Dec 23, 2012

Three Men and a Baby

"A man who doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man." - Don Corleone

I'm an uncle.  My godson was born today, just a little after 11am.  Anthony Salvatore DiMango.  7 pounds 10 ounces.  I sat in the waiting room with my father and my aunt and my sister's good friend and we waited, waited, waited.  Over 6 hours we waited.  My mother, not surprisingly, was at my sister's side almost the entire time, as was my brother-in-law.  This kid already had a pretty big fan club before he even popped out.  It's a nice thing.

The night before last, two nights before my baby sister blessed us with the first child of the next generation of my family tree, she and I had a long heart-to-heart talk.  It didn't go particularly well.  I didn't want to come to Long Island to be part of this, didn't want my hurricane luck, my shattered heart and my fractured ego to ruin what would be a life-changing, thrilling experience for the people that I care about the most.  Because there's no consoling me.  I'm close with my sister and we have both been thru a lot of the same things, most specifically fairly recent divorces - something you never expect to have in common with your sister by your mid-30's.  But we both married the same type of person, ones who didn't allow us to feel at ease with the type of people we were, and we both inevitably wanted out.  That doesn't make us better, or even special.  That's just the way it happened.

Now my sister is remarried.  Now she's a Mommy, a parent.  Now my sister is a very happy person, and she deserves it so much.  She has been through a lot, she is a good woman, and I love her.  But this is where our paths diverge.

I called my sister two nights ago because I was having one of those 'keep-it-together' moments, alone in my post-Sandy apartment.  I have good days and bad days, but most recent ones have been bad.  I didn't want advice or answers - there are none to give - I just wanted to talk, to cry, to vent.  I just wanted someone who knows me - who knows what I've been thru for the past ten years, never mind the past two - to confirm that this all sucked.  That it wasn't me being melodramatic.  It's not about the hurricane, that was just an extra left hook to the chin after I had already been knocked down.  This was about a girl.  About where she is now, about who she's with, about the choice she made.  Again.  About history repeating itself.  About how that changed everything.  This was about the future.  

And now, I'm a man divided.  Now, I feel like three different men.

I gave her my heart. She gave me a pen.
The first man is the hopeless romantic.  He has existed for awhile.  He's the dude who will never give up on love no matter how much it has beaten him down.  The dude who wants to fight even when he thinks he can never win.  The guy who wants the unattainable, the brass ring.  Lloyd Dobler.  Keith Nelson.  Duckie.  Someone asked me about my recent romantic situation - "Do you really want to deal with all this drama?"  It's a legit question.  After a divorce, a hurricane, the reasonable answer is "No."  But I've never been reasonable when it comes to love.  It's always been a bit of a curse that can still somehow be a blessing.  And so I respond, "If it ends up with 'Happily Ever After', then yes, I want to deal with it."  But it's not just up to me.  It takes two to tango.

And the romantic dummy inside of me has a friend now.  He carries a baseball bat, and every time the romantic fool dares to emerge, the baseball bat guy cuts him down at the knees and screams "STAY THE FUCK DOWN."  Give up and stay the fuck down.  Because you can only be disappointed so much.  Let them chase you, not the other way around.  At my awkward-for-me holiday party, a co-worker asked me to elaborate, and I obliged.  I said this: "Life ain't the movies.  It's so much more complicated, it's not that easy to be brave.  To be truly brave.  At the end of When Harry Met Sally, after all the missteps and the serendipity and the sweet friendship they created, it ain't Sally who shows up on New Year's Eve to profess her love and win Harry over once and for all.  It's Harry."  In other words, girls don't do the chasing, they never have.  So the baseball bat guy is prudent, practical.  He keeps me from chasing after I've already chased.  But he's also useless.    

Neil Young aptly said "Only love can break your heart."  But the fire still burns.  You don't ask for that, it just exists.  Sometimes you even try to put out the flame, but it's not in your hands.  I don't care what anyone says.  This is why I write sad love songs on my piano, why I've allowed myself to be hurt so often.  This is how I'm built.  Sometimes it's not up to you.  The heart wants what it wants.

