I jumped up to fight the doctor as Tai was being born, to make sure everything came out all right. I would have fought him to keep him from hurting someone I loved. That would be Kim.
Until he was about 16 and got ripped, Tai was small and lean like Kim. He came out of her womb with a cone head, from struggling to squeeze his soft skull through her small birth canal. His head rounded out in a few days, although sometimes it takes years, and sometimes it never gets better, that’s what they said. In the beginning, you haven’t a clue of the torpedoes.
Kim’s spirit never wavered, enduring the pain of contractions for 12 hours. Finally an experienced doctor joined the team of ever-changing young ones, and with one look pronounced, “This girl is too small for this baby.” Kim was whisked off for a Cesarean, under local anesthesia, as she wished.
They allowed me in the operating room and sat me in a wheelchair in case I fainted, near enough to stroke Kim’s head, her beautiful black hair. I held her hand as long as they let me, until the surgeon sliced. She shouted out sharply, in a cry of pain. This isn’t supposed to happen, I thought. The doctor asked her if she could take a bit more, those were his words, “a bit more,” denying the word “pain.” Upping her game, unsurely, Kim said yes, and to understand why might be to understand Kim.
She yelped a second time, a short scream that stabbed me like the scalpel in my heart. I sprang from my wheelchair and shouted, “Stop!”
The doctor too was shaken by the screams of his patient, so he didn’t have to be persuaded. He called in the general anesthiologist, as they escorted me to another room, although I crept back and lurked outside the operating room, listening for sounds of trouble that I might need to fix.
I sometimes do that. Tai might tell you about that.
The word tai means talent in Vietnamese. I wonder if Tai would be different if I had actually named him Tai Bob as I wanted to, not that I could have talked Kim into it. Or Tai Bones. Or any of the silly others: Tai Maverick, Tai Zane, Tai Braveheart, Tai Shootingstar. Well, Tai Zane sounds kind of cool. We ended up with Tai Chinnock, not so expressive, but it has family heritage. His friends used to take Tai Chi out of it, without knowing that the Chinese translation is “supreme ultimate force.”
Sometimes they called him Ticco. I don’t know where it came from, but I like the sound. He plays soccer on teams with Mexican boys, and he passes with flying dark colors, having Kim’s tawny skin and beautiful hair, although he keeps it buzzed now. I used to call him Tai-Tai, until I shouted it during a game and he stopped running and gave me the evil eye, his being especially effective. I used to think the dark evil eye was Asian, like Kim’s, but I’m beginning to think it might be Arabian, my side, and it scares the shit out of me.
“What did I do?” I asked.
“You called me Tai-Tai,” he said.
“I’ve been calling you Tai-Tai for 12 years,” I replied, baffled.
“It’s embarrassing,” he said.
The soccer parents on the sideline all laughed, clear to them that this was news to me.
Tai is 17 now, and his brother Maks is 15, and so far they’ve both come out fine. You could write a book. I’ve been writing this one for five years, if you don’t count another ten years of keeping the TaiMaks Journal.
Beginning when Maks was about nine months old, I wrote down almost every little thing that happened among us. A million words and counting. Every issue documented. I never read it until I started this book, and it took all that summer to read.
I tapered way off over the last couple years, and now almost not at all, because they’re teenagers and there’s so much drama, and our interpersonal relationships are not so sweet, and there’s too much grief in the lessons.
Sometimes the journal blows me away. I see the inevitable in it. I see that it’s always been that way. I see the first time.