I kept my arms at 90 degrees. My elbows were locked and my arms were working in harmony with my legs. I did my best to maintain optimal form as I sprinted around the racetrack at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. There were no horses running on the track that day. Just me. But the stands were full of graduates and their loved ones hugging and crying and taking pictures together. The midfield was full of lingering Deans and Associate Deans. And, then there was me attending my first graduation as an Assistant Professor sprinting through the first turn and then the second turn and into the parking lot and up to a police officer who was directing traffic and telling him, pleading with him “My wife is in labor, my truck is up on the hill and I’ve got to get back down to San Diego.”

Upon hearing my tale, he waved down a passing car whose passenger rolled down her window. And, with my arms raised above my head and me doing my very best to catch my breath, I told her my tale and asked if I could get a ride to the top of the hill. She smiled at me reassuringly and looked over at her husband who shook his head no. But she gave him the look. I didn’t see the look. But I know the look. I’ve gotten that look. It’s a look that changes a man’s mind. And, he did. So, I jumped in. But, we didn’t move too far in the sea of queuing cars. No, not at all. So, I jumped out like I’d jumped in and said “Thanks anyway” and sprinted for the hill and then up the hill, up the hill and up the hill. And, when I reached the top of the hill, I jumped into my truck and raced down Highway 5. I had no idea what I was racing toward. But I felt too far from home. Not San Diego home. Home, home. There was no family here. It was too big here. And, that was why we were moving back. But first I had to get back to that 400 square foot bungalow we rented that was situated in an alley and in the shadow of the towering apartment complex and behind and catty-corner to the house that housed the lesbian biker-gang whose members blasted Heart’s “All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You” whenever participating in extracurricular activities in the biker-gang hot tub (yes, those extracurriculars).

I did get home and after getting home and picking up Kyra and going to Baby’s R Us to buy a car seat (Dillon was early and we were not prepared) we got to the hospital. And, after many hours of Kyra doing the most physically and emotionally demanding work that one human can ever ask of another human and after kicking the doula out for playing Air Supply (which I love but not in that moment) Dillon arrived. And when he arrived, he looked just like my dad and my initial thought was not that he was beautiful (which he was) or that this an insanely incredible process by which we humans pluck other humans out of the mystery and deposit them here on Earth (which it is). No. My initial thought was “that mother f*cker”. Yes, that was my initial thought. And, yes, you know what thought I was thinking. But if you think that was a crazed, Neanderthalic, straight-from-the-Caves-of-Gargas thought I thought, then wait until I tell you what I told Kyra two months later when I was putting her and Dillon on a plane to Virginia and I was looking at a three-day cross-country drive without them. But, first, let me tell you that upon the nurses wrapping Dillon in a thin blanket of blue that thought I thought dissipated and we held him and held him and held him. And, when it was time to go home, we drove home so slow that all of cars and trucks and semis and motorcycles on the highway had to swerve around us. And, when we got home, we held him and held him and held him. And, when his mama fell asleep, I laid alongside of him and we stared into each other’s eyes and his brow furrowed with a question: who are you?

I widened my eyes to tell him. And, he dug and dug and dug. Layer after layer he burrowed. It was powerful. Frightening. With other humans, I could control what they saw, foist upon them a false narrative and dictate the pace and choose whether or not to participate. Not here. He bore through every layer artifice. I tried to hide from him what I hide from myself and the rest of the world. But I could not stop him from seeing everything. “There is more, show me more” he insisted. I resisted. But he touched my nose with his crinkled little fingers (they still smelled of the beginning) and I relented. And, he went through everything I had ever done – my entire past and all of my insecurities and all of my suspicions and all of the violence I harbor. And, he showed me all of these parts of myself not with a sense of disappointment but with a “this is you too” matter-of-factness. And, then he went to meet that someone that I had sent into exile, disowned and hidden away. That someone young and scared and afraid and hurt. And, he met that someone with compassion and said “this is you too.”

It had been thirty-something years since I had sent that someone into exile. But it turned out that I needed that someone and that someone needed me. Because, without that someone, I would never be whole. So, I said “hello” and I felt small. So small. I was not holding Dillon. He was holding me. And, what I experienced (at least as I understand what I experienced) was an existential weighing: How have you used this life you have been given? And, moving forward, how are you going to use this life you’ve been given?

Dillon’s arrival initiated a process of integration and healing for me. Hands down, he’s the most important person in my life and his arrival is the most important event in my life. In those early days, following his arrival, we experienced an existential bonding. And, after having experienced that experience, I could not imagine letting him go or him possibly experiencing the same experience with another human (especially another man). So, I told Kyra when she got on that plane “Don’t let another man bond with him.” I know. But, he was mine. He wasn’t. He isn’t. But he was.


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Thanks. – shawn