The Pain And Promise Of A New Year

12/28/2007 11:31 am 11:31:50 | Updated Nov 17, 2011

It's the end of the year and (thankfully) the holidays are almost behind us. I look forward to 2008. It's not like we've had such a fantastic 2007. This year was a train wreck for the country and the world at large. 2008 can't come soon enough. Still, we're lucky to be alive to criticize the year that was. I hope I'm here next year to grumble once more. And, complaints aside, there's a lot to look forward to and a lot to be thankful for. You just have to know where to look.

In early February, my wife is due with our second daughter. The idea of another baby girl coming into our lives is both daunting and lovely. The notion of my having two daughters is the most direct evidence I've found that God does exist and that she has a funny way of settling scores, not to mention a wicked sense of humor.

Question: What do you give an old dog for the holidays?

Answer: Daughters.

Life is good, if not beautiful. My wife is doing well, getting more gorgeous by the day. She's the kind of pregnant woman other women hate. She looks wonderful and, save for the occasional back pain, feels pretty well too. She does pregnancy with outer beauty and inner grace. I watch her at night while she sleeps, with that little baby girl growing in her belly and I shake my head in wonder. I once wanted to be so many things. Today, I want to be nothing more than her husband and their dad. The rest is just that, the rest.

As far as being ready for baby number, no. Can you really be ready for such a thing? I'm looking forward to meeting the newest girl in my life but not necessarily the chaos that comes along with the package. We've just mastered the art of one kid. The old line about being able to play a zone defense with one kid but being forced to play man to man when the second one comes,'s not so funny anymore. I'm not feeling too confidant in my man to man skills. I like the zone. I like playing the fool with my wife, knowing that she'll roll her eyes but then actually go get the kid's tights that I'm pretending I don't know where to find. I'm a lazy guy. I'm a zone defense specialist. I'm not built for man to man. Frankly, I'm in a lot of trouble.

Still, what a thing this whole parenthood gig is. Bill Maher (my hero) doesn't know what he's missing. Yes, the pay is crap, but the rewards are, well...they come in odd ways, when you least expect them.

For example...

Our cat Ashanti died suddenly on Christmas Eve. My wife adopted her from a Philadelphia animal shelter during her senior year at the University of Pennsylvania. Ashanti had been with my wife for a lot longer than I have. And, I'm almost positive that, if forced to choose between Ashanti or me, nine times out of ten my wife would take the cat.

Ashanti was almost thirteen years old. She was a great cat: fat, grey, playful, and patient with my daughter. She was a loving, purring hair ball. I loved her enough to look past the fact that she shed more than a wildebeest. She was worth it. And while she loved us all, she was unquestionably my wife's cat. She used to sleep on the pillow above her head--like a hat. She'd shadow her from room to room.

Making matters more difficult was trying to figure out how to explain death to a two and a half year old. We weren't going to tell her that the cat went to live on a farm or something like that. (My folks pulled that on my siblings and me when our dog Rocky died. Even back then, as young as we were, it seemed pretty strange that my folks would let our dog go live on some stranger's farm. So, instead of being sad about Rocky, we were just pissed off at my folks. We held it against them for years.)

We told our daughter about Ashanti on Christmas day. When we told her, it took a few minutes and a couple of different approaches to get her to understand that the cat wasn't coming home. Finally, she got the meaning of the word dead (whatever "dead" means to a child who, to date has not had to understand such a word.) She then went to her toy bin and passed out musical instruments: a drum for my wife, a tambourine for me, a flute for herself. She asked us to play music for Ashanti so the cat could "hear us missing her." So that's what we did. The three of us sat there in the living room beating the drum, shaking the tambourine, and playing the flute--a little girl's goodbye to her dead kitty. It was so cute and sad and honest and innocent. It just slayed me. It was the best funeral I've ever been to.

Soon there will be a new baby sister joining the band. And someday, a new kitten for the girls to play with, whether she likes it or not. all its pain and glory.

Happy New Year.