Saturday, May 5, 2018

Sonus Exidus

The collapse of my first marriage seriously delayed my reproductive years. Consequently, he, Grange Monaco Simpson, the boy with three last names, the end of my direct line, was delayed until I reached middle age. As a result of what I refer to as “maritus interrupts,” he was born just after my 40th birthday. Although those in the know assure me there is no such Latin term, I am confident there is, or at least should be. I would check Google Translate to conclude the investigation but doing so could bring back painful memories of the time Grange informed me he was struggling with his Latin homework. Being naturally concerned for his academic success, I suggested he use that infinitely accurate translation tool to complete his assignments.

Photo by Kay Schumway
A few weeks later I was speaking with Grange's instructor, who informed me his coursework had been progressing nicely until he began using Google to complete the required tasks. At that point in our conversation, I explained to her my belief that Google was one of God’s greatest inventions and that I had, therefore, suggested its use. She confidently informed me Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google, not God. Finding myself on the defensive, I notified her that since God invented everything, including Page and Brin, by attribution, the search engine was indeed God’s creation. She finally decided Grange should not be penalized for accepting his father’s ill-conceived advice. Once Grange agreed to never again discuss Latin with me, she agreed to give him a passing grade. Grange has since concluded that math, science, literature, financial and emotional investments, and virtually every other topic of serious concern, are also off limits.

Looking back on the day of his birth, I recall standing at the head of the delivery table when he emerged into this world via Cesarean section. As he took his first breath, Jana, who was subject only to local anesthesia, lovingly scanned him to ensure he had all the necessary infrastructure. Upon completing her inspection, and realizing she was complicit in creating a small version of me, she shouted, “Steve!” frightening those attending the delivery and altogether unsettling me. I, of course, thought I must have knocked something over, put my hand where it didn’t belong, or committed some other unspeakable operating room error. When I realized what she was indicating, I couldn’t help wonder whether it was a declaration of natural fact or expression of disappointment. Over the years I have pondered the question numerous times and always lacked courage to make a proper examination.

The surgical nurse, taking a cue from Jana, loudly announced, “Oh look, he has red hair.” At the time he was bathed in a coating of deep red that colored every centimeter of his tiny body, so I wondered how she might have arrived at that conclusion. After he was scrubbed and toweled, it became clear that the nurse’s evaluation was correct. Once he was diapered, capped, and wrapped, I was directed to introduce him to Kira, his three-year-old sister. When presented with her squalling, newly extracted sibling, Kira declared, “He’s nice dad, but can you take him back to his mother?” “Yes,” I replied sympathetically, “but that doesn't solve your problem. His mother is your mother, so I think you’re stuck with him.” Although there were numerous bumps along their road to friendship, and several unexplained bite marks on his nose before he could properly defend himself, the two eventually bonded.

As an infant, he spent most of his days in a Snuggly attached to my chest or in a bouncy chair, perched on the back counters of Twin Rocks Trading Post while Barry and I hawked turquoise and silver, rugs and baskets. As he grew, a backpack supplanted the Snuggly, and once he walked independently all methods of containment gave way. From that point forward, he freely roamed the premises. Somewhere along the line he also began conquering the boulders, caves, and cliffs of Bluff. When he was still in single digits, I found him standing at the base of the Twin Rocks, approximately 100 feet above where I was sitting. “Hey dad, look at me,” he proudly shouted. Directing him to sit down and stay exactly where he was, I hurriedly began scaling the sandstone to retrieve him. Of course, he could not have been more proud of himself, and I, forgetting my own past, I could not have been more frightened. When I finally arrived at his side, we sat next to each other like kings surveying the landscape, he with fresh eyes for the home he now knew he would soon conquer, and me amazed by his courage and determination.

Sure, it's a cliche, but in the blink of an eye, he is graduating high school and will be attending college in the fall. Even though I have had 18 years to prepare for this moment, I fear moving through the world without him close by. He, on the other hand, is wildly excited about exploring the universe outside his hometown. I think this might be a case of “parentis interrupts” or “franticus parentis.” Who said Latin is a dead language?