I Wish I’d Met You Earlier

‘If I could change anything I’d go back in time and meet you earlier so I would have more time with you.’

imageOf course for that to work I’d actually have to go further back than you might think. I’d have to go back to the relationships before I met you, to the therapies and jobs and life lessons and various family functions when I festered with free floating rage and self loathing. The feelings that led me to some of the terrible decisions I made that left me looking for you in my early 30’s via the internet, wasting one Saturday night after another with the wrong people engaged in the same search. And of course you’d have to go back and relive all you’d lived to get back to the same place at the same time. In the end even that wouldn’t give us so much as a fighters chance of creating the events necessary to ensure another 5-10 years with each other.

The truth is had we met earlier I wouldn’t have been ‘the one’ yet and you may not have been either, though I have a harder time thinking that. Truth is we had to get to where we met, separately. In hindsight it was the only way it could have happened. Had you met me earlier you’d have met an even more imperfect man.

But we didn’t meet earlier. Life knew when and where you were going to be and made sure that I was ready. Made sure I had resolved my old and musty issues and was better able to understand how little I knew. Made sure I had learned, even if only in theory, that the person you love and commit to is not meant to be the end of the challenges and the resolution of all discomforts but rather they are your help and comfort while facing them. Life made sure I knew that it was my job to be that for you, too. That the dream of finding someone to love and be loved by was not the equivalent of going on permanent vacation. That it was not your pillows fluffed and your sheets turned down and rooms cleaned magically and freshly stocked paper products everywhere you looked. It was not nonstop nights of endless passion and wine and late night bathroom window cigarettes and days full of endless entertainment.

Wedding DayLife brought us to the same place at a time when we were ready to commit. To face the challenges and monotony and joys and unknown glories of having someone to do it all with. To commit not only to someone that could make the highs pure bliss, but also someone who could endure the lows, tell you your crazy and put up with the issues you haven’t resolved. Someone who will love you if you never resolve them. Someone who can write all these things at 12:51 in the morning after we didn’t have our best goodnight ever and never ever have to worry that that means anything other than we each have to figure out what it is we have to apologize for. Because this is real. I’m forever thankful for you. You absorb my frustrations and reflect my joys. You make the bad times quick and the good times permanent. I hope I can do at least some of the same for you.

None of this could have happened any earlier than it did no matter how much later it was than either of us might have expected it.

That said, it does leave me sad in one specific way.

I’m thrilled that Charlie is who he is and that Teddy is who he is. Specifically. Had it been another time they would have been other people. They wouldn’t exist as we know them. So in that sense I’m so happy it happened when it did.  But now I’m left looking at them and thinking…

‘I wish I could have met you sooner so I could have had more time with you.’

imageIt’s impossible for me not to project out now that they are with us. It’s hard to look down the road and know that at 20 I’m whispering to 60.  The math gets more unnerving from there. I’m not going to live forever. It’s something that hit me the second our first was born. Perhaps I’m dumb. We all know it doesn’t last forever. To say that it occurred to me at the moment Charlie was born is to somehow suggest I hadn’t known it all along. I did. I mean I knew people died and I knew I was a person. So, ipso facto and ergo and whatnot. But not like now. Now I’m going to die on my kids. I mean, even in the best case scenarios I die and leave them behind. But at my age the chance is it’s going to be when I would have been too young for my parents to go.

I didn’t learn to even start appreciating my parents until my 30’s. Not in the way they deserved. Not in the way that’s a bit more reflective of the amazing job they did  And my god, I’ve needed them more these days than I can ever remember needing them. I understand how silly and sweet that sentiment must sound to them. I ‘get them’ now that I’m a parent.  It must be cute to them to think I think I ‘need them’ now more than ever. Because those early days, my prehistory, the prehistory that is the equivalent to the one my kids are living now, concurrent with the peak of vibrant life for me are days they won’t  remember. They’re our days, actually, not theirs. Theirs come later. And I was their third. Of six. And there were a few more. I have two and I’ve needed them for all of it.

