Monday, June 04, 2007
An Odd Dozen
Today, my dahlink and I mark 12 years of wedded bliss. What I really like about this photo is that it shows what a knockout Penny is. It’s a good picture, if you ignore the other half of it. Why do photos of me so often suggest a guy who pulls a groin muscle when he smiles? The seam of my t-shirt under that weird collar-up number I’m wearing makes it look like my arm has been artificially attached to my shoulder. Which it has. I’m actually one of those jointed paper dolls -- two-dimensional, put together with brads.
What a weird, winding, wonderful, alliterative twelve years we’ve had. How about a thumbnail history, year by year? Shortly after learning that I was remarrying, my ex decided to marry a guy she’d known for only a few weeks, which meant that...
Year 1: My older kids (16 and 13 at the time) moved to Idaho. This was the first big hurdle Penny and I had to clear. She wasn’t ready to be a full-time mom, and I was practically hysterical trying to keep my kids from moving 1600 miles away to live with a guy who, by the time the move was underway, I would meet once and get the creeps from. It was a mess. By the end of the school year, that all fell apart, the ex moved back here completely broke, and the kids moved in with us. Also that year, Penny took a big trip to Israel and came back a vegetarian. And we bought a new bed.
Year 2: Adjusting to life with kids in our little house on the prairie. Oliver lived in the basement, Emily in the refurbished attic, and Penny and I spent a lot of time in psychoanalysis. Don’t get me wrong: I loved having the kids with us full-time instead of just weekends. But, as Penny will attest, she simply didn’t know what she was getting into. It was a year of shattering all the illusions she’d had about marriage. And if I still had any, I guess mine were shattered, too.
Year 3: Emily off to college, and Oliver moving back in with his mom, which was a big blow for me. I’d really wanted him to stay with us. I didn’t have time to stay depressed, though, because just as Emily went back for her sophomore year...
Year 4: Penny went through the windshield of her car. This whole year was about recovery from a serious head injury, starting with five days in the hospital and Penny not even knowing who people were, to staying at home with her and walking her around the house until she could get her balance, to aphasia-addled conversations that began with questions like, “Is there a bathroom in this bathroom?” She spent months in a program at the Rehabilitation Institute, relearning how to do all kinds of things. We have pictures of her holding dozens of get-well cards from friends at Hallmark. No idea what I’d have done without all the support.
Year 5: What a weird one. Against steep odds, my brother and I make a deal on “Big Bad Love,” which I’ve been working on for several years. Against even greater odds (and just as my parents move back to town), Penny gets pregnant. Oliver graduates but decides to take a break for a year. He and I go off to Mississippi to make the movie. So I essentially abandon Penny for two months that include a brief birth-defect scare. Turns out to be nothing, but still. She still makes fun of me for ditching her. Then more scares, and total bed rest for the last month of 2000...
Year 6: and the first month of 2001, which culminates in Jonah. A two-hour labor and voom! He arrives, just barely, thanks to the life-saving work of Dr. Brenda Smith. Big Bad Love debuts at Cannes and gets picked up by IFC. Jonah gets picked up by me every night and walked around the house until he falls asleep. Penny picks up a contract with Hallmark, having quit her job to write from home. Oh, and Oliver’s off to college, the towers come down, and we’re at war.
Year 7: Still not much sleep, and as a bonus, still no sex, due to various post-baby complications, but that’s none of your business, and Penny will kill me if she reads this. Jonah already shows signs of weird genius, but doesn’t walk until almost 17 months. Oliver quits school two weeks into his sophomore year. Emily with a B.A., living in Chicago. Penny loses her grandma. Our cat dies. We get through it all. I make Penny an anniversary present that’s more elaborate than anything I’ve done before or since.
Year 8: I confess, it’s all a blur. At some point in here, I had to learn how to write a TV movie. This was “Dawn Anna,” for the Lifetime channel. Among other salient events in this story, our heroine has a brain condition that means she’ll have to learn to walk again. Like I’d know anything about that. Meanwhile, Penny is doing amazing things with Jonah, bringing him out of a social and emotional shell that seemed perilously like what we’d read about Asberger’s. Man, the kid is bright -- and now, socially engaged, picking up emotional cues, the works. I really do give Penny the credit for this.
Year 9: “Dawn Anna” is the #1 cable program (exluding pro wrestling) for its week. Wow, an actual audience... and then it gets one Emmy nomination. Other than that, it’s more blur, but if Jonah is three, this is the year he asks me, “When will all these days end?” Meaning, when will life be over? Good question, three-year-old. Welcome to adulthood.
Year 10: When will all these Bush-era days end? My brother and I get a couple of movie projects simmering, both of which comment on the current mess. Penny and I get swallowed whole by various home renovations and the relentless routines of work and kid. We look up, it’s been ten years, we have no idea where it went.
Year 11: I turn 50. Jonah off to kindergarten. Penny working on book concepts with illustrator friends. I convince the filmmaking faction of the family to option T.C. Boyle’s “Drop City,” and proceed to spend every spare moment trying to put this monster into the cage of a screenplay. By fall, we have a sprawlingly hefty but truly thrilling draft. Bob Berney, having moved from IFC to Picture House, loves it and is shopping it around. We’ll see...
Year 12: Jonah trajecting toward first grade. Emily still teaching in Chicago. Oliver now studying music in Fairfax, CA. Freed from her Hallmark contract, Penny's now writing for about a dozen other companies and concerns. I’m still head over heels for her. We buy a new bed. It’s about time.