Tiny Pineapple

ananas comosus (L.) minimus

Fair Weather Father

I turned forty a week ago last Saturday.

You’ll notice that I wrote out the word (forty) rather than using the numerals (4 and 0) to represent my age. In recent double-blind laboratory studies, test subjects retained both “generalized allure” and “a certain je ne sais quoi” an average of five years longer than the control group simply by avoiding the use of the numeral 4 in the the tens column when representing their age to the opposite sex. (Side effects are similar to sugar pill.) By spelling out their age, the test subjects benefited from the homonymous relationship of their age with the Latin root “fortis.” Thus:

40 = Old
Forty = Strong-y

Anyway, the girls and I pulled out all the stops and celebrated by going to Chuck E. Cheese with a couple of their cousins. A good time was had by all, as manifest by my niece who, in mid-bite, looked up from her pizza and enthused, “This is the best birthday ever!” I don’t know about that. I remember my 26th quite fondly, but I appreciated the sentiment.

The next day the girls flew with their Mom to Chicago to attend their Uncle Ben‘s graduation from the University of Chicago Law School. I should have spent my childless bachelor week shopping for a Miata/Boxter/Z4/H2/Harley/<insert your preferred mid-life crisis vehicle here>, but as luck would have it I spent every passing day getting steadily sicker with what I thought was the flu.

By Wednesday I was semi-comatose, but I had to drag myself in to work so I wouldn’t miss getting laid off. They want me to hang around and help out with some big projects that are going live in September, but after that I’ll be looking for work along with the other 6.1% of the population.

The next day I was diagnosed with pneumonia.

So, to recap:

  • Turned 40/forty.
  • Soon to be divorced.
  • Soon to be unemployed.
  • Consumptive.

This is the stuff of opera. Bad opera, to be sure, but opera nonetheless.

So, there I was, having one of those George-Bailey-on-the-bridge moments, feeling profoundly pathetic, and thinking that everyone would probably be a lot better off if I just “died of the damp” (as Dill’s Aunt Stephanie would so eloquently put it). I even had Mr. Potter’s “You’re worth more dead than alive…” ringing in my ears.

You see, if I were to die tomorrow of some tubercular catastrophe, my girls would walk away with about half-a-million dollars for college and a new Mini/Beetle/Jeep/<insert your preferred fun-and-fancy-free-girl’s vehicle here> in about ten years when they’re old enough to drive. And thanks to the modern wonders of Accidental Death and Dismemberment coverage, if I were to die tomorrow in some fiery automotive catastrophe, they’d walk away with twice that amount.

But as I lay there, sicker than a dog and wallowing in self-pity, I had to acknowledge the fact that I’m far too selfish to croak right now. For one thing, I’d miss our weather talks too much.

I’m not sure how it started, but we’ve developed this odd little bedtime ritual where I’m required to dispense some weather-fact-of-the-day before my girls will go to sleep. In the past few months we’ve covered all of the dramatic weather phenomena: tornados, hurricanes, giant hailstones, raining frogs. But they’re even interested in the most mundane of cloud facts.

So, the girls got back late Saturday night and I was able to spend all Father’s Day with them. We all slept in, played on the computer, made paper helicopters, practiced riding our two-wheelers (we just took off the training wheels last week), watched videos, ate too much dessert. To paraphrase my niece, it was the best Father’s Day ever! By bedtime, I was exhausted and so were the girls. But after “hugsandkisses,” as I turned out the light and was about to leave the room, Emma said, “Wait, Dad. You have to tell us something about the weather.”

We covered barometric pressure. We’re going to make a barometer out of a 2-liter bottle later this week.

I know that may not sound very exciting to you, but I live for this stuff. Literally.

When Life Gives You Lemons…

“…ask for a Diet Coke to put them in. That way, at least you’ll have a decent beverage for your descent into Hell.”

— Grettir Asmundarson

The last three-and-a-half years have honestly been the worst years of my semi-long and rather pathetic life. I guess the disintegration of a marriage has a way of doing that to you, and the disintegration of mine has been like watching a three-and-a-half-year-long train wreck happening in slow motion. You know what’s going to happen in the end, you can see it happening right in front of you, but no matter how much you don’t want it to happen or how hard you try to keep it from happening, it’s going to happen anyway. And now comes the really unpleasant part. It’s time to notify the next-of-kin.

Within the next week or so, I’ll have the opportunity to sit down with my two little girls and explain to them that their mother and I are getting divorced. The thought of it makes me want to gouge out my eyes with a melon baller, but instead I will sit there with a straight face and say all of the reassuring things that books about divorce tell you to say to your kids so they won’t notice that what you’re really doing is ripping the rug right out from under their little feet.

We’ll explain it to them in such a way that no one is to blame and everybody wins. “This is best thing in the world! Your Mom and Dad get to pursue their lives as fully self-actualized human beings and you kids will have two bedrooms to decorate. Doesn’t that sound like fun?”

Then we’ll have the legal niceties. Since we are fairly rational, intelligent human beings, there will be blessed few points of legal contention, but that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier. For instance, I will get to sit in a mediator’s office and make contingency plans about how we will divide time with the girls if one of us moves out of state.

That means I get to negotiate for the privilege of not having my daughters in my life for six months out of the year. But, which six months of the year do I not want to tuck them in? Which six months of the year do I not want to order pizza and pop microwave popcorn with them and watch “Swiss Family Robinson” for the thirtieth time? And which six months of the year will I not get to intervene in an argument between the two of them and say, “You girls are going to be sisters for the rest of your lives. You need to learn to work these things out. What? Why did your Mom and I get divorced? Oh, we had irreconcilable differences.”

But it’s not all bad, right? I’m learning important life lessons, right? Well, I’ll tell you the important life lessons I’ve learned:

  • Even though there have been times when things have been so bad that I honestly didn’t think my heart could bear it one second longer, it did bear it one second longer…and then another…and then a minute…and then an hour…and then a year…and the pain was still there…and my heart was still beating…and I don’t know whether to be grateful for or appalled by the fact that, no matter how bad it gets, you get by.

  • I will never, in this lifetime, comprehend the complexities of the human heart.

Along the same lines…