The Countdown to a Birth and the Embracing of It

Grand Finale has it. He’s holding on to it right now.

Today marks 39 weeks which means that sometime within the next seven days it’s overwhelmingly likely that Grand Finale Osborne will begin his reign of planet Earth. And the reality of what’s to come is finally taking full effect, causing my mind to race at warp speed, looking ahead to the future with hope as it looks back to the past for guidance. Back to the child who had it, yet never understood exactly what it was.

Which stands to reason as I didn’t know very much back then. It was in this state of ignorance that I abandoned it, in fact. Veered off the path just a bit. It’s impossible to say when, but I assume the process began the first time I let you decide what I did and did not like. Which was no surprise. Letting you decide, that is. Because most of us just wanna fit in, and I was no exception. So I became whatever I needed to become whenever I needed to become it. The good news is that I was good at doing just that. The bad news is that I may have even been great at it.

The changes were subtle at first, all made very much within the confines of whoever it was I had been for all those years. But by the time I decided to leave for good, all of the subtle changes had multiplied into a drastic one which fundamentally altered my trajectory. Only I didn’t know that.

Even so, on some level I must have known something. Because I decided to run as far away as possible. To a place where no one knew me, to the furthest corner of this country, no less. So I could submerge myself in a sea of unfamiliarity and find my natural buoyancy. Yet if I still had it, such an exercise would have been unnecessary because I would have already found my spot in the sea.

The person continued to morph until he eventually became a persona, carrying on with other likeminded personas, sometimes towing the line and other times doubling down on a soft four with a dealer six showing inside Vegas casinos at hours far closer to dawn than dusk. I was beautiful then and I knew it. You did, too, because you saw me standing at the bar underneath the wineglasses hanging upside-down and neatly in rows, their round bellies gently vibrating against one another to the pulse of the thundering bass that reverberated through the nighttime air that was hazy with smoke.

But that beauty was a mask that eventually cracked and I began to see through it which is why, I think, I suddenly wanted to come home. Not all the way, mind you. Just down the street is all. I finally realized it was missing. And I had to look for it. Because I wanted it back.

Things went well for me. So well that I fooled myself into thinking I had found it, but I hadn’t. For other than geography and cash flow, very little had changed as evidenced by my eerily similar surroundings. And by the fact that I was never alone but always lonely.

I chronicled that paradox along with countless others in leather-bound books, but only when I was brave enough to turn on the light. I’m pretty sure that’s how I learned to write. And think. And though I hadn’t solved the riddle, I was getting closer.

But it’s frustrating, no? When someone is so close to something yet still so far away? That’s what I’ve always thought, at least. Is the ignorance therein bliss? Or is it simply the staving off of the inevitable? I suppose it depends on whether or not you’re hell-bent on seeking the truth. Or whether or not the truth is even in the cards for you to begin with. It’s not for some people, you know. Regardless, it was that frustration which compelled me to stop writing in those books. To throw them away. Because I couldn’t quite find it. I took solace in how close I was, though. Closer than some, I figured. Maybe even most.

Thus the trap was set. The man who sought the child was back in the neighborhood, thinking existentially as he frolicked about in the knee-deep waters of superficiality, carrying on differently in a world that remained much as it had been. Until, that is, the catalyst for the unraveling of a life which I thought was much more tightly bound came along. The one whose wake left me in a state unlike any other I had ever experienced, a state in which I was finally able to fully comprehend that I no longer was.

Which is precisely why I had never been able to find it.

So I reeled everything in and went on a C.S. Lewis bender and came out on the other side with a firm understanding of Screwtape and the letters he had written. What they meant. Who they described. Why they came to be.

And at the ripe old age of 32, I blew up my world and walked away from a career that by all accounts was going quite well. Aside, that is, from the fact that it was never really mine to begin with. You have to be careful when you blow up your world, you know. For the pieces will keep falling long after the initial explosion, and as you pick them up and tuck them safely away in the place where no one else will see, you’ll learn far more about that world and the broken person who traipsed right through it than you ever wanted to know.

But that’s okay. Because it’s the price of admission. Or readmission, I suppose.

I moved back home. Back to you, in part because I finally realized that I never really left you. You had always been there. Had you not, I wouldn’t have lobbied so hard. Plus, I came to understand that it wasn’t your fault. It was mine.

My goodness, did it feel good to be back. But it felt even better to no longer give a fuck about what you thought. To stop being you and to start being me. Which is probably why I sometimes fit in. And probably, also, why I sometimes didn’t.

The first couple of years back, I was in between. Inching ever closer, but still in between nonetheless. But by the time I met her, I was almost there. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to learn that she still had it. That she had never lost it. Entrusted it to the wrong person once, but never lost it. And I knew as much when she let me lean on but a small portion of it while she unknowingly ushered me along the final few steps. Back to mine. And when I finally reclaimed it, I instantly recognized that she was the one I had been longing for during all those lonely nights when the fun suddenly wasn’t any longer.

So I married her.

She knows about the time I spent in the grey when I used to slap the devil’s ass as I hung out with the other unhappy people who laughed super loud late, late at night. Yeah, she knows. And she understands, too. At least as best she can. And that’s all anyone can ever really hope for in a spouse, no? For that person to love you enough to try to understand even the most shrouded of your complexities to whatever extent possible?

Not that I’m some mystifyingly complex and incredibly uncommon riddle, mind you. Because I’m not. I’m nothing more than a garden-variety case of childhood insecurity perpetuated by the standard coping mechanisms which inevitably accompany such a case, albeit coping mechanisms which were executed a bit more deftly than they ordinarily are, perhaps.

