Saturday, December 30, 2006


Dear Spike:

Your mother tells me that she can feel you moving, pretty much all the time these days. Every night I put my hand on her stomach, but still can’t feel you in there.

Even still, it’s getting harder and harder to miss that you’re coming. And since we don’t want to wait until the last moment to get everything ready for your arrival, we’ve been working hard over the past few weeks.

A few days ago, we finished painting your room. Originally, we thought we’d do it up in yellow and blue, but on the way to the store to buy the paint, we changed our minds.

So it’s mossy green with a darker green trim. It made us rather nervous, at first, because we weren’t sure we liked it. But then the elephants went up — a parade of them in three different shades of brown marching around the room — and suddenly we could see it: A place we’re certain you’ll love.

We also painted your mother’s old dresser and desk for you (we even placed an internet order for some elephant-shaped knobs for the dresser) and we’ve been on the lookout, this week, for a crib, changing table, rocker, stroller and bassinet.

Tonight as we were heading to one baby store, your mother told me she was surprised that I seemed to enjoy preparing our home for you. Most men, she said, just don’t pay as much interest to such things.

I don’t know if that is true. I mean, haven’t we evolved past such inhibiting gender roles?

But as we walked through the store, looking at clothes, cribs and toys, I realized that some things haven’t changed as much as I thought.

The clothes area was particularly telling: Since we won’t know what sex you are for another week, we were drawn to unisex clothing. And that meant there just wasn’t much to look at.

Almost every piece of clothing was either bright pink or baby blue, with flowers and lace and bows for the girls and trucks and tools and baseballs for boys. It makes me sad that people make such a big deal of their baby’s gender, since gender means less to babies than it will at any other time of their lives.

Even worse were the toys. On the left-hand side of the aisle: rows and rows of dolls and E-Z Bake Ovens and make-up kits for girls. On the right: super heroes and space ships and swords and guns.

Even the toys meant to bend the gender lines were a disappointment: The dolls, for boys, all had guns or tools. The sports equipment, for girls, all came in the color pink.

We’ll do our best to allow you to choose your interests — and favorite colors — on your own, but I fear there’s just so much that our society will choose for you.

I suppose there isn’t any serious harm in it, so long as you know that you can be a man and still like to dance and cook (just ask your dad). You can be a woman and like baseball and comic book movies (just ask your mom).

It’s all up to you.


Thursday, December 21, 2006


Dear Spike:

Emma died early Sunday morning in your mother’s arms, lying between us with her head on my pillow and her tiny body curled up in the covers. It was what I had been dreading and yet, in her last hours, what I had been hoping for as well. On her final day she couldn’t walk and wouldn’t drink or eat. She gasped for breath and meowed softly. I really believe she wanted to go. And when she did, I was relieved for her.

I made for her a wooden box from some plywood and a section of two-by-fours left over from when I built the wine cellar. Inside, I laid her between two sheets cut from her favorite yellow blanket. And then I closed the top and nailed it shut.

It was still dark as I dug the hole, under a paving stone near the garage, with your mother standing next to me in the snow. The spot we selected was one she enjoyed looking over from the window in your room. The birds gather there, perching on the sprawling lilac bush by the back deck, picking seeds from the faces of the sunflowers in our garden.

The birds hadn’t visited since the snow began, but we’ve seen them often in the past few days. Today, your mother told me she saw the barren bush was filled with birds. “Maybe 50 of them,” she said. They’d come to visit Emma, we agreed.

We began to paint your room the day after Emma died. We needed a distraction from the sorrow of losing our beautiful little orange tabby. The room we chose is in the northwest corner of our home. It stays coolest in the summer and warmest in the winter, and when the sun sets it is often filled with the most stunning colors and shadows.

One day, I’m sure you will notice me gazing out your window at the row of paving stones near the garage. You may sense that I am sad as I watch the birds dart between the branches of the lilac bush. But this is not the case.

I am simply watching. For the birds in the lilac bush. For the wind against the wild flowers that grow beneath the window. For the shadows of the giant sunflowers to wash across the grass.

I’m pleased that this is the view you’ll have from your window. Perhaps it will help you understand that the littlest things in life are often the most beautiful.


Thursday, December 14, 2006


Dear Spike,

She’s a dainty orange tabby cat, so small she looks like a kitten. We call her Emma.

Emma was the runt of the litter. When we found her at the humane society, she weighed half a pound and was very sick. We brought her home and nursed her to health. She’s been a part of our family for five years, now.

Someday, my child, we’ll sit under the clear night sky and watch for falling stars. When we see one, we’ll make a wish. And at the moment, I think you’ll understand, as I do, that the very best things in life are like falling stars.

As it turned out there was only so much we could do for Emma. A few months ago, after a period in which she had been losing weight and hiding, for days at a time, in dark corners of our home, we took her to the veterinarian.

It turns out that although Emma grew into a small but beautiful adult cat, her kidneys didn’t keep up. They’re tiny little things, so small that the doctor could hardly find them when she felt under Emma’s belly.

The first time we nursed her to health with special kitten food and formula. The second time it was antibiotics, special food for cats with bad kidneys, medicine for nausea and weekly intravenous fluid treatments.

This time, I’m not sure how much more we can do. She’s stopped eating on her own. She spends most of her day sleeping on a towel in one of the bathroom cupboards. And we can’t even let her onto our bed, anymore, because she’s been having accidents.

At some point, and I fear that point may come soon, we’re going to have to say goodbye.

Most cats live for 10 or 15 years. Some purebreds live into their early 20s. Emma, if she’s fortunate, will live to be six.

One evening, a few summers back, your mother and I were at a concert on our college campus. The Band was Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. Toward the end of the show, the percussionist RoyEl was playing a solo set when a meteor flashed across the sky, right above the stage, so bright it lit up the entire crowd.

It was only just a matter of seconds — so brief that the musician, who had his eyes closed, didn’t even seem to notice.

But that moment was so beautiful. And it was made more so by its brevity.

I sure hope you get to meet Emma. It would be nice to have a photograph of you and her together.

More likely, I fear, is that her star will fall before yours appears. Death is part of life, albeit one we have trouble accepting.

More important, in any case, is the beauty that comes in between. Emma’s beauty was accentuated by her brevity and though it is hard to see her star fall, it makes her time here all the more special.

There is much beauty in this life, and the most beautiful things come and go quickly.

Whatever you do, keep your eyes open. I don’t want you to miss any of it.


Sunday, December 10, 2006


Dear Spike:

This time around, Dr. Stewart had no trouble finding your heartbeat. Thwump. Thwump. Thwump. Thwump. A hundred and sixty beats a minute — a very healthy rate, she said.

Next visit, about four weeks from now, we'll get another ultrasound picture and, if you're not too shy, we'll find out if you're a boy or a girl.

Just as exciting, your mother says she can feel you moving around inside of her belly. The fluttering feeling began a few days ago — at first she wasn't sure what it was, but after a while she began to suspect it was you dancing around in there. Now, having researched the matter in a few books, she's quite convinced. You seem to be most active at night, when your mom is lying still and on her back.

