Commencing countdown, engines on
I remodeled my home to accommodate the new roommates, Rachel and Riley, turning my bar into a kitchen and building twin bedrooms in the basement and a full bath (plus double sinks -- Rachel will need her own during the teen years, not to mention a mirror, vanity, hairdryer and walk-in closet). Pretty swank digs for mini-people. Unlike most remodels, this one was finished a full month early, thanks to a killer contractor and a well-designed acclimation plan allowing me a few final days to savor and ponder the end of an era: my sane, independent years, we'll call them.
Vanessa and I let the kids pick the colors of their rooms (sort of -- the first selections were neon lime and screamin' pink), and even tried to get them in on the painting, but the fumes and artistic freedom made them mad like Marlon in "Apocalypse Now" -- splattered, war-painted faces and wild, hungry looks in their eyes. Rachel was excited about her LAVENDER room (and the most demanding task-master, asking for paint touch-ups and cushy carpets sooner than according to plan). Riley, amiable as always (when well-fed) appreciated his blue walls, hat rack and basketball night-light. "Why can't we move in now?" Rachel asked, cute as a bunny rabbit in a Juicy sweat suit.
"I'm not mentally ready for you people, honey," I replied. She nodded and smiled. I think they get me...
We talk a lot -- in family meetings, in the shower, in our sleep, in couples counseling. We're processing. More apt, we're "in process." (Our therapist likes to tell it like it is, and let me know that, indeed, my "life will be hell." For a while.) Regardless of the baby-steps and trial weekends, the move is most similar to an ice-plunge; gets the heart going, which is nice. And there will be times I'll need a warm blankie.
My thoughts race from dread to anticipation to glee to strategy mode (locks on the office door, booze up high and a new storage shed for bikes, nerfs, kites, jump ropes, flying saucers, shoes, scooters, unicycle -- yes, a unicycle -- and miscellaneous kid parts). There are still things that need to be done: A basketball hoop and tranquillizer gun need to be ordered, for example. But the bins and dressers and ducks are all lined in a row. And it's time to let the lions out. "It will be better once we're there," my more-rational-at-times better half suggests. She sold her house in a day and wants to move in already. And our sense of humor is saving us -- we joke about the Run-Away Bride, that we're both nuts (and equally likely to bolt), and that, luckily, there are presents involved ("YAY!"), and a honeymoon. Even without the kids, we'd be freaked out about the leap, committing to "forever" and the "death do us part" thing. It's daunting, to say the least. Luckily we've been surrounded by folks -- mine -- who've been doing it for 50 YEARS! (My parents' 50th wedding anniversary is in October, which means, according to my mother, that she was married at age 12.)
There is, of course, plenty to look forward to: tag-team wrestling, Jell-O, school plays, explaining Bob Dylan (and eventually Bob Marley), discussing the Declaration of Independence (but not so much the Pythagorean Theorem), having someone to toss a ball with, seeing the twins' relationship grow, and having Vanessa in my bed. The insanity is also great for writing material, which helps with the column, and --according to experts -- journaling is a form of stress relief. (Perhaps that's the reason the original length of this essay was 4,000 pages...)
Fact is, marriage and love and family life on earth is a crap-shoot, a gamble, a ring toss, a four-ringed circus. Not everything will be predictable, and those things we're sure of will surely turn out differently than we imagined. (Sadly, car and health insurance premiums will not be different than I imagine...) My vision is a greater life joined by others who love and ponder and dream and share. They say love conquers all, and if that's the case, look out world, here we come; at this point in the journey, there is no turning back... Prepare to be conquered.
The Accidental Parent is a column about a life-long bachelor, Michael Stusser, now engaged to Vanessa, the mother of 10-year-old twins. The essays will follow his pending cohabitation, marriage, and blending into a new insta-family. Be advised, this is NOT an advice column. Think of it as watching a roller-coaster. All you have to do is sit back and listen to the laughter -- and a little screaming.