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Monday, Dec. 19, 2005
Reminder to self: Life seldom follows well defined paths, the most innocent of events often bring the big surprises, keep your powder dry, bottled beer is better than canned . . . wait a second, I got sidetracked.

All last week Ally had to schlep to work in a 2 door Escort with 15 years worth of hard mileage on it. Used to gliding around in a tightly maintained Expedition, she came through it with only minimal complaints. I of course, still cruising in the battle hardened F250, could only shake my head in sympathy at the disruption of our ordinary (albeit highly Ford biased) commuting preferences.

Now why, you might ask, should one make such a trade? Hint: Parenting.

Seems that Maggie the Middlest Daughter and her Boyfriend Bob were seeking to go North for a week, some minor to-do about a wedding and seeing BB’s parents and snow frolics and such. Ally, having issues with snow and all attendant cold weather squabbles, volunteered the use of her precious sanctum with its high clearance and weight-to-ground ratio. And stuff. Plus, these two kids had more cargo to haul than any 6 people ought to, including my Grandson, he of the large paws and fat lip. Ally is generous like that. They couldn’t have pried the F250 away from me with anything less than an artillery assault.

True to form with my children, Maggie and Boyfriend Bob managed to casually bookend two announcements around this trip that have, let’s say, mucho long running implications, at the very least. The front ended story was that they had both quit their employment the day before. Which, seein’ as how they worked at the same place (and had met there, and fallen headlong into passion, so I guess it will always be a sentimental monument to them of a sort) was the cause of no small uproar in the local restaurant scene.

Fortunately they are savvy in the practice of finances, have a stash and a roof over their heads. It wasn’t the cataclysmic sort of thing that unemployment over Christmas that might have been cause for huge sorrow, not to mention the need for temporary refuge housing here at the Outfoxed Rental and Dwarf Garage Emporium. Not yet anyway.

So they were off for a week and Maggie would check in sporadically with tales of snow and Boxer pups and wet boots. She called me a couple of days ago and it was odd because no one in this little family calls just to chat. Just as a “How ya’ doin’?” sort of thing. Oh it might start off that way, “How ya’ doin’?” but always leads to a point of “Hey and can I come over and use your 7/8” wrench for this darn whatchamacallit I got that won’t work?” and things just go from there. Very results oriented telephone users, we are. I don’t think Ally and I have had a phone conversation in all our married life that lasted more than 2 minutes and didn’t include the solving of some immediate minor crisis or the other. We’d probably be better off with walkie-talkies.

But Maggie wanted to yak, and did so for a good five minutes, deftly deflecting my queries of “Anything wrong? Whazzup?” with stories of how the dog chased his tail under a moonlit snow scene and Boyfirend Bob’s high school and other jolly things. So when I hung up it was a sort of “Heh, she must just be homesick” moment. Which proves, yet again, that the male of the species is at his weakest when attempting spot psychology, and should stick to resawing lumber and swabbing smoothbore rifles. Such things that are necessary for mechanical goodness. Spot analysis is best left for wives, who can interpret chatty conversations and spin entire novels worth of thought from 5 minute phone conversations about snow in Pennsylvania.

Last night they were on their way back, and I’d offered dinner as an incentive to keep Ally’s SUV on the straight and narrow. A dinner of seared steakage and shrimpage from a local joint we all tend to favor. I could clearly hear drool falling in the car as it sped south and the various checkpoints were verified by Maggie and her cell phone, “We at the Midlothian exit, we at the 8 lane, don‘ go getting there before we do” (tends to lapse into Cajun-speak when thoughts of grilled flesh are carrot-sticked in front of her, she does).

They finally rolled in, the Middlest and Bob, in that just from the long road way. And the Grandson, another two inches taller it seemed, paddled over and thrust a paw on my leg and danced around the recliner with lolling tongue and a Boxer grin. And Bob looked a little pale around the gills, and stood a bit stiff, and Maggie in her scarf and still wet boots, she coughed and said:

“Hey y’all.

“I’ve got something to tell . . . y’all.”

Deep, deep breath.

Brimming were the eyes.

God help me, the years, they do get on by us so.

“I’m pregnant.”

I look at Ally sometimes and there are no words, and there are no need. We find much joy in our children, and a fair amount of heartache too, but we made them and they re-made us, and such small things they are, really, even when grown large and wrapped in scarves and standing with tears in the foyer of a very quiet house, wanting approval and fearing anything less.

Ally said: “Wheeeee!!”

Bob said: “Uh . . . Uh . . .”

The Labrador said: Get this damned Boxer off me.

Outfoxed said: “Great! Now we can go drinkin’!”

No, I didn’t. Not right then. Maggie was in full silent cry by this time. So I did the same thing I’ve always done when Maggie goes into silent cry. It works, I’ve been told. It tends to hearts and mends things and it helps that I’m a good foot taller than she is, and keep clean cotton T-shirts on at any given time. You know, for just such an emergency.

But after I’d fetched two of the special St. Pauli’s from the fridge and clanked ‘necks with Bob, and did the “Knew ye had it in ye, lad” thing that I knew he was hoping for? Then, with a leer of mighty proportions, I leaned in and breathed to the prospective son-in-law, “You better leave tomorrow open. You and me? We best be getting blasted together.”

Of such are the ways of the South. I’ve never christened anyone’s baby other than one of my own, but I know the best ways of doing it. Handy it is, to have stored knowledge of the things I need to impart to the lad, the words of wisdom, the many anecdotes.

And he will suffer them, I hope, with the patience that I did at his age, and recall later just how true the words are and will always be. I know Ally will be doing the same for Maggie, the more mysterious and detailed, the sacred Kaballah of mothers and wives known only to women, the whispers and hints of things quiet and profound. Of how the woman and her body create, and the fierceness of her love and the stars of a sky.

Chapters they are. Books we have, and thick. A new chapter this week, and a grand one it is indeed. I read them lovingly on bright winter days such as this.

Grandpa Outfoxed.

I always kinda knew I had it in me, too.

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