We arrive at the airport in plenty of time, a good omen for the journey ahead. At every step we seem to be charmed, they let us in to the short term parking even though we will be gone for five days. Cars are swarming all over the parking in search of a spot but somehow we find one everybody else had overlooked; a luggage cart not ten feet away beckons us and our bags.

I’ve been keeping it together for days, the curse of the pater familias. While my wife is in Florida dealing with the aftermath of her dad’s death, I have been taking care of the bambino. Now that the worst is past, he and I are going down to join her. And to pile on the indignities, my remaining at work after being fired, so as to ease the transition for my staff, has taken its toll as well. Now my son is sitting on the prow of the luggage cart directing us as we make our way into the terminal over the moving sidewalk. He is happy in a way that only a six year old can be, saying hello to the folks we are going by as we make our way. The day, which promised a stormy takeoff that I was dreading, has cleared. The sun begins to shine through the clouds like a Howard Johnson’s painting. We will be alright, I can do this.

The terminal is brand new and feels a bit unreal in its modernity, rows of self check-in terminals. I approach one of them, put my credit card in and start the process. My son, gregarious as always, says hello to the airline attendant, a well coiffed, uniformed woman, of that indeterminate mid forties zone that I inhabit myself:

“Hi” – says he,
“Well hello little man, where are you off to today?”
“We are going to meet my mommy at the house where my Opa died, ‘cause he was very sick and tired and his body just stopped”
“I am so sorry, but you know, he is in a better place now.”
“Yeah, he is in our brains and in our heart and we always will remember him that way”
I lost it…

The sobs just came uncontrollably up my throat, I kissed the top of his head and told him that that was all true and that I was proud that he was so brave. I could not stop crying, I could not get it under control, and then, the most miraculous thing happened: the airline attendant just stepped forward and hugged me. It was such a touching moment of humanity that it shattered through my eternal cynicism. There was no reason for this woman to console me, this is certainly not in the three ring binder. It was such a selfless act of compassion to offer succor to a total stranger.

Maybe there is hope…


I wrote this on the plane last wednesday, but just now have net connection again

I have a theory that the twenty-plus years I’ve spent doing theatre have somehow warped my natural anxiety response to looming major life events. Lawrence Olivier once contended that the amount of adrenaline coursing through the veins of an average actor performing say, Hamlet, on a given night was enough to kill a normal man. I have no idea if this is true; it certainly sounds dubious. As a playwright who has a side specialty in writing plays that deal with science and technology, I can never underestimate the capacity of artists, even venerable ones, to get the science of nearly everything wrong. Still, there’s some sort of Picasso-like truth in this, I think. When faced regularly with situations that tend to make you feel like crapping your pants, you’re going to make an adjustment—psychologically, physiologically—however.

My involuntary adjustment to countless openings of original plays I’ve poured my all into has been a shortening of the advanced dread period, down from a month, to a week, to the day before, to the day of, till now, when I open a play, the terror only starts to gut me a few hours or so before curtain. Somehow my body and my brain have decided that diminishing the time I’m exposed to the anxiety is healthier. Who am I to question them?

So when the attractive mom of two, who occupies the cube across from, asked me the other day if I was starting to get excited about my baby coming, I explained how, no, it hadn’t really hit me yet.

And it still hasn’t hit me yet. Heather’s lost her mucus plug. Yesterday morning she had a bout of contractions that lasted about an hour. And still, it hasn’t hit me-- at least not on any visceral level-- that another life is coming into the world very, very soon: one that I will be responsible for until the day I die, and possibly, if you ask the Mormons, beyond. (Or maybe it’s the other way around. I must confess I never really understood what has always seemed to me to be the comic book version of Christianity, or perhaps more fairly, the graphic novel.)

So here comes this life. Healthy? We hope, and have no reason to doubt. Male? Female? We don’t know. One more detail to raise the stakes on my anxiety when it finally punches in. Of course, I’m leaning in my hopes for a girl, but only because I already have a son and he’s so special it’s hard to imagine having another one.

Of course, it’s all pretty hard to imagine, isn’t it? And that’s the best part of living life: you could never dream this stuff up.

More to come . . .

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