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Murph

The day we brought Grammar home from the hospital, Pat and Hoke surprised us with a visit. I guess we weren’t that surprised Pat was there—we’d already seen him twice at the hospital—but we had no clue you were in town, Hoke, so seeing you suddenly there on our doorstep—Grammar’s godmother in the flesh—was a real stunner.

We had a lovely evening: Conch defrosted some sauce, Grammar was sleepy and amenable, Kristen and I got to attempt the complete and harrowing tale of his arrival to eager ears. Everything, for a few hours, was new and hopeful and wondrous.

Indeed, I felt such an unbelievable swell of love and gratitude in the moments after that I penned you both the following text message:

<quote-01>It’s rare that something happens to you, and you’re like, “this is a great memory in my life.” Usually the feeling arises much later, that nostalgic warmth and fondness. I have it already for tonight. I love you guys both so so much. Thank you for being just wonderful friends<quote-01>.

I don’t even remember the Dodgers losing to the Diamondbacks that night (a quick search shows me now that that was the case). That’s how caught up in the sweetness of the evening I was. I mean, God, I remember that the <quote-02>Dodgers<quote-02> lost to the Mets the day of my wedding, but I can’t recall anything about the game that August night, and we must have <quote-03>watched the end together<quote-03>. There is no hint of any sourness—however minute—in that text, only evidence of a profound afterglow.

And yet, I cannot summon the warmth of that summer evening to my bosom. Instead it lives in my memory as the end of a wonderful era—an era of selfishness, of working late and sleeping in, of playing video games into the early morning light and spending entire Fridays binging Netflix series from my bed. It signals a new sleeplessness, a new stress, a new and traumatic and life-denying sense of duty. The warmth of hours earlier is just entirely erased. That is to say, I have vivid memories of the evening but no vivid emotional response to them. I, in stark contrast, remember nothing specific about the ensuing early morning, but I can summon verbatim the stomach-turning anxiety I felt throughout the incessant waking, senseless coddling, and manifold resentment.

So. You ask in a comment above, Wuck, if I’m more pissed that the 2017 Dodgers didn’t win the World Series or that I don’t have the memory of them winning. My guess is that “the memory of them winning” means to you the memory I would have had of being at the stadium celebrating with the 56,000 in attendance, including—as it did—Conch and Kristen and Dave and Tom and Ozzy. But suppose I blacked out during this hypothetical game’s seventh inning and never got to experience the moment of bliss, the streamers cascading through the night sky, the dogpile somewhere near the pitcher’s mound, the simply unimaginable walk back to the car through the Chavez Ravine parking lot. I still would wake to a world in which the Dodgers are champions, no? I’d still have videos to watch, merchandise to purchase, and bragging rights to invoke. I’d still get to watch them raise the banner the following Opening Day. In the end, I’d have plenty of happy “memories” of their World Series victory even if I didn’t have the “memory” of them actually winning it. So to answer your question, I’m more pissed they didn’t win.

Because what happened just days after their Game 7 defeat—my mother’s near fatal bout with a leaky heart valve and subsequent open-heart surgery—would undoubtedly have happened just days after their hypothetical Game 7 victory. The threat of an elaborate sadness, the simple fear, the anxiety and helplessness that defined those few torturous days, all of that would have momentarily rendered the Dodgers’ championship meaningless just as it did their stunning failure. But when the real danger passed, the sweetness of victory would have returned in some form—sweetness everlasting, I’d imagine—even if the traumatic events of early November marred the initial bliss, erasing it entirely—perhaps—as Grammar’s first horrible night did the surprise visit.

And so in answer to your second question—“are there moment[s] when as a father you say, wow [I] can’t wait to remember this, sooner than you do, wow this is great to experience?”—I’d say I no longer consciously think either. Clearly I did once think both, and—as the above quoted text message displays—simultaneously. But Grammar’s first night—what it did to the memory of what came just before—hit me hard, has stuck with me. More often these days, I think I just submit to, as you put it, the “inertia” of experience. Who knows what will stick with me and how? Probably most of what I will remember fondly about Grammar’s first years—the uniquely inflected “feelings”—are still developing.

Here’s one, for what it’s worth, that seemed insignificant at the time but has stuck with me. Conveniently—and to tie all of this up rather neatly—it involves the Dodgers, Grammar, and playing hooky. Basically the memory is this: I am walking around my neighborhood—down Second Avenue to Sierra Vista Park on Fifteenth, then west past Euclid and north on Laurel to Baseline, past where Tom lived, then a quick sprint across Baseline’s four lanes and through a gap in the hedges to Palm, then a left on Fremont, which loops clockwise to Redding, then north again to Seventeenth and westward past San Antonio to a right on Coolcrest, where Hoke grew up and Joey Airth hanged himself, then another right on Eighteenth and back across San Antonio to Vallejo, which becomes Buffington, which eventually bends toward Nineteenth, which leads once more past Euclid and towards a final right on First. <quote-04>Again, I am walking around my neighborhood, Grammar strapped to my chest, Ben on the leash, with Postgame Dodger Talk on the AM radio<quote-04>. It is so unseasonably warm that the little guy is in nothing but a light cotton onesie and socks. The Dodgers have just won the NLDS in three games, and because my new school is basically on fire—did I mention it’s unseasonably warm?—I do not have to teach the next morning at 8:00am. Grammar falls asleep almost immediately despite the blaring radio just inches from our faces, his rubbery legs dangling at my sides. He sighs every once in a while; they read to me like contentment. Every so often I’ll cup his little feet in my palms or give the top of his head a nuzzle. I realize I may not have work all week. The callers are all very optimistic about what the future holds.

Cautiously, so am I.

March 6th

<pull-quote>It’s rare that something happens to you, and you’re like, “this is a great memory in my life.” Usually the feeling arises much later, that nostalgic warmth and fondness. I have it already for tonight. I love you guys both so so much. Thank you for being just wonderful friends<pull-quote>
<avatar-hoke><avatar-hoke><author-name>Hoke<author-name>
<p-comment>I remember that text. You rarely talk that way. It caught me off guard in the sweetness of the day. But I guess I'd never seen you as a a father before, either.<p-comment>
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<pull-quote>Dodgers<pull-quote>
<avatar-wuck><avatar-wuck><author-name>Wuck<author-name>
<p-comment>i can see my wife rolling her eyes.<p-comment>
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<avatar-murph><avatar-murph><author-name>Murph<author-name>
<p-comment>This comment: 0.5 stars out of 5<p-comment>
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<pull-quote>watched the end together<pull-quote>
<avatar-hoke><avatar-hoke><author-name>Hoke<author-name>
<p-comment>Yes, the game was on the screen with no volume as you and KG told the hospital horror story from your bed. I was surprised that you even had the game on. Kristen was in the middle of telling the whole birth story, I was riveted, you stared over my shoulder at the game, lifted the remote to turn off the TV, dropped it, and stretched back out on the bed as Conch rocked the infant and giggled and KG swore.<p-comment>
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<avatar-murph><avatar-murph><author-name>Murph<author-name>
<p-comment>Why surprised? Obla di obla da, no?<p-comment>
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<pull-quote>Again, I am walking around my neighborhood, Grammar strapped to my chest, Ben on the leash, with Postgame Dodger Talk on the AM radio<pull-quote>
<avatar-hoke><avatar-hoke><author-name>Hoke<author-name>
<p-comment>Man you got me with all this. That you walk us through those streets we know, and forgot, till now. And the Ergo, dog on leash, to the easy soundtrack of Dodgers radio--you know how to live, man.<p-comment>
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