Sunday, May 08, 2005

Is that a signpost up ahead? No?

There was a surreal quality to our trip to the Southland, as though some alien force had wrought unfathomable personality shifts in everyone but us.

It started just before we left, when I phoned my father to check in and ended up finally breaking the news of both our desire and inability to have children. We had kept up a pretense of disinterest with him over the last couple of years, in large measure because I feared he would chide us for waiting too long, and why didn't I just content myself with focusing on my career? I explained that we had already come to the last medical option--IVF--and waited for him to rail about the moral implications of creating life in a petrie dish. Instead, he said, "I hope you do whatever you possibly can to have a child. Children are the most wonderful and important things you can do with your life. However much it costs, and however much it hurts, I hope that you do it."

Stunned, I sat with the phone to my disbelieving ear, choking up. I told him that, even if the IVF didn't work, we hoped to adopt. I cringed, waiting for the inevitable, "You know, adopted kids can have a lot of problems, and no matter how hard you try, they just won't be the same as having one of your own." He had said something like this not ten years ago, when discussing a friend's adopted son--a juvenile delinquent.

Instead, he simply asked what we'd found out about adoption so far, and I said that we'd mostly been looking into China. His response? "You know, I've always figured that it wouldn't matter much where the kid came from, or what race. It's all in how much you love them and teach them."

I didn't know what to say; I seemed to be talking to some other incarnation of my father--an open-minded, non-judgmental, politically correct version wearing his sonorous voice. Could this enlightened soul full of goodness and light really be the man who uses bile-inducing racial epithets on a regular basis while denying that they're offensive? The man who told me to "find some white friends" when I started at a new school in sixth grade?

Ten minutes later, the phone rang: he said, "I've thought about it some more and, no matter what, just promise me that you won't let money get in the way of having a child, whether through IVF or adoption. Know that I am here to support you; I have the money sitting in the bank. I've helped your siblings in the past but you never really needed my help before, and I want to be there for you whenever you need me." I started crying, and he said something that will stay with me forever: "Children are a completion. Now that I'm near the end of it, I can't imagine my life without children. I hope you have one. I hope you have two. Have a bunch. All different kinds."

. . .

The night after we arrived in L.A., we went to a good friend's 40th birthday party. A bunch of 30- and 40-something couples in cocktail attire--a good third of the women visibly pregnant--were sedately sipping mineral water or martinis, as conditions warranted, and catching the attention of the catering staff for another ahi-cucumber appetizer, when the birthday boy sat down at my side and asked me if I'd like "a toot."

"A toot?" say I, not sure I'm understanding him correctly.

"Yeah! A toot! A toot! You know, a little KO-caine!"

Assuming this to be a joke, I laughed and asked, "Do you have any crack instead? I prefer to smoke my coke."

He looked at me sideways for a second and said, "Listen, if you want some, we'll be in the guest house."

He was perfectly serious, and I had seriously just been offered cocaine for the first time since the Reagan administration.

I Just Said No.

. . .

Upon arrival at my brother's house for the nieces' birthday party, he proudly opened the door of his three-car garage to display... enormous, 18 MPG SUV.

With nine seats.

He traded in his Neon for an SUV with room for nine.

They are a family of four.

They live in the Southern California suburbs.

They do not haul anything.

They do not go off-road.

Should they develop a daring streak and want to go off-road, they can't do so in their new SUV: it is only two-wheel drive.

My brother used to be an environmentalist. Now he drinks all of his water from 24-packs of Crystal Geyser and thinks it's fine because he puts the bottles out for recycling.

. . .

My sister, who told me not two months ago that she had given up on finding a man to love--that she knew she was just not meant to be with anyone long-term--is now matter-of-factly making plans to get rid of her beloved Abyssinian cats because the guy she's dating is allergic, and how can he move in and live with her happily ever after when she has cats?

The boyfriend? He's a great guy--kind and smart and smitten.

He was also my classmate and good friend in junior high school.

The surreality (can that please be a word?) of Joshua Tree's lunar-meets-Seuss landscape didn't hold a stubby wax candle to the Twilight Zone of human behavior we experienced this last week.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Twilight Zone indeed.

Birch and Maple

11:44 AM  
Anonymous Julie said...

I hope you know I'm leaking incredulous, happy snot onto my keyboard after reading what your father said.

12:00 PM  
Anonymous expat said...

Wow, I just love what your dad said - he couldn't have said anything better if he'd been reading from the Resolve guide to dealing with infertiles.

The rest of your family? Hmm.

12:13 PM  
Blogger Millie said...

Your dad has me totally crying here. How wonderful of him!

12:19 PM  
Blogger MsPrufrock said...

If only all people could be as understanding and supporting as your dad. Sometimes the people we love can surprise us.

12:36 PM  
Blogger ms pickled eggs said...

Do you think your fabulous dad will adopt me?

1:08 PM  
Blogger Galloping Cats said...

I teared up at your father's reaction. Am so happy you have the emotional and financial support to make children a reality, whatever way it happens.

1:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love what your dad said. Sometimes dads can really surprise us. Mine pushed us to adopt--he was so excited and so pushy about it, it actually made us more excited.

Yours sounds like he's really changed, and wonderfully. I am so, so happy for you. It's so important to have the support of the people who you love, going through all of this.

Yay! good news!

Karen/naked ovary

1:17 PM  
Blogger Anna H. said...

Love that about your papa...


1:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your dad loves you.

