The Daddy Clock

The Daddy Clock

by Judy Markey

Paperback(Mass Market Paperback)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553577433
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/03/1998
Pages: 309
Product dimensions: 4.20(w) x 6.84(h) x 0.81(d)

About the Author

Judy Markey has written a syndicated humor column in the Chicago Sun-Times for fifteen years.  She is also co-host of Chicago's top-rated midday talk show, WGN's Kathy and Judy.  She lives in Chicago and has lovely E-mail and telephone relationships with her two adult children.

From the Paperback edition.

Read an Excerpt

Daylight had started to creep through the blinds of the waiting room. The tan vinyl couches and pallid green walls had the look of a bad hangover. There was a little too much of yesterday left in it. Yesterday's newspapers, yesterday's coffee cups, and yesterday's occupants, all in assorted modes of pacing or sleeping or staring dourly at the TV.

"Chuckie," my mother nudged, "come ON!"

Christ, I hate being Chuckied. I am forty-four years old, and my name is Charlie. Charlie Feldman. No one gets away with Chuckie-ing me anymore. No one but the fabulous Sophie. Who, like all mothers, acknowledges only under duress that I am an adult. Her preferred vision of me still involves little brown corduroys and cowboy suspenders.

Of course even the most cursory reality check should alert our Sophie to other signs of my being full-grown. Such as the fact that I am six feet tall (okay, five-eleven), weigh one hundred eighty pounds, and am beginning to gray in a way that I don't exactly pull off as distinguished. Further proof that I am a certifiable adult is the fact that I have spent nearly twenty years covering sports for the Chicago Sun-Times. Unfortunately the assholes masquerading as editors have refused to give me the column that I, like all sportswriters, feel I deserve. Even so, I have won some national writing awards, and my byline is not unknown.

Except maybe to Sophie. Who does know it. But doesn't read it a lot. Sophie has a hard time getting into sports. Abe, on the other hand, the one currently on the respirator and who maybe has seen my byline for the last time, reads every single word. Twice. Maybe three times. The old man can hardly get enough of my dazzling prose. Part of it is that my younger brother Roger is a podiatrist. There is not much conversational follow up when you tell people your son is a podiatrist. But when you tell them your son is a sportswriter, you can have a conversation for days.

Abe and Sophie have been married forty-seven years. Most of that time was spent behind the counters at Feldman's Children's Shop, formerly of Rogers Park, subsequently of Skokie, currently extinct. Since then, they have happily divided their time between Florida winters and Chicago summers, causing Abe to marvel, "Who ever thought I'd be living year round in white shoes?"

However, right now Abe was the only person in the room without white shoes. He was surrounded by three nurses on monitoring duty when Sophie and I pushed open the door. It was six-thirty a.m. on Sunday, and Sophie and I had been at the hospital since four the afternoon before. Roger and his wife Elaine had left at ten last night to go home to their three kids.

I hadn't seen the old man since four in the morning, and wished like hell that waxy, gray look he had would go away. "Dad. Hey, Dad," I whispered from the foot of the bed, "you're looking great. How ya doin'?"

Abe looked like he was trying to be doing good. It wasn't that easy. I'm sure all he wanted was for it to be the way it was. The way it was Friday before he collapsed with a massive heart attack. Or the way it was three years ago when he and Sophie went to Roger's kid's bar mitzvah. Or the way it was thirty years ago when he and Roger and I would sneak away from the store, take the El down to Wrigley Field, and play hooky for the day. I bet Abe didn't care which "way it was" he went back to, just so it would be anytime but now. Now he must be scared shitless. I was.

There hasn't ever been a whole lot of talk in the Feldman household about dying. But now, if we got through this part without the dying really happening, we would never be able not to think about it again. We all knew that.

"Abe-y," whispered Sophie, "it's Chuckie."

"Mom, he knows. Right, Dad? She just can't believe that she finally has you where she's always wanted. With all those tubes down your throat so you can't tell any of those lousy jokes."

Abe almost smiled. But it was more than he could handle. His eyes closed )mmediately. Sophie and I spent the rest of our allotted five-minute visit standing in a conversation-less holding pattern. And hoping the next time we'd be allowed in, we'd get a little more of Abe back.

As the morning progressed, the hospital began to take on more of a full Sunday look. Pre-church and post-church families with straight-from-the-supermarket cellophaned carnations started streaming in. This group to see their dying father, that group to see their dying grandmother...The thing I noticed most was that they all arrived in groups. Sunday is always a big group day. When you're alone, you feel Sundays in a tough way. Tougher even than Saturday nights. At least Saturday nights are dark. You can hide. Or you can hang out with a buddy. Granted, in my case, I'm usually hanging out with a bunch of guys in face masks at some hockey rink. Or I have for the last three years. That's when they took me off baseball, and I started covering the Blackhawks. But even during the summer when I'm off, Sunday is the day that you notice your oneness the most. Everybody shows up in some version of a unit. Nuclear families, extended families, divorced dads with their kids, divorced moms with their kids, divorced dads with their kids and girlfriends, divorced moms with their kids and boyfriends, straight couples with no kids, gay couples with no kids, and kid couples who you hope like hell are smart enough not to have kids. Just about every kind of demographic mutation always seems to show up full-force on Sundays.

Except singles. Single guys, anyway. Single women get together on Sundays. But not us guys. Not guys my age. No way am I going to call up a guy and say, "Let's get some brunch and watch the game at the bar." For Chrissakes, I'm forty-four. My friends aren't available for games. My friends are married. Or they are divorced. But on Sunday they all have some version of family or fatherhood to deal with.

