IMR: Prologue: June 30, 1997 -- 11:26 p.m.
The Apartment, Waikiki, Hawai`i
I really wish I'd taken the time to record the last few days.
They were all critical; each 24-hour stretch had an epiphany, a turning point, a revelation. But I was so busy processing it all, I never got around to writing them down.
I know someday I'll regret having nothing but a vague recap like this to look back on.
I heard from Jen while I was at my mother's. I was in the middle of a very good soliloquy about how 1997 has been rough, but not entirely in a bad way. A year of big changes, to be sure. As if on cue, my cell phone rang. "Jennifer (Florida)" it said. I ran upstairs to the phone in my mother's bedroom and she called me back.
She'd decided she wanted to keep the child. That she was sure. I was relieved; I felt the same way. We said many things, beautiful things, and closed the short chat strong and optimistic. We agreed, before we hung up, that mom would be told on the upcoming weekend.
Jen landed, ten minutes late but otherwise in good spirits, on Tuesday. (Good god, that was last Tuesday!) I wish I could say our reunification was joyous and mirthful, but it wasn't. It wasn't bad, either. Just subdued.
Walking down the long hallway to the baggage claim, I couldn't keep my eyes off her. I wanted to save every split-second of this seemingly priceless moment, holding the hand of the woman who I loved, who still loved me and who was carrying our unborn child. I rubbed her tummy and meekly asked, "How's baby?" Jen said she was fine.
The same action, the same query... it was one of those "cute things" we always did. Hugging in a long line, cuddling in bed. "How's baby?" I'd ask, getting a giggle. I wasn't sure if doing it under the circumstances was poignant or corny, but it made her smile.
She finally kissed me in the baggage claim. In the curve of my neck. She briefly rested her head on my shoulder. I smelled her hair and thought for a moment I was going to faint. I couldn't believe she was back. I was overwhelmingly happy she was home, yet afraid to be happy.
They lost her luggage.
She took it well, given the bad service Delta'd given her on top of everything else. We tooled into town, stuffing a Big Mac into her at the South King McDonalds, then plopped into bed -- our bed -- for a much needed nap.
Fast forward. While at this point I can only string together sporadic events -- some important, some not -- for history's sake I want to set them all down. Maybe I'll be able to sort them out better later.
Jen got her luggage, she extended her insurance from her stint at Tower (which included paternity care), she applied for work at Borders and started asking about getting her Tower job back.
She brought her friend Diana into the loop, on top of Rocky, and got the kind of support I suppose only women can give each other. I had already broken the news to Jaimee -- albeit only a day before Jen got here -- but she recovered and also called now and then to offer an ear.
Jaimee, it should be noted, is going through a bit of major personal turmoil at the moment herself. Suspended from UH. A big deal for someone who even I admired for her dedication to academics. The bleak streak continues... I have yet to meet someone for whom 1997 hasn't been a rollercoaster.
We started buying groceries, William coming over often to help cook (usually including a second trip to the market to get the ingredients we'd forgotten). This week our menu included somen, rice and picked vegetables; barbecue chicken, rice and sweet homegrown corn; and hamburger and scalloped potatoes, rice and tossed salad.
Eating at home is taking lots of adjusting, but it feels right. Thanks to some fortification from mom, our fridge actually has food in it.
We bought a book, "What to Expect When You're Expecting," which has since been a bible of sorts; daily reading for Jen, and for me when I've had the chance. Inadequate as it probably is, the book was central to settling some of the frantic, lost panic we'd been feeling. At least here was some guide to what happens, what to do, what's normal to be thinking, feeling and fearing.
As we started to see that we weren't horribly unprepared and incompetent, things calmed down a lot.
That's not to say we haven't had rough spots. For accuracy's sake, I recall two fights, one pretty ugly, since she's been back.
The first stemmed from a panic attack Jen had which boiled down to, "I'm not ready to settle down." Further, it was sparked by passing a store that reminded her of Kevin. Pretty self explanatory. The second was entirely my fault, an overreaction to a bad joke stemming from my (as is becoming readily apparent) deepset and still churning pain and insecurity concerning the whole Kevin thing. Once this was understood, thankfully, a warm and healing reconciliation was had.
It's almost 1 a.m. I really wish I was organizing this better.
Sunday came. It was The Big Day for Jen and I as well as for Jaimee. While we were set to tell my mother the news, Jaimee was planning to tell her very strict Chinese parents she wouldn't be continuing on with Summer Session II the next day.
We got to my mom's, suffered through "Tarzan" (my grandmother has had the oddest taste in television as of late), ate dinner and watched "Third Rock from the Sun." Jen and I were tense, as the moment drew near.
The plan was to take mom out to ice cream before dropping the bomb.
Problem. She was passed out.
I asked her, then nagged her, to come out to get ice cream with us. She steadfastly refused. Spotting a good excuse to postpone the ordeal, Jen suggested we just go home and try again -- at least preferably when mom was fully conscious.
Defeated, we filed out to the car. I went back in to ask if mom was absolutely sure she didn't want ice cream. She was.
I headed out to the car again. I paced. Things just didn't feel right.
I went back in. Mom was getting annoyed.
