One of my son's big projects toward the end of the last school year was to create a timeline of his life. It was my turn to assist the Big Project, which is scary, since I lack an iota of artistic design or sensibility, having peaked at age 17 with my forced metaphor/reproduction of the characters in Graham Greene's "Heart of the Matter" as members of a fictional baseball team, complete with stadium. It was so impressive that my teacher decided to hang it on the wall, where it inspired for a whole week before it began to fall apart.
Still, for AJ, I persevered and, along with a mighty assist from my girlfriend--a "teacher geek," armed with all manner of arty and crafty tools--we managed to put out a legitimate product. Suitably emboldened (aka "bereft of other ideas"), I'm stealing the timeline idea to (re-)introduce myself, my life as a parent, my POV, to the Offsprung masses.
Over spaghetti, the woman who is my wife at this point hands me a brown paper bag. In it is what I initially think is a toothbrush, which is odd, until I realize it's a pregnancy test. With a positive result, surprising in that we'd only decided to attempt procreation like five minutes earlier.
The most ridiculously easy pregnancy ever (no morning sickness, no bloating, very few complaints) ends in the birth of AJ, also a relatively short and stress-free exercise, a veritable Turbo Birth. Upon first inspection, the child most approximates a rhesus monkey.
I take AJ to his first baseball game, a spring training tilt between my beloved Oakland A's and the Chicago Cubs, thereby revealing to him what I hope will be a similar life-long obsession. He responds by sleeping though seven innings.
AJ utters his first word. It's an attempt at "truck," and comes out "Guck!" which, all things considered, is a relief.
AJ finally starts to enjoy life. My mother frequently remarked about how he was such a "serious" baby, which I attribute to the fact we didn't engage in non-sensical baby talk or force-feed him Disney. Instead, I shovel my own interests down his throat. His lullabies are '80s rock ballads. I read him relevant passages from "Moneyball." I teach him simple math via heated, head-to-head Texas Hold 'Em matches.
The three of us move into our first house, resulting in our first mortgage and AJ's first trips to daycare, now that his mother has to work outside the home in order to help pay for said mortgage. AJ takes to daycare well, except for the occasional hitting of girls and the time he yelled "jackass!" because "that's what Daddy says when he's driving the car."
We embark on a nearly year-long, and ultimately futile, attempt to add another child to the family, which seemed to me at the time to be particularly frustrating, but was, in fact, something of a blessing as my wife's "need" for another child was to fill a gaping hole of desperate unhappiness, an affliction brought about by a number of logistical issues (longer commutes, different days off, less disposable income) that I believed were minor and fleeting. I was right. But I was also very wrong.
Now that a new baby doesn't appear to be happening, my wife begins to date.
I become aware of my wife's dating. This does not require any sleuthery on my part. "I'm moving out," she says.
Seriously, if your significant other starts regularly going to the tanning salon for the first time ever? Start checking her cell phone records.
I go through the usual emotions: sorrow, anger, beer, bargaining, pissed off, self-pity, weight-loss, finding meaning in song lyrics, whiskey, burning of old photographs...
You get the idea.
We sell the house. As I move out the last of my stuff, the housing bubble pops. Hey, if your wife is going to leave you for another guy, it's nice of her to do it before the economy goes to hell.
On the negative side, my new apartment costs nearly as much as the mortgage without the privacy and tax benefits.
(It's easy to joke about all this now, but, as I'm sure you realize, this was the worst time of my life and I ate a lot of shit for the benefit of my son, which ultimately benefited me, and, without that kid, absent me knowing I had to pull my self-pitying ass together for his sake, I don't know where I'd be right now. And, you know, unloading on her with both barrels in my blog was pretty cathartic, too.)
AJ starts kindergarten, embarking on a 12-year journey to simultaneously delight and horrify his teachers. Each of them, in succession, offers the same report during parent-teacher conferences: He is bright and clever and kind; sociable and compassionate.
He could stand to sit down, be still and shut up every once in a while. Heck, even once.
Offsprung debuts! I spin some hilarious* yarns about my son, who has grown into this little human--personality plus, all the time--who fills me with love and wonder. The posts deal with balancing parenting and finding a new social life at age 40, urinating on drawings of pigeons, adventures in youth sports, mocking Daddy's unfashionably long hair, co-parenting, AJ openly and purposefully rooting against my favorite sports teams, me crushing him in video games to retaliate, his mother's engagement (yes, to that guy), the permissive nature of my mother toward her grandchildren, a trait I don't quite recall from my own childhood and many, many others!
(*You can't go back and read them; take my word for it)
The internet eats Offsprung with some fava beans and a nice chianti. I blame myself. Just when things started to get good (he says, as he expertly foreshadows his next post in which a flurry of summer activity results in poignancy).
This is just like AJ's timeline for school. We ran out of room. Large chunks of his 8 years missing. I told you I sucked at this.
To sum up: More than three years out from divorce, our lives are incomparably full again, literally and figuratively. Shared custody, and communication between co-parents, is nearly seamless. AJ has adapted like a champ, is patient with the sometimes hectic shuffling and open to the new people in his life. He is happy. I am in a rewarding relationship, one of respect and honesty and matching beliefs and dreams.
And Offsprung is back. So you'll get to read about all of it. Well, until I run out of room.