It worries me to no end that I’ll die while they still need me. The early days are just like that, and I’m still in the early days. But the deeper fear is that I’ll die without them being ready, without them being of an age or established in the life that will be there’s to live, that’s the one I can’t shake. I know no one is ever ready. I know I won’t be. But I’ll have a home, a wife and a job and my boys. I fear leaving them before they have any of this. Before they have roots.

There’s also a selfish piece to it all. I want to live long enough for them to forgive all the things we’ll get wrong and to see us as people, who loved them all the way through, even through the hard times when they couldn’t see why we did what we did. Through the times when we get it wrong. When they couldn’t see the love that was at the root of it all. Because having kids and being a parent and a spouse, it’s made me understand my parents in a way nothing else could. It made me love them in a way that’s oddly equivalent to how much I loved them when I was just Charlie and Teddy’s ages now, when they were my whole world and I was theirs and it made all of us special. There’s a symmetry now and I can see all that they did. I once again think of my parents as something so much more than ‘just people’. It’s your job to realize that they are in fact just people as you depart your family of origin. You have to see them for all their humanity and in that you find shortcomings and magnify them. It’s a part of your liftoff you have to exercise. It’s the balance to those years when they were the sun and the moon. It provides you perspective. But if you’re lucky enough, like I am, you get to come around on that later and see how superhuman their lives have been. I’m back to a place where I can tell them unabashedly how much their love means to me. How much I love them. I want that with my boys. I want to make it there.

‘I wish I’d met them earlier so we would have had more time together.’

Becoming The One

There’s a good many reasons I write. Most of them have evolved since I started Developing Dad. Initially it was motivated by my desire to make this thing for my kids. A record of who their parents were along the way. A place where they could go back and hopefully see how much they were loved. So they could learn from me while some of what I had to teach was still fresh in my mind. This is one of those posts.

2013-09-08 16.33.09My father is not always prone to giving advice. He’s actively involved in helping us chew over a problem, but I think he takes a designers approach to most things having been a designer since far before he even had the degree to prove it. Or the career full of successes. He’s a designer by nature before he was one by training. As such, and as a man that will often speak of how fascinated he is with his children and their perceptions and approaches, he revels in seeing us solve problems. Designers know that there are potentially innumerable ways in which to approach and resolve a problem and he loves seeing how others do it.

‘I’m really very happy that you’ve chosen this life.’ He said to me on the back porch of my brothers house the afternoon before our big day. ‘It’s a good life.’

It’s a thought that’s resonated with me. It got my attention in the moment and has held that attention now for going on 8 years. ‘I’m really happy that you’ve chosen this life.’

It’s not passive, I chose it. I chose to give love. I chose to accept it. I chose to look past fear and doubt and aimed at something beyond the immediate. I chose to commit to it. A thing I’m not sure I understood at the time, but a thing he knew far better than I, was something I’d grow into.

I’d come close before this. A couple of times. In each of those earlier instances I walked away from the afair swimming in remorse over my shortcomings and failures. I wallowed in pity over the weight I didn’t afford the relationships until it was too late. Until I’d messed up. In resolving these emotions, past years of recriminations and loud and repeated listenings to Rick Danko bleating out the lyrics to ‘It Makes No Difference’ or Dave Matthews singing sincerely about something I was trying to feel though I wasn’t, I resolved and learned that I was going to have to accept that she wasn’t the one. It was an important realization for me. To know that in the end while the pain was real when it was real and it was honestly desired when it was feined the reality was that it was the fates and I had to learn everything I could from these painful experiences. In the end it wasn’t meant to be.

Which is a total and utter cop out.

In the end of relationships you divvy up. The reality was, to a greater or lesser degree, or just in different ways for each situation, I was at fault. And the fault that was mine to own was that I wasn’t the one. Not because I wasn’t ‘the one’ per se, but because I didn’t choose to become so. Not until the day after the day before my wedding when my father imparted wisdom he didn’t even know he posessed.

He had made the choice, the committment in his mid twenties. He was on the accelerated plan of becoming a good man and becoming the one for the girl he’d marry. I drifted a bit longer. At least when it came to relationships and my ability to be who I thought I was.

