Our New Baby
Last Thursday was the 10th Anniversary of my first date with Shelley. She likes to tell the story of that date, and how, the next year on the 29th was the day I finally declared my love to her. And the following year I asked her to live with me. And on the 5th year, I asked her to marry me. With the 10th anniversary approaching, what could I ever do as an encore?
Since April I’ve been researching and figuring out how to overcome my resistance to giving my wife the one thing I’ve always denied her and that which she has wanted the most. At this stage in my life, was it too late for me to do this? But I started looking into it; speaking to doctors; spending nights online; thinking about the commitment. (What if it didn’t work out? That would be a disaster.) Speaking to friends; watching TV shows about it; and finally, over the last few weeks, speaking to the agencies.
Finally the 29th arrived last Thursday. We ate at the same restaurant on 5th Avenue in the Slope that we did right after I proposed to her in Times Square back in ’05. I could barely stand the suspense. After dinner, along with a sweet gift for me, she took out her cards (she likes to present me with 3 or 4 cards at such occasions) and the last one she wrote herself and it brought a tear to my eye. One of the cards depicted an Anne Geddes photo – the woman who photographs babies in various places.
Then it was my turn. “I don’t have a gift tonight; but I do have a card.” And I gave her a card I wrote recounting our relationship in rhyme. The last lines went, “Ten years ago, we took a little walk; now it’s time for us to have a little talk.”
“A little talk?”
I looked at her intently. “Shelley,” I said. “I need you to listen to me and to please have an open mind for what I’m about to tell you, ok?”
She grew very quiet.
“We’ve come a long way, you and I. We’ve reached a stage as a couple, and financially, where I think we’re ready… it’s um, very ironic the card you gave me with the Anne Geddes photo. I think it’s time we considered having a kid together.”
Shelley was beginning to age right there in front of my face. She had a look of “What the….?!”
“Please keep an open mind and hear me out. I’ve contacted a number of adoption agencies the last few weeks; and Shelley – we can do this! There’s one here in Brooklyn…”
She looked like she wanted to have me committed.
“I even had them send over a photo.”
As I took out a picture I’d printed up on glossy paper and handed it to her, I said, “Now tell me you couldn’t fall in love with something like this –“
Shelley had always been a cat person, and I had always been allergic. She gave up her cherished Sophie to live with me, and I was grateful, if also sad for her. But what could I do? I’d spent too many days and nights throughout my adult life visiting friends and lovers and leaving all sneezing and wheezing.
But the truth is I always loved cats, and even had one as a child and was fine.
And loving someone like I love my wife presents one with an ongoing problem: All I ever want to do is make her happy, sort of like one long continuous Thank You, and this means new ideas are always called for. It’s a happy challenge to have…this desire to make her cry, which I did, there at the end of dinner, crying and hugging me and shouting “Yes! Yes!” and I don’t really know what’s worth more than that.
So this last Saturday we visited the Sean Casey Shelter here in Brooklyn, a funky refugee camp for abandoned strays, full of sleeping cats and barking dogs.
We knew what we were looking for. The first kitten they showed us was sweet, docile, filthy. The second was gorgeous, but somewhat tentative, a bit frightened. The third cat was a beautiful calico, but when Shelley shook a peacock feather over her head to play, she got spooked and jumped off her lap and ran away.
Shelley then asked to see a 13 week old male they called Snookems (they must name these animals to appeal to little kids). The moment he was placed in her hands, he started purring, and wouldn’t stop, and did the same with me. He just wanted to be scratched, stroked and petted. He also was curious, alert, and spirited. I gave him back to the staff person and asked Shelley to join me outside.
“Look, we’ve only found one here we like,” I said. “I’ve spoken to the ASPCA uptown and they have a lot more. Let’s go inside and ask them to hold this cat for us for a few hours, and let’s go check the other place out!” I didn’t want us to just choose the first one we happened to like. A cat’s eyes are always greener on the other side of town, I figured. What if we can get an even better cat, one that’s younger, and prettier than “Snookems”? So, to Shelley’s dismay, we went inside, and I spoke to the woman in charge, and I petted him one more time as I said goodbye, and he looked at me.
We took him home.
And my allergies? I’d gone through a years-long process to move from Protector of the Royal Sinuses, to Here’s Another Way To Say I Love You. I decided this was one time in my life to just say fuck it. When I did, and started this process several months ago, I began to discover all sorts of remedies, from bathing (the cat, that is) to getting a light-skinned cat, to air purifiers, to shots, to many stories of, “Oh yeah — the first week I had my kitten it was bad, but then my body adjusted.”
I tell you, what a man will do just to get a little pussy…
And oh, yes: We’re still thinking of names for him, including: Jake; Jasper; Figment; Donovan; Sasha; Katmandu; Brooklyn; Catavarious; Catsanova; Fritz; Felix; Rover.