Thursday, March 10, 2011

Gothcha Day

Eleven years ago on this very day, Teh 'Bride and I traveled to Newark Airport to pick up an Important Package — that package being our newly-adopted son, Ian. He was three-and-a-half months old at the time. He was flying in from Korea, escorted by a young Korean woman, many of whom, our adoption agency case worker had told us, were typically paid for their services with that very same free transportation to the US. The young woman barely spoke any English, but she was all smiles when she told us: "He poop three time!" (Whew! we thought. At least that part of him works1!)

I'd like to say that this represented the end of what was, at the time, a more-than-one-year-long process, but of course it didn't. There was still a lot of paperwork to do, finalizing the adoption, getting Ian full citizenship, etc. To expect it to be over after Ian's safe arrival would be the equivalent of a biological parent thinking Whew! Glad that's over! after she gave birth. It — no matter how you define the "it" of parenting — never ends. The adoption process just naturally segued into the parenting process, which latter goes on to this day; and for me will, God willing, continue until they carry my lifeless carcass out of this house in a plain pine box — something I hope will not happen for a long, long time.

 Incredibly crappy picture priceless picture of us with the judge who made Ian a naturalized citizen. [Caption amended per trailturtle.]

Ian's eleven years old now, which never fails to blow my mind when I stop to think about it, which I often do. He actually still likes it when we tell him about the funny little things he used to do as a baby, a toddler, a kid ... because he's accepted the fact that he is no longer a baby, a toddler, a kid — which is far more than I've allowed myself to do — and so those stories, for him, might just as well be about some other kid, not him; I, of course, will always see him as that baby, that toddler, that kid. While not losing sight of that former-Ian, I trust I am also accepting him as he is now, dealing with him on terms that are appropriate for an eleven-year-old boy. It's funny to remind him that he didn't learn the first-person singular personal pronoun until looong after he learned to speak and, hence, for the longest time would refer to himself as "Ian": "Ian hungry, Daddy"; or (my personal favorite, which I constantly tell him about) that time I didn't put enough chocolate syrup in his sippy cup of milk and he, after taking a sip, held it back up to me and said: "Ian no feel no choklit." I totally lost it laughing and squeezed about half a bottle more syrup into his cup as a reward for his being so unintentionally funny.

So I don't (can't) lose sight of those things, but I try to enjoy who he is now, too — which is easy enough to do. He's a great kid. At this moment, his room is being painted by our handyman guy — Teh Fantastic Mr. Fox — and Ian opted for a darkish blue color. That part is already done, but that doesn't matter: What matters is he got Mr. Fox to agree to try to paint a giant Phillies "P" on his wall. That still hasn't happened but, believe me, it will ... or heads will roll.

Ian got a little bit interested in the Phillies a couple of years ago; I myself, at the time, hadn't followed them in what must have been decades. I had other, more important things to do. Now, thanks to Ian, little else is as important as the Phillies! Because his interest in baseball has grown exponentially over the past two years. We've already got our tickets for three different games in this upcoming season, and in all likelihood we'll go to a few more. (We went to one game last year; I hadn't been to a game in I don't know how long. Possibly not since the late 1970s.) The Phillies got knocked out of the running in the National League Championship series last year, but, despite that, gave us an exciting season. Yes, I now care enough to want the Phillies to do well, which is a gift my son gave back to me — continues to give back to me.

It is an egregious and unforgivable cliché to claim baseball (or any sport) is a metaphor for something else; let that first half of this sentence serve as fair warning that Here Comes a Cliché2:

Back in August of 2010, Ian and I were watching the Phils play a game against the Dodgers on TV, a rare treat for us because we get NY stations where we live and thus never get to see the Phils unless they play the Yankees or the Mets or are on national TV. (We ordered the MLB package on DirecTV for this season.) Anyroad, it was a night game and it was getting late and since the Phillies were going to lose anyway — they were down by seven runs in the eighth — I sent Ian to bed, probably around 10:00 p.m., because I'm the Dad, the authority, and I can do that. "They lost," I said: "Bedtime."

Ian of course didn't want to go, and I could hear him there upstairs NOT going to bed; just rattling around. "What are you doing!" I demanded. "I hafta pee!" "AGAIN?!!?" "I HAFTA PEE!!!"

He was pulling out all the stops, but I'm the Dad — his superior, the voice of authority. "Get to BED!!!"

Then a funny thing happened. The Phils scored a few runs in the 8th, and Ian was still upstairs "peeing" or something  unrelated to going to sleep, so I, still not believing this was the beginning of a comeback, relented and said, "Okay, Ian, the Phils are at least making a game of it. Come on back down."

