Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Catalogue of Life, The Gender Specifier, and Award-Winning Movies

Things happen to families that change their course and their outlooks. If you look in the Catalogue of Life under "Life-Altering Experiences," you will see that there are more than a few things that can change the future for a family. You will see sad things, like "Death of a family member," or "Fired from job." You will also see happy things, like "Wedding," or "Birth of a child." You might also see weird things, like "Splurged and bought 400 pieces of Elvis Presley's hair for $7,000," but that one is for another blog. Most of the time, these changes happen one at a time over a period of months, sometimes years. Seldom do these things happen close to one another. For them to occur within the same month is incredible. For my family, not only did a few of these happen in the same month, they happened in the same week! The past seven days, May 5-12, 2010, may need to be registered as some kind of holiday. If not, at least give people a day afterwards to catch their collective breaths.

Wednesday, May 5, was one day that contained one of those life-changing things. It was a very exciting day. It was hopefully the day that the Gingerbread Man showed itself to be a boy or a girl. No longer would this person be referred to with the dreaded neuter pronoun "it," but would be called gender-specific things. No one would talk of this person in ambiguous terms, but in gender-specific terms. Gone would be the days of receiving only gender-neutral clothing, and forever present would be the days of shopping for gender-specific outfits. The slash in "he/she" would be removed within a few short minutes. 

The Ultrasound Room waited, ready. Kellee reclined on the bed next to the machine. The technician sat next to her readying the equipment. I sat on the couch, which should have had a sign above it that reads "I serve no purpose at the moment." Out came a bottle of blue gel (which I'm told was surprisingly warm) and on the exposed belly it went. Then the technician spread it around with what looked to be the business end of a vacuum hose. Then she asked "Do you want a DVD of this?" which is a question that ranks on the "Duh" meter somewhere between "Is this fire hot?" and "Do you like breathing?" With the session recording, the first great event of the week was underway. 

I would have thought that one would have had time to prepare for the information that was about to be given to me at that moment. I would have expected the technician to say something like "OK, let's see if we can find out what you are having," or "In just a minute I will tell you what you are having." But that is not what happened. I knew why I was in that room. I knew I was going to be told a gender-specific term, but I thought I would have had time to appreciate the moment and prepare myself. But that is not what happened. I thought we would go on a guided tour of the womb, seeing all the sights, and then, at the end of the guided tour, be told "Oh yes, by the way, you are having a boy/girl." But that is not what happened. 

Within a minute of the Record button's being pressed the technician said, "Would you like to know what you are having?" (Two "Duh" questions in less than 5 minutes. Is she trying for a record?) We said, "Yes," and then immediately were shown the Potty-Bowl View. 

The Potty-Bowl View is, I am told, the money shot. It is the angle that you want to see during this visit. It is THE angle that takes the aforementioned slash away. It is, for lack of a better term, the gender specifier. "You are having a boy," she said. Wait, wait, hold on. I had hardly enough time to press the record button on my own memory and here she goes blurting it out. It took me a few minutes to gather what she just so matter-of-factly said. I am having a son! We are having a son! The Gingerbread Man was, in fact, a Gingerbread Boy. Apparently, somehow, someone switched my memory device in my head with something that could see the future. A movie flashed quickly through my mind. It was a movie of a little boy (whose face was as blurry as the one on the screen, presently, but still boy none the less) riding with Pap Pap on his orange tractor. Then he was hunting with Pop. Then he was being shown off by Grandma to everyone with whom she works. Then he was playing some board game with Jema. Then he was helping his mother cook dinner.

The movie, I suppose, would have continued for a while, but a voice interrupted it. It was the front desk at the office telling us that two friends were there to see us (and by "us" I mean Kellee and the ultrasound). Jonie Womac and Kristy Hinson were waiting at the door down the hallway when I opened it. One of them could tell instantly that I knew the answer to the all-important question of the moment, because, apparently, I was smiling. I guided them down the hall to the movie theatre door and in we walked. 

Jonie, a future ultrasound technician herself, took one look at the image on the screen (which to me looked like something trying to eat the starship Enterprise) and said "Oh, you're having a boy!" Little chirps and noises came out of the two females who were jumping up and down. They, mothers of three boys, undoubtedly had movies playing in their own heads.  After the technician had finished making our DVD, she showed us to the office of Dr. Childs. He talked to us for a few minutes and told us to come back in a month. 

Phone calls were quickly made to the grandparents. Interestingly, when the grandmothers were told, similar sounds came out of the ear piece that had just come out of Jonie and Kristy. It was a wonderful day. It was a day that changed our lives.

Saturday, May 7, 2010, was another day that contained an experience from the "Life-Altering" category. For the first time in a long time, all of the Gilpins were in the same place at the same time. Two came from Salem, VA. Two came from Cleveland, TN. One stayed right where he was. We had descended on Tuscaloosa, AL. to see Kirk graduate from the University of Alabama. We sat in Coleman Coliseum with one set of grandparents, Kirk's girlfriend, Kacy, and Kirk's and my cousin, Abby. 

As I sat there, thumbing through the program, another movie began to play in my mind. This time, it wasn't anything from the future. This time, it was something I had seen before. It was a movie of some of the times I had spent with the soon-to-be graduate. It was a movie of the time I tried to make Kirk an African by covering him in mud. It was a movie of the time he took big chunks out of my foam mattress to make shoulder pads to fit under his L.A. Raiders jersey. It was a movie of going to my first Alabama game and sitting next to Dad and Kirk. It was a movie of going to Atlanta to watch Alabama play Virginia Tech and getting back home at 3 in the morning. It was a movie of going to Auburn to watch the 2009 Iron Bowl. It was a movie of the two of us standing under some very bare trees on Toomer's Corner after the 2009 Iron Bowl and smiling.

A smile crept across my face as the movies continued to play as a young man's name was called and his future changed forever. It's interesting that we sat for two hours just to watch a 15 second stroll and a handshake, but it was well worth the trip. I guess I could say that for the past 22 years we have spent knowing him: It has been worth the trip. He had done well and deserved the day. It was a wonderful day. It was a day that changed our lives.

Today, Wednesday, May 12, 2010, as I sat, writing out the synopsis of the week's movie, I was reminded that today is the half-way point of Kellee's pregnancy. She has carried HIM for half of the time needed for full term. Could there be a better week for that to happen? I think not. I wouldn't have it any other way than to have that movie playing along with the others that occurred during this week. In about 20 weeks, I will be holding my son, with the cerebral camera (and an actual camera) rolling the whole time. That will be a wonderful day. That will be a day that will change our lives. 

Each of us carries with him a recording device. We can watch those movies we have made whenever we like. And, like Ray Ramano once said, it is good that we can sometimes edit those same movies.

As far as I am concerned, the movie of the past week should win an Academy Award. It had the Best Actors, Best Supporting Cast, Best Story, and Best Musical Score (graduation theme) all in seven days.
It's comforting to know that I can watch my award-winning movies any time I want. And who is the audience? It's I. And for now, I am simply