April 29th, 2018

Hans called us a little over a week ago. He called to let Karin and myself know that he and his fiancee, Gabby, were expecting a baby. I think that both Karin and I were expecting that they would at some point be expecting, so this announcement wasn’t entirely a surprise.

Hans told us in usual monotone that Gabby’s test was positive. Then he said,

“This wasn’t planned.”

My immediate response was, “You weren’t either.”  The answer was a verbal shrug.

Hans was born thirty-one years ago. He came into the world in March of 1987, at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. Hans decided to show up four weeks early. He was a breach baby, and he had a cesarean birth. I was in the operating room with Karin. There was a screen across her midsection, so that she couldn’t watch the surgery being performed. I watched, and that made me kind of woozy. I wasn’t very good at comforting Karin. I remember them playing Madonna’s “Material Girl” in the room. Karin’s doctor was named Bruce Lee (seriously).

Hans spent several days in an incubator, until his liver was functioning adequately. Karin cried when she found out that she couldn’t take him home to nurse him. I cringed every time the nurse to a few drops of blood from the heel of his tiny to a test sample.

I had no health insurance when Hans was born. I had started a new job and it would have been another month before I had coverage. Somehow Karin and I paid for Hans’ medical bills. The fees cleaned out our savings.

Hans was weak for quite a while. Hans had two inguinal hernias, that needed to be repaired when he was older and stronger. They were in fact repaired, but that happened maybe a year later in Germany when one of them was suddenly strangulated. Another emergency.

I would like to say that Hans’ life settled down after that. That would be a lie. As I look back on it, Hans’ life has been a series of close calls. He had something that appeared to be a seizure while he was in middle school. After an endless array of tests, the doctors never really could determine what happened to him. I was strict and over-protective with him. Hans jokes now that, after growing up with me, Army boot camp was a letdown for him. He was a very quiet and restless adolescent. He found his solace in video games, usually violent ones. He loved dogs. He still loves them, and they love him.

Hans became adventurous once he reached adulthood. He moved to Texas. He tried to find work down there just as the recession of 2008 struck the economy. He joined the Army in 2009 for a variety of reasons. He went to war. He came back very comfortable with risk-taking. He bought a crotch rocket and he went skydiving. I suspect he was already comfortable with risks prior to going to Iraq, but he lost all fear during his deployment. For a while Hans was homeless and jobless. He has been slowly rebuilding his life since then. It’s been a scary process.

Now he is soon to be a husband and father. Is he ready? Of course not. I wasn’t ready. I have never met anybody who was ready. As I look at my career as a family man, I see long list of fuck ups, occasionally interrupted by moments of clarity and compassion. I’ve done a lot of damage, and maybe a bit of good. I tried to do things right, but it usually doesn’t feel like I did.

Hans has his issues. He knows what they are. So does Gabby. He also has his strengths. Hans is brave and loyal to a fault. He is intelligent and honorable. He is capable of a fierce and self-sacrificing sort of love. He will do the best he can.

We will help him. We will help Gabby. We will help their child.





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