continued from the last one . . .
I’m a relatively modest man. Which is not to say a man of modest means, but boy howdy, kids these days. They’ll do anything for a hoot.
When Doc Marley would come in to the birthing room last night to check on Maggie, I’d flee. Self-righteously, self-consciously. Flee. I wanted no part of Maggie flashing a hoo-haw or anything else my way, and feel pretty secure in saying that Maggie wouldn’t want that either. Just ain’t the way things are done. At least not in Outfoxed world.
Way back when (look, I’m gonna pontificate for a while before I get to the pictures, they’re loading slowly down below anyway so take a breath and just let me ramble, okay? Okay?) I learned about wimmen, and I learned from someone who had no business knowing anything about women because he had this phobia about S-E-X, using it as a three letter toss with vowel word in a Scrabble game might get you booted from the house, but Dad had his ways. Dad knew a thing or two about women.
I was across the street from the ancient Outfoxed ancestral house, might have been 9 years old at the time and the neighborhood was hell fulla kids. Post war production values and all that, there were tons of kids at the time. There might have been a dozen or so at any given time of day. And somehow or another, the neighborhood drama queen and I were in a bit of a scuffle. She might have been all of 6, but she had the heart and soul of a 39 year old gold digger. Honest. Somehow I have a hazy memory of an argument over a spectacularly muddy football (as in, “No it ain’t yours, it’s mine! Mine, I tell ye!”) and there was a tussle back and forth, and me being appx. 5 inches taller and 25 pounds heavier, I bested the little blonde haired rat for possession, and was running for the goal posts to perform the earliest recorded rendition of an end zone dance when I heard the summons.
“OUTFOXED! GEDDOVER HERE RIGHT NOW!”
And yes it was Dad, curiously ensconced in the front yard and performing yard maintenance which was absolutely not his forte, as the dramatic handing off of said duties some years later to a young progeny would make clear, but by God he was shredding some foliage that day.
It’s funny, somehow I knew that a wrong had been done, the tone of Dad’s voice made that abundantly clear. The why, on the other hand, was a matter best left to his interpretation, since I wasn’t getting a word in edgewise in any event.
“WHADDYA DOING TEARIN’ THAT BALL AWAY FROM THAT LITTLE GIRL?”
“Well gee, it’s my ball and . . .”
“I DON”T CARE IF IT’S YOURS. WHADDYA DOIN HITTIN’ A GIRL ANYWAYS?” WHADDYA SOME KINDA BUM OR SOMETHIN‘?”
“Well no Dad, it’s just that she . . . And I didn‘t hit . . .”
“AH, I DON’WANNA HEAR NO MORE. GET INSIDE AND TELL IT TO YOUR MOTHER. GIRL HITTER. NEVER SEEN ANYTHING TO BEAT IT . . .”
And that was the way of the wimmens, in mid-60’s America. You didn’t hit, you didn’t think about it in any way, you propped a pedestal and slid it under the woman and, for the love of all that is holy, those were the way things were done. I’m not to say that it’s a wrong thing either. Modern girls might argue, but they’ll never see an ill-tempered hand from this quarter. Or even a mildly flavored word. Dad would probably come down from heaven and kick my sorry ass.
I didn’t forget that afternoon with the football. Likely never will.
That’s not to say I don’t have fun with the wimmens in my life. I do. Young bartenders, secretaries enslaved in a construction office, kith and kin and friends of the daughters, I would likely staunch a hail of gunfire for any of them. Because they matter. They matter because . . .
They can do something mysterious and grand.
It isn’t a sexist thing that they do, although you’d be hard pressed to argue with a fellow crony on any given Friday night, when the PMS has driven him from the house and he’s wailing about horrible words at your elbow, the threat of street living fresh in his ear, a sweating longneck on hand.
So when Doc Marley bent me the look and advised “You best be chillin’ in the hall for a bit, mon” I knew exactly what to do. I’d best go out to the hall. And save my Middlest One a moment of grace, a measure of good strong pushing for the moments to come. Let the Grandma and the sister and the bestest friend hang, and give a nod to the Dad-to-be. They could stay.
I wasn’t going to be struggling with no footballs over here, across the street. And eventually, the rest of the crew got the boot and they all had to come out and mingle in the hall with me, anyway.
God, what women can do. It touches me, just about now.
There was a moment just after Maggie delivered, and Lara and Beth were doing their best impression of Shemp and Curly on the public side of a delivery room door, Ally and I clinging in the midst, and I thought “Jesus, the things we do. What we go through in life, to make the best of all of this, and put to rights the septic tanks and the balky copier and the just damn sheer madness of your ordinary day, this is why we do it.” And I could hear Doc Marley doing the countdown from the other side of the door, “C’mon Hon, I’ll give ye a countdown to push from ten! TEN, NINE . . .”
Oh sweet mercy. To hear the sound of life for the first time.
In the days when I’m no longer missed, I’d like to have this remembered. This right here, and the things made right, and all the days that can be brighter still.
I’d like to have a video of something I’ll never have, because we weren’t all that organized to begin with, but to see Lara and Beth dancing up and down and holding hands and just being women, who knew and could maybe understand what was going on just feet from them . . . without ever having birthed a child between them. And to look at the woman I call my own, and why she cried in my arms later on that night, and why 3 children later she still makes me sing of an evening . . .
Well now, then.
I have, and will again while I have the chance, slap palms with a doctor from the islands, and prod her about singing in the halls and why Doc Marley is the single coolest acronym I’ve ever come across. Because she is, you know, the coolest mentor to the finest of wimmens . . .
And you got that right, mon. Ya, you right. Me and my wifey, we thanks you. You did us good, and you be among the good peoples of the earth. I’ll hear your screech about how cute my Grandson is to the end of my days. Bless your good heart, darlin’.
We called everyone. It was 11 pm and well past the bedtime of adults grown close to their routine, If you had a phone and we had your number we called you, and it is the destiny of Grandparents to call, and photograph and generally make a nuisance of themselves in the name of love. Or generational history. Or maybe just the ecstasy of enduring, and making lives longer.
My Middlest lay in the bed just minutes after the delivery of her first child, and the little boy was just out of reach in a haste of post delivery clean up, and I saw. I don’t know what I saw because I can’t reproduce it, but the look she cast to that little one. God.
It was the yearning.
I’ve never seen that look of a woman, I was always on the wrong side when my wife gave birth and never noticed it, but I’m sure she had the same stare, the longing and the release of a girl who just bore down and did the hardest thing she will ever do, and the loss of something, and the gain of something so much richer.
I think I know why women will go to the knife for their children, because I saw it in Maggie last night. There was pure desire for her soul, her flesh, and a light came from her and it was clean, it was naked and it bore tears.
I might never see that again, but it makes sense to me now.
In the days when I’m no longer missed, I’ll see this. And wonder and be glad.
Because life, and the lingering want of it, makes this the sort of thing to be glad about. There is, in all of my days, a certain fine satisfaction to enjoying life.
I’m enjoying the hell out of it right now.
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