Tuesday, June 30, 2015


I remember when I used to matter.
            The text comes in at around 4:30 PM, the standard, scheduled time, never spoken of, but already predictable - five months later. SKYPE? Five letters, not preceded by so much as a hello. SKYPE? Followed by a question mark. Awaiting my reply. YES, I respond back, watching the iMessage make its way to Iowa, knowing that my mom eagerly awaits my reply, hoping that it is a yes. I'LL GO DOWNSTAIRS AND TURN ON THE COMPUTER. This means I have five minutes before the call comes in. I start my Skype and wait, turn the TV on mute, and prepare the star of the show.
            Bee-boo-boo-blee blee-bloo. Bee-boo-boo-blee blee-bloo. Bee-boo-boo-blee blee-bloo. The ringer sounds in its now all-to-familiar blare. I make the call because I see she is logged in, and because I know she can never find the "button thingy" that initiates the connection. She answers in the same way: a gray screen and a complaint of  "I don't see you," she says. "Wait," I always respond, "It takes a moment."
 "There you are!" she says, almost excitedly, but I realize this excitement is not a result of viewing me, but rather at the impending viewing of what she really called to see, her gem, the little prince, the "cute one" as she likes to remind me, Ezra.
            I remember when I used to matter. I recall when I was the one that my mom waited to hear from. Every day on the way home from work, I call her as I drive home. Or, if she calls me, she usually starts the conversation with, “It’s your mom,” as though I wouldn’t recognize the voice of the woman in whose whom I grew for 42 weeks. She knows this is how it works, the routine, the maintenance of the long-distance parent-child relationship, yet she always asks me, "What are you doing?" as though she doesn't already know. Our conversations are mixed, but they usually consist of discussion of our days, but usually quickly digress to what matters most, Ezra. I know she loves me, but I’ve had thirty years of practice with that.
"There he is!" she announces in some voice I have gotten used to hearing, but not a voice of my mother's, at least not the version of her I knew, but the voice of Ezra’s grandmother, a voice that beams with a soft light, filled with love and excitement, pride that washes over you, pours forth from the metallic speakers that don’t fully do human-to-human contact justice. "There he is!" she beams, as though I don’t already know that's what she's been waiting for. Strangely, the woman I can describe in detail as my mother is there, pixelated, but there, digitized, but there – seems metamorphosed into someone completely foreign to me, but already recognizable by her grandson. "How are you today?" she asks, but not of me, to him, the chunky-cheeked, man cub bouncing next to me. "Fine," I think to myself. I'm fine, but I know she wasn't asking me. "Look at that face! It's so cute." Again, things I know. Things I think to myself. Things she needs to say because she isn't here, but needs to feel like she is.
            I remember when I used to feel like I mattered, but I know I still do. The voice she has now, the one that only Ezra and her neighborhood’s dogs can hear, is the voice I bet she used to have with me prior to my memory’s memories. “He’s just so cute! Look at those cheeks. I want to pinch (or) squeeze (or) kiss them,” my mother spills with effortless fan-girl bliss. My father always made fun on grandparents, arguing that once someone became such, they become stupid, fawning and foaming, becoming clown-like remnants of people who used to be parents. She has become a different person to me - one that makes me fully understand the capacity to love, renders me aware of how painful it is to worry about someone every second of every day, one that makes me ache over what it must be like to be so far from someone you love so much. This is her consolation prize, the closest thing she gets to being a real part of the process.

            I know that I again matter; without me, she wouldn’t get this fifteen minute period every day that she probably eagerly awaits more than I can understand. She’s still my mom, but she’s become Ezra’s grandma too, and he is so lucky to have her, even if it’s only on a screen, amorphous and inconsistent. He hears her voice, and knows that he matters.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Alarm Clock

My alarm clock rings, except it's not an alarm clock, and it is too early for me to get up. I open my eye slowly, just one, because if I open two, I have to accept the cruel fact that I am awake even though darkness still clouds my bedroom. Avoiding picking up my cell phone to check the time, the presence of the blue digits on the ceiling, the colorful reminder beaming from my wife's projection clock, indicated that it is 4:59. One minute early. My small human clock let's out another noise, part chuckle, part gurgle, indicating that it is time for me to open both eyes, roll over, place my tired feet on the floor, and get moving.

In the semi-light of the glowing nightlight, I see the shadowy outline of a small, amorphous figure. I lean over the crib, and ask him, "How do you sleep like that? You can't be comfortable" Even in my whisper, it's too late. The deed is done. Two bug eyes burst open, catching and latching onto mine. The corners of his small mouth begin to lift in the form of a toothless, drool-y smile - my favorite kind. "C'mon Bug," I say, lifting him gently in his sleepy state. "Let's go wake the Dairy Queen."

My wife and I have developed these sixth senses since Ezra's birth - I know when he is awake in the middle of the night and needs a pacifier or to be changed. She knows when it's feeding time. Painfully aware of this, when my first eye begrudgingly opens before five, I sense that it is time to deliver my man cub to his culinary delights while my wife, who would never admit it, snores with a high-pitched, leaky inflatable toy snore. As I enter the room, she shoots up, not from being startled by my sudden presence, but rather because her human alarm clock begins to sound. I hand over the precious cargo, and in my zombie-like state, fumble towards my side of the bed.

Normally, I return to sleep pretty quickly. That's what I used to do before my fifteen pound nugget of baby flesh joined the bed in the morning post-feeding ritual. Between my wife and I, Ezra sprawls out, like a mini bear rug in front of some distant cabin's fireplace, two hands reaching out, a snow angel between pillows and parents. This morning, in particular, those tiny hands that I love to kiss so much, become weapons of mass sleep destruction. "Dad," he seems to say with his eyes, "I'm awake. You will be too!" This unspoken communique is followed by a whack to my right eye, a high pitched squeal of humor, and the grumble of my wife, who, for some reason, has managed to make it back to sleep. I close my eyes, but he senses this game, and engages - his hand, like arcade-game claw, latches onto my hair, and pulls. "Damn," I think to myself, "This little monster is strong." I separate his latch from my weary clump of hair, and he laughs in response, but also uses his other hand to grab onto another particularly large cluster of hair. "I don't like this game!" I whisper, to which a pterodactyl squeal of pleasure replies, indicating that he, in fact, loves this game. I look up at the ceiling; the same blue digits indicate that it is now 5:20, I'm wide awake, Ezra's engaged, and it's going to be a long day. My wife rolls over and pretends that we are not there.