Good Evening Buggies,
This month’s little frolic is a sweet, happy tale of fatherhood. Proud papas can be a little crazy. Case in point: in 2000, when my wife & I found out that there was going to be a “blessed event” in our lives, I took crazy to a new level. I was (and still am) completely cracked and madly in love with my wife and our two boys. But people in love do crazy things. Maybe that’s why the word “love” is synonymous and completely interchangeable with words like “crazy” and “nuts”.
“I’m nuts over her, and she’s crazy about me!”
I’ll never forget all the joy and fervor of that mysterious, soul-stirring season when my wife was carrying our firstborn son. Expectant Papa Charlie did a lot of cuckoo things during that time, but the craziest thing, or more accurately, the craziest-looking thing I did must be the following.
From around the fourth month or so, I would sing into my wife Beth’s grand belly every night, hoping to reach the developing eardrums of our little unborn baby. We had read about the way that unborn fetuses could respond while in the womb to music that is playing in the outside world. I remember being particularly interested in the way that newborn babies were said to be able to recognize their mother’s (and father’s) voices. So every night, and I do mean every night – I don’t think I missed a single night – I would kneel down beside my wife and, using the weird-looking thing that used to be her belly button, croon loudly into her tummy. My sweetheart’s cute little belly-button, that through the course of her pregnancy grew to look more and more like the flowery top of a piece of cauliflower – kind of like a mini mushroom cloud – was now being utilized as a vocal mic by her batty husband. She often complained about the sensitivity of her navel and the irritating stubble of my not-so-clean-shaven face and chin, but I pressed on.
Lightnin’ Charlie, being a professional vocalist and amateur dad, speculated that bass tones would probably resound and “carry” more (pun intended) inside her, getting through all of that amniotic jazz, so I sang a lot of doo-wop bass lines, hoping to connect with my boy. Blue Moon by The Marcels, Get A Job by The Silhouettes, Duke Of Earl by Gene Chandler, and Why Do Fools Fall In Love by Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers were some of my favorites. I also sung a lot of Sinatra and Dean Martin into the tum-tum because that’s the stuff I remember my dad singing to me when I was a kid.
“Flyyyy me to the moo-oo-oon…Let me sw-ingggg among the stars…”
Beth and I planned on naming our firstborn Sidney, after my loving and crooning dad. In the ’60s though, dads probably waited until the baby was out-and-about before they started singing to them.
In a previous chapter entitled “Photographs And Memories”, I list the top ten pictures I wish I had from my life as a road musician. Well, picture this – me kneeling beside my wife Beth, who would pull her shirt up over her big, bare belly to allow me access to the belly-button microphone, or the “womb-mic” as I called it. Enter Lightnin’ Man singing “Bowser-style”…
“Dip-Di-dip-Di-dip, Bomp-bomp-Ba-bomp, Ba-bomp-ba-bomp-bomp,
A-ding-a-dong-ding, Blue Mooooooon!!!”
You know America…if our neighbors could see the unglued lives we actually lead, within the confines and privacy of our own homes, there wouldn’t be a one of us that wouldn’t be committed permanently to a mental institution. People in glass houses… And who would be left to guard the patients at the nut house? No one – we would all be inmates. I know I would. I’d be on top of the cuckoo’s nest, crowing,
“Sha-na-na-na, Sha-na-na-na-na, Ba-ooo, Sha-na-na-na, Sha-na-na-na-na,
Bow-yip-yip-yip-yip-yip-yip-yip-yip-boom-boom-boom…Get a job!”
Added to this disturbing image was the fact that, at that time, I had huge, bushy, black, “Aloha From Hawaii” Elvis sideburns. I am just telling you this to complete your mental picture (emphasis on ‘mental’). It must’ve looked like some Mayan human sacrifice in progress, with Beth lying in front of me, angelic in repose, with her gargantuan belly exposed to me, lurching and hovering over her looking very much like a rock ‘n’ roll Nosferatu preparing to feed the gods. In retrospect, I am glad that I used an old Elvis/Dracula trick in our bedroom – that is taping black shower curtain liners over the bedroom windows (and under the thick velvet drapes) to keep out the unwanted sunlight. This was much more efficient and more permanent than the aluminum foil used in Elvis’ hotel rooms. It would allow me to get my beauty sleep after rockin’ and rollin’ into the wee wee hours. It also, thank God, kept out the nosy neighbors, the peeping toms, and the nice young men-in-their-clean-white-coats-and-they’re-coming-to-take-me AWAAAYY!!! HA-HAAAAAH!!!