Of course, I can only imagine how strange it must be for your mom to have another living person inside of her. I think she's still getting used to the idea — which seems especially real to her now that she can feel you — but she's also very excited about it.

This Tuesday, you'll be 16 weeks along. That means your birthday will come around the end of May or beginning of June. If you're a bit late, we might even share a birthday. (If that happens, I'll let you choose what kind of cake we have.)



Dear Spike:

You mother attended the final class of her master’s program yesterday. In a few weeks, her grades will come in the mail and she will officially be done with this stage of her academic career.

I couldn’t be prouder of what she’s accomplished over the past few years, all while teaching full time.

I hope she’ll be an inspiration to you.

We want you to attend college, of course. And an advanced degree, like your mother’s, is a noble goal. But more importantly — and regardless of how long you go to school — I hope her example will inspire you to continue learning, throughout your life.

There is much in this world you cannot control. But your learning is entirely up to you.

Most likely, you’ll do much of that learning in classrooms and lecture halls. You’ll do homework, take tests, get grades.

But I hope you’ll also take time to read. To study. To speak. To debate.

Attend classes and lectures. Watch movies. Travel. Associate with interesting people.

I came home today to find your mother on the couch, curled under a blanket and engrossed in a new book. Done with school, for the moment, she didn’t have to read it. She was simply doing it because she loves to read and she loves to learn.

Follow her, my child. There is no more important advice I can give you.

Learn. And keep learning.


Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Dear Spike:

In your case, at this moment, no news is good news. And since your mom didn’t have any problems today, we’re feeling slightly more upbeat than we were yesterday.

Another day of normal, average, ordinary, standard, run-of-the-mill, plain Jane, routine pregnancy would do your mother and I both a lot of good.

See what you can do in there, OK?


Monday, November 27, 2006


Dear Spike:

I didn’t expect to get to see you again so soon, so I suppose I could look at what happened today as a blessing.

But right now, I’m tired and confused and worried. And other than that, I’m not sure how else to feel.

I know that, for the moment, you appear healthy. Your tiny heart is beating about 140 times per minute. You’re moving your tiny, stubby arms and nodding your head up and down in the most adorable little dance I’ve ever seen.

And the doctors say — for the moment — we’ve nothing to worry about.

I wish I felt so confident.


I was dreaming of you, early this morning, when your mother called to me from the bathroom.

“Come here,” she called. “Come quick.”

Spoken at that hour, those words could not have been more frightening to me. I rushed in to find her standing above the toilet, bright red blood swirling in the water. There was lots of blood. Lots of blood.

Her face was white. Her eyes were panicked. She looked lost and helpless and scared and so very, very sad.

“It’s OK, right?” she begged of me. “Is everything is going to be all right?”

I couldn’t speak, except to tell her to put on some warm clothes.

“We need to get to the hospital,” I said.


Twenty minutes later, we were in the waiting area of the emergency room. It was a quiet morning at the hospital — so much so that one of the nurses was watching a “Grey’s Anatomy” video on her computer.

If we’d arrived the morning before, we would have had to wait behind several car crash victims and an overdosed drug addict. Instead, we were admitted immediately and, within minutes, your mother was lying on an examination table, a puddle of cold blue goop spread out across her belly.

It didn’t take the nurse long to find your heartbeat. It sounded like a tiny rotating helicopter blade — whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh — the most soothing sound I’d ever heard.

The nurse smiled and nodded. Your mother cried. I exhaled a thousand worries.

But that didn’t explain the bleeding. And after the doctor came in and examined your mother, he couldn’t explain it, either.

“It happens sometimes,” he said. “In 95 percent of these cases, the pregnancy turns out perfectly normal.”

The nurse smiled and nodded. Your mother cried.

And I inhaled a thousand new worries. I play too much poker to be comforted by statistics.


To understand what had gone wrong, we would need to have another ultrasound taken. But the earliest they could get us in was 3 p.m. We went back home awash in worry.

We spent the day in bed, watching one bad comedy after the next, desperately trying to laugh away our fears.

“I didn’t know you could love something, so much, that you’ve never even met,” your mother told me between films. “And now my heart hurts, it hurts so much.”

I held her head against my chest and fought the instinct to tell her everything was going to be just fine. I simply stroked her hair and told her to sleep. And she did, for a spell.


It was so wonderful to see you on the ultrasound screen.

Your head is so much bigger now than the last time we had your picture taken. And rather than turning somersaults, you now seem to be engaged in a little dance: Arms up, head back, arms down, head forward.

Your heart seems bigger, too. And even though I’d heard it earlier this morning, it was a relief to see it flutter on the screen.

Information moves so fast, these days: Within five minutes of wiping the goop from your mother’s belly, the radiologist returned and lifted a telephone receiver from the wall.

It was Dr. Stewart, calling from her clinic across town. She’d seen the pictures and was satisfied that you were doing well. The bleeding appeared to be caused by your placenta rubbing against your mother’s cervix.

As problems go, this is a fairly normal one, she said.


Your mother’s sleeping now, and though I hope she’s not dreaming about doctors, ultrasound machines and bright red blood, I doubt that’s the case. It’s been a long and frightening day — the type of day that tends to follow you to bed.

I’m about to turn in as well, though I’m not expecting to sleep: After coming home from the hospital, your mother was bleeding again. And it happened again later in the evening.

Dr. Stewart told us to call her if the bleeding persisted “for a long time.” Thus my confusion and worry.

We’ll call Dr. Stewart tomorrow to get a bit of clarification on what “a long time” means. In the meantime, I’ll focus on the beautiful blessing of having seen you again, today.

And I’ll wish to see you again — under less frightening circumstances — very soon.



Dear Spike:

We went to the dinosaur museum at Thanksgiving Point today. It was a trip we’ll be sure to take you on many times when you’re old enough.

Since arriving here, your mother and I have been sure to have yearly passes to the Hogle Zoo and Tracy Aviary. We attend a lot of live sporting events. We like to take long walks and short hikes. And, after the fun we had today, we may add the dino museum to the list of our favorite diversions.

I know that everyone has a different idea of how to raise children — what activities are good for developing minds, what to stay away from, that sort of thing. We’re of the notion that it will be best to expose you to many places where your imagination and curiosity can thrive. That means the zoo, the aviary, the museums and the library. I think you’ll enjoy those places.

The good news, for us, is that we enjoy those things, too. I saw a lot of parents who looked downright bored at the museum today. I feel bad for them and for their kids, because I think children are keenly perceptive of how their parents feel about things.

I figure that’s why so many children spend so much time watching television. Most American adults watch several hours of TV each day, so it shouldn’t surprise us when our children follow suit.

But I’m sorry, my child, we’re a bit different in this family.

Oh, we’ve got a TV. A pretty nice one, at that. But if you try to change the channels, all you’ll see is a blue screen. There’s no antenna. No cable. No satellite dish.

