I’ve always loved the name Calvin.
Growing up I had fond memories of reading Calvin and Hobbes comics in the backyard with my little brother. We’d spend the day hanging out in the tree fort laughing like mad men at the mischief caused by those two. It was the only name that came to mind when my wife told me we were pregnant and the thought of having a scrappy little tyke running around causing mischief just made the idea of becoming a father less scary. There were other famous Calvin’s; Calvin Coolidge is the only one that comes to mind at the moment and maybe that’s the Calvin my wife thought of when she agreed to the name, but to me it was always after that rambunctious little trouble maker.
Sadly she never got to meet our little Calvin as she died giving birth to him.
Needless to say he was brought into this world tainted and though his blonde hair and soft brown eyes were unlike his mothers, he was the spitting image of her to our family and friends. It’s an odd thing passing around a child with the fresh thought of death in everyone’s mind, looking at this small human, so innocent and pure and yet knowing it had already taken a life. I think that’s part of the reason I decided to have him baptized. I don’t believe in God – but I had to take my feelings out of it. Becoming a father – a single father at that – meant that I wasn’t just in charge of looking out only for myself anymore; I was responsible for someone else’s soul. I could care less if I spend eternity in so-called Hellfire, but I wasn’t going to risk putting Calvin through that. The term is called Pascal’s Wager; essentially it means that it is better to follow the belief that there is a God than to not follow and find out there is a Hell. I had to think of it as insurance; better to be safe than sorry. The priest gave me the run down, informing me that we are all born into this world with original sin but I felt like my son had more than others. In the eyes of God; the tiny hands that could barely hold a rattle were covered in my wife’s blood.
Landing in Houston on the day of his Baptism was an ordeal. I was already nervous about the flight with Calvin, but as luck would have it his ears didn’t pop coming back down and Calvin serenaded the entire plane with his heart wrenching rendition of “There is a terrible pain in my head” – what can I say he’s a natural singer. I remember dashing through the airport, weary and drained from the lengthy flight, just praying for his wailing to cease, when all of a sudden as if the sea itself had parted, he stopped. As if disarming a bomb I nervously pulled him back from over my shoulder where I was holding him to see him staring wide-eyed at a stuffed animal pinned to a long trail of other stuffed toys in the small shop I was standing next to. That day, the day of his baptism, we welcomed “Jake,” the loveable stuffed green alligator into our little family.
For the next few weeks of his life Calvin was quiet; eerily so – which is the fear of every new parent that something is wrong with their child. If they’re too loud, too quiet, too smart, too slow; it’s a sea of endless black that you’re navigating with a pen-light, but the doctors assured me that he was normal. “Normal,” is such a subjective word, but in the context of a healthy baby boy it was perfect for me.
Slowly he grew. It wasn’t that he looked like his mother; his eyes, nose and lips were all different; in fact pretty much the only thing he got from her were his ears; sticking out like a taxi with the doors open –sorry bud. No, it wasn’t the look of her but his little micro mannerisms: the way he pointed when he wanted up; the small way he lift his eye brows; the crinkle his forehead made….it was all so reminiscent of her that often times I would catch myself just staring at him remembering the past.
As he matured our relationship got more complex; I never bothered dating – between a new child and work I was a full time dad which I was more than okay with. Calvin, Daddy and Jake would do to the park, the Zoo, the Science Center; hell, I had seen more of Seattle with Calvin and that little stuffed alligator than I had in the seven years I spent living here. But like all good things…well you know the rest. The point is, Calvin grew up fast and before I knew it he was starting Kindergarten. Leaving him at school was always the absolute darkest part of my day, someone that had consumed so much of my life was gone from my life and handing him over to the teachers there was just heart wrenching. However, seeing him again was always the highlight – it was when he started school that the realization of just how much I loved being a father dawned on me; he was my whole world and I was happy to always be his.
It was around that time I started noticing my neighbour across the street and the way he looked at Calvin.