And he kept on running.
The second man is the running man.  This man showed up when I got divorced, when I ran away from a marriage, from a commitment I made, from the ideology embodied by what happened today when little Baby DiMango was born.  The ideology that Love Is Forever, that love has a future, that it reaps rewards beyond great sex or having someone to smoke weed or watch Breaking Bad with.  The odds were against my ex-wife and I from the start, but I went boldly forth into that good night, holding on tight to that ideology.  And it failed.  Sometimes love fails no matter how bad you want it to succeed. 

Then I turned the running away into just plain running.  I was running towards something instead of away from it.  I was bettering myself.  I ran 800 miles this year and I'm still running.  It is one of the few things in my life right now that gives me hope, clarity - that makes me feel strong, that makes me feel real.  When I took my dog to the vet last year, she said that if I ran him two miles a day twice a day, not only would I finish the Marathon, I just might win it.  I don't want to win the Marathon, I just want to win at life, to have someone waiting at the finish line.  And that's what running represents to me.  Control.  Destiny.  Reaching unattainable goals.  Growing.  Running isn't for everyone, but it's certainly for me.

Proud parents, serious tailgaters
The third man is the family man.  I'm so proud of my sister and my brother-in-law, so happy for my parents, for my aunt, uncle, and my cousins.  This will be a whole new adventure, a definitive chapter in our family history - a family fractured by some untimely deaths and failed relationships, but still somehow very close in spite of it, in spite of how we've spread to different parts of the Northeast after all that loss.  And it's hard not sharing that with anyone special, even if I'm going to share it with all of them.  So fucking hard.  I thought it would be different, I thought a lot of things would be different.  But circumstances don't change who you are.

My Dad asked me straight up last night, in between all my crankiness and my apathy, my asking forgiveness for being a bit of a Grinch this year - "Do you want to have children?"  The answer was yes.  Not today.  But yes.  It's got to be right - it will never be perfect, but it has got to be right.  There has to be a plan.  You can't put the kid before the girl, she has to come first.  I'm a purist - I believe you can't make a baby without a vagina. 

And it's days like today - times like these last three months - that reaffirm what matters most to me.  It wasn't my house or all the things in it that got fucked by Sandy.  It's not my own selfish wants.  It's being part of something bigger, being someone's rock.  Being in love, being someone to lean on and someone who's cared for, being a good person and a good parent, being an uncle, being a Dad.  That's where I come from.  It doesn't need to happen today, but it needs to happen.  It's about the future.

Today, I envy my sister and my brother-in-law.  Because they did it right - they were ready, it made sense.  And they fulfilled that destiny.  My brother-in-law has been such a godsend for my sister.  She was so hurt by her divorce, so disillusioned.  I totally get that.  My first brother-in-law was a good guy, a good friend - it's not like he was a bad person, he was just bad for my sister.  When you got past the cosmetics of it, he just wasn't right.  I totally get that too.

It takes someone strong to help you rise from the ashes, someone who really wants you, who makes you feel wanted - and Mango is that guy.  I love him for it, and I'm so happy to be an uncle to his kid.  Too bad he's a dude, cause I'd marry him in a heartbeat.  The guy can cook like a motherfucker.  He's a tenacious rebounder.  And he's gonna be a great Dad - larger than life, boisterous, generous.  He's been around kids his whole adult life and Baby DiMango is gonna be blessed because of that.  This baby has no idea right now, no idea how much love he's surrounded by, but he will very soon.

Today, I feel like these three different men.  And I don't want to change - I don't want to give up on romance, I don't want to stop running towards something, I never want to take my family for granted.  Today, I am a Grinch, a brokenhearted hurricane victim, the owner of a crazy loveable dog, a son, a brother, a nephew, a cousin, and now a proud uncle.  2013 is only nine days away.  I can taste it.

Tomorrow, it's back to the pavement, then back to the hospital to hug my sister and hold my nephew.  Then it will be Christmas Eve, the strangest, shittiest, craziest most life changing holiday I may ever experience.  I have no expectations anymore, not for anyone else.  Just for myself.  I gotta be me.  I gotta be real.  I gotta keep running, keep dreaming.  I gotta find the right girl and make her an offer she can't refuse.

I gotta be The Godfather.

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