The Dad Files: Picking Up The Pieces

When I lost my old site, a lot of content disappeared, too. I’ll occasionally re-post old items, like this one, and intermix them with new stuff as time allows.


I became a new parent last July—twice over, to fraternal twins, Jack and Eli. I’d been warned, by long-time parents, “You’ll forget the whole first year.” The life of a new parent, particularly with twins, devolves into a timeless haze of diapers, breasts, bottles and burp cloths.  The standard chatter I hear about this life from most parents and even one particularly vitriolic nonparent is negative. One woman who found out I had twins said, simply, “They will break you.”

It might be that they have. I know I probably cried more in the last six months than I did in any other given year. But there has been another steady theme to the last six months: unbridled joy. And frankly, I’m surprised at how relatively few parents spoke to me about that. One of my finest moments arrived unexpectedly, in the midst of a low.

What time was it? Hard to tell. The clock said it was 3 p.m. My body said it was Never O’Clock, a land beyond time I arrived in by virtue of sleeping just long enough to stave off a hallucinatory breakdown.

My wife held a boy, Jack.

I held a boy, Eli.

“He fights it,” Lisa said, meaning Eli cries his way toward sleep.

I sat down in a makeshift fort of pillows: Eli in my left arm, an iPad to my right. He cried. And I jiggled my boy, not sure what I was trying to mimic: A car. A swing. The motions he felt in the womb. He wailed and groaned like I was torturing him. Then he quieted. Yawned. I tried to jiggle him with no more force or enthusiasm than before. But inside, I thrilled at Eli’s silence. I began to read a book on my iPad: Why Does The World Exist? An Existential Detective Story by Jim Holt. The book ponders a central question of philosophy: why is there something, rather than nothing? And suddenly there I was … reading. I got lost in the words, pondering the mysteries of existence, and when I turned back to my left there was a small, sleeping boy nestled in my left arm. His lips were full and pink, his eyelashes terrifically long, telescoping out like the tendrils of a flower. He slept, and I turned back to my book. Holt was in Europe, pondering the Big Bang, a universe that is slowly expanding, and I could feel myself coming back together. I passed a transcendent hour this way, turning from book to boy, admiring his face, till it was no longer Never O’Clock.

It was 4:40 p.m., and I knew I’d finish reading this book, even though I’d predetermined its end: Why is there something rather than nothing? Oh, Jim Holt. For Eli.