Monday, November 3, 2008

What's in a Name?

Sometimes I like to go to the Laundromat. Not because I need to do my laundry. I get that done at home. What I don’t get at home is the chance to eavesdrop on people. I bring a few shirts, a pair of jeans, and maybe some underwear to make the ruse look realistic. Then I sit down and open a book I have no intention of reading. Nothing written by Robert B. Parker or Sue Grafton can compare with the conversations of people who are doing their laundry in public out of necessity.

I’ve heard about people kicking drug habits. I’ve seen drug addicts kick people. I’ve been privy to family squabbles that rival anything on “Wife Swap” or “Supernanny”. I’ve been thoroughly entertained as I listened to women in oversized army fatigue jackets and leggings discuss their plans for Saturday night. I had to struggle not to look up from my faux reading when one promised to “down at least 12 kamikazes and fuck the first thing that asks me to dance…”.

You can’t get this kind of stuff on any of the 280 satellite channels I aimlessly flip through everyday. The girls vying for the affection of Bret Michaels on “Rock of Love” come close, but am I really supposed to believe anyone under 30 is interested in him and shouldn’t I say “affliction” instead of “affection”? Not even on the Sci-Fi channel can I find anything like watching a guy lick the wall dispenser calmly before getting his mini box of Tide. Nor is there, as far as I know, anyone on any show on those channels whose mother screams “Goddamnit, for the last time, get out of that dryer, Talon!”.

Granted, I may have it wrong. When you are so FREAKING COOL that you name your kid after a part of a bird, or any animal, you probably don’t follow the cumbersome rules of conventional spelling. More than likely you grew up listening to Enuff Z’ Nuff, Phish, and Limp Bizkit so your kid’s name, though it’s pronounced the same as the word for an buzzard’s foot, is probably spelled Talyn. “He’s cute but he’s not as smart as his brother, Beaxk.” The “x” being silent.

Why would you do that to your kid? I guess you’re saving yourself the trouble of dressing him funny or walking him to school until he’s a sophomore to make sure he’s at the very least threatened with an ass kicking everyday. When I was little if me and my pals wanted to throw rocks at something, a kid named Talon would’ve taken precedence over houses, cars or even the aviary creatures who sported the very appendages after which the soon to be welted little guy was named.

What’s the process here? Do you first decide that Michael, Jason or even Tyler are simply too commonplace? Forget naming him after anyone in the family. Elliot or Harlan might make an OK middle name but it won’t look good tattooed in old English letters on his neck. “Of course we can’t name him Camaro! What are you, stupid?” No, you’ve got to be different. Forget the fact that your offspring will be the one to suffer for your rampant “outside-the-boxedness“. Do you run thru different animals? Why does Talon make the cut but “Antler”, “Snout” and “Hoof” don‘t? Are there kids in Australia named “Pouch”?

Even if the kid makes it out of high school alive, then what? You’ve limited his career choices with that moniker. Wanna have your colon exam done by a doctor named Talon? How’d you like to have your second grader taught P.E. by coach Talon? If he can’t be a VJ, a drummer, or a Knight, he’s pretty much screwed. Though I guess he might have some success as a divorce attorney or hairdresser.

And lastly, you’ve got to consider the last name. I might be inclined to think a guy named Talon Rexx was cool. Talon Simpson is just not the same, and Talon Goldfarb is a rock-throwing kid’s dream. Take it from someone named David Giovanni Mencarelli.

As I was moving my fake laundry from the washer to the dryer, Talon, who was probably four, sauntered over, unscrewed the lid of my brand new Diet Pepsi , and took a swig. When he was finished, he took it back to the spot where he was playing with his Hot Wheels. When his mother noticed she hollered at him to put it back.

“No, really it’s fine. I’m good.” I told her. “I’ll get another one. It’s the least I can do for him.”

“Ok. Thanks.” She half smiled. Then she noticed her daughter climbing out of her stroller.

“Get back in there, Crimson” she hissed.

I only wished I’d known if it were her idea or the daddy’s to saddle these kids with those names.

I didn’t wanna throw rocks at her if she didn’t deserve it.

To Tell The Truth

I’m not proud of it, the way I left my ex-wife. I should have been more forthcoming and I’m sorry I wasn’t. Hell, if I’m going to be honest, I’d known for more than a year it was over. I wouldn’t admit it to myself or say it out loud to even my closest friends, but I knew it. In the back of my mind and in the bottom of my heart. I ignored it, though. I didn’t have a bad marriage. She worked all day while I took care of the kid then I worked at night while she cared for the baby. I’d go out with my friends after work and come home long after she was asleep. It worked for both of us, I guess. We’d spend a few hours together on the weekends, if our schedules allowed for it, but we certainly weren’t religious about it. We just sort of fell into living separate lives. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, it just happened.

We’d had an incredibly difficult year leading up to our daughter’s birth. I got “the diabetes” and spent most of that September in the ICU and hospital. My wife was three months pregnant. In a time that should have been all about her and the baby, she was suddenly forced to take care of me, the household and our 12 year old son. By herself. I was utterly incapacitated. She handled it, all the while spending every possible moment at the hospital with me too.

