A Decade of Ulysses

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My second child is named Ulysses for a few reasons. Ulysses from William Saroyan’s The Human Comedy. James Joyce’s Ulysses  (the greatest English language novel not titled Gravity’s Rainbow), the protagonist of which was a stand-in for the rightful King of Ithaca from Greek/Roman mythology, who busted his ass across several seas and several more obstacles just to get home to his family. And the name Otto was off the list because I worked with a guy named Otto.

Procreating for the first time, when it’s a conscious decision, is selfish. You and your partner think you’re so cool that you should make somebody who’s a literal embodiment of your awesome relationship. Love’s a part of it, I guess, but ego is a bigger part. And society is another part. People of a certain age just do this. It’s the next step in adult life.

And then the baby’s here, and everything is different. For me, it was better because my first baby was easy and smart, and talkative. I coasted on that for a few years, almost three. My brother and I are exactly three years apart in age, and growing up and growing older with him has been, and continues to be, incredibly important to me. So…

True story: I brought it up. I brought up a second kid. The timing was right, or anyway pretty common? My ex-wife probably would’ve been ok with an only child, and I didn’t think of things from her perspective – how hard the pregnancy was, how hard the birth experience was, how hard getting back to work was. And now it was time to hit the reset button. Admittedly, I could’ve and should’ve been more considerate. But there was a loop in my head that wouldn’t stop.

What about when we’re gone? His mother and I are gonna die, sooner or later. This beautiful and perfect person is just a toddler now, but he won’t be one day. He’ll be a grownup. And, at some point, he’s going to need an unconditional friend, who grew up with him and shared many of the same experiences. He’s going to need a backup for memories and stories, like my siblings have been for me. And he’s going to need a sidekick for funny stuff. And he’s going to need…gotdam…he’s going to need a person next to him at my funeral because the ONLY reason that I got through my mom dying too young was because my amazing brother and sister, whom I love so much, were there.

Uly is amazing. (That’s him, up top, last fall – completely powerful, pretty sure he vanquished some reeds or whatever.) He’s a decade old today. And he’s everything that I wanted to give his brother, including a greatest fan, and way more.

He’s smart, curious, funny, idiosyncratic, talkative. Weird, b/c he was such a silent baby. I read Leaves of Grass to him until he taught himself to roll over and eat the book. The Whitman didn’t sink in. His first word was “ET-AH,” which was his version of the cat’s name, Chester. But he didn’t talk much until well after one year. He listened. And then he babbled in completely incoherent sentences because he had heard alot and just knew how. He hasn’t stopped since, tbh. (My best friend would back me up on that.)

I’ve made him eight birthday cds – actual cds, buying tracks off iTunes and burning them. I blew that off last year (too expensive), but I made him a deal this year. If I do a kick-ass playlist on Spotify that you can hear in the car and on your iPod (and if I can save the $20-30 bucks and, instead, buy you another present), would you be ok with that?

“Yeah, Jasonic.” (He also calls me Daddiobro.)

I mean, what ten-year old kid doesn’t want a 3-hour Spotify playlist for an iPod that gets bogus ad-heavy Spotify, but only on WiFi? There are 55 tracks (5 + 5 = 10). Some of them, he picked; most of them, I picked. There’s alot of overlap with the IFIILO playlists from the past year. Enjoy anyway.

Happy 10th Birthday, Kidface. Love you lots.

More soon.

JF

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