Friday, May 28, 2010

What Now

Cyrus weighed in at five pounds. In 5 more weeks he will be born. Which means, he could be set free. He could come home and live with us, his parents, in a house. We wouldn't have to drive to the hospital several times a day. We wouldn't have to ask permission to hold him, kiss him, touch him. He might start to recognize our voices, instead of his nurses'. He might have that chance at being "normal" that we all did when we were born.

It's been three months since this whole thing started. Mindy and I have watched a fetus grow inside a plastic container. We've watched as the nurses change their hair styles, their cologne. We've seen the wrinkles grow deeper around our eyes. At times we've cried, or pretended this wasn't happening. We've caught a glimpse of pictures of Lady and Snot and broken down. Absolutely. They are now symbols of something so much bigger and deeper than themselves.

We've kissed each other goodnight and wondered, what now.

* * *

Mindy is amazing. She lay completely still for two and a half weeks, willing our son to stay inside, thinking tight thoughts so her cervix would close. All the while, the nurses praised her for being so great at bed rest. She couldn't understand how it would be so hard for someone, if she knew her child was at risk. Would someone really get up and walk around? But then, we heard a story of a 14 year old who was having her second baby. She took her i.v. pole and carried it down 3 flights of steps to sell her food stamps to get cash to get high. We've learned that this is what those nurses normally deal with. I don't even want to get into it. So, my wife never once complained. She was determined to keep Cyrus where he belonged. She was relaxed, too, for his sake.

During the c-section, as 3/4 of her body was tugged and wiggled behind the blue sheet, she was able to smile at my stupid stories and jokes.

But now, for 9 weeks, she has pumped her boobs every 2 hours during the day, and twice at night because we know the benefits of breast milk. I can count only 3 nights where she slept 8 hours. Even when it looked like she wouldn't produce milk, she kept going when most women would stop.

Four weeks after her surgery, after Cyrus was born, she went back to work. Most people take 6 weeks. And most people spend those 6 weeks learning to love and care for their child. Of course, Mindy didn't have that opportunity since her baby was living in a hospital and she on the couch at home.

When Cyrus comes home, she'll have only 1 week of paid vacation built up. She'll have only one week to spend with him at home until she has to go back to work to support the three of us for the summer. She has to go back to work where I think her skills and intelligence are overlooked. Where no one has experienced what she has.

* * *

I've been letting myself imagine the day we bring home our baby. He'll be under 6 pounds, I think. Small for a "newborn." We'll put him in a car seat, awkwardly since we've never used one. We'll load up the toys he's had by his bassinet. We'll probably hug some nurses and try not to cry. And just when we feel like driving off into the sunset, we'll have to exit the highway, because it's only 10 minutes away. We'll pull into the driveway, smiling or stunned. We'll carry him through the door and set his seat down in the middle of the living room floor and stare. The cats will sniff him. We'll keep staring. We'll cry. We'll bawl. We'll laugh. I'll drink. Then we'll look at each other, kiss, and say now what?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Gird Up My Loins

My first semester of college I took a course called "The Human Situation." Basically, it was a world literature/philosophy course, or something like that. We read Nietzsche, Primo Levi, other stuff I didn't care about at the time, and the book of Job from the Bible. When I saw it on the syllabus, at first I was offended. I'd never seen the Bible as literature. I mean, I had just come out, but I still hadn't realized I wasn't Christian. I thought I was supposed to be upset that we were reading it as a story and not the word of God.

If you haven't read Job, or you don't know the story, it's pretty simple. Satan and God have a bet: Satan says if God fucks with someone enough, he'll turn on God. God picks Job, saying that he's, like, the best follower of all time ever. Satan kills his kids, burns his sheep, blows his house apart and does something to his oxen and camel and she-asses. Through it all, even his friends telling him that he must've done something wrong to piss off God, Job is faithful. In the end, God gives Job a lot more kids, sheep, oxen, all that.

* * *

Tonight Mindy put our cat, Sinatra "Snot" to sleep. I didn't watch like I did with Lady. We'd already had that discussion. You see, Lady and Snot were the same age, around 17, and they'd been together their whole lives. I had to put Lady to sleep just days after Mindy went into the hospital; it was less than 2 months ago. Like Lady, Snot just started walking funny and sitting very still. She declined in a few days. Mindy brought home an i.v. pump from work and she was getting fluids for three days. She didn't get better.

So, Mindy brought home the juice. I cried over Snot and left the room. I sat on the porch, the breeze blowing my tears and I read, for the first time since I was 18, the Bible.

* * *

I've mentioned many times that I'm not Christian. That is, I don't believe in God and I don't believe Jesus was the son of God. I don't believe that Mary was a virgin. However, I do believe Jesus was a guy, probably a super cool BLACK man.

People have said to me, since March 4, that you know, "God tests our faith sometimes." I try not to be sarcastic when I respond, but I can't help it. I don't believe that someone or thing is in charge, up there pulling my strings. If there was, he'd be a real dick.

