IMR: 1999: January: 05 — Tuesday, 10:44 a.m.
Our Apartment, Makiki, Hawaii

The rain is coming down in buckets outside. It's been soggy and gray off and on since 1999 began, and it certainly seems to complement the theme of the year to date for this household.

All three of us are sick by some bug or another. Jen and Katie are both stuffed up, congested and generally miserable. Compared to them I'm the picture of health, even though I've been achy and feeling out of sorts since last week. We're all grumpy and dizzy and acting like zombies, and we've finally resigned to things being tense and out of balance around here until the winter germs move on.

Though initially novel and almost cute, the gagging, gurgling cough of an 11-month-old tot quickly becomes very disconcerting. Especially as they erupt sporadically throughout the night, as a runny nose and gobs of phlegm randomly block her breathing passage of choice.

The girls (as Lacene has got me calling them) finally got an appointment at Straub this morning to get checked out and medicated. Katie, actually, is apparently well on her way to recovery, but Jen's still in the throes of bronchitis. (The daughter of a lifelong smoker, breathing problems are a constant symptom of hers, no matter what the illness.) And she has completely and utterly lost her patience with being sick, each coughing fit punctuated with a flourish of colorful metaphors.

Meanwhile, I just feel funky, like -- as I've been known to say -- a sliding door off its groove. Unable to concentrate, I am endlessly paranoid that I'm missing important signals from Jen or coworkers, and thus have been a bit of an ass.

If you thought I asked Jen what was wrong (even when nothing was wrong) incessantly before, you should see me when I'm under the weather. Even Mother Theresa would slap me.

The first big crisis of the year, thankfully, was finally resolved over the weekend.

Katie turns one in three weeks, and not surprisingly we've been dreaming of her first birthday party for some time. And as early as the reception, we'd been saying it would take place on Sunday, Jan. 31.

Jen's parents, meanwhile, had been looking to visit some time during the month, and I just presumed they'd schedule their trip to span that weekend. Unfortunately, holiday scheduling at her dad's office limited their travel to the week prior, meaning the only weekend they'd be in town was Jan. 23-24.

So just before Christmas we set it for Jan. 24, called various restaurants and caterers, and pondered the guest list. But then I found out my dad would be out of town that same weekend, and that he had in fact expected us to stick with the original date.

We then had the debate of the decade over which weekend we'd use. Either dad or Jen's parents, we figured, would have to miss out. Since Jen's parents were flying in from Florida, and they have yet to even meet their granddaughter, the odds were in their favor.

Finally, though, Gayle -- ever the voice of reason -- actually had us nail down the various dates involved. As it turned out, Jen's parents were leaving late on Saturday, Jan. 30, meaning we could have everyone there... provided it took place in the morning, and that Jen's parents wouldn't mind going straight to the airport from the party.

Anyway, it's finally set. A quiet luncheon in one of the quaint Japanese tea houses at the Pagoda. Hopefully Jen's parents will be properly charmed. The table only seats twelve, though, meaning only immediate family (and dear William) will be in attendance. Just as well, perhaps, since it's just a little late to be sending out invitations anyway.

Also scheduled during the in-laws' visit? Katie's baptism.

Scary? Maybe a little. Dad certainly seems concerned, perhaps in part because of the strict model of the Catholic church, but more likely because he fears it's something I'm taking too lightly. But while this sounds just like the kind of thing I'd do just out of idle curiosity (like running for City Council, for example), nothing could be further from the truth.

It's no small matter, and one Jen and I have been carefully contemplating since before Katie was born. The discussion has been constant, but only recently became prominent because we wanted it to be done while Jen's parents were in town.

Although neither of us have been especially active practitioners of our respective religions -- Catholicism for her, Zen Buddhism for me -- we agreed some sort of spiritual tack would be good for our daughter... at least until she was old enough to choose her own way.

Although it would be an understatement to say I'm generally unimpressed with all things Christian, I no longer begrudge anyone their beliefs (provided they don't force it on others). I can appreciate the comfort and fulfillment religion can bring to some people. And especially in the past few months, I've watched Jen get more and more in touch with her faith. It's been enough to make me -- once a raging atheist -- reevaluate my own personal model of the universe.

As much as I've finally come to appreciate my own religious background, my family's history and its role in the Buddhist community here in Hawai`i, it was fair to say I still wasn't as invested in my church as Jen was in hers. Between the two of us, I resolved, Jen was probably best qualified to guide Katie through her earliest experiences with religion.

Of course I had my doubts, right down to tonight's meeting with the church deacon. His initial gruffness didn't help, but mostly it was because everything about this is completely new to me. Ceremonies and rituals, an entire way of life, a philosophy, a community, that I know absolutely nothing about.

And -- unless I convert, which is terribly unlikely -- this is going to be a part of my daughter's life that I will be, at least in part, excluded from. A special, perhaps ultimately pivotal aspect of her character that will be built and nurtured independent of me.

That isn't to say Katie won't ever set foot in the Waipahu temple again. Indeed, not only do I hope to give her extensive exposure to my family's Buddhist philosophy, but I want her to be aware of as many different beliefs as possible. Whatever faith, if any, she eventually chooses, I want to make sure it's a decision she makes with her eyes open.

But Catholics, they take this stuff seriously. In filling out the form for the certificate, we were grilled on the level of religious committment of everyone in the family. Who has been Baptized, which of the godparents are 'confirmed' Catholics, did we attend church often (we didn't), and whether we were married in a Catholic church (we weren't).

I felt like we were enlisting Katie in the military. And as if he was reading my mind, the deacon explained that the documented consent of everyone involved was required because children almost always come to resent the fact that the decision was made for them... though hopefully only for a little while.

And once you're in, you're in for life. Although Katie may one day decide she's Jewish, or even a Branch Davidian, Jen explained, she will always be a Catholic as far as the church is concerned. My recent joke of the week -- that a Baptism is essentially a rubber stamp that says, "Property of God" -- was closer to the truth than I thought.

Yes, I'm nervous. But make no mistake, I'm committed to this. Her moral compass may turn out to be pointing to false north, but at least she'll have a moral compass. It's a start.

© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 05 January 1999 · Last Modified: 09 January 1999