.

That's when I realized that she actually DID have sauce up to her elbows, and most importantly, a smile a MILE wide.  She was so happy.  I slowly lifted my head.  This was not an occasion for shame.  I did it.  I contributed.  This was my role.  I couldn't do anything about the stuff that really mattered.  I couldn't pinpoint the cause of her phantom pains.  I couldn't MAKE the baby safe.  I couldn't magically fix her placenta previa (look it up).

But I could do this.  I could follow her around baby consignment shops looking at 6,435 different designs for baby bedding.  I could drive home every weekend.  And, I could definitely fight off the cut eyes and hateful snickers of Hooter's girls so that my sweetheart could drown her uncomfortable condition in a bath of wing sauce and ranch dressing.

Now that I think about it, I really hope Kourtney didn't spit in my food.

P.S.  I know I was a little rough on the Hooter's girls.  It's all in good fun.  I'm sure they're actually nice, well-meaning ladies.