A Matter of Conception

March 12, 2013

The following comes under the category of things you probably never wanted to find out about your parents. If finding out that they are human and that they, at one time very much enjoyed each other’s company, then you should stop right now and do something else… anything else. Otherwise, if you feel comfortable treading into an area where most children dare not tread, then read on.

Many years ago, back in the dark ages when your mother and I married each other, I was very much in love. I had decided that, come what may, I was going to marry Kathryn and hold true to my vows till one or the other of us shuffled off from this mortal coil. There were many things that we did not discuss going into our marriage, children was one of them and our topic today.

At some point after our marriage settled down to our ongoing routine, the topic of children came up. I wasn’t particularly concerned about the subject. I have five brothers, younger brothers, and I was operating under the assumption that one or more of them were eventually going to have children and the family name and our family lineage would carry on. I didn’t mention this to my wife, at first. Hope does indeed spring eternal and the thought of having a child of our own did appeal to me on so many levels.

However, Kathryn evidently had issues with her mother. She told me that she and her mother did not get along, that her mother was not a very good role model, and that she didn’t think she would be a very good mother. Simply put, your mother decided that she was quite happy not having children.

I, on the other hand, was somewhat disappointed, but I could accept her decision. I had married her for better or worse and, children or no children, I loved her and could not imagine life without her.

Flash forward 15 years.

One day, Kathryn and I were watching TV and somehow the subject of children came up. She said, and I’ll never forget it, “it’s a shame we never had children.”

To say that I was surprised and a bit startled by her admission would be putting it mildly.

I looked neither left nor right, but kept my eyes on the TV and replied, “oh,” while biting my tongue. This was a moment that might not come again, I wasn’t going to blow it. I wasn’t going to say something flippant about her decision years ago, although the thought did cross my mind.

“We still could,” I calmly replied.

We discussed the possibility and what it would mean to our lives. The most important aspect was her health and our age. She was 42 and there were risks. I don’t think we ever actually decided together that we were going to do this. However, the day came when she announced that she was no longer on the pill.

In the coming months we made love, but now we were conscious of her periods and what that meant to her fertility. It seemed as if our love making had taken on a new thrill. There was an air of hope with each coupling.

There came a day, a glorious day. It was one of those days in January that are called Chamber of Commerce days. The air was crisp and dry. The temperature was cool and moderate. The day incredibly sunny and beautiful. We slept late, had gotten something to eat, and then, quite unexpectedly, we decided to make love.

Now you must understand that while I was always ready to go, being, of course, a typical male, your mother did things according to her own schedule. This usually meant that there were chores to do on Saturday and on Sunday afternoon. This usually left Sunday morning and occasionally Sunday evening for our “spontaneous” trysts. So, believe me when I say, an afternoon romp was an unexpected delight!

More so than usual, she was in the mood to enjoy it. And I threw myself into the activity with élan and excitement. The sun was streaming in through the windows and it seemed that all was right with the world. My timing and her timing seemed to mesh perfectly. And when things had hit their crescendo, there was something about the moment, something about her reaction and my gut feeling that told me this was the moment, this one “transaction” was the one we had been looking for.

The date was January 10, 1998. I wasn’t paying all that close attention to the time, but I knew that the deed had been done between 1:30 and 1:45 PM. A couple of weeks later she went to the doctor because she was “feeling different.” A few days after that she got the news.

She was pregnant.

She called and let me know. To say that I was excited and overjoyed at the news would be putting it mildly. It was another beautiful, mild winter day here in Houston. I literally ran down the middle of the street telling any of my neighbors who were outside the good news!

At some point during her pregnancy I read about a study that had been done in Sweden. The researchers had crunched about 20 or 30 years of birthdays and compared them with personality types and other information gathered from medical files in an attempt to debunk astrology. According to their analysis, there was no connection between when a person was born and their personality type. Where the planets and the stars were and how they were aligned when a person was born didn’t seem to make any difference. However, in one of those interesting twists, someone programmed the computer to back track to the time of conception and, lo and behold, there did seem to be a connection between where the heavenly bodies were, particularly the sun and the moon, and personality. Since this effect had been previously noted in some mammals, it wasn’t considered that unusual.

