Sunday, August 25, 2013


When I was 10 years old, my school had us participate in an extensive project that amounted to a more realized simulation of the computer game Oregon Trail. We were assigned to families and grouped into wagon trains with our fate determined by our decisions and simple luck (i.e. whatever the computer said). Cross-continental expeditions were beset by attacks from natives, inclement weather, and illnesses. This exercise went on over the course of a few weeks and culminated in a performance for parents where we acted out all that had occurred. In my wagon train, one girl’s simulated baby was near death due to an infection. During the performance, galvanized by some commendable overacting on the young mother’s part I was tasked with bringing the baby to her. The frantic screams of “MY BAAABYYYY!!!” were all the motivation I need to run as fast as I could to the part of the stage where the baby was and deliver it back to her. Of course, we didn’t use a real baby on stage as we were 10 year-olds and nowhere near responsible enough for such cargo. Instead it was a plush baby doll that in this case had diphtheria or some other such malady. I don’t know if I was hoping to save this little guy, since we already knew the sad outcome of the simulation, but the girl playing the mother was really quite hysterical. So I did what any ten year old boy would do to get that baby back in its mother’s arms. I threw it at her. The way I remember things this was a pretty good throw, possibly even landing in her lap. But, again, fate had spoken previously and the plush baby doll was doomed regardless of my efficient fling.

In school the next day, the teachers went over what had gone well and what had not. My decision to throw a sick baby some 20 feet was decidedly in the second column. At that age verisimilitude was not a strength I possessed. This was technically my first attempt at child care, simulated as it was. In front of a lot of people who knew how to get into character better than I did (and their parents), it was not an Oscar-worthy performance. It was also not the way to treat any sick baby, simulated or not.

This blog has been nearly dormant for the last two and a half years. I haven’t even posted any wedding pictures. But I finally have some news that might not be mind-blowing to you, but is certainly a life-changer for me. My wonderful wife Belu is pregnant, and we’re expecting a girl the first week of November. We’re both extremely excited, and can’t wait for all the impending changes even though we can’t really grasp what they will do to our lives.

The morning we received the happy news, the first thing I did upon leaving for work was glance at the mirror in my elevator. I probably look at myself in that mirror every morning, just to make sure I have nothing in my teeth and that my hair is at least presentable. But on that day, I felt like I was looking at some other, unknown person. I think I blurted out “that guy is going to be a father” with a grin comprised of equal parts nervousness and giddiness.

Since that moment six months ago, there has been a steady progression of newfound understanding. To be sure there are all the mechanical thought processes… What are the most important features to look for in a stroller? How many bibs are we gonna need? How does one complete the legal procedures for the birth of a baby in Switzerland who has parents from two other countries? How do birth-related contractions actually work, and what am I supposed to do about them? Where’s she going to go to college? And so forth. But beyond that I find I’m viewing the world in an entirely different way. We’ve all come into being through the same painful process before being liberated to find our own path. The impact that I’m going to have on this person’s entire life and how she fits into everything else in the world is constantly tumbling around in my head. I fully realize that once she’s born there will be no time for such thoughts. But all of the energy from this eager anticipation has to go somewhere.

I’m thinking about what kind of person she’ll be. Whether she will appreciate or curse us for forcing three languages upon her from the very beginning. Will she be fun, surly, goofy, selfish, sweet, caring? Will every last thing we do affect her? I think about wanting to be sure to do all the superb things my parents did right while improving upon the ones I wish they’d done a bit differently. I’m asking everyone I know who has children what to expect and what to do – constantly making mental notes. It’s not only that I don’t want to screw this up. I want to be a great dad and set her up for a happy life. I never really planned to for this moment, but I think I'm finally ready to be in it.

More than anything I rest assured that having such a strong relationship with Belu will make all of this easier and more successful. I’m not naïve enough to assume that having a baby won’t test us. But as long as we’re together, I know we’ll do the best we can. These next three months will surely pass quickly and my life will change all over again. Any lingering nerves are easily overwhelmed by excitement. And besides, I know that no matter what happens, I can’t do worse than I did at age 10.
Belu modeling the latest baby-bump fad in Chianti

Monday, July 1, 2013

Missing Dan

I hadn’t been in close contact with Dan since college, and I now suddenly realize just how long that’s been. Nearly all of my memories of him are from high school when we overlapped for three years. When he entered as a freshman, I’m pretty sure the first thing everyone noticed about him was, “Wow this kid can run!” It didn’t take long to see that he was an exceptional teammate with a radiant personality. In short, he was someone everyone loved being around.

Dan passed away last week of a rare form of cancer at age 37. The warnings in recent weeks that his condition wasn’t improving hasn’t made the news any easier to take. In some ways I feel I have no right to this post or to comment at all. It’s not that we grew apart in our 20s – better said that we simply found ourselves on different paths. I always thought that one day those paths might intersect again if we ever found ourselves in the same place.

His passing is a shock in so many ways. I can’t seem to let go of how unfair life can be. This was a guy with an incredibly positive spirit, good heart, and as tough a mettle as anyone I’ve known. Like I said, we were no longer very close, but I am certain that in these ways he never changed. He should have lived to be 100.

Danny, as we all called him then, never saw a challenge he couldn’t take on. Even in the rare cases where he was outmatched, he gave his all. In track meets he dabbled in hurdles and shot-put even though he was one of the shortest guys on the team. He was one of the smartest people I hung out with, but never once showed it off – an extremely rare type of humility where I grew up. He would often playfully obsess about trivial minutiae, successfully convincing everyone that, for instance, the team glider we won playing skee ball at Chuck E Cheese was something to be cherished forever. And he was a confidant who would listen to anyone’s worries. I know it’s cliché, but I really cannot believe he’s gone.

Throughout the last week, waves of memories are coming back to me as if they just happened. In all of them, Danny’s just being himself. I don’t often think about my high school days, perhaps because I often didn’t like who I was or how I carried myself at that point in life. I can say quite confidently that whenever I was around him, I liked myself a lot. He brought out the best in me before I had any idea what that was going to be. That’s why and how I always want to remember him. And why I feel so much sadness for someone I didn’t even know how much I missed.

Dan is on the bottom right and was our #1.

A cancer research fund has been set up in Dan’s name and can be accessed here in case you would like to donate.

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