Bad Timing

Bad Timing

©2002 by Pat Wray

I thought she had learned.  My wife and I raised our daughter well.  We taught her to be considerate of other people. Taught her to respect her elders. But somehow it didn’t take.

The phone call came in the early evening.  By the sound of her voice we thought it was something good.  I figured she and her husband had bought a good dog or a new four-wheel-drive pickup.  My wife knew better.

“We’re going to have a baby!”

“Great!  When?”  I was excited.  My wife was beside herself.  I mean that literally.  She wiggled faster than a pointer pup that just figured out what bird scent meant.

“Late October!”

My wife erupted joyfully.  “Oh, how wonderful!”

I erupted differently.  “Are you kidding me?  October?  Again? How could you do this? Why do you hate me?”

OK, I didn’t exactly say that but I was thinking it.  I would have said it but I could see my wife’s fist clenching.  My ribs started hurting reflexively.  “Oh, boy!”  I said, out loud.  Or maybe it was “Whoopee!” or “Swell!”

So I sat there, suffering quietly, while my wife and daughter were being deliriously happy about the coming of the second grandkid.

I was happy, too.  A hair short of delirious, maybe, but happy, nonetheless.  However, I was also doing the math.  It was pretty clear, even to someone who had to take algebra twice, that the kid probably was conceived in January.  January for crying out loud!  How could she do that, knowing the kid would come in October?

It’s not as though our daughter has not had a very thorough education about human reproduction and the possible implications.  I can remember one of our early discussions about the birds and the bees. I didn’t have to spend a lot of effort on the mechanics…after all, what do we have television for?  I needed to explain about the timing.

“The easiest way is to work backwards,” I said.  “First, you take into account the months when we can hunt or fish and count backwards nine months.  Then eliminate those months as baby-making months.  It’s important that we not have children during hunting and fishing seasons.”

I referred her to the good example her mother and I had set.  “You would do well to learn from your parents, Heather.  You and your brother were both born in January, after the most of the hunting and fishing is over.”  She was not as receptive to my guidance as I’d hoped, pointing out with a laugh that both she and her brother were born within a year after I’d returned from long absences.

“Sounds like luck of the draw to me, Dad.”

I admitted there might have been an element of chance in their births.  “But we were responsible parents.  Keeping our seasons open was always uppermost in our minds.”

It’s not easy conducting a serious conversation with your daughter when your wife is cackling so hard she can hardly take a breath.

“OK, maybe not uppermost but we definitely took hunting seasons into account.”  More cackling.  “Well, I did, anyway.”  It was time to change the subject before my poor wife passed out from lack of oxygen.

The next time we spoke of the issue of birth timing was four years ago, shortly after Heather had announced the existence of her first child.  The baby was to be born in October.  I was supportive, overwhelmed by the concept of grandfatherhood, but I still offered a gentle reminder.

“Heather, I’m very happy about your pregnancy. Nonetheless, we are an advanced, civilized society.  We can clone sheep, we can travel in space, we can practically control the weather.  We ought to be able to make sure the births of our children don’t conflict with our outdoor excursions.  Children are a lifelong commitment, Heather.  It’s not as though the problem is over after they are born.  They are going to have that same birthday for the rest of their lives.  Have you thought about what that means?  Birthday parties, presents, cakes!  And it’s all going to happen on that day, DURING HUNTING SEASON, for the rest of my…I mean her life.”

Heather leaned back and asked in a weary voice, “OK, Dad.  When would you like me to deliver your future grandkids?”

I detected a tinge of sarcasm but ignored it, choosing to take the high road.  “February,” I said.  “February is the perfect month. I would say March was OK, too, except that spring chinook are starting to show up.  April would be fine if spring bear and turkey seasons weren’t beginning.  May would also be good, but trout season opens and the ice is coming off the high mountain lakes.  Summer steelhead and shad are showing up in June and July is the absolute best month for warm water fish.  Antelope hunting begins in August and elk bow hunting runs right through September.  October, when your kid is due, is smack in the middle of upland game bird and deer hunting seasons.  November and December are prime waterfowl hunting months.  Chukar and quail hunting are still going on through January so, yes, February would be my choice. All the hunting seasons are over, except for the unprotected animals you can hunt year round.  And there’s not much fishing going on, either.  It doesn’t seem like too much to ask to schedule your kids for February.”

I didn’t realize how little she listened to me until three years later, when she told us her second child would also be born in October.  And not even late October like the first, but in the first few days of the month.  She was actually going to cover the entire month with her kids.

I complained to my wife, but she just smiled and said I didn’t need to go to the birthday parties.

Ha!  I’m not falling for that one.  She’s just trying to horn in on my grandparent time.  I’m going to the parties; you couldn’t keep me away. And when the munchkins get old enough, I’ll take them out to have their parties in a tree stand or on the chukar slopes, where birthdays really should be celebrated…if they can’t be scheduled for February.

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