About the time I was starting to get well, her father died. The doctors found a tumor in his chest and three weeks later, he was gone. She was five months pregnant and in the span of two months her husband had been extremely ill and her father died. I was barely able to muster up the strength to travel to the bay area with her for the funeral, but I felt I owed her that. So she loaded her sickly husband into the car and drove 200 miles to bury her father. He was 57. She handled that, too.

Right after Thanksgiving, I had a routine doctor’s appointment. I’d had a bit of a fever the night before, but I was feeling relatively good. Better, it turns out, than I should have. I’d grown a cyst on my pancreas, that along with the fever scared the docs a little. The words “surgery tomorrow” scared me, a lot. My first thought was how the hell could I call my wife and tell her they were admitting me to the hospital, again? Hadn’t she had enough? Not yet, apparently.

The surgery was successful and I spent another three weeks confined to a hospital bed. On the bright side, I’d lost close to 125 lbs over the last three months and besides being a maudlin shade of grey, I was looking good. My ex-wife once again weathered the storm. While I was watching Days of our Lives and getting daily sponge baths from a cute 24 year old nurse named Daisy, she went to work, took care of the house and continued to grow what would turn out to be one of the best things ever to come into this world.

The day after I got home from this hospital stay, she’d apparently reached her limit. As she laid out my pain medication on the nightstand that morning, she told me she was having what was probably a minor problem and was going to see her OBGYN at lunch. What I hoped was nothing turned out to be premature labor. 16 weeks premature. They admitted her and told her she would not be touching her feet to the floor until the baby was born. They’d try to prevent that as long they as they could. Now it was her turn to sit in a hospital room, but the difference was, I was in no shape to take care of things at home. In all honesty, had I been healthy that would have amounted to a monumental task for me. With the help of my best friend and my incredible family, I somehow managed. My sister came to stay and make sure I got off the futon for at least a half an hour a day and shove healthy food down my throat. My dad sent money. My friends at work took up a collection and brought groceries and other necessities. As the time stretched to near Christmas, two of my friends showed up with a box full of presents for my son. My mother and step-father were there everyday for my moral support and mental health.

I’d go visit my ex-wife at the hospital as much as I was able. I was weak from the surgery still and I’d make my mom or sister push me in a wheelchair until I was right outside her room, then I’d get up and walk in, trying to look like I was feeling good. I think she knew I wasn’t. Finally, in January with nine weeks left before the original due date, they couldn’t stop the baby from coming. She was born 3 lbs 3 oz and when she came out was hanging on to the umbilical cord like she was in a tug of war. We knew she’d be alright.

And she was better than alright. She spent 3 weeks in the neo-natal ICU and improved every day. I was still a little weak and sickly, and we were in the ICU everyday to visit our daughter but my ex-wife would get there before me and stay after I’d left, feeding her thru a tube, bathing her and pestering the doctors and nurses about her condition. When we took her home she weighed a hefty 4 lbs 6 oz and could eat and breathe all by herself. It had a been a hellish 4 months for everyone, but I suspect it was hardest on my ex-wife. She’d not only struggled thru my trials, she’d lost her Dad and suffered her own hospitalization. During those last six weeks she was stuck in bed, though we never spoke of it, we both wondered if our baby would make it.

She did. And we did. For a while longer. The next year went by before we knew it and by the baby’s first birthday I’d started to feel a little disconnected. I should have said something then but I told myself it was just the residue of all we’d been through. I wasn’t miserable by any stretch, just bored and restless. But by the end of the summer I was just looking for a reason to leave that wouldn’t make me feel like an asshole.

I finally got it. It was something minor that I blew up big enough to use as an excuse. I convinced myself my anger was justified, though I knew it wasn’t. I mustered up the courage and told her I was moving out. It must have seemed so out of the blue to her. I hadn’t said anything was bothering me or even acted like it. Now I was leaving. Just like that. I knew I wasn’t coming back, too. I’d already met someone and though we hadn’t acted on our feelings yet, I knew we would. I left that part out when I sprung this on my ex-wife. I let her believe we could work on things and maybe save our marriage. I let that go on entirely too long and probably would have let it go on even longer had she not found out on her own one day after I‘d moved out. After fifteen years together and especially all we’d been through in the last two - she deserved better than that. She exacted some revenge, and I hope some minor satisfaction, with a pretty good right cross. It was well deserved and I think I got off easy.

I’m sorry I didn’t tell her the whole truth back then. It made things more difficult in that first year or so after we split. She never knew what to believe. Had I been totally honest in the beginning maybe things would’ve gone more smoothly.

We made it through that time and we have a better relationship today than we’ve ever had. We’re both re-married to people we’re much more compatible with. She was lucky enough to find a guy who loves NASCAR and camping as much as she does, and I was lucky enough to find someone who’s beautiful, smart, funny and thinks I’m at least one of those things ( I hope its “funny” but I‘ll settle for “beautiful“). Our daughter is well adjusted, compassionate and most likely a genius. She’s by far the best thing we ever did.

And I can always be proud of that.