With A Little Help From My Friends

troubleFirst-time parents try doing everything for their baby—so they don’t miss any firsts.  Just a head’s up, rolling and crawling is cute, diaper changes are overrated.  Leaving Cristian with someone else was difficult, we started by taking—pardon the pun, baby steps.

We started small.  First each godparent watched him while we ran errands or went to Buy Buy Baby to stock up on supplies.  Both times we knew the baby was fine because we left him with a Baby Whisperer.

In February we had a Valentine’s Dayish date night—we went out for dinner and a movie.  We saw American Sniper—I know what you’re thinking, he’s a romantic.  After seeing the movie we brought dinner home with us.  Although Esther’s sister watched the baby, cutting the chord was difficult.


In late April my Dad was hospitalized, diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer.  Managing his healthcare and Mom’s (she has her own health issues) while caring for a baby and juggling a freelance consulting gig is challenging, like juggling three balls, a kitten and a chainsaw.

Cristian has an excellent babysitter who watched him when I visited Dad at the hospital or took mom to doctors’ appointments, but she wasn’t always available. Paying the babysitter got expensive fast, forcing us to expand the babysitting pool.

Esther and I are lucky–Cristian has a big personality—he loves performing for anyone who smiles at him.  We’ve had many offers to watch him, most having no idea of what that entails–not from the baby—but from his parents.

You're dropping me off where?
You’re dropping me off where?

Potential babysitters were screened, kind of like the way the CIA screens new employees. Fingerprints were checked, references verified and they must first handle a blowout, an overflowing diaper that spilled over up his back and down his legs, usually after Cristian ate a high-fiber meal.  Prunes work really well for blowouts.

Dropping the baby off with friends produced new anxiety. Esther kept asking if we should scrub their apartment first with industrial cleaning products like we did at the hospital.  I had to keep reassuring her, they both graduated from Ivy League Schools, and I’m pretty sure their building isn’t a meth lab.

As time passed, things got easier, still not easy but we are getting there.  It reminds me of a piece of advice given to me by a friend years ago.  When someone offers to help you, don’t be too proud to take it.  It’s still good advice, but thinking back, this friend wasn’t a parent.

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My First Father’s Day

Dad with Bob (left) and I (right) in 1972.
Dad with Bob (left) and I (right) in 1972.

It’s Father’s Day, that Sunday in late June when fathers around the world receive gifts of ties, cheap cologne and handmade cards then crack a few beers and fire up the grill to celebrate.

In our family, Father’s Day evolved over the years.  In grade school, Dad usually got a card, made in school as a project.  When we got older, Bob and I chipped in and bought him a gift, which usually was placed into a drawer or closet, never to be seen again.

As the years passed Father’s Day evolved into backyard cookouts of sardines, a Spanish thing, grilled shrimp, Italian sausage and juicy steaks, chased with lots of wine.   As the family grew, Bob became a Dad, the spread of grew as well.   You never left Mom and Dad’s house hungry.

Dad watching Cristian play.
Dad watching Cristian play.

This is my Father’s Day as a member of the club but my mind is not on traditional gifts of cards, polo shirts, ties or scratchies, scratch-off lottery tickets, the traditional Puerto Rican gift for any holiday, or backyard cookouts, it’s on my father.

Two months ago Dad was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer.  A month ago, he was given two weeks to live.  A priest gave him last rights and funeral arrangements were made, but he’s still here.  That doesn’t surprise me—he’s always been a fighter.

I’ve spent the past two months in hospitals, talking to doctors and fighting with supervisors when I felt he wasn’t getting the proper care.  I’ve dreaded late-night calls, those were usually bad news.  “We are moving him to new room and putting him on oxygen” or “we need your permission to resuscitate him if it’s necessary.”

The only bright spot of the past two months has been bringing Cristian to visit Abuelo in the nursing home. Seeing the glint in Dad’s hazel eyes and the smile on his face gives me unspeakable joy.

Although I love my son, my first Father’s Day is will always be bittersweet because I know it’s my Dad’s last.

Dad with Katie
Dad with Katie


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