Wedding Day‘The one’ barely existed on my wedding day. It also existed absolutely as much as it could. We were getting married after all. She was absolutely the one for me and I look back on that day often with the greatest of memories as it was the day when we set in motion the series of events that would bring about our unending happiness at becoming ‘the one’ for someone who was taking the same leap for us. The truth is that the love that brought us to that place, through a remarkable set of ups and downs was a precursor to a life we are now well on the way to completing the foundations of now that you are both here with us. But I was no more a pre-determined perfect fit for your mother than she was for me. What I was and am is madly in love with her. Which, yes, means I’m enamored of her. But more importantly it means I’m committed to her and she to me. Through the past seven-plus years of our marriage, through several challenging and seriously imperfect times where we have both failed each other and failed ourselves, we always rebound to that committment and each time we do there is more trust, more love and more reason why we alone, specifically are the only partner that could ever be the one for the other. The ways multiply with each passing milestone of a life spent together figuring out what is meaningful to us and to each other. I’m infinitely more capable of being the one for your mother today as she is for me because of how imperfect life is and because we keep showing up for each other each day no matter how hard a day it might be. We’ll continue to do so through fights and disagreements, through joys and celebrations, through the workaday drudgery that life can sometimes be, through laughs that become the special language we’ll only be able to speak with each other that will give us endless capacity to carry one another when life strikes it’s most painful blows. I could never have been the one for her in the way I am now when we were just starting out.

11133746_10206086038933979_5520499095169659982_nThe concept of ‘the one’ is much maligned by the cynical and those lacking imagination. We all have times when we question it’s rightness and that’s a part of figuring it out, but don’t be fooled, ‘the one’ definitely exists. But like the rest of life it requres two things. First you have to be responsible for being the one and don’t expect life to present to you ‘the one.’ That’s not how it works. All you can control is you and if you want to find the one, go about being the one. That’s the only way to know if you can in fact become the one for another. Second, go about being the one by showing up, every day, for that person you love. Apologize for your wrongs, celebrate the one you love and show up especially when it’s hard to do so. If you don’t you have absolutely no right to expect them to do so for you.

My father is a designer by nature and as such he has gone about accounting for a structure’s integrity from inception. When he told me that he was happy that I chose this life, whether he knew it or not, that’s what he was happiest for. He saw that I loved my bride fully and was happy that I chose this structure which hewed to the design he favored, built and tested in the life that he’d lead and was still leading, both beautiful in conception and structurally sound.

I was never so fool hardy as to think that there was one and only one meant for me. But I did seem to think that there were many ones and I just had to find one of them. I imagined that having that someone who loved me for me would make life easier somehow. And that I would do the same for her. I imagined that this would happen smoothly and easily as I simply had to find a person where this was true and I’d know they were one of ‘the one’s’ for me. I wouldn’t commit until then.

It was a fundamental misunderstanding of what love is, what ‘the one’ means. The one is not the solution. They don’t arrive fit to your life. They don’t come through the door and morph to some ridiculous, uninformed and frankly selfish version of what you think would be perfect. Instead they come through and you fall for them. That’s it. The rest is up to you, up to you both, to make that moment mean something by committing and recommitting everyday. Do that and you’ll find you found the one. The one and only one for you, fitting ever more perfectly together as you grow.

Starry Starry Night

babymoon pic

I had an argument with my wife this morning. And last night. Well, to say it was an argument implies it was more than it was. An argument comes earlier in a relationship and it involves lots of shouting, the stating of hurtful and judgmental opinions and the generalized threat that one or both members of the pairing are on some level considering whether or not the partnership is one that is even worth saving. That’s an argument.

What we have now is much more targeted and it never, well rarely, threatens the existence of an ‘Us’.  Our attacks now are straight to the point. We know our target and we strike in a way we know will cause the most damage while taking the least time and effort. It’s the efficiency one finds in a marriage, this ability to have a full fledged fight based on two sentences, one each and then targeted silence and muted sneers. It’s not altogether bad, it’s just the standard. It passes fast and allows us the opportunity to breath and get our heads and to apologize after we acknowledge our part in causing any tension. It’s also a reminder that this thing we have requires more than a little effort and growth on both of our parts.