We do have a pretty decent collection of movies, and we’ll let you watch some of those with us. But chances are good that won’t ever see a movie or watch a TV show unaccompanied by your mother or I until you go on your first sleep over at a friend’s house. Same goes for video games.

A lot of your peers might find this lifestyle a bit boring. And they may be right. So in trade, we’ll give you as many opportunities to participate in diverting activities and to visit interesting places as we can possibly afford.

In the end, it will be up to you to decide whether you enjoy our kinds of activities more than those you’ll get to participate in when visiting friends.

I hope you prefer life outside the box to life in front of it. But I'll love you either way.


Monday, November 20, 2006


Dear Spike:

Your mom is...

... spunky ...

... studious ...

... strong ...

... silly ...

... sexy ...

... sleepy and ...

... sweet.

So be nice to her.



Dear Spike:

I’m sure you will notice, when you look at the dates on these letters, that it has been a good while since last I wrote. I suppose that mostly is because I’ve started sleeping again.

I’m not quite sure when my insomnia went away, although I reckon it had something to do with seeing your tiny heart beating on the ultrasound monitor, two weeks ago. There was, after that moment, simply less to fret about in the quiet moments of the night.

I’ve also grown more comfortable with the general idea of becoming a father. As such, I spend less time awake at night wondering whether I’ll know how to teach you to throw, or to ride a bike, or to play the guitar. Something tells me I will know what I need to know.

After all, I’ve already found myself feeling quite fatherly in thought and deed. And I’m often pleased at the way these thoughts come about.

Last Wednesday, for instance: I was walking to the coffee shop with my good friend, Scott, when we passed a man with a little baby in his arms, walking the opposite direction.

We’ve had a remarkably warm November, but it was nonetheless too cold outside for a baby to be without a hat, as this man’s child was. I muttered something to that effect under my breath, to which Scott — who has a young daughter and another child on the way — chuckled.

“Already thinking like a dad,” he said.

“Yes,” I said, smiling and sharing his laugh. “I suppose I am.”

To be certain, it wasn’t a complicated thought — or, for that matter, all that fatherly. One need not be Bill Cosby to know this. The fact is, you need only be bald, as I am, to know the importance of a warm hat on a cold day.

But in that moment, I rather enjoyed the concern I felt for that little baby. I could imagine myself feeling that way for you. And it felt good.

Yet I have not always felt so proud of my newfound fatherly impulses.

Friday, for instance: I was waiting in line at a fast food restaurant when two young men walked up behind me. They were dressed in the timeworn uniform of the disillusioned — chains dangling from the belt loops of tight black jeans, black T-shirts with cracked white print. Unkempt mohawks. Bad dye jobs. You’ll know the sort.

You might even be the sort, some day.

The shorter of the two — he was perhaps 16 years old — had a deep red welt under his left eye. At first, I thought perhaps he’d been cut in a fight or perhaps had fallen from his skateboard. And then I took a closer look.

My stomach turned. The cut was no accident. That much was very clear.

For it was in the shape of a swastika.

I cannot imagine what would cause a boy, born into the luxuries we enjoy in this country, to want to scar his face with a symbol of such oppression, hate and violence. But at that moment I didn’t care to understand.

All I wanted to do was strike him. Hard. Again and again. To make him feel, if only for a moment, a fraction of a fraction of an infinitely small fraction of the pain and fear meant to be caused by the symbol he wore so smugly on his cheek.

It’s been three days, but I can’t get that boy out of my head. Or rather, I can’t get the way I felt, in that moment, out of my head.

Why had I wanted to hurt him? Anger manifested as a desire for violence might be natural were I Jewish, Polish, gay or Gypsy. But I am not. I have no ancestors who were persecuted under that symbol. Indeed, by three generations, I am too young to even remember that dark period of human history.

So why would I be so angry? So much so that my first impulse would be to strike that young man?

And then, earlier this evening, there it was:

You’ll know the sort. You might even be the sort.

I wanted to hurt him because I wanted to teach him.

This is a fatherly thought as well, albeit one I am ashamed to have had. I would never consciously advocate violence as a means to any end, let alone as a tool for teaching. And yet, there it was. Clear and cruel and brutal.

You will learn much about yourself as you go along, particularly in times in which your life is changing in drastic and rapid ways. Some things you will like and some things you will not. You might, in fact, learn a lot of things about yourself that you do not like. You might even learn some things about yourself that you find loathsome. Do not let that keep you from learning more.

For self-discovery will beget self-understanding. And self-understanding will beget self-control.

And that, my child, will beget a good night’s sleep.


Friday, November 10, 2006



Dear Spike:

Your mom and I thought there might be something wrong this week. She wasn’t feeling well and was having some other problems, the nature of which led us to believe you might not be well, either.

So as Dr. Stewart held the tiny probe over your mom’s stomach, sweeping it back and forth through a mess of blue goo, I stood breathless and listened for the sound of your heartbeat to come over the small receiver the doctor held in her other hand.

The speaker hummed and crackled. At times it sounded like an old transistor radio I had when I was very young, with which I would sometimes tune into baseball games and music shows, mostly late at night when I could not sleep.

We could hear your mom’s heart. And some gurgling sounds coming from her stomach.

But alas, the rapid drumming we were told to expect from you was not there.

Dr. Stewart told us it might take a while — your heart is so very tiny, after all — but as she moved the machine back and forth and back and forth, the expression on her face turned from interest, to determination, to concern. And finally, she gave up.

“Go over into the next room and I’ll be right there,” she said.

Your mom changed back into her clothes, I picked up her shoes and we moved to a small room, across the hall, with an ultrasound machine. And there we waited.

Maybe it was 10 minutes, but it seemed like hours.

“Is everything OK?” your mother asked me.

“Sure,” I said. “Everything is fine.”

Not that I knew that. And not that I felt it. I was scared. For you and for your mother. And for me.

I’ve never wanted something so badly as I want you. And so this week has been very difficult. I’ve fallen in love with you. Your mom has, too. I couldn’t fathom letting you go. Yet I knew that it was a possibility. And as we sat quietly in the ultrasound room, that possibility seemed so real.

Dr. Stewart walked into the room and flipped on the machine. She began to search for you again. And again, she was having trouble. The screen was a mess of gray and white and black splotches. The doctor could pick out features in it — your mom’s hip bones, her bladder — but she couldn’t find you.

I don’t pray in times of concern. I figure that, since I don’t spend much time talking to God when things are going well, it’s a bit disingenuous to do so when things are not. So I simply took a deep breath and, behind my back, crossed my fingers.

A few moments later, a small black splotch appeared on the screen. And then, briefly, an even smaller white line.

“Where you see bright white, that’s bone,” Dr. Stewart said.

The tiny white line, she said, was your jawbone. Other than a few tests, it was the first real evidence we had that you were really in there. My eyes watered over. A little white line. The most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.

The feeling only lasted a moment or two. As quick as the line had appeared on the screen, it disappeared. We still hadn’t seen your heart.

The doctor kept searching. I could hear my own heart beating. And I could see you mother’s pulse quicken in the veins on her neck. I stared at the screen. I didn’t blink.