1:23 PM  
Blogger Suz said...

Wonderful news about your father. I love it.

1:56 PM  
Anonymous amanda said...

I'm tearing up, too. Wow. What an awesome converstation with your dad.

1:59 PM  
Anonymous Molly said...

Another one dripping tears over the sweetness of your father. What a lovely surprise.

2:12 PM  
Blogger Bente said...

That was so sweet of your Dad. It must be nice to have that support.

3:47 PM  
Blogger The Lioness said...

What your father said - it truly re-arranged my soul cells. I am so fucking fiercely happy for you! About time you got one break.

I hear you on the general craziness.

3:57 PM  
Blogger chris said...

Damn SUVs. I can't even begin to tell you how much I hate them. One of my annoying neighbors borrowed my minivan to haul the tiller we used this weekend (we all put in grass) because apparently the "U" in SUV stands for useless and he can't bother getting his penis extension dirty by hauling farm equipment. He sucks.

Cocaine? Yeah, I'd have gone for the crack too. I've heard it's practically a fertility drug.

Good to hear the news from your father though. Change is good.

4:41 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

Your dad made me cry, damn him! What a beautiful change, and what a blessing for you to know that you have his support--that getting him on your side won't be yet another hurdle in all of this. I think you'll find that it feels good to have another person on your team.

As for the cocaine, is it wrong that my first thought was, "well, you're not cycling"?

4:53 PM  
Blogger penelope said...

great, lovely, wacky tales.

Bugs is back from the land of sad piano sonatas and her keyboard is smoking!

you write so, so well.

I never knew that they made 2 wheel drive SUVs. No wonder they can't drive in the snow.

7:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm all teary reading what your father said. I'm so happy for you, so happy that this stress has been lifted from you and that he is there to help. So much healing, so helpful.

Don't even get me started on SUVs and how much I loathe them. They're everywhere here -- they're more fertile then the women.

Cocaine? Really? I didn't know people even did that anymore, it's so passe. I hear heroin is making a very chic comeback. Gah! I can honestly say I have never been offered anything like that ever and would have thought he was kidding too. I'm very square.


8:47 PM  
Anonymous chasmyn said...

Sometimes people just surprise the hell out of you, don't they?

What your father said was beautiful and perfect. Sounds like he has mellowed with age.

10:32 PM  
Anonymous alex said...

Tears..lots of sweet and perfect.

Did one of you other ladies contact him on what to say?

11:06 PM  
Blogger Julie said...

Ok, I totally love your dad. You are a very lucky woman to have such a great guy in your corner!

Coke huh? I haven't been offered any since my early 20's.

Tell your sister, the last time I utter those words, I met my husband 2 weeks later :)

5:55 AM  
Anonymous Jenn said...

Your dad had me crying too. How sweet. My dad told me charge IVF then declare bankrupcy.

6:14 AM  
Blogger HomeFireBlue said...

Ahh ... uh ... what?

Can whatever alien spaceship that visited your dad visit mine? What's two hours of lost time compared to getting a dad who'll do an about face like that?

And DO NOT get me started with SUVs and my opinions thereon. Chris, I spat Diet Code Red onto my keyboard at your story about your neighbour.


6:26 AM  
Blogger Sandy said...

I'm just joining the love-in line for your father - completely made me teary here at work today. Children are a completion. How true. And no matter where they come from or how they come into your life. That much I know to be true through my two awesome stepsons. Glad you're back.

6:52 AM  
Blogger persephone said...

Well, now I know where you get your ability to make me cry from.

9:32 AM  
Anonymous susan / holdingpattern said...

Those are the words of a man who has really thought about what a blessing it is to have children and what it must be like to not have them when they are much desired. It is so rare - and such a blessing - to find someone who has truly been able to put themselves in another's place.

11:01 AM  
Blogger Mellie said...

Add me to the list of people that got all teary at reading your Dad's words. I'd like to believe that the Twilight Zone you've entered will be a wormhole leading you directly to IVF success.

p.s. If anyone's intersted, I started a blog of my own:

11:03 AM  
Blogger kristenL said...

Sometimes it doesn't always seem that way to us, But our dads love the shit out of us and (provided we don't catch the Gay) would do anything to see us happy. I am obviously projecting a little here.

I am totally teary eyed that your dad was so supportive, and surprising.

11:11 AM  
Blogger amyesq said...

Wow, your dad sound so great. I never got a chance to tell my dad the we were thinking about adoption, but I would like to think he would have reacted like yours did. I am glad you had a decent, if a little bizarre, weekend.

1:35 PM  
Blogger Internal Spring said...

Wow, take your dad up on his offer. I wonder if they all wake up one day and become human?

I'm so glad you'll have one le$$ thing to worry about.

5:39 PM  
Blogger LizziePea said...

Hey there - you have left me kinda weepy here - been there, right where you are... Knowing you have a dad or either parent who "GETS" what an incredible thing kids are is not only a testament to them but to you the child. My dad is very ill right now and he has helped us with the ART expenses and has endured the heartache of my ectopic and 2nd trimester miscarriage. He told me that the hurt of phecking infertility has hurt him in ways only a father can hurt. "watching you cry and physically ache for this child makes me wonder who is driving this big boat we are all riding on" you got that right pop...that is love and you will experience the love a parent has for a child. A friend of mine told me that if you want to be a mother, you will be - simple as that and I believe her...
Good luck in July, will be watching for you

11:38 AM  

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