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?