Like Bobby. Bobby Tuckerman was my best friend all the way through Senn High School. Then after college, when I came home from Michigan and he came home from Madison, we shared an apartment for two years, until Bobby met Sherry Lowenberg. Three's a crowd in a one-bedroom apartment. So I moved out, Sherry moved in, they got married, and now they were the proud owners and operators of Jennifer, Joshua, and Jason Tuckerman, ages seventeen, fourteen, and eight, respectively.

I started out pretty involved with their kids, in an Uncle Charlie way. But once Bobby and the family went suburban out there in Deerfield, I've been less inclined to show up in their lives. Bobby and I still talk on the phone regularly, but the one-on-ones with each other have definitely dwindled. Part of this has to do with the half-hour drive between us and my being out of town so much. But it's also his wife-driven social schedule, the kids' gymnastics tournaments, and soccer coaching. It isn't that I begrudge Bobby any of this, but it does make it tough to relate. Tough to connect to this parenthood club that he and most everybody else seems to belong to. But me.

Christ. I hate how that sounds. I hate guys who gripe. It makes me seem like some mope vying for a spot in the Lonely Guy Hall of Fame. But waiting rooms do not bring out the best in a person. They make a person think all sorts of who-is-going-to-be-sitting-in-the-waiting-room-for-me thoughts. It's a little tough not to notice that you are careening toward fifty and seem to be the only son in the room who hasn't had the opportunity to be a fine father too.

Watching the couple across from me clinging fiercely to each other made me feel as if I were at a drive-in movie all by myself. How hard was it to fall in love with a person, make a kid with that person, stay in love with that person, have fights with that person, raise your mutual kid with that person? How hard was it to stop living in chronic float?

I was still waiting for it to happen. The wife, kids, two-car garage life. Not that I had been doing much to make it happen these past five years, with hockey keeping me on the road nine months of the year...

Dammit. I am not going to blame it all on the job. This job was always the dream. To get paid to go to ball games? It's the greatest fucking job a person can have. I love sports. I love the commitment and the intensity of the athletes. And at some naive level, this job has always made me feel that I've had it better than most. For twenty years I have been immersed in a world that I find consistently compelling. Not everyone can say that. But I have paid a price. Twenty years on the road catches up with you. It sure as hell makes it even more complicated than it already is to hook up with a woman. Unless you're talking about a pretty low-maintenance type. And women you pick up in saloons after you've filed your stories might be fine for some guys, but it isn't the solution to the emptiness gnawing at me.

So there I sat. In the waiting room, in the middle of everyone else's extended family. And I decided. Enough. I had to get ahold of my life. I had to stop wishing for something I wasn't willing to take any risks to try to get. I wanted some roots. I wanted some connection.

I wanted a kid. A girl, a boy, a baby. Now.

Of course, even if I started right that minute, even if I walked out of the hospital, fell drop-dead in love with a woman, and we made a baby right there in the parking lot, I'd still be somewhere around sixty-four when the kid graduated from high school.

Christ, it was depressing to do those "even-if" mathematics. But it was hard to stop doing them. It was hard not to wonder where your life was going when you were on the road with guys who were your age, but had kids going to college. Or when you were on the receiving end of Christmas cards with snapshots of kids going from babies to braces in what seemed to be three years. Well, those things had happened to me, and they had me adding and subtracting like crazy.

But not multiplying.

Truth was, I wanted a kid bad. Nobody ever talks about the guy biological clock, but it was ticking loud and clear in me. It had been for years. And I did not have a lot of time left. Not at forty-four. Nor did I have a lot of options.

Because unlike a woman, who could go to a sperm bank, select the father of choice, and then ride off into the sunset of single motherhood, the system doesn't work that way for us guys. A man who wants a baby can't purchase an egg. It's more complicated. Eggs come from wombs, and wombs are attached to women. And women don't like to give up babies. That's one of the great things about women. So, at some level anyway, a man who wants a baby is going to be very involved with his co-babymaker. And as long as you're involved, it might as well be with someone you like. Love even. Guys don't want to just have a baby. Even when we want one as bad as I do. We want a package deal. We want the full catastrophe, not parenthood without a partner. That would scare the shit out of me. Nope, no way was I about to walk into this baby-having business alone. But I most definitely wanted to walk into it. I was ready. I was sure. And my daddy clock was ticking big-time.

Now, I am not a religious man. But I'll tell you one thing. Sitting in that waiting room, right down the hall from where my old man might be dying, I found myself cutting a deal with God. "Okay," I said, "if You let Abe live, I will do my level best to get my life in order. I will stop procrastinating. I will get off my ass. I promise. I know I've let a lot slip by. But I know I can still put together a life here. Honest, God, I'll do all the things I haven't done in years. If You let Abe live, I'll get an answering machine that works every time. I'll learn to like sushi. I swear it, God, I will even date..."

And then I had to laugh. What the hell was in the deal for God?

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Daddy Clock 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
When women have written dialogue that is supposed to come out of the mouths of men, the results have been something not quite disappointing, more like totally unrealistic. This has been true for every female author that I've encountered, until The Daddy Clock. Charlie Feldman speaks like a man, thinks like a man, acts like a man. Judy Markey has demonstrated a remarkable insight into the inner workings of the male mind. One might even suspect she's undergone massive testosterone treatment. Apart from the insightful view of the 'male' world by this talented female writer, I will say only this. 'Even if you're a dyed-in-the-wool guy's guy, if you don't end up with at least one tear at the corner of your eye when you finish reading this book, you're not just not a guy, you're not human.'