Becoming a Father

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I’d always wanted to see “The Seven Samurai.” Ever since I heard about it, that is. I think I came across the title for the first time among the listings in a 16mm film catalog (for non-theatrical rentals) that I acquired somehow along the way – that and The Film Encyclopedia that sat prominently on my bookshelf, when I wasn’t pouring over it.

Then on practically the last day of 1977 up pops an ad in the newspaper, touting the showing of “A breath taking 3-hour epic” at the Movie House in the U-District – “The Seven Samurai.” I made plans for my wife and me to see it. I invited our best man (and my fencing buddy) Dave along for the show.  And that last decision probably saved me. For if he had not been there, I would have been in for a world of hurt.

As it was, the seats in that particular venue delivered a world of hurt. Hard, unyielding wooden chairs, not a hint of padding. You see, my wife was five months along in her first pregnancy, and three hours of swords and samurai on those concrete-like seats were not her idea of a fun time. But she held in there, mainly for the sake of not making a scene before our friend.

Was it worth it? Maybe I shouldn’t answer that. (My wife sometimes reads these posts).

Anyway, the movie wasn’t the only thing that had an overly long running time.

By the end of April of 1978 we were going past her due date. One week late. Two weeks late. As the number of days past the due date mounted, she began to dread the inquiring phone calls – “Haven’t you had that baby yet?” And people began to offer various suggestions for “helping” the baby along. Like taking the prospective ‘mommie’ on a bumpy ride over the railroad tracks. Two more weeks went by and that began to sound like a viable option.

There was one activity though that we chanced upon that held out the promise of inducing labor. Sonics fever!

At the time, ‘our’ team, the Seattle Super Sonics was battling the Washington Bullets for the NBA championship. They came in fourth on the season in their conference, so it was a huge struggle for them just to get into the finals. They had to top the other three teams – the Lakers, the Trail Blazers and the Nuggets. And we watched with great interest, my wife especially.

The first two games were held in Seattle. The Sonics won the first in a comeback finish, but the Bullets took the second. It was during that second game that my excited wife was down on all fours, belly to the floor, cheering the team on.

My wife delivered before the next game was played.

And I was right there with her. We had done the Lamaze classes, so I was sort of prepared for it.  But the baby had been gestating for ten months; so come time that the water broke, there wasn’t much left. And I wasn’t prepared for when the physician brought out a pair of forceps, inserted them around the baby’s head and started pulling. I watched in shock as my wife’s body was dragged down the table with each yank.

We were both relieved when our baby was out with us, but concerned for the marks on the sides of our daughter’s head. And the unforgettable look in her eyes. A look of bewilderment that conveyed a sense of feral fear. The very second our eyes locked my heart lept.

One talks about mothers bonding with their babies. I bonded with our baby in that instant. There wasn’t anything I wouldn’t do for her.

Well, the Sonics lost the series in 1978, but were back in the championships the very next year. And after losing the first game, swept the next four. And beat the Bullets in that rematch.

And our little toddler was gleefully ripping the books from my bookshelf, cascading them into a heap onto the floor. And I didn’t care.

I Boil Water

I Boil Water

1n 1977 we left behind our little apartment on the Monorail in downtown Seattle and moved into our first home – a cinder block affair up in the Highlands area of Renton, WA. It was a simple rectangle comprised of – a living room, kitchen/dining room, bath, and two bedrooms. We’d been married only three years, and were expecting our first child (hence the need for a bigger place).

We were familiar with the area – down NE 8th St to Monroe Avenue NE, then west took us to Bethlehem Lutheran Church, where we were married. (And by a singular curiosity, going left on Monroe took us by Greenwood Memorial Park, and the gravesite of Jimi Hendrix).

I wasn’t much of a cook or a baker or even a bottle-washer. But I did pride myself that I could do breakfast – i. e. boil water.

I was going about this task one morning. The wife was out and I had the kitchen all to myself, and I had decided to make some oatmeal for my breakfast. So, I completed steps one through three –

1- put the water in a pot

2 – placed the pot on the stove, and

3 – turned the burner to high.

Something distracted my attention before step four, putting the oatmeal in. The exact detail escapes me. Newspaper delivery, perhaps. Something that needed my attention out in front of the house, anyway. That’s how I found myself out on the front yard, doing whatever it was – only come time to turn back and re-enter the house, I found a locked front door staring me in the face.

For some reason I pounded on the door – (maybe just to test if it really were locked, and not just stuck closed instead). Then panic sunk in as I realized that that pot of water was merrily bubbling away full blast on the stove. What could happen if I did not get back in, in time? And how much time would be too much time?

I waited too long under that particular sword of Damacles until I screwed up the resolve and broke a window in the back door and gained access to the kitchen.

But sadly, it was too late for the pot. The water had had enough time to boil completely off, destroying the pot (one of our wedding presents, of course). I had to explain the reason behind its demise and the state of the window to my wife upon her return.

I still make oatmeal for myself. It is still a favorite for breakfast. But these days, I always use the microwave.