And then it appeared. I knew even before the doctor said so. Just a little circle, fluttering in a swirling cloud of gray and white. The new most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. I wiped a tear from the corner of my eye and leaned over to kiss your mother on the forehead. I’d not seen her smile so big and bright since our wedding day.

I uncrossed my fingers and closed my eyes — just for a moment. “Thank you,” I whispered and opened my eyes to see the doctor point out your head, your chest and your arms on the screen. You did a few somersaults and wiggled your body. And then you disappeared into the swirling clouds again.

I couldn’t stop smiling that night. Neither could your mom. We feared we had lost you. And then we found you.

And even though I hasn’t asked, someone, somewhere has blessed us.

Thank God.


Sunday, November 5, 2006


Dear Spike:

I recognize many parents have despaired over the world their children will be born into. Indeed, at times, this planet must have seemed as dark and foreboding as could be.

I can only imagine what an expecting father must have felt like during the mid-14th Century, a time when a great plague swept over Europe, killing every third person. The dread and hopelessness must have been overwhelming.

In the Great Depression of the 1920s and 30s, a period when much of the planet was suffering under economic strife, those expecting children must have been so distraught at the notion that their troubles may afflict their ability to provide basic, life-giving necessities for their future child.

And I cannot so much as pretend to understand the depth of misery and fear a Japanese father-to-be would have had in August, 1945, as two cities in his nation were destroyed in atomic explosions.

I cannot compare my personal consternation to that of parents who have come before me. Their challenges, as parents, were no doubt greater than mine will be.

But the challenges that you will face — that everyone of your generation will face — will be no less vast, no less important, and no less seemingly insurmountable. For the world my generation and past generations has created for you is no less brutish today than it has been at any time in history — and indeed, it may be more so.

Our species has the capacity for such beauty and goodness. We’ve put men in space and defeated many diseases. We’ve learned to see things that happened billions of years ago and predict things that will occur billions of years from now. But we war as if we do not expect to live a moment longer and do harm to our planet as if we do not expect our children to live long, either.

I wish I could be welcoming you to this world with a greater legacy. But it is our great, collective shame that the problems we’ve created will fall upon you and your brothers and sisters to solve.

Our species survived the challenges I mentioned before. I do not have great confidence that we will survive the challenges we now face.

And yet, for you, I want nothing more.


Wednesday, November 1, 2006


Dear Spike:

I was playing soccer most of the night, so I didn’t get to see many of the trick-or-treaters who came by our place.

A few kids from the neighborhood did come by before I left for my game — one was a princess (and like a true princess, she didn’t so much as say thank you for all the suckers I gave her) and the other was a super hero.

But the biggest treat of the night was when your mom came over to me and asked me to feel her stomach, right below her belly button. There’s a little hard bump there, as if she swallowed a stone. She was a little bit nervous about it and was poking at it. I told her i didn’t think that was such a good idea.

Later, she consulted one of the books about pregnancy that we picked up at the library. It said the bump was normal.

Deep inside that bump, you’re about two inches long now. You’ve got a beating heart and fingers and, most nifty of all, you’re now definitively either a boy or a girl.

The people who know about you often ask me whether I’m hoping for a boy or a girl. I keep telling them that it doesn’t matter to me and they keep telling me that I’m lying.

Well, I’m not. It really doesn’t matter to me.

My friend, Matt, told me the other day that he thinks I’ll have a girl. I thought that was an OK proposition. When I was in southern Utah last week I met a girl who — if you are a girl — I think I would like you to be like. She was very pretty, but not in the typical way that teenage girls try to be pretty. She dressed in fun and funky clothes and had a pierced nose. Her hair was several colors. Mostly, though, I was impressed with her intelligence and self confidence. She was a unique person. and in Utah — and especially southern Utah — that’s not always easy.

When I told Matt about this girl, he told me that I would probably not have a girl like that, but rather one who, for all our trying otherwise, will like to play with Barbie Dolls and wear pink dresses and skip rope and have an E-Z Bake oven and do all those other stereotypical ‘girl’ things.

I suppose I don’t care.

Be who you are. Be a girlie girl or a not-so-girlie girl. Be a tough boy or a sensitive boy.

Just be you.

And, on Halloween, whether you’re a super hero of a fairy princess, always say thank you. OK?


Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Dear Spike:

I leave our home often — such is the nature of my work — but this morning marked the first time, since we learned you were coming, that I left for an overnight trip.

This isn’t a long one. Just a drive down to southern Utah, a few stops here and there, one overnight stay in a hotel, and a drive back up tomorrow afternoon. Maybe 40 hours away from the chateau, all told. I’ve been away for months before, so this shouldn’t be difficult for me.

But leaning in to kiss your mother — she was still sleeping when I departed this morning, long before sunrise — I felt the way I usually do before much longer trips to much more dangerous places.

Some feel fear when they leave home for long periods of time. Others feel the first pangs of loneliness. I feel hungry — the way you feel when you haven’t eaten in a day and know you will not be eating for some time to come.

Were I to command every word, in every language our world has ever spoken, I could not explain the greatness of my love for your mother. And yet we’ve come to be at ease with being apart — me in hotel rooms or on Army cots, your mother in our queen-sized bed, sharing space with the cats.

Yes, I feel lousy when I leave her, but it’s only on the very long trips or very dangerous ones that I usually feel the way I felt this morning. And yet I did not wonder at this hunger.

I knew.

It was your presence — so new and curious and fascinating to me — that made me want, more than anything in the world, to pull back the covers and dive back inside, to hold your mother around her waist, my cheek to her abdomen, as close to you as I can be.

You may wonder when you are young about why I will sometimes go away, just as I wondered why my father would leave us when I was a boy.

For him — a lover of sports and of words — it was baseball, football, basketball. It was the possibility of being present, even essential, to the next Shot Heard Round The World, the next running of The Play, the next Miracle on Ice.

For me it is the promise of stories untold. Of knowledge — the very breath of our democracy — unshared. And yes, of adventures unknown.

There will be times, my child, when I am away. Forgive me, please, this vice.

And know — the way I know of my love for your mother and for you — that you and I will never be far apart.


Thursday, October 19, 2006


Dear Spike:

We met your doctor for the first time today. I felt foolish smiling, like I was, as she went over a number of things that could go wrong between now and the time you arrive. But I couldn’t help myself.

It suddenly seemed so real. We were seeing a doctor. She was speaking to us as expectant parents. Your mother had blood drawn for a series of tests.

Even paying for the visit felt so good. First, the woman behind the counter asked for our medical insurance card. Your mom couldn’t find hers, so I produced mine. As handed it to her, it felt as if I was saying, ‘Yes, I am going to be a father.” And as I handed her my debit card — $20 was the co-pay — it was if I was saying, “Yes, I am responsible.”

Truth be known, I feel only slightly prepared to be a father and even less ready to be responsible. You might think, then, that as the doctor began to list a litany of ailments, diseases and conditions we might consider having you and your mother tested for, I might have been feeling quite nervous.

Rather, I was calm. Excited. I felt joy.

