Sunday, April 21, 2013

365 Jobs: First Birthday

Monday, October 10, 1977

First Birthday

Today is October 10, 1977.  Exactly one year ago at 9 a.m., my son was born.  Today at 9 a.m. I meet a bosomy woman named Nina at a fixer-upper in Palo Alto.  She wants me to relocate a sink and replace a toilet.  First thing I do, exploring, is wiggle a hot water pipe, which breaks off in my hand, flooding the kitchen and bathroom before I find the shutoff.  Luke, the old carpenter working there, says, "An inauspicious beginning."  He has a Canadian accent: in-ow-spicious. 

Luke is a chatty old nut who looks like a professor wearing a tool belt.  As it turns out, I'm not far off. 

Luke tells dirty jokes and has a poor boys' view of authority.  He got married in Tahoe just last Saturday — to Nina.  He grew up poor in Saskatoon.  He worked in the Royal Canadian Mounted motor pool but decided he could better himself, so he took an RCMP test whose results indicated that he should stay in the motor pool.  Instead, he went to college, and nine years later he had a Ph.D. in genetics.  "Tests are crap," he says.

Luke worked under Dr. Norman Shumway, the pioneering heart transplant surgeon at Stanford.  "I'm a handy scientist," Luke says, "which is a useful and rare commodity."  He takes off from time to time to fix up houses, which is how he met the top-heavy Nina.  "It's a match made in heaven," Luke says.  "My brains, her obvious and abundant fertility — we'll conquer the world."  Luke does not lack in self-esteem.  Nor in breast-worship.

With the profits they'll make from this fixer-upper, they'll move to British Columbia where Luke will work in the Immunology Department at UBC — in the Lung Unit, he says, coughing (he chain-smokes) — while Nina starts having his babies.  "I don't want my DNA to disappear," Luke says.  "I want to replicate."

I wish his genetic material the best of luck.  I go home to my first son's first birthday.  At one year old, he walks, climbs, barks, and babbles.  He likes scrambled eggs, PB&J, beer (it was an accident, one-time), and Cheerios.  He likes dogs, sticks, tennis balls, his red fire engine, telephones (he eats them), and wastebaskets (he ransacks them).  It's a lot like having a puppy in the house.  He’s healthy and strong and cute as a button with big brown eyes and soft brown hair.  He likes to sit in his easy chair and kick his feet up just like the old man.  Replication.

Miranda, our midwife, is supposed to join us for dinner.  At last she shows up after we call to remind her.  My son by this time is asleep.  "Sorry," Miranda says, and she explains why she's distracted.  It's complicated:  She has a boyfriend named Theo.  Theo is married to a woman named Sunflower.  Theo and Sunflower have a child with Down syndrome. 

Sunflower flipped out after the birth.  She went in and out of hospitals while Theo cared for the baby.  Sunflower started seeing a shrink who gave her "the acid treatment" (LSD), which changed her from mildly freaked to totally psychotic — hiding in corners, babbling.  So this same shrink sent Sunflower back east for months of electroshock treatments.  You have to wonder if he slept with her, too, since he did everything else wrong.  Then Sunflower disappeared.  For months. 

At last Sunflower showed up at her parents' house in Florida.  Sunflower's parents have a good deal of money.  With a court order they removed their granddaughter from Theo's care in California and took her to Florida.  Theo without funds was powerless to fight them. 

One thing revealed in Sunflower’s flipping out was that her father had sexually molested her as a child.  Now this man was caring for Ami, the sweet-natured girl with Down syndrome.  Theo tried to visit Ami in Florida.  The parents wouldn’t let him see the child. 

A year passed.  Miranda met Theo, and they fell in love.  Sunflower became a fundamentalist Christian and converted her parents.  Theo and Miranda went to Florida together and tried to get the fundamentalist minister to arrange a meeting with the grandparents.  They got nowhere.  So they spied on Sunflower’s folks and learned their routines.  By this time Sunflower had split for months, no one knew where. 

They decided to kidnap Ami.  The first plan was for a Sunday when the folks went to church.  It didn’t work — they never had an opening.  Kidnapping isn't so easy.  The next plan was for a school day.  Theo walked to the elementary school.  Miranda waited two blocks away with a rental car at a phone booth.  She waited.  And waited.  Then she panicked.  She went to the school and said she was from Missouri and wanted to observe how they did it here.  She walked around blabbering nonsense but couldn’t find Theo or Ami.  Finally Miranda saw them walking along the sidewalk outside.  Miranda made excuses and ran.  She followed Theo until they got to the car where they changed clothes and drove to Palm Beach and caught a plane, Miranda keeping Ami while Theo flew separately on the theory they’d look for Theo.  They changed planes in Saint Louis, calling the folks  to tell them they've got Ami.  The grandmother says, "It’s God’s will."  The grandmother then apologized — she never wanted Ami but Sunflower talked her into it. 

As far as Miranda can tell, there's no evidence that the grandfather molested Ami, but now the girl cries whenever she has to go to bathroom, which she never did before.

"I'm sorry," Miranda says, "you didn't need to hear all this."

"It's okay," I say.  "I think you needed to say all this.  I'm kind of amazed you showed up at all.  When did all this happen?"

"We just got back yesterday."  She looks in on my son, who is curled up in the crib with his froggy blanket.  There is adoration in Miranda's eyes.  She helped bring my son into the world.  It's her vocation.  Her passion.  "We just keep creating these amazing children," she says.  "What else can we do?"

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