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.

My Grandpa was Full of Little Jokes | Memorial Day 2012

I wrote this back in 2008 after my grandpa died. He was a serviceman in the US Navy during WWII. In the spirit of Memorial Day, I wanted to share this and remember him and his service, both to our country and to his family.

God bless you Norman Mosey.

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My grandpa always used to read the obituary section. He said that if he didn’t see his name there, he knew that he wasn’t dead. It was one of his little jokes.

He was full of little jokes.

When I would ask for a half glass of orange juice, he would ask which half I wanted filled.
“The top half,” I would reply, at which time he would fill my glass full. I always complained that I only wanted a half glass. It took me about twenty years to figure out that in order to fill the top half, the bottom half had to be filled first.

It didn’t take much to amuse him.

I spent a week with my grandparents during one summer vacation when I was eleven or twelve. I discovered that they didn’t do much, or at least, they didn’t do much of what I thought was fun at the time. But the week was not without its entertainment.
Without speaking a word, my grandpa invented a little game while lounging in the sun in his armchair. Sun filtered in through the window and was reflected by his watch onto various surfaces in the living room. I soon noticed that the reflected light was deliberately moving from item to item. From where I sat, I too could reflect the sunlight, and so our nameless game was born. It was a simple game of chasing his reflection around the room. It was possibly the most fun I had that week.

I guess it doesn’t take much to amuse me either.

I heard the story once of how my grandparents met. My grandpa was in the Navy. My grandmother and her sister took part in a morale-boosting program that wrote letters to servicemen. It was my grandmother’s sister who wrote to grandfather. What they said to each other, I’ll never know, but when my grandpa expressed a desire to meet, my shy grandmother’s sister sent my grandma in her stead. And the rest was history.
They had five children; two boys and three girls.
I heard my grandma asked once why he never said “I love you.”
“I told you when we got married,” he replied. “I’ll let to know if anything changes.”

He wasn’t a man who said what he felt.

By the time I met him, my grandpa only had nine and one third fingers. For the longest time, I assumed that the missing two-thirds of his tenth digit were victims of the Second World War. I asked him once if this was the case and he confirmed it.
A few years back, I found out the truth. He had accidentally pinched his finger in the door of a car and it was safer to amputate than deal with infection.

My grandpa wasn’t always honest, but he was always good for a smile.

He died today as he was clearing the snow from his driveway atop his tractor, “Big Johnny.” The tractor was in the road when a car came around the corner and cut the tractor in two and my grandpa into more pieces. The other driver walked away.
My grandparents were two days away from their sixty-second anniversary. I guess my grandpa never changed his mind about loving my grandma.
We won’t be able to play simple games anymore, or lie to each other about the scars that we bear. And soon his obituary will be in the newspaper and he won’t be there to read it.

Maybe that means that he’s not really dead.