Your mother, I figure, will do enough worrying for the both of us. It’s more her nature, anyhow. The doctor, I know, is covering her bases. Preparing us for outcomes that could happen but most likely will not happen. She’s not telling us that you are going to have cystic fibrosis or Down Syndrome.

And anyway, what if you did? Would we love you less? Care for you less? Want you less? Of course not.

And that, I think, is where my joy came from. I enjoy knowing that there is something new in my life that I can love unconditionally.

Call that fatherhood. Call it responsibility. It doesn’t matter to me.

I’m smiling. Foolishly. And I don’t care.


Monday, October 16, 2006


Dear Spike:

How the little boy wound up on the top floor of my office building I’m not quite sure. He certainly wasn’t tall enough to reach any of the buttons.

In any event, when the elevator doors opened, there he was, sitting in his stroller, looking up at me.

“Well, hello there,” I said, for I couldn’t think of anything else to say.

Perhaps he was a little confused, but he didn’t seem fearful at all. Maybe he understood that it had all been a mistake — that the doors would soon open and his mother would be there again.

But although I was pretty sure I knew what had happened, I didn’t know at which floor he’d gotten on, so I pushed each button and waited, floor by floor, for someone to appear.

The doors opened and closed 10 times before we all found each other.

Here’s what happened, much as I had suspected: The woman, with two young daughters and a son, perhaps 1 year old and sitting in a stroller, entered my office building from the parking garage on the bottom floor. As she pushed the boy into the elevator she turned to corral the little girls along — and that’s when he disappeared.

He only had been out of her sight for a few minutes, but it was enough for her to fear the worst. So when the elevator doors opened, bringing mother and son together again, she nearly broke into tears.

I can think of nothing in my world that, having been misplaced for five minutes, would cause the kind of anguish I saw in that woman today.

Except you.

I’ve heard that some parents stay up for weeks on end, after their baby is born, just to watch it sleep — to make sure it breathes, in and out and in and out. They worry about diseases they’ve heard of and illnesses they haven’t. They fear every noise, every tear, every hiccup.

I don’t know if I’ll be one of those kinds of parents. I have a suspicion that I might be a bit more rational, but then, what do I know? I’ve never had a child before. And, to be honest, I already worry about you constantly. I worry about how you are developing. I worry about making sure your mom gets enough food and sleep. I worry about making sure she doesn’t feel too much stress.

But I’m actually pleased to have these concerns. It’s indicative of a new kind of love of which I am learning.

It’s telling me I’m going to be a parent.


Saturday, October 14, 2006


Dear Spike:

Today we stood at the place where a nation came together.

On May 10, 1869 the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroad companies — working together and in competition to lay 1,776 miles of rail that would span the nation — met at Promontory Summit in northern Utah, about two hours northwest of our home in Salt Lake City.

Today, the location where the rail lines met is called Golden Spike National Historic Site.

Yes, it is true. Today we brought Spike to The Spike.

We began calling you Spike in jest — a farcically hooliganish name for someone we expect will, in fact, be a splendidly genteel human being.

But standing at the place where the last, gold-plated spike was driven, (a shot heard ‘round the United States via telegraph message,) connecting our country literally and figuratively, I thought more about the connotations of the word we’ve chosen as your sobriquet pro tempore.

And instead of a joke, I would like to make this name a challenge.

My child, I wish for you to be a spike — firm and determined, holding together the ability of others to travel, to journey, to discover. Connecting. Enabling. Encouraging.

I wish for you to be a spike — an abrupt rise over normalcy. Fleeting against the span of creation, lasting in impact upon your world and the worlds of others.

I wish for you to be a spike — adding flavor, intoxication, to the punch of life. An unexpected but welcome surprise to those who encounter you. Euphoric. Mischievous.

I wish for you to be a spike — an impediment to those who find violence, against humanity and our world, to be a simple or acceptable alternative to compassion. A moderating force against insatiability.

Be sharp. Be strong. Be resilient.

I do not wish for you to bring together a nation. I do not expect you to be resplendent in golden plate.

I only challenge you to know what we all should know: That your place in this world is important, that your life has meaning to yourself, to you family, to your community and to countless others you will never come to know.

And that you should live accordingly.

I wish for you to be a spike.


Friday, October 13, 2006


Dear Spike:

I finished a story today; one that took me nine months to complete.

There’s a rather unsettling feeling that goes along with handing an article over to an editor. Coincidentally, I’ve heard it compared to giving birth to a child and then turning it over to someone else to raise.

I’ve never been that devastated. But I will admit that, on occasion, I’ve done my best to make my editors believe I am. It’s my name on the byline, after all.

I’m thinking now about the day in which I began this project. I was at the funeral of a soldier killed in Iraq (a war which, I pray, you will know only as history) when I received word that another soldier, whose family lived nearby, had also died.

What a day that way. And yes, I can remember it as if it were yesterday.

Which scares me Spike. For nine months can pass so very quickly.

In the time it has taken me to complete this article — it focuses upon that second soldier, whose unique story I chased through Germany, Kuwait and Iraq — you will be here. And you will be dependent upon us for so much. To feed you. To bathe you. To clothe you and love you and protect you.

As you grow, you will need guidance — editing, if you will. But there will be no one to hand you over to.

Already, we’re preparing for you to come into our world. Your mother’s best friend has sent several sets of tiny clothes and miniature sandals. Your aunt has sent us organic towels, for you, and has ordered special paint for your room (yellow with green trim, I hope you will like it.) We’ve purchased a new car with your comfort and safety in mind. And I am preparing to ask my editors for a change in my schedule at work so that I can be with you in the mornings and early afternoons, while your mom is teaching school.

I concede I have some selfish concerns. I wonder, when you come, will I have time to do the many things I enjoy? To play soccer with my team and poker with my friends? To lift weights at the gym with my good friend, Matt? To paint in the middle of the night and play my guitar, on the porch, on long summer days? To make wine of the grapes in our yard? To watch the same episodes of M*A*S*H over and over and over again?

You should know that I am indeed prepared to sacrifice all these things and more for you. I am hoping I won’t have to, but I would do so without hesitation on your behalf.

Your story is being written now, my child. And I want nothing more in the world for it to be happy, healthy and long.


Thursday, October 12, 2006


Dear Spike:

Your mom fell sick tonight. We can’t decide whether it’s because of you or the Mexican food we had for dinner.

Thankfully, she’s asleep — the best medicine, you’ll find.

I, on the other hand, am still having trouble getting to sleep at a reasonable hour, which makes getting up early in the morning a trifle difficult. I figure that once you’re here I’ll take any sleep I can whenever I can, but for now it’s late to bed and early to rise.

That’s a turn on an old adage from Benjamin Franklin — the correct phrase, of course, is “early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” and is one of many pieces of Franklinian advice still worth adhering to.

Fact is, if you’re ever in the market for a historical hero, Franklin would be a good place to start. Inventor, writer, publisher, scientist and politician, he had no equal in his day and — were he to live in our time — would have no equal now.

