Monday, June 17, 2013

Being a Dad

Build me a cabin in Utah
Marry me a wife, catch rainbow trout
Have a bunch of kids who call me “Pa”
That must be what it’s all about
That must be what it’s all about
-Bob Dylan, "Sign on a Window," New Morning 

As of May 10th, I'm a dad. Yesterday was Fathers' Day, and I suppose I'm behind deadline if I'm going to write a Dad piece. But I've been meaning to jot down some thoughts. I started this blog as a way to catalog life in Wisconsin, starting with the protests in the capital. Those seem as if they happened nearly a generation ago now.

They say that life completely changes when you have a kid. I'm not exactly sure about that, but I can tell you that my focus has certainly changed over the course of the last two years. I started a metamorphosis back in December of 2011, when my wife became pregnant for the first time. Even in the first weeks of her pregnancy, I underwent an indescribable internal change. My friends remember how excited I was. Unfortunately that all fell down, and it fell hard. Sara lost the baby in week six of her pregnancy. I'll go out on a limb and call December 19, 2011 our worst Christmas present ever.

The politics of healthcare quickly became personal. We were on a high deductible health plan, and because of the nature of the plan, all of our charges fell on both sides of the calendar year. It cost us nearly $7,000 to go through the most painful experience of our adult lives. I still get a gut-level feeling of anger when I hear a politician talking about how those plans help us make "educated decisions" as healthcare consumers, thinking back to my fearful drive to the emergency department. In that moment of crisis, there was not really any sort of impulse to shop around. Save my baby and save my wife - that's it.

Sara lost her mother when she was only four years old. Motherhood was an elusive dream, one that she only remembers from her side in bits and pieces, as her mother struggled with a fight against cancer. Her father raised her and her sister against uphill battles of the Eau Claire Uniroyal plant closing and a body that left him incapable of finding work after, with no one else to pull in the bread and no one to lean on for his own troubles. At times it seemed like there was no way to get ahead, and our first loss was another painful reminder.

Within that crisis, though, we found each other. Sitting in the emergency room together, fearing the worst, and having only ourselves, we found a bond that I didn't know existed. After seven years of marriage, I realized what it means to love someone. In the months that followed, we went through the additional trauma of bill after bill arriving in the mail, and the complete surrender to no one in particular. With services already incurred and no one at the hospital side to fight, we again sat together, alone as a couple in despair as our savings evaporated before our eyes. Sara would eventually succumb to the sadness and spend a summer night in the hospital for treatment of an exhausted depression.

On the morning of May 10th, after 16 long hours of hard labor, a lot of lost blood, and emergency surgery for Sara on the delivery table, we were finally able to sit together. Looking at our daughter, we wept. Words do no justice to our happiness. We can't (and don't) talk about it, beyond a few stammered sentences of cliches that point to the deep feelings we hold together -now as a family, and not a couple anymore.

I am a dad now, and it's simple. As simple as being a husband has been. Love her, keep your head, and everything else follows. I love you Sara, and I love you Melissa. I'm so happy to be the dad in this family.