Let us use fog as a metaphor. Because no one has ever done that.
The fog has settled over Puget Sound in a big way, in an anamolous way. We’re not a foggy community, not usually. Sure, we get our share, but it’s not a defining feature of this area, not a pull quote in the brochure, not shorthand for Seattle. It’s just fog. You know. Sometimes you have fog.
Not every fricking day. All day. Lightening up around noon, fogging up again around 5. And always the promises of sun breaks, broken promises.
So it has an effect, and lends itself to literary heavy-handedness. Soon everything seems shrouded, and we start talking around here as though we haven’t seen anything clearly in a long time.
Not that this is inaccurate. I tend to visualize the calender in a graphical way, and exactly as I did as a kid: Summers are light yellow and take up a full half of the mental ellipse I see in my head, while fall, winter and spring make up the other half (with corresponding colors. January is blue. For instance).
And now, this entire past year seems foggy. I began running downhill from the beginning, speeding up as I saw this filmmaking project loom, something I could barely prepare for anyway. And then there was the actual filming, corresponding with trips and this pregnancy news, which has itself shaded the entire year.
Then my near-miss trip to Austin, then the excitement, then Julie’s current trip to see Gus, and now I’m only a few days away from my turn. It’s pretty easy, actually, to feel blurry.
During my first trip, the leaves here turned while I was out of town. We were one week into fall when I left, and when I returned winter seemed just down the interstate, working its way up quickly. I’ll head to Texas for a couple of weeks, be back for a few days, then scoot over to Phoenix for my niece’s wedding, and boom, it’s Thanksgiving and that’s the ballgame. Talk about your fog.
Still, it’s worth saying that fog is not necessarily a bad thing. There’s a depth of field setting on life sometimes, when the focal point is the point. This has been an eventful year, no question, and it’s mostly been positive and even joyful. The event details have been sharp because they had to be, our wandering attention focused on what needed to be done because there was no other way, and if the rest of the world seemed misty then that’s what was necessary.
It’s time for some clearing, though. These past couple of weeks have felt fussy, restless, with nothing much accomplished but a strong sense that something needs to be. I’ve juggled a million appointments, trying to schedule around plane flights, but those are still in the future, as are the home chores that aren’t getting any less ominous. I’m sort of ready for some clear sky, or at least high clouds, and frankly I’d rather experience this from the ground.
When I drove Julie to the airport last week, in the dark before dawn, the fog got remarkably heavy around Sea-Tac (it was all they were talking about on the radio). Heavy enough that I got to be accidentally comical as we approached the airport exit. “Was that it?” I asked, and my wife confirmed that yeah, 30 years after moving up here and countless trips back and forth to the airport, I’d missed it. Drove right by it, not being able to read the signs, and after some juking on side roads and a tiny bit of terror, we made it to the Delta drop-off with plenty of time.
And the fog thinned out almost immediately as I headed back north, enough to at least stop sweating, and even though it’s never left us, the fog, I realized that I really don’t want to lose my place anymore, thanks anyway.
There’s a ridge of high pressure somewhere above me, which is not doing much for sun worshipers but does mean no rain. We are rainless here, then, and will remain so for the foreseeable future, which is not very much but we’ll take it. Rain is nothing new, but something about September made me less enthusiastic for the wet.
There’s still plenty of enthusiasm. We are into week #2 of A New Life, and tomorrow morning, very early, the Rev. flies toward the Lone Star State, land of the last uninsured American pioneer, to meet Gus.
Gus. A friend mentioned the other day that Gus was her favorite character in “Lonesome Dove,” and I’d forgotten all about that. There was some question as to what we’d call him, other than August, but in my experience babies don’t inspire only one syllable. Can’t call him Gussie. Maybe Augie. Or maybe we’ll just stick with Gus, which is a solid name.
All the excitement surrounding his arrival had the effect of putting me in stasis, it feels like. Frozen in place, wheels spinning, something. Not alarming, just sort of similar to our high pressure ridge up there; more of the same, no big changes, nothing to write home about. Nothing to really write anything about.
This is a little dangerous for anyone, maybe particularly someone who is at an age when actuarial science starts to get a little dicey. Who wants to do the same old thing when reminded that life never stops, that a child is born with a whole calendar to play with at the same time his grandpa will be wrapping things up. I can’t afford to stay still. I have no data on how many Octobers I have left.