And yet, for all his magnificence, Franklin was unable to hold together the one thing that should have been most important: His family.

During the American Revolution, Franklin’s son, William, chose to remain loyal to the English crown. So devastating to their relationship was the split that, in his will, Ben Franklin left almost nothing to his boy.

Perhaps this says something about the depth of the passion Franklin had for our future republic, but I simply cannot fathom an act that could make a father disavow his child. Does that make me unpatriotic? So be it.

Among Franklin’s core principles was order — “let all your things have their places,” he said. I wonder where, when choosing the order of his priorities, Franklin placed his family. Behind this nation? Behind his work as an author, scientist and inventor?

Spike, you will never be behind anything else in my life. Certainly, as you grow up, I will have many other obligations. But I will have no greater priority than being a good father to you.

Franklin may have been the greatest American to ever live, but I have a more important goal: I want to be the greatest father I can be.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Dear Spike:

I've just returned home from my indoor soccer game, one in which the team on which I play lost 10-1 (in this league, we stop counting after 10, so it was really more like 16 or maybe 17 to 1.)

I suppose there is a lesson here in playing the game to have fun, or maybe in how to be a gracious loser just as you would be a gracious winner. Indeed, I intend to teach you all these things in time.

But at the moment, all I can think about is one play in the game. I took the ball deep in our side of the field on a pass from our goalkeeper, pushed down the middle of the pitch, past several defenders and, rather suddenly, found myself in a one-on-one situation with the opposing team's keeper.

I shot. And missed wide.

There's a metaphor here, one that touches upon a problem I've had all my life.

I start with grandeur. With bravado and courage and skill. With promise. But I have trouble finishing things. When it comes ot the end of the race. When it comes to the last chapter of the book. When it comes to taking a shot on the goal. I pull back. I give up. I miss.

One of the benefits of starting things well is that, even if you don't finish what you set out to do, you may have exceeded the expectations of others. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The same can be said of success.

Those looking on may never know you didn't finish what you set out to accomplish.

But you will know.

Spike, I do not want you to strive to live up to my expectations. If you live a good life, if you treat others well, you will have met my expectations. I'm simple that way. You will be loved. Unconditionally. And forever.

And I do not want you to live up to the expectations of others. As humans, our expectations of one another are unfailingly low — that is why it hurts so much when we are wronged, for it is not difficult to be good to one another.

I am not asking that you expect more of yourself than you are able to give — only that you expect the best out of yourself, that you strive to meet your potential and that you don't hold back for the ease of meeting an easier, but still respectable, standard.

Strive. Fight. Finish.

If the ball sails wide, so be it. You will know you took the best shot you could.


Monday, October 9, 2006


Dear Spike:

For a few years now we’ve been getting by in a 1993 Nissan Sentra. I did my best to vet it for problems — we must have taken six or seven different used cars to our mechanic, John, for inspection before settling on this one — but almost from the beginning it was obvious that we’d bought a problem car.

Immediately, we learned the seat belt alarm would go off whether we were strapped in or not. We came to think of this as the way the car — which we called Moroni (a Utah joke, which you’ll definitely understand if we raise you here) — would warn us against bad driving habits.

One hand on the wheel? Beep.

Nodding off on a long stretch of freeway? Beep. Beep.

Fiddling with the stereo when you should be watching the road? Beeeeeeeeeeeep.

A few months after we bought the car the transmission went out. Later, we realized it wouldn’t hold its alignment, an attribute that resulted in a few badly worn tires. The windshield seemed to be a magnet for flying rocks. The wipers never worked right. The paint was peeling and the doors didn’t always close.

So when I left to write about the war in Iraq, last year, I decided I would prefer your mother have a good car to drive to work and back. One less worry for me. One less worry for her. We bought a brand new Honda Civic and we’ve been very content with that purchase.

When I returned, I took Moroni — it was fine for the short ride to my office and back whenever the weather didn’t allow me to ride my bike.

But with you on the way — and with Moroni in need of a new set of tires, an alignment check, a new windshield and emissions work — we finally decided to move on.

In the past, I would never have considered buying a hatch back, or a car with all-wheel-drive. Tinted windows? Spacious back seats? Cargo room? Not really necessary.

Back before I met your mom, it was important to me to have a fast and stylish car. After we were hitched, I just wanted something reliable. And now, my priorities have changed again. As I discussed my desires with my friend, Michael, who has forgotten more about cars than I’ll ever know, I found myself using words like “stroller room” and “easy baby seat access.”

You’re not even a half-inch long and yet you’re already changing my life in subtle and profound ways. That’s power.

But no, you cannot have the keys. Ever.


Sunday, October 8, 2006


I will not be your only guide on this journey. Nor will your mother. We will have lots of help from many wonderful people. I've asked some of them to write you, too.

Dear Spike:

Your father — your wonderful, incredible father — is insisting on getting us all emotional about you already. As he's noted, you are only about as big as a pea right now, but that doesn't matter; we are all very excited that you are coming to meet us, soon.

You're going to be very special in our family because you are the first of your generation. You will not understand this for awhile but, as the first child of my generation — well, more or less tied for first — I can tell you a little about what this means.

First and foremost, you will be very loved. You will have lots and lots of photos taken of you. You will be the guinea pig for just about everything. You will be a little spoiled. You will be passed around like a football when you are small.

You will have some pretty big expectations placed on you from the time you arrive. You will have to watch over all the other kids in your generation and put up with a lot of nonsense on their behalf.

And you will be a leader, whether you want to be or not.

You won't believe this, once you get to know me, but I was terribly shy as a small kid. I might never have become a leader if it hadn't been my birthright, but the default title has given me a lot of incredible opportunities in my life — both incredibly good and incredibly bad. It can be quite difficult to be the leader but its also very exciting. You are the trailblazer.

I was lucky enough to be a trailblazer for your father (though he also blazed plenty of his own trails.) When your dad was born I was not even two years old but I immediately assumed my role. I climbed into his crib, gave him my favorite dolly and showed him how to play with her.

I was lucky enough to be a trailblazer for your father — though he also blazed plenty of his own trails. When your dad was born I was not even two years old but I immediately assumed my role. I climbed into his crib, gave him my favorite dolly and showed him how to play with her. We were best friends from that day until I was about 11 years old — when we decided to strongly dislike each other for about 6 or 7 years before becoming best of friends again.

The first night in my dorm room at college I reached under my pillow and found a letter from him, thanking me for always paving the way for him, for trying out the mean teachers first, for breaking in our mom and dad and for experiencing things so that he could watch and learn.

That was my best leader moment. Ever.

Someday you will have a little brother or sister and you will get to know how great that is.

Spike, you are so lucky. You get to be one of us — and, you will soon
learn, that we are better than everyone else!

Every member of your family is a leader, in one way or another, so you've got a pretty stellar network of support. I hope that, as “firsts” you and I will have a special bond and that you will come to me whenever you are having trouble blazing that trail. Maybe I'll even be able to show you the way.

Aunt Kelly

Friday, October 6, 2006


Dear Spike:

Your grandfather shared this with me today. I thought it would be good to share with you.

