I am a father.

Josh, DeAnne w/ Internal Baby, and AdieThere is a question that I get asked from time to time, mostly from strangers or acquaintances with whom I have not spoken in a while. It is an innocent enough question, but it throws me for a loop every time it is asked. I have no idea how to answer it.

The question is this: “How many kids to you have?”

The answer is three. Or one. Or possibly two. It depends on how close we are, or how unprepared I am for the question, or how you view the moment when a life comes into being.

Here’s the thing. My wife and I lost our first daughter, Addison Paige, when my wife was 7 months pregnant with her. Doctors ran tests and couldn’t find any obvious reasons why she died. One day, my wife was feeling lots of movement, I was reading The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh to her tummy, and we were searching for the right crib and bedding set. The next day, she was gone.

It was a tough time. My work gave me the week off to take care of my family. But rather than giving her the six weeks time off to which she was entitled, my wife’s boss asked if she was going to come in two days later and whether she could pick up a shift a few days after that (she said no). My wife was also in college and this happened right at exam time.

Friends and family rallied around us. Money that was going to go for a crib went toward a headstone. Our pastor got to perform his first funeral (he’s a young guy). We grieved. We were cared for.

After some time had passed, we tried again. On October 1st, 2010, our second daughter, Adelaide November, was born, healthy and large as life itself.

The whole pregnancy, up to the moment when we heard her first cry in the delivery room, my wife and I now felt mixed emotions on being pregnant. It was an exciting deal, but there was no assurance that we would get to keep this baby. I guess that’s just something you deal with as a parent of a child who died.

Around the time Adie turned one, we were ready to try for another child. Honestly, I was ready before my wife was, but we both got there in the end. As of this post, my wife is very ready to have our third daughter, [NAME REDACTED], in July. We have her room all ready. Adie has no idea what is going on, but at least she won’t remember a time when she was the only child. We’re looking forward to bringing another little girl home.

So, the question. How many kids do you have?

I have three. But the answer isn’t as simple as that. People who see my family all together can count. They see one child running around. If they are smart, they see my pregnant wife and figure out that I am counting our baby-to-be-born. But the third, that requires a story. It is a personal story that makes people say things like “I’m sorry,” and “I didn’t know.”

It would be easier to say that we have one right now and one on the way. At least then the visible numbers would add up. But is it right?

I don’t know. That’s why the question is hard. It forces me to decide whether or not to share a personal story that may or may not make the asker feel uncomfortable.

Today is Father’s Day, a festive day necktie-giving and breakfast in bed, but I can’t help but wonder how many fathers are in the same boat as me, unsure of how to celebrate being a father when one of your children is gone. Time may cover the wound, but it never fully heals. You never stop thinking about what could have been, and how old she would be now.

So to those fathers, Happy Father’s Day. Someday you’ll see your kids again.

I am a husband. Part II

A while back, I was inspired by a series of posts that Jessie Clemence had done on her blog and I interviewed my wife. That interview has proven to be one of my most popular posts over time, which makes sense, because my wife makes everything better.

Well, anyway, she and I were chatting about ideas for blog posts and she asked if I would consent to her interviewing me. I did. Here are her questions and my answers.

What are you looking forward to most about being a father of two?

I love being a parent and seeing you (my wife) as a parent. Our daughter is simply adorable and I can’t wait to see another little girl who is half me and half you (my wife again). Also, I’m looking forward to seeing how Adie is with her sister.

What other hobbies do you have besides writing?

I collect Lego sets, specifically the viking, adventure, and castle sets. Though I just saw some Lord of the Rings themed sets that make me want to eat my words about how I hate that Lego is going after franchises. I also collect Dr Pepper knock-offs (the regional drinks that try their best to be Dr Pepper without coming anywhere close). My favorite is probably Doctor by the Our Family brand, because it didn’t even bother to come up with a replacement for Pepper like Dr. Thunder, Dr. Nehi, and Dr. M did. Plus, I am a fan of the show Doctor Who, who also goes by simply, the Doctor.

What is something that you do that gives you personal satisfaction or makes you proud?

I am a sucker for praise, especially of any of my creative endeavors. I know that I should care less or not at all what other people think about stuff, but I also know that I’m a born people-pleaser, and it makes me happy to make other people happy. If I can create a thing that gives joy, it will give me joy. It is probably strange then that one of my novels is dystopian and doesn’t end happily. I guess I’m complicated.

If you could be any character from your novels or short stories, which would you be? Why?

I would love to be Tom, the invisible roommate of my Thom & Tom series. He’s such a goofball and doesn’t care what people think about him. He lives by his own rules and whether he intends to or not, brings a bit of joy to his roommate, Thom. Also, he’s invisible, so that’s pretty cool.

If you could make any book you’ve read reality, what would you choose?

I love the idea that M. I. McAllister’s Mistmantle series could be happening for real somewhere, that there could really be an island of chivalrous squirrels, playful otter, bustling hedgehogs, and hardworking moles living in harmony. Plus, many of my other favorite books have some pretty scary bits that I would hate to see in reality.

What is it that, in your opinion, makes you so incredibly awesome?

My wife. She’s the awesome one. You were probably just thinking of her. I don’t blame you. I like to think of her too.

If you could have a super power, which would you choose? Would you let people know about your power or use a secret identity?

I would like the ability to transform one kind of substance into another kind of substance, like iron into gold, or dirt into gasoline. I would be called “The Alchemist”. Unless I had some kind of invincibility that went along with my other powers, I would keep my identity secret. I have a feeling that I wouldn’t be safe otherwise. Plus, my family would always be in danger of being kidnapped for ransom and such. So yeah, a secret identity would be good. I’m not sure how I’d fight crime, but I bet I could give more to charity, and that’s like the same thing.

Do you have a guilty pleasure? What is it?

I very much enjoy the game Diablo II. I know that Diablo III just came out, and someday I’m sure we’ll get it, but at the moment, I don’t know when we’d play.

Do you think watching TV can help or hurt your writing and level of creativity?

I’m a bit torn on this question. I was a the quintessential couch potato growing up, and I consumed a lot of television. As a result, I learned a lot about how stories are put together and about characters that I enjoyed. I would come up with stories and drawings based on what I had seen on television. Today, I watch a couple of shows every few weeks, but I don’t have time for much more. If I were as addicted to television now as I was when I was growing up, I know that my writing would suffer, but more due to the time constraints than to being dumbed down by TV.

What is one things that never fails to make you laugh?

Juvenile bodily functions. Every time.

What is your favorite book of all time?

I have to pick just one? Probably The Hobbit, because of its unique point of view. Not many books can pull off a third person story told by a first person narrator with second person asides.

If you could only use 4 words to describe yourself, what would they be?

Married, Genial, Creative, Inquisitive

What is the best part of being my husband?

The best part is the fact that I don’t have to leave you at the end of the date anymore. When we were dating, I hated going home. Now your home is my home. As far as specifically be married to you though, I love that you are good at things like math and budgets, and that I know I can trust you will all areas of life.

Didn’t my wife ask a bunch of well-thought-out, wonderful questions? I’m starting to think that she should be the one with the blog.