November 7, 2004
There were children everywhere today. At a breakfast meeting, they were crawling across the floor, hiding behind the couch cushions, and spilling every conceivable liquid on every conceivable surface. Later in the day at a friend's house, they were watching TV and begging for just one more piece of candy from their halloween loot. Tonight they were at the grocery store, all afros and bows, wheeling down the aisle, calling after cereal boxes just out of reach. And today was the day that Janice and I told our friends that we were having one too.
Now, eight hours after that announcement, we have a car full of second-hand baby stuff eagerly handed down from a friend with children just a few years older, and it suddenly feels so much more real. It's one thing to know that there's a life growing inside the woman you love, a life that you'll love and help to raise for the rest of your time here, and quite another to have a trunk filled with vibrating chairs, portable play pens, and breast pumps. It makes you realize that the space you've cleared out in your heart for the kid to move in to isn't quite enough--you'll have to make space in your home and your life as well.
You were still drinking when Laura told you the news of your own children's existence. When you found out, did you pause for a moment, bottle in hand, and consider not taking another sip? Or did you pour a glass in celebration and not look back for five more years? Do you regret that now, not cleaning up when the girls were born, all pink and tiny and fragile, wanting a father to reach out and hold them, protect them from the world that was too new, too bright, and too loud? Or is it another one of those moments--can you even count them all anymore--where you made a mistake that can't ever be unmade?
I can't answer the questions of your past any easier than you can answer the unknowns of my family's present, Mr. Bush, and as a result this letter is a bit of an unfinished thought. But, in a way, I suppose not having a clean answer is appropriate. Answers are easy, and in their absence we both have to live with the decisions we make, the lives we help construct for those we love, and the choices that lead us, and them, into a future that is unknowable.