Now, I mention this because after I read the article I went to my computer and found my astronomy/planetarium program. It was a small but efficient program that allowed me to find the planets in the sky at any particular longitude and latitude on any particular day. I plugged in the date and the time of conception and what I found rocked my little world.

On the day in question, at the time of conception, the sun was high in the sky… and all eight of the then planets were in the sky. That’s right, all of them, including Pluto, were in the sky, even if they weren’t visible in the daylight. The only large body that was not in the sky was the moon and it was full and on the back side of the planet at the time.

Our daughter is bright, sunny and at the same time seems to be imbued personality traits that run the gamut, but a very good gamut. She is a sun child. And like the hidden moon during her conception, she has a dark side that comes out in her stories and poetry. If there is anything to that Swedish study, there seems to be proof of it in my daughter.

I feel incredibly lucky and blessed to know when my daughter was conceived. The act that created her was, even though I didn’t know it was her conception at the time, the single best and most exciting and fulfilling coupling with her mother that I can remember.

She was created with joy and hope, with deliberateness and exultation, and at a time when all of heaven seemed to come together, when even the planets seem to be on notice and alert for the moment.

There are moments when the universe changes. There are moments when things happen that change lives and shifts the course of seemingly placid existence.

On that day in January, at that time, was one of those moments.

And in that moment, you, Elizabeth, came into being with a vengeance.

And nothing will ever be the same again.


Flying Solo

February 26, 2013

(This is a crossover post. I have a blog where I feel free to tell stories, publish marginal poetry, and write what I feel I must write about. But sometimes a post there feels like it needs to be posted here, here for my daughter one day.)

Sometimes you have to step back and watch your child take wing and fly for themselves.

My daughter recently went through high school shopping. She wants to go to the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, one of the top schools of its kind in the country. (Beyonce went there, and more than a few actors whose names you’d recognize.)  I suggested it. She wasn’t that enthusiastic about it… at first.  We went to the open house, saw the show, and, lo, she came to embrace the idea.  She made it her own.

She submitted a writing portfolio in her primary interest and field of art, writing.  All I told her was write about something she was familiar with, something she knew from experience. She let me read it. (She didn’t have to. If she had said, no, I would have been curious, but respected that.)

She also presented herself for a vocal audition.  She has a clean, clear, high soprano voice.  Tentative and untrained, but there is something there.  That’s her Plan B for getting in.

The poetry and short stories were dark, detailed, expressive, and impressive.  I did not review or comment on the content.  I made a few editing suggestions, some she ignored, and then she submitted it.  (I did wonder, only in passing, if I should refer her to a psychologist, though! lol)

She qualified academically, she passed the first auditions in both writing and vocal, and just finished with her final callback auditions. She feels good about the process.

I suggested the school, but she embraced the idea. When she went to visit, I delivered her, then stepped back while she interviewed *them*, unlike many whose parents seemed to be doing all the talking.

If (and when, we hope) she gets in, it will be on her own merit. She’ll never have any reason to doubt that it was her own ability that got her there. And that’s how it should be.

Sometimes you have to step back and watch your child take wing and fly for themselves.

Someone recently commented that my daughter was remarkably mature.  She is smart, bright, and witty, but mature?  She has all the problems, issues, fears, and hormones of being a teenaged woman.  She is, I hope, headed in the right direction to maturity, but that is a few years down the road.

I was a stay at home dad for the first few years. I didn’t talk baby talk to her. I just talked to her. When we went to the park, for a walk or to play, as soon as she could move on her own two feet, I got rid of the stroller. (Yes, I carried her when she got tired.)  I let her be kid. I have encouraged her to read at every step of the way and to her make up her own mind every step of the way… well, mostly.  Sometimes I do say, no.  I am a parent, not an enabling friend.