"For a moment, our eyes will meet. And in this moment, I will motion for you to take a deep breath and — with a mixture of trepidation and anticipation — walk away, knowing that, on this adventure, you will be on your own."

I remember this moment. It was the morning you left (very late, as I'm sure you'll recall) with the Navy recruiter. I remember how we locked eyes as you got into the car. I sensed that you were afraid -- and fear was something I didn't see in you very often -- and worried that I somehow had let you down.

I don't remember if I cried, I probably did, but I very distinctly remember thinking after a few minutes that you were going to be just fine. That you were off to live your own life and that we'd prepared you as best we could and that, now, it was up to you.

There was nothing that affected the relationship I have with your grandfather more than my decision to join the Navy. Things were rocky between us in the final months I lived in California, but we're closer now because of it.

I know there will be times like this for us, Spike, and it makes me scared and sad.

I never want to feel distant from you, and yet I understand now that distance — both physical and emotional — is often a prism through which we can better see love.

When we're distant I will reflect upon the moment that I left home. And I will know that we're OK.



Dear Spike:

It's 2:17 a.m. and, once again, I'm having trouble sleeping.

It has been this way since your mom told me about the test. I think I've only had one or two nights of legitimate, eight-or-more-hours, head-buried-in-the-pillow, snoring-like-a-drugged-gorilla sleep since then.

Mom, on the other hand, well, you'd think she lived among dwarves. She's been getting 10 or 12 hours a day lately. All the books say that's normal in the first weeks of pregnancy. I think she's storing up energy to give to you.

Your impending arrival has really only accentuated differences in our sleeping habits that already were prevalent.

Mom's a morning person — jumps out of bed and into the shower, out of the shower and into her closet, out of the closet and into the kitchen. Eggs. toast, cereal, grapefruit, or whatever is on the menu, and then she's out the door. For a walk. A yoga class. To do a little yard work. She's the most intense morning person I've ever met.

I stay up late — I think it's the quietness of the dark morning hours that I enjoy most — and prefer to pick up my sleep after the sun comes up, as your mom runs around the house playing the banjo and vacuuming the stairs.

I wonder, quite frequently, about what attributes you'll get from me and which you'll take from your mom.

I really hope you get her sleeping habits — it is a lot more conducive to a normal life if you sleep in the hours that normal people sleep and are awake during the hours that normal people are awake. I also hope you get her hair (you may note, in this photo of three generations of Spike ancestors, a serious lack of hair among the men. The women do much better, so if you're a girl you're probably going to be OK.)

You're definitely going to want her temperament. And her intelligence. And her wit. And that cute dimple on her cheek.

Her sense of style. Her smile. Her persistence. Her poise.

And from me?




I guess I can type pretty fast — if that's hereditary, you'll definitely want that. And my eyesight is better than your mom's, so I'm hoping you get that from me (you'll be wanting her hearing, though, I couldn't hear a train if it were running through our backyard.)

Other than that, I suppose I'd prefer if you got just about everything from your mother, her being so darn wonderful and all.

I will admit, however, that I will be looking for something — anything at all — that connects us. It could be your fingernails or the bump on the back of your head. It could be the way you sleep.

Just something I can recognize as having come from me.

Something good. Something we share.


Thursday, October 5, 2006


Dear Spike:

Your mother can sleep through an entire DVD of MASH episodes — she doesn’t even stir when that abrading and melancholy, 70s-era pop wind ensemble theme sets in between shows.

But she can’t repose if I’m slapping away at the keyboard on my computer, so for the moment I’ve moved into the spare bedroom — a space that will be your room once you arrive.

There’s much to do between now and then. We have to do something about these stark white walls (your Aunt Kelly has ordered some special organic paint — butter yellow with a yet unknown shade of green for the trim.) We have to move this bed and these drawers and the vanity desk your mom uses when she’s putting on makeup in the morning.

And then we’ve got to buy you stuff. Lots of stuff. We’ve got to fill this dresser with baby clothes and diapers and burping blankets. I guess we’ll need a changing table. A crib, of course. A diaper bucket. And a rocking chair.

I think the drapes we have in here can stay, though I haven't cleared that with your aunt yet, so I guess we’ll see.

When we moved into this house, two years ago, we chose the bedroom in which your mom, at this very moment, is snoring in time with Suicide is Painless, because it was the largest room in the house — and because it had a chandelier, which is really quite unnecessary in a bedroom but fun nonetheless.

Over time, however, we have come to understand that this room — your room — is, by far, the most comfortable space in our home.

It stays coolest in the summer and warmest in the winter. Since it’s on the west side of the house — its only window faces the backyard — it remains dark in the morning and lights up with a beautiful warm glow as the sun sets in the evening.

The cats enjoy it. They love to lie in the sun in the late afternoon. The azalea tree, outside the window, gets lots of birds (your mother insists that she can recognize one, in particular — she calls him “Lenny.”)

It’s also right by the bathroom, which will be good for when you’re learning to do your thing by yourself at night — and I’m sorry to tell you this, kid, but your mom and I both had a little trouble with the whole bed wetting thing, so you may be in for some rough nights.

Your room is also right next to our room which is good for you but might not be so great for us down the road — I’ll explain that all later on.

I love being in here, Spike. I haven't quite focused my mind's eye on how it will turn out, but I can definitely see the rocking chair, here in the corner next to the window . I can see us sitting there together, late at night, swaying gently back and forth, maybe singing a little song.

“Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” I think. I love that one.

I’m quite a bit less comfortable imagining what this room will look like a few more years down the road.

Your mom asked me the other day: “What if Spike wants to paint the room black? Will we allow it?”

Here’s what we decided: If it is for artistic purposes — say, you decide black walls are a better background for oversized Josef Sudek prints — then yes, you may paint the room black. If it is because you believe that black is the color of a vampire's passion and it matches the mascara you apply each morning with a paint brush, then no, you may not paint the room black. Is there some room for artistic interpretation here? Sure. But let’s jump off that bridge when we come to it. OK?

Funny how we play these games. Over the past few weeks, we’ve gone over scores of scenarios.

What if Spike brings home a date when Spike is 13?
Spike’s date will be welcomed into our home and will be watched. Very, very, very closely watched.

What if Spike wants to get something pierced?
Spike is allowed no piercing unless Spike's Dad has A) gotten that part of his body pierced before and B) still has said piercing.

What if Spike is gay?
So what if Spike is gay.

What if Spike hates MASH?
Adoption is always an option.

What if Spike hates soccer?
Torture is another option, and can be legal in certain circumstances under the Geneva Conventions, according to the Bush Administration.

What if, by the time Spike is a teenager, time travel is possible and Spike wants to go back to fight in the French Revolution?
Three words: Viva la NO

Ever since I learned you were coming, these things have been keeping me up at night. I don't think it's worry — more like a desire to feel prepared for your arrival by having gone over every single possible scenario. Twice.

OK, maybe that is worry.

But I honestly do believe we are going to be good parents to you. I just also happen to understand we’re not in the least bit ready for you at this moment in time.

