“It’s safe to remove the blades. The back will heal.” JSM
Eighteen years ago I fought against the idea of parenthood. I didn’t want to be a dad. Holding tight with both hands to the mindset that the biological father should do the parenting, not I. Being a daddy didn’t seem like the gig for me. Especially at my age.
When asked to do something involving the child, I shrugged it off and responded with snide comments and crossing my arms high on the chest, “Not my kid. Not my job. Not my problem.”
Then it hit me. Eight short little words uttered by a family member. My defiance had finally come to an abrupt halt.
“In for a penny, in for a pound.”
The simplicity of the statement changed my outlook on how I was conducting my life. It was time to step up to the plate, quit denying what I was supposed to do, place aside my selfish ways, and slide into the role regardless of my feelings on the matter.
Time to change.
I picked up the diaper bag and complied.
Sitting before the Judge on the day of her adoption, I’d be outright lying if I said I wasn’t scared. Each fingernail was chewed down to bleeding stumps. I shook with uncontrollable nerves and every wandering thought was contemplating the worst case scenario. What if the Judge says no? What if the adoption is denied? What then? My leg bounced under the table and my breathing was short and choppy.
You’ll just keep being dad without a piece of paper to prove it legally, right?
If that’s the case, then it’s a win-win situation. OK… Breathe, Jeremy, breathe.
The Judge’s bench seemed thirty feet tall. A thin towering podium where the silver haired man who determined my destiny sat above, staring down at me over the edge in silent contemplation. Wearing a black robe and an emotionless face.
“So, Mister Morang. What makes you think you should be her adoptive parent? It says here, you’re working part time and attending school full time. Is this correct?”
Hands sweating and clasped atop the table, I cleared my throat once, “Yes, Your Honor. That’s correct.”
“Part time work doesn’t bring in a lot of money. Are you sure you can live up to the expectation? What makes you think you deserve this, and what can you tell me to convince me to place my approval on this paperwork.”
The first thing from my mouth may have seemed like a nail in my coffin, but it was the only thing I could muster at the moment. Nothing but pure honesty. “I’ve been doing this for nine years, Your Honor. She may have a different father, but I’m her Dad. The bills are paid, she’s healthy and fed. Protected, safe, clothed, housed, educated, happy…”
When he cut me off mid sentence, I swallowed hard and lowered my gaze to the tabletop.
“Need say no more, Mister Morang. Adoption approved. The paperwork will be mailed to you within the next seven business days and you’ll need to see the clerk on the way out. Have a nice day and congratulations. NEXT!” A crack of the gavel and life continued.
When my second daughter was born, she was treated (as a preventative measure) for a sickness which can be passed from the mother to child if not caught in time, and the regiment lasted seven days. If I wasn’t at work, I was in the hospital room with her. I slept on a second bed nearby with my newborn child comfortably resting on my chest and for seven days I didn’t fully sleep.
With a newborn baby, the parent rarely sleeps.
After the treatment was completed and we were able to return home, I woke up every hour on the hour for a number of months; terrified of the S.I.D.S condition. I’d creep into her room, hover my hand over her mouth and wait for her breath on my skin. I’d gently place my fingers on her chest and feel it rise and fall before returning to my bed for another solid hour of rest. I didn’t breathe until she did. I set an internal alarm and it never deactivated.
The routine became so rhythmic and predictable, I lost time. All that existed was day and night. I walked in a foggy haze, oblivious to my surroundings. I answered questions with short one word replies. A zombie, but not undead. I had blinders on which only allowed me to focus on life tasks and chores. Those things which are deemed important and essential. When one becomes a parent, each and every priority is child related. Sleep is destroyed. Eating is incremental and in short spurts.When not bustling and going half mad with anxiety, you’re resting in a nearby chair gathering your faculties and shaking off the exhaustion. Trying desperately not to get too comfortable.
As a parent, I’m accustomed to the emergency room and the hospital environment. I’ve been present at my second daughters birth and I’ve watched people pass on. I’ve spent time with my eldest daughter while she was struggling in an incubator. I’ve endured the cancer center, rushed a handful of humans to emergency help, and have seen things I wish I could erase from the archives of my memory. I’ve walked the long halls and had lengthy conversations with patients. I’ve heard stories, sat in the cafeteria with nurses and faculty and have shared experiences with total strangers. I’ve visited a few times for my own situations as well.
Sitting upright in my hospital bed, watching the nurse and doctor carve into my leg like a moist Thanksgiving day turkey, was the worst hospital experience of my life. And that includes the day my youngest was rushed in for emergency care.
I thought I was going to lose my leg.
All I could feel was cold.
No pain from the knee down, only icy cold as the fluid poured down either side of my exposed leg and absorbed into the blankets beneath me.
The pencil eraser sized cut had been opened to the gaping size of a fifty cent piece. The nurse held and squeezed the saline bag into the gash, the nozzle pushed deep under the skin, while the doctor had his headlamp on beaming light into the pried open hole in my leg. With one hand he moved the flesh around exposing the red tinted bone underneath, and with the other hand he scraped away red fragments from the meat with a scalpel. The nurse pushed the fluid inside and the doctor guided the debris out with the necessary tools. I watched the entire procedure.
Each time Carol crushed the saline bag, my leg grew in size. The cleaning liquid filled the open areas under the skin then drained out the hole. Sometimes red fluid would pour out and soak into the bed, and other times the saline drain was clear and tint free.
“The tricky part is distinguishing what’s blood and what’s broken down paint fragments. That’s why we use so much saline.”
Three bags later, I was stitched up and declared safe. No work restrictions and back to business as usual.
It was during the second bag, however, when my mind began to race.
So trivial, yet so lethal. Hey, if it’s in the bone somewhere, the leg is gone buddy-boy. Is this the right thing for you? Do you want to end up like some of your co-workers?
I thought on my peers and recalled each individual and what they’ve endured in the industry over time: A permanent limp. Missing fingers. Hearing problems. Sight issues. Back surgery. Standard complications that require daily medicine.
Maybe it’s time to have that conversation again. School might be the solution. Time to guide your own destiny. Now the ball can be in your court. Think it through. You don’t want that kind of life for the rest of it, do you?
Then I thought on Bill and the day he asked me the same question, “Do you want to stay working in steel? Is this something you see yourself doing in five years?”
“BizarroTech is always open, Jeremy. Give me a call when you’re ready.”
My windows of opportunity have been brief, random, and seemingly right on schedule. When I started my college experience, I was still employed at the mill. Not long into my first semester, a friend asked if I’d be interested in helping him at a recreational facility doing odd jobs and mechanical work.
“Why, yes I would. When do I start?”
After a two week notice, and a brief adjustment period, the mill was then history and a new chapter of life was instituted.
A chapter I don’t recall well. What I do remember is cloudy and sporadic. I lapsed into a proverbial coma and didn’t wake from it until 2011.
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