Thursday, June 21, 2007

Xs and Os for Daddy's Day

By Stephen Guilfoyle

There was a touch of sadness in my dad's voice a few years back.

He had gone up to New York City, I think for a funeral.

My cousins had given him a hug and a kiss.

"I can get my nephews to give me a little kiss, but not my sons," he said.

So I gave him a pat on the back.

I'm no one's definition of a macho man, but I have taken on, over the years, some decidedly macho mannerisms.

I prefer always to go to a barber shop. I want to go in and grunt. If there is to be conversation, let it be about football, baseball and nothing in between. Or the latest political goings-on with them "idiots" up in Washington or down in Columbia.

I do not want to talk about what I want done to my hair.

I want to say, "Regular cut" nine months of the year and "Trim" in the summer and get the exact same hair cut for my $5 bucks. But that hasn't happened, really, since I moved from New York. Just can't find a good old fashioned enough barber, most of the time. Or can't go to the few I've found regularly enough, given my commute.

That's just one thing. I do eat quiche, and they have a fantastic quiche at the Olde English Creamery, but I haven't been back to get it since that first time.

But I resisted quiche as a youngster. But break it down. You say quiche, I say cheese and bacon pie. What could be more dude-ish than cheese and bacon? Than pie?

Not much.

But along the line, I had stopped giving my dad a hug giving him a goodbye kiss or just saying, "Love you" when I left his home or on the phone.

He said what he said, and I've done a better job, since, but I still don't do it all the time. But he deserves them all. He's a great guy, and the best father.

I bring this up, because I get it now. I understand.

It was Father's Day Sunday. My first Father's Day

Just coincidentally, my son kissed me, on Sunday. Or maybe not coincidentally.

His mother my lovely bride goes into work most Sunday afternoons, so my boy and I have a lot of "daddy time" as my wife calls it.

I get to play with him, get to feed him, get to change him, get to give him his bath and get to put him to bed almost every Sunday.

He had this thing he did with his mother and me, where he'd come at us, mouth wide open. I called it a kiss, but he could just as easily been trying to chew my chin off. Gnaw a little, dribble a little drool down our chins.

Is that saying I love you? Or is that just sharing the saliva? Spreading the spit?

On Sunday, he wasn't feeling great. He's normally a great eater - my son, after all - but he didn't have a great appetite. I took him out of his high chair and fed him these little "puffs" they have now, no calories, one by one.

After a while, he wouldn't eat them off his high chair tabletop, but he took them from me, one by one.

He just liked them, so he ate them. But after about the third he ate from my hand, sitting on my lap, he smiled and leaned in, all the way in.

He didn't open up his mouth for the "bite" he usually takes. Nope, he just smooshed his mouth against mine. And did it two more times, smiling all the while.

To some people, fathers are a joke, a punchline. Many times, fathers aren't there, and we are bearing the price as a society.

We hear a lot about children cast rudderless because they don't have a father or enough positive male role models. To me, that bodes not well for the future. But the problem with absent fathers isn't just the effect it will have down the road.

This little man is changing me every single day, making me be better every single day, and making me want to be better, every single day.

The men who are absent from their children are both fools and they are missing out on the best thing possible. They are paying a price now that they have no idea about.

I'm told I dote on my son and my family has been good enough to let me know they think I'm doing a good job, so far.

"All you need is love," John, Paul, George and Ringo sang a long time ago. If only that were true.

My son has been sick a couple of times, stumbled and landed bad - sometimes on his head, and cried, more than a couple of times. I love him, but that doesn't make the sick go away, doesn't make the hurt stop hurting. I wrap him up in a hug, but he still, sometimes, whimpers or cries.

All you need is love. I wish that were true.

But love does give and does solve some things.

When I married, I said my wife was making me into the man I was supposed to be. Funny how a good woman can do that.

My son is filling in the gaps, making me into a man I never thought I could be.

It's a shame that it seems that fatherhood sounds like I'm doing a lot more taking than giving. But my son is giving so much to me.

We had a special day, and I know why my father wants a hug and a kiss from his sons, because I know how good it makes you feel, now, to have your son kiss you. And he won't get any guff from me about it any more.

So it was a very special day. We ended it like any other, doing that pre-sleep ritual. I, of course, gave him his bath, and he played and he splashed and he played and he laughed.

And then he pooped in the tub.

All you need is love? Love doesn't scoop a floater out of the tub.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Flashing back to my baby's birth

I thought I was going to have Internet access at the hospital when my baby was born, but the maternity ward wasn't wired. I started a little log of what was going on -- while Patricia slept -- and played CDs on my laptop to give her something to listen to. But I never had time to follow up and finish. I don't know how long I intended to keep doing this. But it was a one-shot deal.

