Dr. Lentz peered at us above the lazy glasses riding low on his nose. “The best thing you can do for the health of this baby is to have a good marriage. Dad, you need to love this mother. Mother, you need to love this dad. Period.”
My venerable pediatrician was now our daughter’s pediatrician. Grace Ann was eight days old. For her first visit to the doctor she wasn’t the main character. Her parent’s marriage was.
Eighteen years later, on this last night of May 2012, I will confess we did not execute this month’s Tired Date. Not to worry, there are no shaky legs on the marital stool. We are not afoul of harmony. We simply ran out of time. In thirty short days we have consumed bike races, mother’s day, middle school graduation, dance recitals, dress rehearsals… Aw heck. I’m not even halfway through the list. You can figure it out. It’s May, the one month where an entire school year culminates into four frenetically packed weeks of familial chaos. I think the last real conversation Alyson and I had was thirty days ago. The “IverHart Max” sticker stuck to May One reminds me. “Hey, did you hear me? Don’t forget to pick up Biscuit’s heart worm medicine today.” The dog is still alive, so I guess I remembered.
And today we logged eight hours at The University of South Carolina consuming Freshman Orientation with our firstborn. When we got home the two younger babies had already taken out the trash and set the recycle bin at the end of the driveway for tomorrow morning’s pickup
So she goes to college in August, Grace Ann does. Jake starts high school, Ellie Kate seventh grade. In no way, shape, or form will the activity abate, not anytime soon anyway. But even a hip couple like AlyKev needs to skip a date every now and then. In actuality, May was not a dating loss, but rather an affirmation of what we have been trying to do all along. The best dates, really, are the ones that happen neither in escape nor fantasy but in the quotidian rituals we perform with the ones we love with.
When I was a young lad I respected Dr. Lentz with fear. I guess you could say I grew to admire him. When he died a few years ago I shed a tear because I loved him. Watching my kids today I am grateful for his words about raising healthy children in a home where the best antidote for dis-ease is an honest commitment to the work of loving each other.
I wish he could see me now, all trying to grow up, with kids of my own. I think he would be pleased. And if the good doctor could listen quietly outside our bedroom tonight he would hear a healthy marriage snoring beyond the door. And then he would smile, wink at our healthy children down the hall, and tell them to shut up.