She shook her head in that way that means she's aggravated. Then she fell back to sleep. Watching her, I wanted to cry. She's a wonderful woman and now she's only months away from giving birth to a child whose blood is catastrophically tainted by the dementia of my family. I laid my head down but knew I would not sleep. I could not stop thinking about the baby. What chance does it have for a normal life? What chance could anyone have in this lunatic family where they call at five in the morning just in case they win the lottery and die in a plane crash on the same day?
Such is the curse my child is being born into, a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. It reminds me of the line at the beginning of Angela's Ashes, where Frank McCourt says there is nothing as miserable as an impoverished Irish childhood. He would change his mind in a hurry if he ever spent Thanksgiving with my family.
That's how my day began. I assumed the pit in my stomach would fade, but as the hours passed, just the opposite happened. My sense of impending doom only grew. After lunch I decided it might cheer me up to call my parents in Palm Beach and give them the big news. What I forgot is that calling my parents has really never cheered up anyone.
My mother answered the phone and immediately started yelling at my father.
"Come here, you aren't going to believe this!"
I could hear him in the distance. "What the hell do you want?"
"Just come in here a minute!"
"What is so important it can't wait five minutes for a commercial?"
"Is this man unbelievable?" she asked into the phone. "He's watching the Marx Brothers, what could he possibly miss?"
"You don't have to disturb him," I started to say, but she was already shouting.
"Is it too much to ask to have you come here when I say it's important?"
"For forty-one years it's been important! I can't do anything without you needing me for something important!"
"Then leave, why don't you? If it's so hard to be with me, just leave already!"
"I'm going! I'm going!"
For forty-one years, he's been going.
"Are you coming in here or what?" she shouted.
"What the hell is so important?"
"It's the telephone!"
"Who is it?"
"It's Fred Astaire, he wants to give you dance lessons. Can't you just trust if I say it's important?"
"For forty-one years it's been important. That's why I've never seen the end of a movie!"
It was around that point that I hung up. The pit is still gnawing at my stomach; it feels like a hamster running on a wheel. I still feel anxious. And, it occurs to me, I'm going to have to call another time to give my father the news.
She'll never wear the green shoes.
That's how well I know her.
Which isn't to say I understand her; I certainly do not understand her but I know her, and I know there isn't any way in hell she's going to come out of that closet wearing the green shoes.
I should explain that my wife wears black like a suit of armor. It is her protection, her only color, and now she is convinced that the only reason her cousin asked her to be a bridesmaid is so she would have to wear a lime-green dress.
"I mean just look at it," she shrieked when she brought it home, still wrapped in cellophane. "Barbara Bush wouldn't wear this!"
Tonight, she emerged from her closet wearing the dress and a pair of lime-green shoes which, she told me, had been recommended by the bride.