I suppose we can start with this room, though I’m not sure I want to just yet.

Sure, the walls will be butter yellow soon. But soon thereafter they might be black.

And I know I’m not ready for that.


Wednesday, October 4, 2006


Dear Spike:

I'm having a bit of trouble envisioning myself as a dad (your mother, by the way, is having similar issues — in fact, she's having a particularly grand amount of trouble envisioning herself giving birth and I can't rightly blame her, I mean sheeeez, have you seen those videos? Yeeuck!)

Back in high school my soccer coach, Ed Limon, always said that in order to win we had to be able to first envision ourselves winning. Sure enough, we all closed our eyes real hard and imagined real good and...

... well, we still were lousy.

Still, I'm sure Coach Ed probably maybe sort of knew what he was talking about. Trouble is, my imagination isn't quite as good as it once was, so I think I'm going to need a little help.

Over the next few weeks I'm going to be scouring my hard drive for photographs of me looking 'dadly' — or at very least looking as if I don't frighten the bejeezus out of little kids.

This pic is from Iraqi Kurdistan (though by the time you are able read this, it might very well be called something else.) These kids followed me and my friend, a very talented photographer named Rick Egan, around for hours.

In retrospect, I understand it was because they hadn't seen many Americans before — and certainly not many who weren't wearing military uniforms — but at this moment, I really need to believe it was because they thought I was approachable, likable and wise.

Heck, I'll settle for approachable.


Tuesday, October 3, 2006


Dear Spike:

Your mother didn’t tell me she was going to take the test.

We had only just recently decided that we wanted a baby in our lives and I didn’t believe we’d succeed so soon. So when I came home from work, Friday afternoon, I wasn’t really prepared for the news.

“There will be three of us for dinner tonight,” she said.


Someday, perhaps when you are eight or nine years old, I will take you on your first roller coaster ride. We will sit in the lead car — the wait is longer but the view is worth it — and hold our hands above our heads as the coaster tips over the top of the first peak.

For a moment, our car will lurch over the drop as we wait for the rest of the train to follow us over the peak. And in this moment, I will ask you to take a deep breath and — against your instincts to do otherwise — to keep your arms outstretched above your head.


Someday, perhaps when you are five or six, I will take you to the lake. It will be fall and the the changing leaves will set fire to the water’s surface. I will lift you in my arms and hold you gently above my head.

For a moment, you will glide through the air, above the water, like a bird. And in this moment, I want you to take a deep breath and recognize that — against your wishes to do otherwise — you cannot fly away from the crystal cold water.


Someday, perhaps when you are 17 or 18, I will take you to the airport. I will walk with you to the security gate and hand over your backpack. I will stand aside the crowd, against the wall, as you serpentine through the line of passengers.

For a moment, our eyes will meet. And in this moment, I will motion for you to take a deep breath and — with a mixture of trepidation and anticipation — walk away, knowing that, on this adventure, you will be on your own.


Someday, perhaps when you are my age, you will find a person with whom you wish to spend your life. On the night before your wedding, we will go to a pub and order a beer and sit in the outdoor patio and watch as people of every shape and color walk by on the street.

For a moment, you will wonder whether you are prepared to devote your life to another person. And in this moment, you will take a deep breath, take a sip of your beer, and — even given your vast experience in matters of uncertainty — still be terrified.


On Friday I held you and your mother in my arms and laughed as I had never laughed before.

I took a deep breath and found it wasn’t enough. I was excited and terrified, anxious and overjoyed, hands over my head, feet above the water, taking the first steps on a long journey. I could feel my father next to me and I could feel him far away.

Someday perhaps you will feel this way too. I love you too much to wish otherwise.


Monday, October 2, 2006


Dear Spike:

I suppose I should explain how we came to call you ‘Spike.’ It’s not that we’re cruel people. Or white trash. We were just having a bit of trouble with pronouns.

But then, you haven’t heard of pronouns. So I guess that's as good a place to begin as any.

Words are important. Please do not allow anyone to convince you otherwise. Words may be spoken; this is how you and I will first communicate. Words may also be written, as I am doing now and, in time, you also will learn to do. I hope you will learn to do this well.

Among the most important words, and the first you will learn, are nouns. People, animals, places and things are nouns. Ideas may be nouns. Even the word ‘noun’ — derived from the Latin ‘nomen,’ meaning ‘name’ — is, in fact, a noun. Funny how that works.

At one time many English nouns would change form depending upon the gender of the person being described. For instance, men were ‘authors’ while women were ‘authoresses.’ These days, there are far fewer gender-specific nouns common to the English language, though we’ve persisted with a few. Men are ‘actors’ while women are ‘actresses.’ Men are ‘waiters’ while women are ‘waitresses.’ You get the idea.

At some point we realized, especially where spoken language is concerned, repetition can be awkward, even ugly.

Perhaps an example is in order. Were I to rewrite this letter without the use of pronouns, it would begin as such:

“Spike’s father supposes Spike’s father should explain how Spike’s father and Spike’s mother came to call Spike ‘Spike.’”

OK, to be fair, this is actually quite fun. Unfortunately, you will be beaten up in school if you persist in speaking this way. And as it is a very important part of my job, as your father, to keep you from getting beaten at school, I’ve opted to teach you to proper pronoun use.

For whatever reason, even as gender-specific nouns have disappeared from our language, gender-specific pronouns have persisted. Men are ‘he,’ women are ‘she,’ and only in the company of others does gender no longer matter. A group of men are ‘they.’ A group of women are ‘they.’ A group of men and women together are ‘they.’

But in reference to an individual, the properly used pronoun is always gender specific. This causes all kinds of mischief, particularly when the gender of the subject in question is unknown.

Which brings me to you, Spike.

At the moment, if our estimates are correct, you are perhaps 5 to 7 millimeters long — about the size of a pea. Your heart is the size of a poppy seed. Two pits have formed on the sides of your head but your eyes have not yet developed. Your arms are beginning to take shape but, for the moment, you have no hands to speak of.

And, for now, we’ve no way to know whether you are a boy or a girl — whether you are a ‘he’ or a ‘she.’

In the first days after learning your mother was pregnant we used our pronouns interchangeably. I was inclined to say ‘he.’ Your mother was inclined to use ‘she.’ We both avoided the dehumanizing ‘it.’

But a few days of this was enough. “I don’t want to jumble my pronouns any longer,” your mother told me. “I think we should give our baby a temporary name. I think we should call it ‘Spike’ “

So it now occurs to me that doesn’t exactly explain where ‘Spike’ came from. To be honest, I’m not certain where your mother came up with that name. She’s an interesting soul, your mother. But more on that later.

Please rest assured, we’ll not actually be calling you ‘Spike’ after you’re born — at least not officially. We already have come up with some splendid names for you, though we’re keeping those a secret until you arrive.

But today I wanted to let you know that it matters not to me which pronoun we ultimately use when speaking of you.

He or she. Boy or girl. Hero or heroine.

You will be loved. Unconditionally. And forever.