Not that I’m down in the dumps at all, or feeling anticlimactic. I’m only a week and change away from returning to Austin and meeting this guy in person, following that trip with a quick one to Phoenix for my niece’s wedding and a family reunion of sorts. It’ll be busy and busy is good, getting out of the house is good, and that’s plenty of change. I just noticed that my days look the same lately, and warning bells start to ding a bit.
I’d love to share pictures of the little dude, but that’s got to wait. There’s a reason for this, which I tried to write about this week.
And as Twitter goes public, and Google and Facebook change even more policies, we can imagine a very near future in which our use of the “like” button might place our pictures next to products, de facto endorsements that are perfectly legal. You did read that end-user license license agreement, right?
I’ve watched this serious nonsense in our nation’s capitol like everyone else, trying to find historical perspective. I’ve been surprisingly optimistic in the past couple of years, just seeing signs that maybe a more pragmatic generation or two are in the wings, and I’ve never seen anything in my country that I thought couldn’t be fixed just by time and the advantages we enjoy: A lively citizenry, a heritage of innovation and exploration, a remarkable geography, some first-rate 18th-century minds still trickling down.
But our politics are broken, and this shutdown and brinksmanship, to my mind, either means the end of that or the beginning of something worse. It’s obvious (to me, again) where the problem came from: We’re a nation that likes to snack, and we’ve been given civics snacks for quite a while now, little snatches of talk radio fantasy and cable news distortion, allowing people with otherwise pretty busy lives to feel as though they’re on top of the news when of course they’re not. The enemy is always going to be us, and reading some of the recent polls where 60% of respondents answered that they wanted to “fire” all members of Congress made me think, gee, if only we had a system where we could, like, vote on this…
Maybe something good will happen with the Iran talks, though. And maybe the ACA will shrug off its glitches and goofs and people will be better off – or we’ll find out that trying to get everyone to buy some sort of health insurance just isn’t workable and we need to go to a single-payer, Medicare-for-all system, or we’ll junk everything and start over. Or maybe aliens will land and fix everything.
I should be more concerned, I tell myself, since the idea of saddling future generations with a dysfunctional government and economy takes on a new meaning when one can hold and snuggle with a future generation member. But maybe it’s just the baby glow, or our high pressure ridge. I just watch, and wonder what’s going to happen, and mostly wait until I can get back to Texas.
It’s become clear to me, in the past week or so, that it’s possible for one to be a romantic about snow – that’s me, for sure – and still be a snowbird at heart. So it’s possible to still learn stuff at this advanced age. Nice.
We had a beautiful summer up here, never hot, never cool, pretty much perfect in every way, and then September just sort of snuck in there. It was the wettest ninth month on record in these parts, most of it coming in drenches that lasted a short time but did their damage.
So when I headed southeast at the end of September, I was ready for weather nostalgia. I got it, too: Summery in Austin, it was, even if I had to remind myself sometimes that with great warmth comes great humidity, relatively speaking. But a small price to pay, and this is where I am, I guess.
I prefer the warmth. Not that it’s cold here in the Northwest, or the part I live in. It’s just autumn. But then there’ll be winter and early spring and late spring and reluctant summer (it takes its time), and given my druthers I’d rather be warm, is all. Wouldn’t you?
I was actually cold in Austin sometimes, the air conditioning unfamiliar and sometimes too damn chilly, because I’m old. Old-ish. Old-er. And whatever happens to our inner thermostats as we age, it’s apparently happened to me. I wanna be warm.
So there’s a good reason to be pleased about heading back to south-central Texas in a couple of weeks. But not like I need another.
It makes me a little nervous. I like Austin, like the way the city is laid out, love the artsyness and the food trucks and the cross-cultureness of Spanglish that seems fresh. It’s not unlike what I felt on moving to Seattle, although we just don’t have enough sun to complete the process. We tend to duck inside during most of the year, smile at strangers but not engage, get some artificial light for God’s sake because the real stuff is hiding.
Austin, on the other hand, feels inviting if slightly intimidating, and awfully young. Who doesn’t want to go where it’s young? On my daily long hikes along the river, I saw more than a few elder humans who looked fabulous, toned and fit, so it’s not just me. Maybe youth rubs off. Maybe I would work on my abs if I lived in Austin. The possibilities stretch.