I let her take risks.  When she falls, I console her, but I let her take the risks.  (I still hover, but at a discrete distance.)

But she is a child, a teenager.  I have to let her have her childhood, bearing in mind that she will be an adult faster than most parents are ever willing to admit. I have to encourage, I have to raise an independent, confident person.

One day I will be very old and she may be looking after me.  I want her to look at me then with the same love and tenderness and encouragement with which I look at and treat her now, to hold me dear as I hold her dear now.

Be True to Yourself

February 22, 2013

Hi, Elizabeth.  Been a while since I posted.  You know as well as I do it has been a tumultuous time in our lives, so without further digression I present one of the most valuable things my father ever gave me.  (Besides life, that is! lol)


One day, when I was in junior high, my father took me along on a run to the post office.

Shortly after we set out, he glanced back at me in the rear view mirror as I sat in the back seat staring out the window at the pretty co-eds jogging around the university.  (The latter has nothing to do with the story, but admiring the lovely “older” college women was a major preoccupation of mine at that age! lol)

My father asked, rather matter of factly, what was the population of the world?  I paused, and replied, “around 3 1/2 billion.”  I asked why he’d asked.

We came up to a stop light and he turned and told me something that I have remembered to this day and incorporated into my world view, lo these many decades..

“There are 3 1/2 billion people in world and there are probably 3 1/2 billion religions in the world,” he said.

I looked at him, puzzled, but even then with a glimmer of understanding.

He told me that everyone, each individual, has their own view and/or understanding of what they believe to be true.  Even people two people that appear to believe exactly the same thing will have some minor, or even major, point of disagreement about the faith or philosophy they hew to.

I nodded, wondering where he was going with this.

He pulled into a parking space in front of the P.O., shut the car off and, looking me square in the eye, told me this: Everybody has the right to what they believe.to be The Truth. .  Listen, be polite, and accept what they say as true… for them.  Discuss and argue when the time and emotions are right. Never tell a person they are wrongheaded or an idiot. Just respect that they have a different viewpoint and move on.  And the most important thing I want you to remember is this,  always stay true to what you believe. Be true to yourself.  Hold fast to your beliefs.  Learn from the world around, adapt what you believe as needs must, and trust yourself.  You’ll live a happier and maybe longer life because of it.

His council I took.  And my own council I keep.  And I am happier for it.

To this day I am fascinated by other’s beliefs.  I have read many and disparate books of faith and philosophy.  From each I have learned something… and yet I have remained happy with my own belief structure, tweaking it as I age and learn.

And his advice I pass onto you, although I am sure I already told you myself long before you’ve read it here.

Pass it on.

Welcome to my self-indulgence.

Okay, I’m lying. This isn’t entirely self-indulgent. There are only going to be a handful of people who are going to be interested in anything written here. I am, naturally, one of them. It’s entirely possible that there will be people in my life, romantic relationships and otherwise, that may be interested, as well. Alas, these people have probably heard the stories already, or will be hearing them soon, so the last thing they’ll want is to read it here.

My life, in and of itself, is remarkably unimportant. I don’t think I’ve done anything of note. Probably not going to do anything important in the future, either. So, if you’re looking for secrets of success or the tale of a life well lived, then you should probably move along.

Now, this is written for one particular audience, an audience of one. This is written for my daughter, Elizabeth. She is the singularly most important thing I have ever done in my life. She is my greatest hope… and my greatest fear. My fear is that I won’t be there one day when she really needs me. I won’t be there to help. I won’t be there to offer advice, even if I know she isn’t going to listen.

There are no great insights. There are no earth shattering philosophical profundities, no theological thunderclaps, nor any scientific secrets to be found here. Just one man’s view of his life written in the hopes that she who will outlive me will find something useful to go by and remember me by.

I’ve tried to do this before. I tried 14 years ago when she was born. My efforts have been scattershot, random musings and reflections with no central thread. However, the time has come, the walrus said, to speak of many things, and, so, it is my time.

Hello, Elizabeth. Welcome to my life.

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