I often think about these things — the mistakes I’ve made and the mistakes I’ll continue to make — and wonder if the ones whose feet go pitter-patter, pitter-patter along the planks of our hardwood floors know just how fallible I was — how fallible I am — as I toss and turn in the middle of the night next to the genuinely beautiful woman with the swollen belly lying awkwardly alongside of me, her legs straddling a pillow, her hair perfectly imperfect. She sleeps peacefully because she doesn’t concern herself with such things. She doesn’t need to. She never has.

No. All that she concerns herself with is each and every day that appears before her, today being a particularly big one. For during it, we learned more about the fifth set of feet that will eventually go pitter-patter, pitter-patter along the planks of our hardwood floors. Today we touched his imminence. Which is why I visited the other little boy. To remind myself of the challenges that lie ahead. Both his and mine. To remind myself of what once was so that maybe, just maybe, I can play some small role to assure that it will never again be. At least not for him.

When Grand Finale arrives, his mom will be beautiful, his dad will be me and he will have it. And, as I continue to do with his siblings, I’ll try in my own subtle way to get him to understand it better than I ever did in hopes that he won’t accidentally throw it away. In hopes that he’ll honor it. Cherish it. Depend on it. Trust it. Like a compass. So he won’t get lost.

I’m not sure what the best way to do that is, but my gut tells me it starts by being more concerned with how things feel than with how things look. By being grounded in that which matters most and oblivious to that which matters least. By being emotionally available and fostering the desire for depth.

Because that’s where it lives, you see. In the deep. On top of the treasure.

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About john cave osborne

John Cave Osborne is a writer whose work has appeared on such sites as DisneyBaby, Babble, YahooShine, TLC and the Huffington Post. He was also referenced by Jezebel one time, but he’s pretty sure they were making fun of him. He and his wife, Caroline, live with their five children and spastic dog in Knoxville, TN. Nothing annoys him more than joke-heavy bios written in the third person, with the possible exception of Corey Feldman.

  • AEads Winston

    Well, I will just say, “Well said.” I remember when my husband and I first started dating and I started asking him about his former girlfriends. He looked me direct in the eye and said, “I won’t ask you about your past if you won’t ask me about mine.” I, too, had been married before. So that’s how we started. And now we’ve been in a state of near ecstasy for over 30 years of marriage. Leave the baggage behind. See each day fresh and new. As the driver in Gumball Rally said when he ripped off his rearview mirror and threw it out the window, “What’s behind me does not matter!”

    • John Cave Osborne

      AEads — first off, lemme just say that it was a real treat to (re)meet your husband the other day. so awesome. can’t wait til our paths cross next b/c i wanna tell you a story about how my chat w/ him uncovered a misconception i had w/ regard to y’all’s association with your erstwhile neighbors. second, a bigger treat, still, to see your genuine interaction w/ our kids. C and i really loved that. what a gift you gave us.

      and third, yes, the past. its a tricky beast, indeed. as one could likely tell from this somewhat candid, somewhat cryptic post i, like everyone else, have my share of past transgressions / mistakes / things i wish i could change. and like you say, see each day fresh and new. if more people could do that, more would reach “near ecstasy” (love that) for 30 years! so good advice, indeed.

      i tend to not look back, in part b/c this train’s goin’ forward. yet, it’s also hard for me not to look back, at least to an extent, as it pertains to parenting my kids b/c some of the lessons i learned the hard way could have been so easily avoided if only i understood better. if i figure out what portion i failed to grasp, maybe i can help someone else “get” it.

      now, all that said, i get it that i don’t get it, if you will. and i also get it that folks like you (who have already successfully raised kids) would likely attest that there’s only so much a parent can do. so i’m not dumb enough to think that i’m gonna be able to analyze my youth to the point where i prevent my kids from making, well, *youthful* mistakes. it’s part of the package.

      still, i believe that there’s wisdom in the scars and whenever i wax philosophical like that, i’m more consulting my wounds to see if there’s anything clever in there that might be worth digging up and passing along to them, directly, or (as the case will near-always be) indirectly.

      LOVE your comment, not to mention your friendship.

  • muskrat

    This makes me think you’re not going to let me meet your children. 

    • John Cave Osborne

      yes. well.

  • R_Mattocks

    I remember those lonely nights after all the fun right before I met Ash. I thought the same thing. There’s a small amount of guilt I harbor over not creating a baby of our own together. I know she really would have liked that, but we thought it would be too distracting, that it would keep us from attending to the needs of our own children growing up in a blended family. We both agree it was the right choice specifically for the reason related to what you mentioned: being emotionally available to our kids now. Good stuff, John.

    • John Cave Osborne

      ah yes. given the other similarities we have, it doesn’t surprise me that this struck a familiar chord. thanks for reading…

  • Leslee

    Good luck with the arrival of this new little one!  Thank you for sharing this beautiful post!  Now excuse me while I go get a tissue to wipe my tears and blow my nose!

    • John Cave Osborne

      leslee! it’s been too long. thanks for your comment. i hope you’re doing well!

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  • Anonymous

    I know you wrote this a week ago, but I just a chance to read it. I am crying. It was beautiful.

    • John Cave Osborne

      i’m so glad you liked that. i think that when most who have read me think of me, they strictly think “ha ha,” but i pride myself on the abstract / spiritual / deep stuff just as much. maybe more. and there was something so candid and vague at once about what i tried to convey in that post. and it meant more to me than any i’ve written in quite some time. so to read your comment really, really made my day. i’m glad it connected w/ at least one person!