I was at the fish and chip shop tonight, flicking through Rip It Up, Canvas and toying with the idea of finding the right sized coin for the spacies. Minding, my, own, business.
What was the order?… That’s right: crumbed gurnard, battered gurnard, wedges, sour cream, pickled onions.
I glanced up at the counter, eyes alerted by the brain’s awareness of something ever so slightly different.
What was is it?… That’s right: the young lady at the counter, every so slightly hesitant about something.
A hearing impaired older-lady-customer had asked for a taxi whilst collecting her order and handing over a taxi-call-card. The counter-girl was for an instant flummoxed and then in action, on the phone. And there I was. All, up, in, someone, else’s, business.
I shuffled and oscillated between offering to drive the old-lady home or staying out of it. Should I tell her I’m the next order up and that I’m happy to take her. How would that be perceived by the sextet in the store? An horrifically tired looking man in jandals, jeans and flannel trying his best to not exude a serial killer vibe. And before I knew it I had overthought the entire thing and paralysed myself with indecision and confusion.
As always, the next cab off the rank in that process for me is the sadness: the weltschmerz. And instantly I was fighting back tears, in a chippy, on a normal Saturday night. Tears were an unusually extreme reaction for me. Yet, I am tired and new hormones and emotions are coursing through my being.
I drove home, distracted by the encounter, parked the car poorly and nearly dropped everything on the drive, shambolic as I left the car. And then as I opened the front door, I saw my baby daughter and it was instant amnesia. Utterly. The deaf-woman, her gilet, canvas tote, hearing aids, grey functional hair cut, and a bundle of paper wrapped canola oil - went straight out of my head.
My, baby, daughter. Miss F. D. S., 6lb 3oz, 48cm, a shock of her mother’s light brown hair and a power of utter heartache and new perspective. No one warned me about the sway she would hold over my life. I had 30 weeks to prepare for the delivery of Miss F. And whilst I googled, read, bought, sorted, stacked, stored and shopped. I didn’t do much (enough?) mental, conscious nor subconscious preparation.
So I have spent the last 8 days, 2 hours and 37 minutes in a world of new emotion and sensation. Yet it was the utter sunshine-of-the-spotless-mind, look-right-here-at-the-neuralyzer, these-aren’t-the-droids, and-when-I-click-my-fingers memory trick performed at my sight of her tonight that shocked me into writing.
A borderline sob (perhaps exaggerated by a lack of sleep and a slightly muddled hormonal balance) of empathy turned at a stranger’s non-plight, turned instantly into a beaming smile, goofy Dad voice and a longing sigh. I am the greek player swapping masks of tragedy and comedy in an instant, unrecognisable as the same person only moments later.
[fade out, fade in]
When I messaged friends and family from the delivery suite, birth care centre, and then comfort of my couch - baby atop, announcing the arrival of Miss F., I got a few replies of well wishing with an interest postscript:
Neens: “Your blog is gonna get sooooo good”
Finch: “I eagerly await updates via your lovely blog”
Audrey: “A new blog required!!”
And I puzzled at their comments. ‘What on earth would I ever write about apropos of my daughter?!’ I had in fact left Facebook in anticipation of her arrival and implemented a family and friends wide infinite moratorium of the baby’s face on social media. Holding that tenet and blogging freely? Impossible.
…I sat eating my fish and chips, mother feeding child before mother could eat, I distracted myself from the awkwardness of eating alone at the dining table by swiping through twitter. I read of a hideous mugging, a blind Londoner having her belongings wrenched from her hands. It was with a sickening thud I recalled the deaf woman and the takeaways.
How could I have forgotten her so absolutely? The blind woman’s story the only reason I remembered her?
Our baby. Mme et moi et Mlle.
No one warned me.
I wasn’t prepared.
No father has ever talked freely with me about the utter and complete neo-paradigm. No man has ever sat me down and given me the chat. My own father, a lovely, gentle, diligent, devoted, generous and loving man - a man who gave up golf for a winter to co-manage the Huntly Thistle Football Club’s 8th grade team. A man who stood silently on every sideline of every high school rugby ground: gumboots, umbrella, ¼ zip woollen jumper, a Holden sedan full of team mates ferried home and nothing more to say than “you all did real well, proud of you, be proud of yourselves”. A dream dad in every imaginable way, firm, fair, fun. Loving, listening. If I am a fifth of the father he is I’ll happily accept a Queen’s Birthday honours nomination for services to fatherhood. Fuck - not even he thought to talk to me about the wholly mind melting changes in perspective and purpose that would manifest.
I have no idea what people Christina expected me to write about. A week ago I would have dismissed Audrey’s comment. I had no idea I’d write about anything, Amy would’ve been wanting.
But here I am, typing to Timber Timbre. Because I am in shock!
The arrival of a two-and-a-half-kilogram snuffling and pink writhing mass of my semi-creation has changed me. Nothing is as important as Miss F. She’s all I ever talk about, I am that cliched boring new parent. She whelps and I leap. Leaving the house to go to work reduces me to a pining and pathetic mess. I look forward to nothing more than nappy changes, burping and hiccup duty. Cuddles, skin time, awake and alert time: pure heaven. Reading to Miss F., discussing with her Sharon Van Etten’s own thesis on heartbreak and then dancing around the lounge to the EP, Miss F. on my shoulder, her hands under her tiny dimpled chin, sighing and grunting as she works out wind to me tapping out the kick-kick-snare meter of I Don’t Want To Let You Down: god, I’m welling up typing the memory.
If this is what you wanted, this is what you get. I’m of a mind to yell at you all: “Are you not entertained?!” For I am at a loss.
There is a bloke in my office - we have an uneasy relationship. I challenge him, I know, and I am flummoxed by him, I know. He is the most staunch and reserved utter archetype of man and masculinity I have ever met. And it was he, who offered the closest to a warning. When the news of Miss F.’s safe arrival reached the office, he text: “all the best for the next few weeks, take it easy.” And then when I turned up to work 3 days later he gave me unintentional glare and advised that going home and putting my feet up was his prescription. I sensed something then, maybe a flicker in an eye, a furrow of the brow, slight change in mask and shield… That lowering of the drawbridge, raising of the portcullis, that fatherly warning right there. That’s the closest anyone’s gotten to warning me.
And so what to do? Ride it all out and cherish every moment. I want to talk to other fathers about it. But I want to selfishly internalise every moment of bliss, anguish, brilliance and concern. I want to absorb it all and let it galvanise my soul and gild my heart.
And perhaps that’s it. The selfishness of owning every last quantum of dad. Maybe that’s why no-one spoke of it.
I actually wonder if earnest exhortation would’ve made a skerrick of difference? Nah. This is one of those things that nothing will prepare you for. You just have to ride it out. One slow dance with your baby at a time.