My lovely bride is, again, snoring. She’s always snored, but it’s gotten heavy with the pregnancy.
Eating for two – ha ha. Good joke. Everyone gets it, and laughs.
She’s been breathing for two for months now. It has put her respiratory system to the test.
We have spent a night of some pain, a bit of unease, and she reached the point of asking for “something” to take the edge off her pain. It was supposed to make her a little woozy, a little drowsy. But she’s out cold.
It is almost 9 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 22..
I have called my family, her family. I have to call her office and get a number to call her boss, let her know.
But our baby is coming. On the way. There’s been no backing out for months now. Never was any backing out, really.
But there’s REALLY no backing out now.

So this wonderful day started with a bit of a bad night. I expected her to be home when I was on my way home, but when I called, she was was still at work. I knew she had thought about going to see the doctor, so I asked if she had. She wanted to wait to tell me later, but I got it out of her.
Her blood pressure was a bit high, and she was cramping a bit more uncomfortably. She was not dilated, so the doctor was afraid of pre-eclampsya. He took some blood and told her to come back Friday.
She went back to the office and got down to finishing up the conversion of her templates from the 25-inch web templates to the 24-inch. Just an inch, but it takes a lot of effort.
I told her to come home, but she wasn’t home until like 9:30 or 10.
She was afraid she was having contractions. She also wanted to eat a bit. I made her an egg salad sandwich, because that requires all of 10 seconds of effort.
When we started timing her contractions, they were around a minute to a minute and half long, and about five to seven minutes apart. The “key” time is to be a minute long, five minutes apart, for an hour.
She'd had a few in the car just like the ones she was having now. And they were at the same level. I started running the watch.
We called the doctor, and he said if she wanted to go to the hospital, it was up to her. She wanted to sleep, and be with the dogs for a little longer. So we watched the Colbert Report, got a few laughs, and tried to sleep.
We went to bed about 1:30 p.m., She woke me about 4. She was ready. She had slept good for a while, but two good contractions had woken her.
It was hard leaving the dogs behind.
We were talking, going along at a good clip for a bit, but when a contraction hit, she said, “Are you at least going the speed limit?”
We triaged, and to both our surprise, Patricia was dilated between 3 and 4 centimeters. Wow.
On the way. The nurse who checked us in, Tia, said it was possible the doctor would send us home, but mostly likely, we’d be here and we’d be having the baby.
Tia got us into the room, but she actually got to helping another woman coming in whose water had broken. She got the woman into the room and the baby just came there. So Manuela came.
Tia had us walking the halls, which is supposed to help the dilation progress. We need to get to at least 8 centimeters.
We had little progress during the night. At the 7 p.m. shift change, Tia came in and told us goodbye, and what had happened elsewhere in the ward that kept her away for a bit.
During one of our walks, we saw Dean, the guy who runs Fort Mil Automotive, who repaired Patricia’s A/C cheaper than the dealership. His wife was having a C-section.
Funny to meet someone you know.
By about 8 a.m., Patricia had had all the pain she could stand, so she wanted to get a narc. It ended up knocking her out. I made a few calls to Patricia’s work and her family, Tom and Susan.
I had called Catherine, then Anne, getting neither. Catherine called back, talked to me, then Patricia, then me again.
“Whee, we’re having a baby,” she said before hanging up.
(Captain's Log, supplemental, on June 9, 2007: WE?)
She said she was working but could get off by noon. Mom would come with her, it was decided. She called Mom. I expected Mom to call, but she didn’t.
Anne called. I’d left a message. She sang. I can’t even remember what, but it wasn’t one of my favorite songs. But to Anne, it will be the baby’s song for a while. Probably until he/she gets married.
Talked to Mom. She was praying.
Talked to John. He had the day off, and was going to come, do a couple of errands for us that we just didn’t get to. The bases for baby's car seat needed installing. The dogs needed to be handled, either walked or taken to the Dirty Dog Depot. Probably the latter. And we need Patricia's work key taken to the office. Debbie either had the day off or got off, and is coming with him.
There is no internet access here, and I had promised a bunch of people they’d get an e-mail during the event. Sucks.

’s almost noon. I need sleep. She will wake up soon, and we’ll see what we see.

Except for the spell check to correct, and the supplemental note in there, that's all that I wrote that night.
I dind't even make a note of what the doctor said when he came. The first one.
Or the bit about the actual doctor who came in and helped Patricia deliver. Her cellphone went off and started playing the Tiger Rag. The doctor didn't understand the horrified, murderous look on my face at first, but when she saw my USC Gamecocks shirt AND hat, she said, "Uh oh, I'm in trouble."
Patricia laughed pretty hard. I had to take my cell phone out, play the USC fight song and remove exorcise the demon sounds. But I let her proceed.
Other than being a graduate of Clemson at some point in her career, it was actually a pretty good decision.
We had a few other funny bits, but I can't remember them right now, almost nine month later.

