Sunday, June 15, 2014

husbands and fathers

I don't gush much about Berowne in this space. Most of that is a worry about tempting fate: after all, in the days of heavy Livejournal usage (that's how old I am, kids) I certainly gushed non-stop about Claudio, in entries which later made me cringe. Now I am less inclined to think that gushing shameful - we were so very young when we met, and it's no surprise that ten years later we were different people - and more inclined to think that the larger shame would have been had I married someone without feeling like gushing about him. But it still has me a little inclined to pull back on talking about Berowne.

This has the unfortunate effect of seeming like I take him for granted. Reading the post about Perdita's birth, with a few exceptions, you'd be forgiven for thinking that I was alone in the labor suite. The truth, of course, is that Berowne was working non-stop that whole time, helping me through the contractions, talking to the doctors and nurses on my behalf, reading Moby-Dick till his throat must have been bone-dry. I remember very clearly the period just when the narcotics were wearing off but the epidural hadn't been put in yet, and the contractions were coming back in a big way: I rode through them on his voice reading of seas and ships, imagining each contraction as a wave sweeping along the keel of a boat. It helped amazingly. (Not so much that I didn't need the epidural, but that wasn't his fault.)

Berowne had to give up a lot when he married me. He gave up the house on the farm and the opportunity to buy a friend's boat; potential chances at women who love raucous nights around the bonfire; ownership of non-crazy dogs and, not unrelated, intact furniture. The last dog he lived with was mellow and obedient, and then he moved in with my creatures of destruction and defecation, and has been very good-natured about it. He and Darcy absolutely adored each other, and that loss remains such a hard one. But Berowne has been great with Bingley as well, who now walks well on a leash for the first time in his six years and who gets to go on trips to the dump sometimes.

I knew Berowne would be a good father, and also knew almost from the start that I was seriously interested in attempting parenthood with him. It's been better than I dared hope, and of course harder than we could have imagined, but his support and humor and good sense have been the things getting us through many a long night and a fussy evening. Couldn't ask for a better partner in this adventure, and that statement would stand even if the adventure was our lives together sans children. I couldn't take him for granted if I tried.

My own father and I did not get along when I was an adolescent. It took me nearly two decades to realize that this was, in some ways, because I am very much like him. Of course when you are fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, it is preferable to believe that you are trapped in some sort of particularly cruel reality show designed for maximum conflict than that the people in whose house you are living could have contributed to your personality in any way. ("But I'm a unique snowflake! I totally created myself and you, parentals, had nothing to do with it, except that everything bad that has ever happened to me is ALL YOUR FAULT.")

Now my relationship with both my parents is good, for which I am quite grateful. Thanksgiving week has become a sort of family reunion time for us, when my brothers and I and our families descend on the small house where we grew up, which features only one bathroom (and no couch because the dog ate it, which is apparently a trend in my life). Every year my father and I are the earliest risers by far, and we sit up in the pre-dawn hours while he makes a fire in the wood-burning stove and we look at the papers and marvel over New Mexico politics. And no matter how early I get up, he'll have already made my separate pot of decaf coffee. Last Thanksgiving my mother offered Berowne and me a hotel suite, since the house was going to be so crowded; and I turned it down because that would mean missing out on mornings with Dad. 

This year there will be three very small grandchildren at Thanksgiving, so there will likely be several other early risers, sitting around the stove with little ones. This is excellent too, though I may be somewhat bullish about my seat closest to the fire. After all, Dad and I have our routine down. (We will also be the ones ready to leave for the airport four hours early, always.) 

I can't leave this post without mentioning Claudio's dad. I am incredibly fortunate in that I did not have to lose my in-laws either in the divorce or when I remarried; Claudio's parents live about a mile from us and we see them all the time. They welcomed Berowne with open arms and have a picture of Perdita on the shelf with pictures of their biological grandchild. When Berowne was working on the changing table, he asked Claudio's dad for the loan of some tools, and we went over there to pick them up. Four hours later, while Claudio's mom and I chatted upstairs, the table had been built. My new husband and my ex-husband's father collaborated on a changing table for the baby I was having with said new husband, and if that isn't indicative of having lovely people in my life, I don't know what is. 

So a happy Fathers' Day to all dads of all kinds, and especially to my wonderful husband who is a deft hand with a diaper, a superb giver-of-baths, and who bequeathed our daughter some wicked eyelashes. Although, my darling, just because you watched me push a human child out of my nether regions doesn't mean that you now don't have to shut the bathroom door, like, ever. I am not at all sure about that new trend; but every other new challenge in our lives I know we will meet more cheerfully and kindly for meeting it together. 

I love you. Now get out of bed so we can have breakfast. 

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