And, of course, I can’t move to Austin. Good grief. Way too complicated. Plus, they don’t have any water there, not really. I live in a perfect place in many ways, situated in just the right spot for me, always has been. It’s not really perfect, but I understand how this works and I’m getting better at counting my blessings.
I’m drawn though, of course. And I joke a bit about the warmth and the food trucks; I’m pulled in one direction by this one brand new life, curious and fascinated and in love from a distance.
So I’ll accommodate this as best I can, mentally calculating the cost of anything compared to one more plane ticket to Texas. I can go out to eat, or make a sandwich and add another leg to yet another trip, sooner than later please. I have no illusions about being any other than a Special Visitor to this little dude, at least until he’s old enough to come out here and hang out with his grandfather, but I intend to try to mediate that as best I can, and failure is not an option. If Austin it is, Austin it is. And if I get a little warmth and sunshine? I count my blessings, as I said.
I landed at SeaTac just after 8pm on Sunday night, having watched four episodes of “The Sopranos” during the flight, so I was a little stiff and fairly certain I was going to get whacked as soon as I walked outside. Otherwise, I was glad to be home.
But only because it was home. It was a hard decision to make, taking my scheduled flight (made back when Baby Beauchamp looked imminent) or blowing it off and playing the mysteries of human gestation by ear. I was swayed a little by cost (postponing my return by a week would cost $400; it would definitely have been worth it, but I could have easily found myself in the same situation, another week in Austin and still no grandson), but mostly by being aware that if I came back at the end of October, I’d be much more useful to Beth, as she had 10 days of solo parenting coming up then. So, not a hard call, just hard to leave.
And in retrospect? Naw. Can’t do that. You never know.
But on Monday night, she let us know that contractions were getting awfully regular and close. They headed for the hospital in the middle of the night, early Tuesday morning, and at some point around then I gave up on the idea of sleep. I’d finally close my eyes for good in about 24 hours, but those would be some hours.
Go back home until contractions are two minutes apart for a couple of hours. That happens. Return to hospital, this time for good. Do the normal stuff. Walk around. Take a shower. Send for in-laws, who arrived quickly and began sending me text messages with updates, the 21st-century solution, the virtual waiting room. There’d be a lot of them.
I managed to get some work done here at home, bit by bit, but the afternoon dragged into evening, two hours behind Texas, and eventually I just settled in for the duration, one hand with an iron grip around my phone, getting the occasional picture of labor in progress, usually a happy-looking daughter lying in a hospital bed. This would be a long labor but it seemed so far to be manageable.
Did I say long? Increasing contractions starting Monday night, baby born at almost 4am Wednesday morning. Long. Neither parent would sleep for 48 hours before all was said and done. I crawled into bed around midnight but eventually gave up on that, getting up and watching the first episode of that new Robin Williams sitcom while I waited and chatted with my son-in-law’s father via text.
Beginning around 1:30am my time things got busy, and at 1:53am (3:53 Central), August Bix Beauchamp made his debut, 8 lb 5 oz, 21-1/2 inches long, sort of strawberry-blond hair (and lots of it), sharing a birthday with John Lennon. A beautiful boy.
His parents are reserving the right to release pictures, being cautious by nature and not casual at all about this sort of thing, something I applaud even as I itch to show the ones I already have. But take my word for it: He’s perfect in every way, and I’m being completely objective here, of course.
And apparently I can’t burn the candle at even one end at this age, since I’m still sort of shuffling through life, feeling sleep deprived and wiped out, even though I was asleep by 9:30 last night. This is all about new experiences and this is mine, lurching into grandparenthood with a long night of anxiety and impatience, love and joy. Joy joy joy.
And in two weeks I return to Texas, this time fairly sure what I will find, and what I’m going to be doing.
Which is where we’re at. Far be it for me to spread false information, too, so let’s just say that on the Imminent Scale, we’re closer to one side today than the other. And yes, I’m back at home, with my ticket already bought and paid for to return to Austin soon, although my wife will beat me there. Which is fine, no regrets.
Again, no news really to mention. Other than to note that a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that Beth’s due date was October 8. She corrected me in a text message, letting me know that it was officially October 7. “Not anymore,” I texted back.
Let’s see, then.
Ah. Here’s the analogy, right in front of me. Sheesh. It’s October; you’d think I would have recognized it earlier.