Friday, June 01, 2007

My Hootie Story

(Everything in here is mostly true except the bit about the bandana.)

There was a major fuss down in Columbia last month. A guy with whom I used to occasionally drink and some of his buddies were causing the fuss, first at The Horseshoe, then a few days later at Finlay Park.
Why was it such a big deal, I wonder, since anybody can get a CD cut these days -- cheap.
What's all the fuss about Hootie and The Blowfish?
I mean, why were they a significant subplot, the subject of two to three jokes, on a very special episode of "Friends" last year? Or actually BE on Letterman, more than once?
Wait a minute. I know these guys.
Or, I knew those guys.
OK, I knew one of those guys and one of the others (the one everyone thinks is Hootie) used to date a friend for a while while I was in college.
They are my age, people. My age. In fact, older. Yet I have to go around pretending to be an adult, listening to the constant refrain of "man you're getting GRAY" from friends and family, yet they do videos and interviews where people talk about their youthful enthusiasm and fratboy charm.
Sure they're a kickin' band, and always have been. But people in South Carolina are taking undue pride in Hootie and The Blowfish.
Remember when they were being considered for the Order of the Palmetto, but that was canned because Darius Rucker, the lead singer, actually had the nerve to have a thought that DIDN'T agree with the governor's position on the Confederate Flag atop the State House?
Though it fell apart, that was the state of South Carolina trying to cash in on the group's sudden fame.
Last fall, for Homecoming activities at the USC College of Journalism and Mass Communications, a luncheon was held to honor several outstanding graduates in the journalism field. High on the list to be honored were Rucker and Mark Bryan, who both attended the broadcasting program at the J-School.
They aren't exactly in the "biz," as journalism graduates (such as me and Darius and Mark) like to call it, but they communicated volumes by saying from the get-go they wouldn't go and then didn't.
They knew the college was trying to cash in on the group's sudden fame.
It continues apace, with VH-1 recasting it's "History of Hootie" on Sunday, as well as all Hootie videos in a "rock block."
So, not to be outdone, here's my Hootie story. (A local bartender says everyone's got a Hootie story.)
I met Mark Bryan more than once. I'm pretty sure he was at a party where I was also. Details are sketchy, but quite possibly one of us was and most probably both of us were, drunk. Hey, it was college and neither of us were driving.
We were introduced by a mutual friend, who said he was "Mark of Hootie and The Blowfish.
I said "Is that the terrible band that just does cover tunes?"
Nope, my friend said, that was Tootie and the Joneses, or another of the many OOTY bands that were so popular in Columbia during the '80s.
"So this is the one that does all the frat parties?"
I was getting warmer.
Who knew?
Anyway, I saw him all the time after that, mostly waiting for the ShutleCock at the J-School.
Said "Hi. " Occasionally talked.
I now tell people that not only am I "buds" with the band, but that, heck, my mother also met them.
True story.
For some reason, I was taking my parents to eat at Yesterday's in Columbia. Looking for a parking space in Five Points is like doing open heart surgery on Pat Buchanan -- just impossible to find one.
Down the block from Yesterday's is Monterray Jack's, a great bar. The band was playing there that night, and they were unloading their gear. I recognized my drinking bud, Mark Bryan, and introduced him to my mother, because he waved at me first, so I had to.
"This is, uh, Mark, uh," I said, "He's in this band ... uh. ..."
Mark said hello, was very polite, which my mother commented on, and he let us have the space the band's van was in once it was unloaded.
He left and my mother asked "How did he hurt his head?"
(It was the bandana on his head. He's the one who always wears the bandana, which looks like ... Anyway.)
So now, with this background, I go around telling people I'm real tight with the band. At a ribbon cutting a few months back, I met a girl from Bennettsville. We were at USC at the same time. She remembered attending many Hootie concerts at "Greene Street's" a bar that was neither on Greene Street nor in existance anymore.
"I guess anyone who went to USC in the '80s can say they know Hootie and the Blowfish," she said. I nodded. But neither she nor they knows them like I know them.
That's what I meant about undue pride. It's not that the band itself shouldn't be proud of what it's done. While they won't admit it, those cashing in on it are also trying to steal a bit of the credit for Hootie's success for themselves.
I'll admit that's what I'm doing, but only after.
After I tell people I know which one is Hootie, after I tell them that I once told Mark Bryan that "the porpoises make me cry," and I want my cut.
But it's just me trying to cash in on the sudden fame of Hootie and the Blowfish.
Everybody's doing it nowadays.

Originally published in The Cheraw Chronicle June 6, 1996.)