Close your eyes and imagine me and my sideburns warbling into my wife’s navel, which used to be an ‘innie’, but was now very much an ‘outie’…
“Duke-Duke-Duke-Duke Of Earl-Duke-Duke-Duke Of Earl
Duke-Duke-Duke Of Earl-Duke-Duke…”
You get the picture…I was gone…Real gone. And head over heels, crazy in love with my wife and our baby boy. Our son Sidney was born in December and is the greatest Christmas gift I have ever gotten.
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given.” – Isaiah 9:6
On the third day, Proud Papa Charlie took his wife and bouncing baby boy home from the hospital – no rest for the weary. Nowadays, hospitals quickly kick you to the curb, getting you out of their bed and out of their rooms, and making valuable space available to new sick people (with insurance). They’re very caring. Not about the patient – about making money. In Japan, new mothers are treated to a month of pampering and “R & R” in the hospital before they are turned out to the brutally hectic life called parenthood. Kudos to the Japanese on this one. But here in America it’s:
“BONSAI!!!! GET OUT!!!”
It’s all about turnover, baby.
On our first day home, my mom, who came to take some of the load off the new parents, joined my wife and me, and our three-day-old king-of-the-castle. We hadn’t slept well in days (and were not going to get much sleep for months to come, but we didn’t know that yet…) and my dear considerate mother wanted to help Beth and I by doing the laundry, cooking the meals, etc. I say that “we” hadn’t slept well, but in fact, it was “I” who hadn’t slept at all. You see, in the hospital, my wife had an IV (intravenous) in her arm, which was connected to a big jug of self-serve morphine. It had a nifty little trigger button that, when pushed, would dispense a single dose of morphine for the pain (my wife had a C-section and was going through the usual post-op distress). But unfortunately for my wife, only a certain amount of painkiller could be dispensed per hour, and if the patient pushed the button for more dope, before it was time for more dope, the gizmo would go…
So, as I tried to get some sleep in a disagreeable recliner-chair in our hospital room for two nights (and days) after the birth, all I heard every couple of minutes was…
Beth slept pretty well though. I wonder why. But I guess that morphine stuff makes one awfully thirsty, because she ran my legs off bringing her fountain cokes with crushed ice (don’t forget the “bendy-straw”) from the nurse’s break room on our floor. The nursing staff slyly told me that I could just “help myself to drinks”, as we wanted them. I initially thought that this was pretty cool and quite generous of them to allow me access to the “coke-fountain”, but they apparently knew what I didn’t, and that was, that my wife was going to guzzle drinks by the gallon for the next couple days. It was unbelievable. The second night I counted fifty-six Pepsi’s in a nine-hour period. You read that right. Fifty-six. In large, Styrofoam cups that must’ve held ten or twelve ounces. And the minute I would sink back into that awfully dolorous [dol-or-ous (do’-ler-as) adj. to cause grief or discomfort] recliner for a bit of shut-eye, I would hear the sound of her straw sucking air and backwash off the bottom of the cup…
This nerve-wracking sound was followed at once by…
Which was then followed promptly (and routinely) by this request…
“Honnnney, could yew git me shome more Pepshi, pleashe?”
I am sorry to have to digress here, but doggone it America, we men just don’t get the credit we deserve for all the pain and suffering we go through dealing with this labor and childbirth business. Seriously, that recliner was unbearable! But it’s all about you women, ain’t it? Sure it is. It’s your world and we’re just living in it. I didn’t have a joystick filled with morphine. What about Papa’s delicate condition? And you women don’t have the market cornered when it comes to the postpartum blues either. I was exhausted, America! And it’s high time I pat myself on the back right here and now for being such a good, dutiful (if not beautiful) husband and never complaining (until now) about the Pepsi and recliner torture.
