While I paced—dizzying myself after 8 circular trips from the kitchen to dining room to living room—she tossed towels into the washer, swept the kitchen, removed expired food from the refrigerator.
This was insane. A baby, a flesh-and-blood baby floating inside her, had begun working his way into the world—and three weeks early. We hadn’t yet bought a car seat, and she wanted to fold shirts.
I’d just come back from a run and was sticky from the Charleston heat, so she finally suggested that I take a shower instead of completing the round trip through the house for the 9th
I obliged, but you should know that I’m the calm one, the one who falls asleep without flinching while she worries about tomorrow’s work assignment. I’m the everything-works-out, hand-patter of the relationship. So as I allowed her to usher me into the bathroom with a steady hand, I wondered just who was out of sorts—had the world gone upside down? Which one of us was in our right mind?
My wife cranked the timer on the dryer while I continued to pace, only now in a confined space. Before leaving, she had turned on the water behind me, so I flitted back and forth while my reflection in the mirror was slowly consumed by steam. Finally, I moved myself to the shower and stood still.
I wish that I could say I was worried about the weight of fatherhood, worried about broken promises and broken arms, worried about adolescence and male-pattern baldness, worried about the mind-blowing process that sends a human from inside the belly of another human. But I only thought—over and over—we should be going. We need to go
The sound of the towels now flopping around in the dryer seemed to say, we should stay.
It’s not as if I was thinking about those men rushing around the boat, waves threatening to send them all to the bottom of the sea, while Jesus slept soundly. Still, I found myself beneath the force of the showerhead seeking some calm from that sleeping man, shaking him awake—do something.
I’ve had few waves-crashing moments in my life. Truthfully, the whole 30 years of it had been bizarrely normal: healthy, happy upbringing, school and marriage, job and imminent baby. I’ve been uncomfortably blessed, and I’d not really needed to come to Jesus by way of screaming save me.
Instead, I’d come in the hands of the family who raised me—I’d come like those children Jesus welcomed in with a smile.
But in the shower, my whole body felt pulled up, blurred past the present moment into some kind of eternal elsewhere. Floating there, in that someplace outside of the panic of an early-arriving child and much-too-relaxed wife, I found a calm that cannot be contained by the word calm
. Each piece of me, from veins to brain synapses, settled into a softness, as if everything had been wrapped up in a warm breeze. This be still wasn’t spoken but sent straight through my body—taking me over.
I don’t know how long I stayed there, wherever there was, but I eventually returned. I washed.
As I stepped back into the steam and dried off, I knew in a way that wasn’t rational or logical that everything would be okay. It seemed that my brain and body had been reset somehow. I dressed and helped fold towels. We packed a bag and left. By the next morning we had a tiny, healthy, screaming, red-headed kid.
And now two years later, while I’m thankful for that moment of transcendent peace, I am greedy. I wish God could have told me then that having a child would force me to speak in third-person, that it would cause me to cry during movies, that it would make me a slave to coffee. That it would make everything I write suddenly about fatherhood.
Jeremy B Jones
Jeremy B. Jones is the author of Bearwallow: A Personal History of a Mountain Homeland. His essays have been named Notable in Best American Essays and appear in various literary journals, including Brevity, Crab Orchard Review, and Ruminate (Issue 15). He teaches creative writing at Western Carolina University in his native Blue Ridge Mountains. Find him on Twitter @thejeremybjones More of his work can be found at thejeremybjones.com
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Shortly after my wife’s water broke, all of the nesting that was meant to have happened during the last trimester of her pregnancy rushed in.