Excerpt: 'Lessons for Dylan'

I missed a lot when your mom was pregnant. We didn't do Lamaze, I barely read the books. I was there for your first sonogram, but I was too sick to pay much attention to you or your mom. Your profile on the black and white print-out looked exactly like the special effect of the God-like baby from 2001. I didn't think it was real. I thought they printed these up and gave the same one to all the parents.

The morning you were born, Dylan, maybe it's because we're used to machine-aged hard edges, polished steel, right angles, I wasn't ready for the glop and the imperfections and the organicness of it all. "My God," I muttered under my breath, "it's just like the movies." And, of course, it is: the slap, the cry, the pride, the kitchy-kooing.

A woman in labor produces a hormone that allows her to forget the intense pain. But she doesn't forget much of anything else. A few days later Ena frowned and said "Just like the movies?!"

Almost 30 years of doing live television has taught me to edit myself. I didn't tell Ena till months later than what I cam very close to saying was "My God, it's just like Alien."

When you were born, I did a quick count: hands, arms, legs, fingers and toes. Two, two, two, ten, ten. It's a guy thing. And your profile looked exactly like the sonogram. It still does.

I told my friend, Rabbi Larry Raphael, whom I've known since he was your age, "I have no secret ambitions for Dylan to star in the NBA or win a Nobel prize, I just want him to be normal."

"Normal," Larry told me, "but not average."

He also told me, about kids, "the days take forever but the years go by in a minute."

He's right, of course. But when you're reminded of your own mortality every morning when you literally watch your hair fall out in clumps, days that take forever aren't so bad. And average would be OK, too.

The day we took you home from the hospital was my last day of chemotherapy. There's a picture of me carrying you. I look like s--t. Ten years older than I look today and I should look five years younger.

OK, I'm old. I'll be 68 at your Bar Mitzvah, 73 when you graduate high school. But my dad was 42 when I graduated high school and for all he related to me he might as well have been 73. Age is not a liability. In fact old age can be an asset. When I'd ask my dad for money he'd pretend not to hear me. But he really was in his 40's. When you're old enough to ask me for money, I really won't be able to hear you.

One of the few negatives of being an older parent — I had no idea what my mom meant when she would look at an infant and say "She looks just like so-and-so," when so-and-so was close to 50 and even closer to 300 lbs. When you were a newborn and looked just like my baby pictures I finally understood. She didn't mean the baby looked like so — and — so looks now, she meant she looks like so-and-so did then. And, the tough part, when I finally did figure it out my mother wasn't here for me to tell her.

Because you were an in vitro baby we actually have a Polaroid of you when you were six cells old. I have no idea how you'll be able to assimilate that when you see it and realize what it is. But every time I look at that picture I can hear my mother say,"Looks just like cousin Shirley." And I hear the punchline to the Thermos bottle joke. "It's the greatest invention ever, better than fire, better than the wheel. Keeps hot things hot, cold things cold, how does it know?"

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