Spock's Brain
by HYPERFocused

Andy Brown would never forget the day Julia told him she was pregnant for the first time. He came home from a long and difficult day to find her sitting at the kitchen table, slowly licking a homemade blueberry Popsicle, the kind she made with frozen fresh fruit, and poured into Dixie cups.

"Want a lick?" she asked, holding it out to him, an impish grin on her face. It was a typically hot New York summer, so he assumed she was just being thoughtful - and maybe reminding him of the times they used to go blueberry picking up in Maine on their vacations. It had been a long while since he'd had time to take her on a vacation, and he knew she was due. These berries had come from the natural foods store she liked to shop at on Saturday mornings.

"No, that's OK. I'll just taste it here." He leaned down and kissed her, warming her chilled lips. "Delicious."

Julia nibbled the Popsicle, and asked Andy about his day. He loved the way she always seemed interested, and followed the stories from day to day, remembering names and details perfectly. It was one of the many ways he knew she loved him, and it made him feel great, even on the toughest day.

After he wound down from regaling her with tales of patients with no patience, and surgeons whose words sliced deeper than their scalpels, he asked her what was new.

"The stick turned blue," she said, holding out the blueberry stained tongue depressor she'd used for the Popsicle handle.

"Well, yes, blueberries will do that." Andy told her. "I bet your tongue is blue, too. Here, open up and say Aaah." Julia giggled. Sometimes she was the silliest thing, Andy thought..

"No, Andy. The stick turned blue." She reached into her purse, which was sitting under the table next to her, and pulled out a different sort of stick entirely. This one was white plastic, with a clearly defined blue line bisecting it.

"Are you sure?" Andy asked her, feeling like an idiot as soon as the words left his mouth.

"The package said 99% error proof. But of course I haven't gone to the doctor yet." Julia looked at him expectantly, obviously waiting for more of a reaction. "You are happy about this, aren't you, Andy?"

"Honey, of course I am. I'm just a little surprised, that's all. It's a good surprise. C'mere." He stood up, and pulled her up too, wrapping his arms around her. He could feel her relaxing into him, her relief palpable.

"I've got an appointment with Dr. Rambar on Thursday," Julia told him.

"That's three days away. I'll call over there and get you in tomorrow."

"Honey, it's not an emergency." Julia soothed.

"Yes it is. I'll die if I have to wait that long to find out for sure. Besides, if this isn't the time to use my in as a doctor, I don't know what is."

When the pregnancy was confirmed the next afternoon, Andy was there. He had to go back to the office, but actually made it home relatively early. In one hand, he had miniature roses for Julia, in the other, a large bag full of books.

What to Expect When You're Expecting. Raising a Healthy Baby. 1001 Baby Names. Beyond Pink or Blue - The Modern Guide to Nursery Decorating. The list went on and on. He knew he was going to read them all, and probably underline the pertinent points for Julia, who was always more of a seat of the pants sort. But most reassuring to Andy was Dr. Spock's guide.

It was true, Andy did read all the books, and found what he hoped would prove to be useful information in most of them. But it was the copy of Dr Spock that they kept, referring to until it was dog-eared, through two children, and more crises big and small than he could remember.

Ephram had been a difficult baby. He sat on a nerve through the last two months of Julia's pregnancy. Her labor with him was especially difficult. They came close to doing a cesarean. Ephram came out screaming, and rarely stopped. Most of his baby pictures showed him with a little red face, and scrunched fists.

Sometimes Andy didn't think he'd ever changed. The wails had turned into scathing words, and door slams, but the intent was still the same. Ephram was angry, and everyone was going to know about it.

But then he remembered what Ephram had been like at three and four years old. How he'd looked up at Andy with such adoration. That angry baby became a quiet, serious little boy. Smart and sweet, just like his mother. He hated how much of Ephram's life he'd missed, the necessarily long hours he kept preventing him from being there for milestones and stepping-stones. Seeing them on Julia's videotape wasn't the same thing.

Julia's gone now, and he's grateful for every one of those videotapes. He listens to her warm voice, encouraging Ephram. "Tell Daddy you love him, sweetie. Play him that new song you learned today." "Smile, Delia. Show Daddy your new tooth.". He doesn't cry every time he hears it, anymore.

Sometimes, Ephram sits down next to him, and they watch together. Ephram wraps his arms around himself, but he doesn't pull away when Andy puts an arm around him. Delia likes to watch herself as a baby. She snuggles next to Ephram, and lets him tug lightly on the strands of her hair. It's a tease that's more affection than annoyance. Julia used to braid it, fancy twists she learned in a book. Delia braids it herself now, a simple three strand plait, every once in awhile. It isn't the same, and she knows it. Mostly, she hides it under a baseball cap.

Andy wishes he could find the answers he searches for in Dr Spock now. He needs something familiar to help him down this new path. What to say to a son who is growing into a man, but with issues and concerns unlike Andy had grappled with as a teenager. How can he tell Ephram it's ok to love whoever he wants, as long as that person treats him with the respect he deserves? Andy's not blind. He sees the way Bright looks at his son, and the way Ephram looks back. He wants to tell him to be careful in this small town, that it isn't New York. But he wants Ephram to be honest, and feel safe where he lives..

How can he be what Delia needs, as she heads towards her teenage years. Little girls grow up faster than he's comfortable with, these days. Today she's a tomboy. Tomorrow she'll be trying on bras. He's not ready for any of it. He wants to shield Delia from fair weather friends like Brittany, and their two faced mothers. Julia would have known what to do. She always did. He talks to Edna, and sometimes Nina, and that helps, but none of them are Delia's mother.

Intent on clearing some of the clutter they've collected over the years, and on helping the library book sale, Andy checks the shelves for old books they no longer need. He puts "What to Expect", and "Baby Names" in the pile, then picks up that old blue paperback. He shakes it, and Julia's tiny notes fall out. Appointments with the pediatrician. Delia's first words. "E-piano?" written when he was two, and was entranced at a concert they all assumed he was too young to sit through.

It's true, there are no answers for Ephram and Delia now, but this book has a lot of history written in its margins. He puts in back on the shelf, this old friend has not overstayed its welcome.


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