Feb. 7, 2014 (2:14 a.m.): Yesterday, my kids, for some reason, wanted a glass of cranberry juice. I’m not sure they’ve ever had cranberry juice before, but they saw their mother drinking it and I guess they wanted to give it a shot. It’s not great cranberry juice. At least not the kind a kid would like. It’s low calorie and low sugar, and every time I fill a small juice glass thinking that I’d enjoy its tanginess, I’m reminded that I don’t care for this particular brand.
Today, school is out. Not because there are eight inches of snow and because black ice dastardly disguises itself against the asphalt, waiting for the next set of rubber tires to appear. No, it’s just cold in Austin with maybe a few slick roads here and there. But the kids should be in school and I should be hacking away at my long list of chores. But they’re not, so I’m not. It’s a day to curl up on the couch and not worry so much about the outside world.
Later today, the Sochi Olympics opening Cceremony will be shown via tape delay on NBC. Proud flag-bearers will lead proud contingents of athletes from countries around the globe. Some believe Sochi will be a disastrous Olympic games, with fears of security, black widows, bathrooms that don’t work, and showers that don’t contain the water that might be too dangerous to use on your face anyway. Others believe the Olympic spirit will triumph, the same as it always does.
Four years ago, my wife poured herself a glass of cranberry juice and walked her 27-week pregnant belly over to the couch. It was cold outside; we were snowed inside our Cincinnati townhouse. We had nothing to do but to turn on the TV, fire up the DVR, curl up together on the couch. And watch the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver Olympic games.
Soon after we settled in, she went into labor. The comfort of the house would soon be replaced by freezing temperatures and a cold hospital. The images of those smiling, happy athletes would disappear from my screen, never to be played again on that TV. The cranberry juice would sit by itself on a coaster in the living room for the next 24 hours.
I was on my way to bed late last night when those three points of the triangle presented themselves to me — the cranberry juice, the icy roads and the Winter Olympics.
Life doesn’t get much more helpless than that moment four years ago. When labor begins and you have to slalom yourself on icy roads, praying to god that nobody is on the blind side of that intersection because red light or nto, you’re speeding through it like a bobsledding gold medal depends on it.
The babies came 2 1/2 months early that week, and life forever changed.
There must have been some point four years ago when, as a father, flushed with worry about the health and well-being of my premature twins, I allowed myself to drift into the future. “I wonder where we’ll be the next time the Winter Olympics begin,” I vaguely remember asking myself. “Will we be safe and happy? Will the scary moments of February 2010 be a distant dream that somehow ceases to seem real? What will life be like?”
Maybe one day I’ll talk to my children about my emotions. Or maybe they’ll just read the writings I’ve produced for them every so often in the past 48 months that described my fears and hopes for them and the dreams and anxieties I felt for myself.
Like my wife so many moments ago, my daughter didn’t finish her cranberry juice last night either. She spilled most of it on the floor, and like parents do, we muttered to ourselves and procured a paper towel to clean it up before the stain could set. My son asked for more, and I poured him another round.
Eventually, the preschool announced that classes had been canceled and I grumbled to myself because I, originally, had set aside today as time for running errands and paying taxes and filing papers and changing light bulbs.
But I know how very lucky we are, and I know that the past four years, we’ve built memories I couldn’t have dreamed about before I knew what it was to be a father.
My son didn’t finish his second serving of cranberry juice either. As my wife got the children ready for bed last night, I finished cleaning the kitchen from dinner. I put all the plates in the dishwasher, wiped off the counters, vacuumed up all the crumbs. Before I went upstairs, though, I spied his unfinished cranberry juice.
I doubled back to collect the plastic cup, and without thinking about it, I took the juice and poured it down the drain.