In 1995, their 19th season of existence on the baseball plane, the Seattle Mariners were 12 games behind the Angels in early August, another typical season for the Ms. Ken Griffey Jr. banged up his wrist after slamming into the centerfield wall and had just come off the DL. It was a short season anyway, getting a late start because of the 1994 MLB strike that cost baseball fans a World Series the year before, and nobody was feeling particularly excited.
And then the fireworks started, and I understood. I don’t blame you if you don’t; you might not care for sports, or baseball, or August. But I said it then and I’ll say it again: There’s nothing like a playoff chase, and I was lucky to be in the middle of one, along with the entire city of Seattle. A dozen games disappeared that summer, the Mariners won 19 in September, and they caught the Angels on October 8 in a winner-moves-on playoff game. Which they won.
Every day was Mariners Day. Every day, more and more Seattle folk, fans or not, started leaning toward the Kingdome, listening to the radio, leaving the game on TV and not leaving it for long. It was amazing, anticipation and wonder and hope all rolled up into a miracle. It wouldn’t happen again, or at least it hasn’t yet, not for us, and now I have my analogy.
There was some question a week ago as to what I’d find when I got off the plane here at Austin/Bergstrom International Airport. Maybe I’d find nothing, actually, no one waiting, everyone at the hospital while I flagged down the Texas version of a cab. There were a few days there when blood pressure headed north and induction seemed a real possibility, not to mention just Mother Nature doing her own thing.
What I found, as it turned out, was a calming of the turbulence. That BP settled down nicely — no one seems to know or care why it started rising out of the blue, just a bit, before returning to lowish normal – and after a few days, with canceled events and much preparation, we settled into waiting, and now here we are.
I came out to help, to feed, to clean, to be here in case something or someone extra was needed, because I was the one who could. Have laptop, will travel. I set up shop on the kitchen table and proceeded to wait along with everyone else. Before I headed for Austin, I bought a return ticket for October 6, the day before Beth’s actual due date, a safe bet given all the preceding excitement. I’ll probably be on that flight, too.
But really? I came to Austin for the experience, for the once-in-a-lifetimeness. To be part of something that time and geography suggested I’d remain distant from, connected by text message only. To be with my daughter in the last week or so of her pregnancy, carrying my first grandchild. I came for the chase.
It’s been a great week, too. I’ve had some sweaty long walks in the Texas sun, been to Whole Foods twice, climbed to the highest point in Austin and got the perfect view of this city on the edge of the famed Texas hill country, the Texas I always imagined as a kid. I had a Whataburger, only a decade since my last, the fast food of my wayward youth. I don’t usually eat red meat but this was a Whataburger, shut up.
And I got to watch my daughter negotiate with everything, from tying up work-related loose ends to walking across the living room gingerly, swollen belly leading the way. The same daughter I taught to ride a bike and drive a car, the same one I explained syllogisms and orbits to, the same one I took to Disneyland and Star Trek movies, the same one I drove across the country with and watched marry a good man in Santa Fe, four years and forever ago.
I want to mention that today is the 30th anniversary of the day Julie and I limped into Seattle, dragging a U-Haul and having no idea what we’d find. The future, as it turns out, but it’s an anniversary and I think about it every year, just a little.
And of course on Tuesday it will have been 18 years since the Mariners beat the Angels in that playoff game and headed into their own future. They’d eventually lose, 4 games to 2, in the American League Championship Series to the Cleveland Indians, but I didn’t mind so much. The chase was the thing. So either of these dates, today or Tuesday, would be fun ones to have a baby born, but that’s it. Just an anniversary waiting to happen. The fun starts afterward, and in the meantime this was an experience I didn’t think I’d have and one I’ll never forget.
No one knows anything, of course. There are plenty of odds in a nine-month gestation, but at this point the exact time this little boy enters the world is only an office pool number, like there’s an office pool. Could be this afternoon. Could be next Tuesday. Could be a week from then. Could be as I walk onto the plane on Sunday afternoon, which would be kind of a drag but again. I was here to see the run-up, and I’ll never be more grateful.
If I leave on Sunday, I’ll just come back in a few weeks. That’s a given, and always has been. All I will have missed were first moments, important ones but then there will be quite a few down the road. I’m OK with that. I was here for what I’m going to say was the best part, at least from my perspective, the calm before new life, eating food truck tacos and the stray Whataburger, staying up late watching episodes of “The Sopranos” with my daughter, sleeping in a nursery that just waits for an occupant. It’s been amazing, anticipation and wonder and hope all rolled up into a miracle. Batter up.