I should mention that today was totally my fault. I have somehow allowed my new computer to become infected and in the course of trying to fix it myself have seemingly crippled it. My emotions are usually measured and tempered, not too high not too low. That said, they are irrational when it comes to these things. Or rather this specific thing. I don’t know how to live without my internet which updates my podcasts efficiently, entertains my sports obsessiveness and allows me to manage my various fantasy teams. My patience in it’s absence has all the maturity of a, well, 13 week old. That said, he was all smiles this morning and he didn’t have internet either, so maybe I regress even further.

The snideness of our tension today was my fault.

I bring this up because something else dawned on me. It’s April 15th!! Isn’t that WONDERFUL! Not because it’s tax day, at least traditionally, or because it’s a day to remember the tragic end of Abraham Lincoln, the Greatest American. These things certainly make the 15th a day to be noted. Neither of these reasons however are why I think of this day so positively.

Four years ago the 15th was a cold, grey and rainy day in NYC. I lived in Astoria, Queens at the time and with my roommate ceding the TV room to me I spent the day curled up on the couch watching old movies. I specifically remember Chinatown. A unique cinematic experience if there ever was one. It was the kind of day when being on the couch and getting absorbed into the muted and faded technicolor of a seventies indie film was the best form of getting cozy. The weather was dreadful and I could have stayed there all day. But I couldn’t. I had a date that night.  It was at 8. It was at Doc Watson’s a bar on the upper east side, in the neighborhood where the girl I hadn’t met yet lived.

When she emailed to see if we were still on (It was really quite bad out weather wise and frankly she’d been on enough of these dates to not be bothered if she missed one) I decided that heading out and meeting her was in fact the best thing to keep me from melting to the couch and succumbing to my inclination to snuggle in for the night at 2pm. She, being polite decided, okay, she’d see me there at 8. She wanted to know if I wanted to talk on the phone. I knew the reasons. Women are right to be scared of men. We’re capable of scary aggression, and she couldn’t have known then that I wasn’t that type of guy. But I still had to say no. Really, there’s nothing more awkward than that conversation, one where she’s trying to pretend that she’s not interrogating you and you trying to sound genuine while aware the whole time that she is trying to determine what type of man you are and whether or not she should have the top of the pepper spray flipped. So instead I gave her my cell number and told her to gimme a text if she was so inclined. I told her that I’d be happy to have a phone convo, but if it was all the same could we skip it. I hate the phone. She was cool with that.

She asked how she’ll recognize me and I said that I’d wear something slutty. It was a risk, but I gotta be me and I thought it was funny. Thankfully, so did she.

We met and before she even had a beer we got away from the overcrowded Irish pub and we were both smiling, ear to ear for the whole night. Even when the bar we wound up at locked it’s doors and kept serving us til the wee hours, as the bartender got plowed and kept giving us and another couple down the bar from us drink after drink. We kept smiling when a little buzzed and over confident I asked her if I could kiss her, like really kiss her. We smiled through that, and the kiss still worked. We smiled all the way though telling each other how we got to this place, our mid thirties and transplanted upstaters living and working in NYC. We smiled as we told each other our different but equally amusing stories of all the bad blind dates we’d had lately. We smiled when we realized that not only was she facing me as I sat at the bar, her free hand rested naturally and lovingly on my leg. We laughed our way through the walk to her corner, a far enough escort on a first date and we stopped long enough to be wildly inappropriate in our public display of affection on the corner of 72nd and York.

The storm we ventured out in that night was epic. It even continued into the next day and the subways could not run due to flooding. That’s a rarity for the NYC transit system, believe it or not. But while we sat there falling in love, both having come in from the storm, the clouds broke and the skies cleared and we were able to walk away together, under a starry sky, hand in hand, smiling and laughing.

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