You might wonder what I do believe in. I believe in love and kindness or at least, leaving people the hell alone to do what they want. I believe faith is not worth warring over. No one is right.

So, once again, we have offered up a life for a life. So far, the universe has required two beloved pets in exchange for our son. Our family has been destroyed, but it will be rebuilt. For those of you who kept saying that having a baby would change our lives forever, boy, do you feel silly.

* * *

I told Mindy tonight, while we inhaled our margaritas over dinner, that I suddenly felt old today. She said I was probably old when I was eight. It's true. It's like there's this feeling in my body. Did you ever stand in the doorways, pressing your hands to the frame, then step forward? It's like, all that pressure, and then suddenly, your arms are weightless and floating. Towards the heavens.

* * *

When I did believe in God, I couldn't imagine him being mean. I still can't wrap my mind around why people would believe he'd actually make this wager with Satan, to see if the most righteous servant could handle the boils and terrors. I get it, though. The writers of the Bible were fond of hyperbole. Job was probably a real guy. He probably had some bad shit happen. His friends probably told him that he must've deserved it (why else would horrible things happen to good people?). In the end, he was probably, like, "Can you fuckin believe it?"

* * *

I'm tired. I'm exhausted. I've lost weight and then gained more back. I've slept in and not slept. I've drunk too much and sometimes nothing. I have cried and I've stared into nothingness. Sometimes I just smile and laugh.

* * *

I believe that old people die when their loved ones have already passed. I've heard those stories, after a month or two, the other person goes. Dies of loneliness, they say. Snot and Lady were born a week apart and they died less than two months apart. Tomorrow I will drive to Portland, the first time I will have been home in months, since before the trials, and I will dig a hole beside Lady. I will put Snot in that hole. Ashes to Ashes and all that. Then Mom and I will walk to the bar, across the road, and eat greasy cheeseburgers. I will drink a PBR.

I will start walking to the river and it'll turn into a sprint. Right up to the the goddamn banks. And I'll stop. I will want to scream, but I'll just stare into the currents.

"Oh that my grief were thoroughly weighed, and my calamity laid in the balances together! For now it would be heavier than the sand of the sea: therefore my words are swallowed up."
Job 6:2-3

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Last week my grandma got to meet Cy, if only for a few minutes. It was not her first great-grandchild, but her smile was goofy enough, her eyes bright enough, he could've been.

My dad has nearly cried over our little man and called him "precious" and "perfect" on several different occasions.

I have never once worried that I wouldn't feel attached to him because I didn't carry him, or because he wasn't a part of me.

You see, when Grandma left his side that day she kept repeating how he was a Holzhauser. In fact, the first male Holzhauser since her own sons were born. I mean, she has grandsons, but none has the name. The name.

I guess I was surprised at Grandma's awesome response. Cyrus is, technically, not at all related to Grandma. I am adopted, married to a woman, and that woman had a baby with some random guy's sperm. That's how not related we all are. But she was overwhelmed with happiness and awe. I could tell.

I can only attribute all of these great responses to my own adoption. Mom and Dad have had 30 years to learn what it means to love a child that didn't have their DNA. Actually, my whole extended family is awesome that way. No one ever treated me differently because I was adopted (they did treat me differently when I started dying my hair green and dating girls...). In fact, there's a family secret I can't reveal, but let's say, the Holzhausers have had their share of calling someone else's kid their own.

* * *

This is all feeling overwhelming because of my recent subscription to This spring there have been two genealogy shows on tv: Faces of America on PBS and Who Do You Think You Are? on NBC. I was addicted to both. It's because of my adoption that I want to know where I came from, why ancestry is so cool, why it was important that I find my biological parents. Spike Lee found out that his Great x3 grandfather might have been his greatx3 grandmother's owner. Master and Slave. It's hard to know.

If I'm researching correctly, I've traced several of my own lineages back to England in the 1500s and Ireland in the 1600s. No, I'm not kidding. Of course, when we trace our lines, we're assuming that both partners in every marriage were faithful, that what is written is absolutely true. C'mon, ancestors, I know there were adoptions and illegitimate children all over the place. Babies left at churches, babies sent to other families and assimilated. So, why do we even bother to learn our family's past?

Are we searching for a social history or biological one? I have always worn my name proudly, but now I'm finding that biologically, it seems I'm barely German. I'm 6th, 7th, and 8th generation American. I'm American as Jazz, as Rap, as saggy pants, as fanny packs. And maybe it's strictly an American thing to trace ourselves back, to naively believe that those names and dates tell a full history of a person.

* * *

My son will grow up with a piece of himself missing, like I felt. His half adoption could turn into teenage angst and curiosity. He could not care at all.

I've struggled in the past years to really understand what it means to be a Holzhauser. My Grandma was teary-eyed saying the name over and over. Obviously, that's her married name. Does she consider herself a Holzhauser, too?

I've only known the family I've grown up in, and I'm still trying to figure it all out, trying to see us/them from the outside. We are a loud, stubborn, obnoxious, competitive, talkative, resilient bunch.

So far, Cyrus, you act just like a Holzhauser.