By the way, my wife just read this over my shoulder and informed me of two things…one, that she has no recollection of any of this…
[Ed. note: That’s a big surprise…BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP!!!]
…and two, that nobody could drink that much Pepsi. Well, I’ll let you decide who is telling the truth, America – me or the new mom with the black tongue.
And now that I’ve gotten all that off my chest, I need to apologize to Brother Bernie Mac and get back to our story. When we last left our hero, he was returning home from the hospital, triumphantly, with his wife and child. All hail the conquering hero!
On this, our blessed first day home, my wife and my mother were sitting on the sofa with Baby Sidney lying happily between them. I was going to the fridge to get a drink (as had become my custom) and when I asked them if they needed anything from the kitchen, my son, hearing my voice, turned his head toward me and got real “wide-eyed” with recognition. Whoop – there it is! This thrilled me because it was obvious that he had recognized the sound of my voice, and justified all those nights of Mayan doo-wop into Beth’s belly! And not only did he recognize my voice, it was quite apparent by his expression that he enjoyed and appreciated it as well. This was, of course, very meaningful to an old singer and a new daddy.
So Lightnin’ Charlie, being not only a chip-off-the-old-block but also a major ham-off-the-old-hock, took this opportunity to gloat a little. I spread my arms out in a gesture of immodest modesty and proclaimed proudly…
“Ah yes, his master’s voice…”
My son’s anticipatory grin now told me that he knew something great was coming and he was ready for it. He had grown to love my songs and especially my singing and was now clearly in love with the sound of my voice and was anxious to hear more. He had that look of glad expectation in his eyes. You know, the “look of love”. Haughtily I knelt, full of myself, on one knee in front of my son and began to swing and swagger, singing Sinatra’s Fly Me To The Moon. In an unforgettable, cathartic dad-moment, spanning three-generations, filled with nostalgia and puffed with pride, I crooned over my son Sidney, in tribute to my father Sidney,
“Fill my heart with song…”
So eager was I to see the magical effect and psychic connection I had conjured with my newborn child, I sang this one line with all my heart and soul, staring deeply into my son’s brand new eyes.
No one was ready for what came next. His instantaneous reaction was a nonchalant but blistering bowel movement. He responded to my singing with the loudest, soggiest, most explosive and booming butt-turbulence I believe I have ever heard. His timing was impeccable. As soon as I sung “Fill my heart with song”, and before I could even deliver the next line, he went to work – thunderously filling his diaper (and not his heart), with something very different from song.
Well, it knocked all of us onto the floor laughing. It was just too hilarious – too perfectly set up to be true. After all of my “Bomp-bomp-Ba-bomps”… After months of “Bow-yip-yip-yip-yips” and “Boom-boom-booms”… When the strains (poop-pun intended) of “Duke-Duke-Duke” and “Dip-Di-dip-Di-dip”…were all just a memory, my beautiful baby boy was finally here with me, grinning up at me and showing me how much he loved me. In no uncertain terms. His master’s voice, all right.
Maybe that was just his way of telling me, “Daddy, I love you!”
Or maybe he was begging, “Dad, for God’s sake, please stop it!”
Or maybe, just maybe, “Yeah Daddy, sing another one! And this time, really swing it!”
Maybe this was his way of applauding. Or booing. Or heckling. I guess I’ll never know. But this thought occurs to me…what if he had been responding that way to my nightly concerts all along? A captive audience inside Beth’s belly! Oh, my poor wife! The things women go through…
Well America, I’m off to fetch my wife a nice cold Pepsi. She didn’t ask me to, but I need to get busy and try to spoil her just a little bit. Like I used to. I don’t have any crushed ice, but I can make some right quick with some ice cubes, a baggie and a hammer. She deserves it. She’s my hero. And she puts up with me.
That’s right America! Until next time…
Lightnin’ Charlie (what I do)
AKA Daddy (who I am)