F. Scott Fitzgerald, one of my favorite authors, wrote, “In a real dark night of the soul, it is always three o’clock in the morning, day after day.”
It’s a little after three o’clock in the morning as I write this: your papa, you see, is a part-time insomniac. I have pretty much always been one, though I keep hoping, day after day, that my circadian rhythms will change, and I’ll drift off easily to sleep a few hours before midnight and wake with the birds.
The chance that I’ll reset my internal clock isn’t great. At least that’s what I’ve heard. A doctor, upon hearing me talk about it, once said, “Get a job where you can stay up at night and sleep late.” At the time I was a salesman, and had to be at work early, and get up early. I hope you don’t have this problem in life, and that you’re an early riser and a fast and sound sleeper.
Then again, maybe my problem is that I consider it a problem. Your mommy thinks so. Your mommy, since I’ve known her, has always wanted me to be myself – nothing more and nothing less. Here’s what that means: She wants me to be proud of what I do well; to not feel badly about what I don’t do well; to not allow people to take advantage of me (she’s very protective like that); and to be honest. Let’s say I’m going to be late coming home from the office. She just wants me to say, “I’m going to be late coming home from the office.” Once you get the hang of it – being honest about the so-called little things – it makes life easier and it makes you reliable. Those are both good things.
It’s also a good example of what’s happened to me since I met your mom. I’ve wanted to be a better man. Being that better man led to us being together, and now it’s led to you.
And that’s my roundabout way of telling you why I’m writing you so late at night.
In this deep, dark part of the night, I want to tell you a few things about myself – before you get out here and things get more hectic – and about how I look at life.
The first thing I want to tell you is that, though you haven’t been born yet, I love you, and I feel somehow as if I always have loved you, and I know I always will. That’s the most important thing I can ever tell you.
It also raises questions for me. I’ve heard of people who didn’t love their child at birth. I find this as hard to understand as not understanding the warmth of the sun against my skin in the summertime. I like the feel of the sun. And I love you. Those two things are impossible for me to not know.
My mother, who we called Grandma Jo, and who died last year, and my father, who we still call Boompa, taught me how to love through their example. I’m not sure how they did it. Maybe I’m not sure because it’s after three o’clock in the morning, and my brain is too tired. Or maybe it’s just that simple. I learned how to love by watching them with each other, with me, and with your Aunt Pat. She’s gone now, too, having died six weeks after your Grandma Jo died last year. Grandma Jo and Boompa just loved each other and us. In that way, love is like sunshine: You know it when you feel it.
Part of loving is that you want the ones you love to live forever. I want you to live a very long time, if not forever, and to be happy and successful while you’re living, and free from disease and fear and hunger and poverty, and I want all the things that parents who love their children want for their children. I only know I’ll do everything I can to help you along.
Yet, we’ll both learn that I won’t always be able to be there for you. You’ll be at school, or somewhere, and I’ll be at work, or somewhere else. That’s already difficult for me to fathom. Having things be difficult because you care so much is also part of love.
Now I’m yawning, which means that pretty soon my brain will finally tire out and I’ll be able to sleep. Tomorrow I’ll get up and have coffee (your mom and I do like our coffee in the morning), and maybe an egg and toast, or a bowl of cereal and milk, and then I’ll putter around here, writing a bit, and attending to the things in life that aren’t my favorite things – money matters, for instance. Then I’ll shower and shave and go off to my office, where I’ll work on an article that I’ve been hired to rewrite. It won’t be as much fun as writing to you, or writing about you, or writing my fiction, but it’s writing, and I’m getting paid for it. That’s what writers do. We think about things that other people don’t necessarily think about, or at least don’t know quite how to put into words, and, if we’re lucky, we get paid to do it.
So that’s what your papa does for work, day after day, sometimes at three o’clock in the morning, and sometimes at three o’clock in the afternoon, and usually in between.
The heavens are moving and the light from the sun will be coming up in the east in a few hours. I’d better wrap this up for now. I miss you, and you’re not even here yet, though you will be soon.
That’s really something, isn’t it? You’re so close, yet not quite out here in this big world. So I’ll tell you one more thing. The reason I got out of bed tonight is because I had a vision of you, even though you’re still inside Mommy. You were sweet and loving and looked a certain way. And when I had that vision, I needed to write to you, even at three o’clock in the morning. Yet my soul isn’t dark; instead, it waits for you to enlarge it.
Scott Lax is an award-winning journalist, novelist, and film maker. He and his fiancé, Lydia, had Scott’s first child – and Lydia’s third – in January 2011 and call Cleveland, OH, home. Learn more at Scott’s blog.