Sunday, July 17, 2011

Blue Skies: On Becoming a Father

                                                                                       Miller Lowell.... born at 2:41 pm, on July 12                          
      Last Monday morning, I wrote a letter to English author Geoff Dyer, whose most recent book, Otherwise Known as the Human Condition I reviewed recently for The Austin American Statesman. In the letter, I discussed a novel that I had worked on a little over a decade ago, but failed to complete. The novel's title was to be Bluer Skies, and its title was drawn from a Scott Fitzgerald quote that I intended to use as the book's epigraph:

       'I was never disposed to accept the present but always striving to change it, better it, or even sometimes destroy it. There were always far horizons that were more golden, bluer skies somewhere.'

      The novel was meant to portray a character, a type, who fails to find happiness or fulfill his human potential, in part because he always has his eye on some imaginary future life and fails to recognize the value of the present. Here was a 'type' I obviously felt a certain affinity with. It was a little strange to write about this book to Dyer, for it's a book I haven't thought much about in many years - even though I spent three years of my life working on it. Let's face it, another novel has failed and disappeared in the interim... an ocean of water lies under the bridge. That particular book is a distant part of my past.


      A few hours after I'd finished the letter, my wife went into labour. This is our first baby, and let me tell you, they don't call it 'labour' for nothing. There were approximately seventeen hours of heavy lifting on my wife's part that went into this. Along the way, three different nurses helped guide us. One of them wore a set of grey scrubs made by 'Grey's Anatomy' - presumably a reference to the the TV series, by way of the medical book.
      I mention scrubs for a reason. Towards the end of labour, the lead doctor arrived to deliver the baby. By now we were past the heavy contractions, shifting towards the final 'push.' It's a time that is ripe with tension, literally pregnant with impending joy.  It's when everyone hunkers down for the final effort. I stood at my wife's side, providing what support that I could (not much), and as I looked at the doctor guiding her, I noticed the brand label of her scrubs sewn into the left breast of her jacket: Blue Sky. I'm not a particularly superstitious person, but I recognized in this an omen. I felt certain then that my wife and baby would emerge from the trauma of birth healthy and well, that we had passed the most difficult hours of labour. It was all going to be ok.
       Time stands still sometimes.
       In a few fleeting moments, not only did I understand that everything would turn out well with the birth, but I was drawn to consider my note to Geoff Dyer earlier in the day. In that moment I came to recognize that there will always be distant horizons to chase, but I had reached my bluer skies. Indeed, blue sky was all about me.
       My journey has taken me first across continents, back and forth across coasts, and now into the American heartland. There is nothing in my present to 'change, better or destroy.' My present is exactly what I want it to be. The future can wait - and there'll be three of us coming to grasp it.

                                                                                                      Blue skies - deep in the heart of Texas.


Steve said...

Great piece John. Long may blue skies continue

Molly said...

I had a similar moment soon after Rodeo was born, he was less than a week old and he was in my arms and i looked at him and saw all of my life up until that moment flash before my eyes. In an instant. And I realized that everything that had ever happened to me good and bad, every dream deferred, every failed relationship had brought me to Rodeo, to being his mother, and so it was all ok because without it all he would not have come into being.