November 2nd, 2018

The last sentence was going to be the first I wrote in Chicago.

I’ve known this for years, and now I’m not going to do it.

It came to me 15 years ago when I was riding the Blue Line home from a 4:30 to midnight shift hauling kegs and swabbing decks on a tour boat. I looked around at the motley nighttimers on the train and thought “Alone together, tunneling through the dark.”

That was going to be how I ended these 1,001 stories I’ve told, but now I can’t.

I’ve known for months how I was going to end this, but now I’m not going to do that either. I brought a little red notepad to the hospital, excused its presence by filling it with to-do lists about diapers and Vaseline, but really it was to write this last post the first night you were in the world, my little boy.

But I can’t do that either. The thoughts of a man sitting alone in a neonatal intensive care unit along the banks of Lake Michigan, listening to machines connected to suffering babies ping and beep, praying to a god he doesn’t believe in that the docs were doing right by his wife a floor above — those thoughts should not be preserved.

Alone together, huh Sam? You and me in that darkness, hoping the little ones around us all make it.

You’ve been home two days now, little boy. It’s August. Some people I know and some people I don’t will read this in November.

But for the three of us, it’s forever August. It’s a sunny summer Sunday morning. You’re sleeping in your mother’s lap and we’re watching a documentary. Cicadas sing for us through open windows.

The worst thing parenthood does is make you think you’re profound. It tricks us. Just because what I feel now is laden with a heft I didn’t feel a few days ago doesn’t mean I have anything to say.

I have a good baby I think is great because it’s mine. My love’s not deeper than any stranger’s for his or her own offspring. Those new-parent tales of diaper mishaps and weird faces the kid makes are still insufferable, even if I’m the one telling them.

And I’m telling them.

I tell stories. That’s what I do, kiddo. I just got done with 1,001 of them. They were for you. They were always for you, I just didn’t know it.

The good stories, the bad stories, the funny ones, the raunchy ones and the ones that make me cringe to read now — all yours. They treated me well, but I’ve gotten what I can get from them.

“Yet here, poor fool! with all my lore. I stand, no wiser than before,” Goethe’s Faust wailed at the end of his own studies.

I never read “Faust” — I saw that quote in a comic strip. Your dad’s a bit of a fraud there, kid.

Alone together.

So are we alone in this city, tunneling through the darkness with just enough proximity to keep us from feeling lonely? Or do you, your mom and IĀ form something that means we’re never alone?

I don’t know, Sam, and it’s too bright a Sunday morning to waste time wondering. I’m going to close this laptop now. I have better things to do.

There’s so much I want to teach you. There’s so much I want to share with you. And it all starts here in this city by a lake.

Thank you, Chicago. Thank you for all this.


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