He was already at the top of the stairs, so he was down in a second.

"They're gonna lose, but they're making it interesting."

"They could come back," Ian said.

"Never happen. They're still down by three runs and it's the 9th. Never happen."

But it did. They won that game 10-9. (They did things like that a lot last year.)

And I realized the only reason it mean so much to me was that I was sharing that experience with my son — not as his superior, as his better, as his Dad, as The Authoritythat was the guy who'd sent him to bed — but rather as his peer, as just another guy who loved his home team. We were equals in this experience and I hoped in my heart of hearts that the comeback I didn't believe would happen would happen, but it would mean so much less to me if I didn't experience the win with the one person in the world I most wanted to share it with:

My son. My friend.

I guess it was then that I first consciously realized that our relationship had changed. I was still his Dad, but I was also his peer, because I had decided that we were also friends ... that I wanted to be his friend. And he was aching to be mine.

"See? SEE!?!" Ian excitedly screamed as the rest of the Phils mobbed Chooch after he got the game-winning hit: "You always say they can't come back! Then they do! I told you! I TOLD YOU!"

"You were right! When will I ever learn, Ian?"

I am lucky to have him to teach me.

1 Update: Still does.

2 Specifically: Baseball as metaphor for Male Bonding Experience.


  1. Awwwww, that's so cute!! You and Teh Bride are so fortunate to have him. Great story :)

  2. Happy Gotcha Day Iain! (Let's Go Mets!)

  3. What a fun story! They grow so fast and to be in the "parent" role now, it's definitely the hardest job out there-but the most rewarding!
    Congrats on your anniversary of the day that changed your life forever!
    Love the pic!

  4. This is a real gem. Print it up (and all the other stories you've written about him) and put them into an "Ian Memories/Archives" box/binder for him to read and keep forever.

    I absolutely LUV that picture. At least you have one of the moment--an what a moment it was!

    I believe that the "fuzziness" actually gives you the instant impression that it is "historical" and allows the FEELING of the moment come through. A high resolution picture would draw most people's attention to all of the details, overwhelming all the other "senses."

    So....I am going to stick my neck out and propose that you change the caption from "Incredibly crappy picture of us..." to "Priceless picture of us..." (or at least a POSITIVE adjective of your choice). If I were Ian, reading this story, THAT ("Priceless") is what I would want to see below that picture-- kinda like the difference in outlook between "They're gonna lose" vs "They COULD come back." I hope that Ian can somehow maintain that youthful, positive, always hopeful spirit that so many of us lose over time. BTW, he seems to already be outlasting many of the youth I see today in that respect. I see so many who have become negative and cynical and even hopeless by his age. I love that he smiles so much in the pics and videos.

    Well, now I've somehow written a short story here.....maybe you'll make a writer out of me yet! Off to work now...back to the other post later.

    THANK YOU for sharing this is precious and priceless! :) Ann

  5. Thanks for teh note on the link...all fixed.

    Check out the previous post to the GRR post, it is my half mary RR (wherein I beat Carolina Cletus' half mary PR)

  6. Happy Gotcha Day to the entire Heisneberg clan!! And what a GREAT picture!

  7. The Mets wouldn't have come back. They would have been come backed upon.

    good story.

  8. Wait a minute.

    Now just waaaaaaait a minute here.

    I'm still reeling from the confession that "Teh Bride" isn't the real name of Teh Bride, and now there's a pic of you that while not unhandsome bears no resemblance to the striking hunk in your About profile. (Your About face?)

    Next thing I know, you'll be telling people that your real name is not Glaven. Where will it all end?

    Revelations of your duplicity aside, I'm sure Ian knows how greatly he is loved and valued. Which every kid should know.

  9. Turbo turned 13 last month. I'm still not quite over it yet because whenever I look at him, I still (in my heart) see this little boy with his hands raised saying "uppy mama' because he was just the laziest (or smartest) little thing and just wanted a free ride...I miss that little kid, BUT when I talk to him now, and he starts explaining to me something he saw in his class on CNN news (that he actually hung onto) or he explains how the world works, or he gets angry at politicians who say negative things about teachers, I realize that I've got a little man on my hands now, and that is something that I just find unbelievably joyful...

    So I know that your post was about Ian and you being buddies and that is so awesomely cool (there...have I added enough superlatives now?), but your post also made me think of the joys in my life where my kids are concerned, which makes it a very fine post, and one for which I really do thank you.

    I'll go back to being my snarky self soon though...

  10. Sniffle...

    Your posts about Ian are so very touching, just because those posts ooze the love you have for him.

    Ooze in a good way, of course, not like when pus oozes out of a popped pimple.