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Commencing countdown, engines on

Published on: June 01, 2005

A few weeks of bachelorhood remain, and then not only am I betrothed
(the Big Day is July 9), but the little ones arrive. Ten-year-old
twins, remember? Like those Velociraptors in Jurassic Park that clawed
and clicked and ate people alive. And that's my terror level, too.
I tend to imagine the worst -- it makes me feel better: smashed lamps,
indoor soccer, hysterical hand-painting, clothes scattered willy-nilly,
and that damn SpongeBob on every wall. Not to mention cold viruses,
scabs, runny noses and dirt. Clods of it. Everywhere.

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

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.

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