"Mom," I asked, sitting down. "If I had something important to talk to you about, how would you prefer I do it? Over ice cream? Dinner? By e-mail?"
"Well, just so you know, I want to sit down with you soon, okay?"
"Okay." Now she was worried.
I headed back out, and put Jen in the car. I paused for an instant. Then I pounded my head on the door frame.
"I'm sorry. I gotta do it now," I said. "You want to wait here?"
Back inside. I turned the TV off and pulled the ottoman up to the couch where my mother remained reclined... but now quite alert.
"Mom, I'm sorry, but I really thing you deserve to hear this now, first."
I took a deep breath. I wasn't sure if I was supposed to be smiling, frowning, staring off into space. I looked her in the eye, helplessly.
And without sparing a breath, I rambled nonstop for about ten minutes. I didn't want mom to react at all until I'd said everything I could.
I told her about how I hope she can recognize that I'm an adult, that I accept consequences for my actions, and that I can make decisions -- even those that will change my life forever.
I told her Jen and I had thought long and hard about keeping the child, and that it was the one decision we wanted to make alone and would stand by. That Jen was insured, seeing doctors, and that we were reading books and doing our absolute best to handle the pregnancy right.
I told her that I wanted to continue in school this last semester (Fall 1997) but recognized it might not be an option. I told her that either way, I'd probably stop college come January, when Jen would be nearly due and unable to work. For the immediate future, I told her Jen was checking out her job prospects and that I would always have options should I have to leave college early.
And I told her that I know she's strong, but that something like this probably won't be easy to take; that above all I wanted her to find some comfort in my maturity and ability to handle this; that I wanted her to ask any questions and express any doubts freely, because the last thing anyone needs now is panic.
Frankly I think I should've gotten a Pulitzer for the package I set down. Mom took it well, and as I'd hoped settled right into talking openly about the whole thing.
She asked if Jen was watching her health, and I said yes, we've been eating at home since she got back and reviewed the medical care to date. She asked if Jen and I were planning to get married. I said yes, but that I wasn't sure when or even how.
She said what's done is done, and that she hoped at least that through it all Jen and I would find a way to enjoy the pregnancy experience.
"Enjoyment isn't exactly our top priority in this," I said, "But we'll try."
She gave me a hug. Then she followed me out to the car, where Jen was waiting, biting her nails. Jen got out, meekly, and they hugged.
To finally know my mother would be there for us took an enormous, heavy burden from my shoulders.
At that moment, I honestly didn't care about money or material backing, though it was clearly on my mother's mind. It was the emotional support I desperately needed. I got it, and for an instant I got a sense of what the deepest meaning of the word "family" was.
I kept thinking, during the drive back, about how lucky I was to have such a strong and understanding mother. Even so, I was wondering whether mom was taking everything as calmly as she made it look. I made a vow to myself to keep in touch, to keep mom in the loop, to give her as much reassurance as possible.
Jaimee rang en route. Her mother had company over and she never had a chance to drop her bombshell. She'd have to do it the next morning, before getting dragged to campus.
That night -- like every night this week -- seems so long ago. But it was only last night.
Today Jen saw her family practitioner, the doctor who I presume will be her primary caretaker until some time after the baby's born.
First and foremost, the doctor said Jen's pregnancy was normal -- not ectopic, not in any way overtly threatened. He also confirmed that Jen was 10 weeks along.
The doctor also said four words that made Jen the happiest woman on earth: "Eat anything you want." She got calcium and iron supplements to ensure the fetus would get what it needed even with Jen's erratic diet.
She got the full battery of tests, as well as an impromptu "doppler radar" search for a heartbeat. Nothing yet, but most likely soon. Tomorrow is an ultrasound... although I'm still unclear as to what it's supposed add to the current body of knowledge about our unborn child.
Whatever it's for, I hope I'll at least get to see a printout.
Doctor also had some good news for me: it's perfectly okay to make love. Although I didn't think we'd take advantage of the clearance right away, we did. And it was wonderful.
Even I can't quite explain it, but I find Jen even more beautiful -- more sensual, even -- now that she's pregnant. Even though the changes her body are going through are sometimes upsetting to her, for me they're magical, they're breathtaking.
For fun, we stuffed a pillow under her shirt just to see what nine-months will look like. We were transfixed, rubbing it and turning it side to side. I can't wait.
She said tonight that being pregnant has washed away any insecurity she had that she was abnormal -- nagging feelings I imagine everyone has had since childhood that maybe something very basic about us is off, maladjusted.
Now that she knows she's pregnant, she said, she now knows and feels at a very fundamental level that she's a healthy, functional woman.
Men don't have anything half as reaffirming as that.
By the way... When Jaimee didn't show up this morning for breakfast, I knew the deed had been done. She later called to report the worst-case scenario: her mother was on the warpath, and that she was essentially grounded and cut off from all communication -- specifically with us.
If Jen or I wanted to call, she said, we'd have to do it while her parents weren't home. I even had to pass the news on to Nate, 'cause as of today it doesn't look as if Jaimee will be getting near a computer any time soon.
Jaimee now seems pretty dead set on leaving for Oregon to live with Nate. Yet another subplot in "1997: The Year to End All Years."
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