The Man Who Loved Baby BurpsSerge Bielanko
If I were to pick up a new nickname here on the flip-side of my life, it would probably have to be ButterKnife.
Because the edge is gone, dude.
And I am about to prove it to you.
Lately, you see, at age 42, an age when many better men than me tend to find themselves in the throes of some of their life’s coolest moments (significant creativity/radical innovation/fulfilling sex lives/the admiration of their peers), I find myself on the losing end of all of that jazz. Instead, lucky me: I find myself increasingly thrilled and drawn to something, ugh … how can I put this, something oddly “out there,” something rather artless in just about every possible way you could dream of.
These days, the highlight of my day is when I bring on a gargantuan baby burp.
Well, whatever; I told you as much. But what are you going to do, right? I mean, what am I going to do? This is my fate, I guess. I might as well crow about it a little.
I dig Charlie so much. He is almost 3 weeks old now and he is a pretty great sleeper and he never complains about the four solid hours of Brahms Lullaby that I found for him on YouTube and that I force into his ears like hard wind. Even cooler that that stuff though is the fact that, in certain lamplight, my youngest son, my third kid, looks exactly like my PopPop, a handsome man who sailed around the world on a WWII battleship and then came home to drink cream ale on his porch.
I loved that old coot so much and even now, all these years later, I still miss him and his gross collection of fishing worms in their Styrofoam prisons living in the back of the fridge. So imagine my thrill at seeing a long lost old man peeking out at me from behind my tiny new son’s face, you know?
It is sort of badass. And a little creepy, in that whole reincarnation kind of way.
The thing that really gets me though is the fact that these two blood-related dudes, two fellows who will never ever formally meet upon the dirt of Earth, both have another thing in crazy common, too.
They are both world-champion burpers.
My PopPop would rip hardcore can-of-beer belches that could knock a bird out of the sky. I mean that. And he didn’t care if you found it sick or gross, either. I miss that a little. Nowadays, if I burp two counties away, my wife will retch for half an hour and then not talk to me for three days. That’s how repulsive and vulgar she finds it all. And I guess she’s right. I mean, no one really wants to hear that stuff except frat boys, maybe, and what do they know about class or grace, right?
But when Charlie first started letting loose on my lap in the first few hours after he was born, when I first gently tapped his baby fat back and coaxed the first thunder out of his meatloaf belly, I was awed by the power of the thing. I never expected such a guttural croak from such a wee body. Immediately, I was swept away by the deeply satisfying feeling that I get from conjuring a baby burp AND by the fact that, here in front of me, was a small rerun of my PopPop, releasing the vocal hounds the same way I remember my grandfather doing it so long ago.
And now, yeah, I’ll admit it. I’m addicted to burping this kid.
I find myself looking forward to it in weird ways. It isn’t usual behavior for a 21st century father, and I don’t need you to tell me that. I know it’s freaking strange, but I can’t help it and quite frankly I don’t wanna help it either.
Something magical and special comes over me when I ease Charlie up over my left shoulder or set him up on my lap so I can cup his chin gently in the U between my thumb and my pointer. Something happens to me inside those brief moments, man, and I don’t know what it is because it doesn’t have a name.
But I get wildly excited and my heart starts racing and I tap-a-tap-tap on my son’s pajama’d back. I can almost tell you in the precise split second before it happens, that the super-fulfilling burp is about to be born.
Then, we are three.
I turn my baby’s face toward mine and I see the old familiar features of a man I once knew. And just like that, it’s Me and Charlie and PopPop, from across the years, from across the Great Divide, sitting there on the couch in front of the evening CNN.
Three dudes just hanging out together, bound for a disappearing second or two by something strange and beautiful and awesome all at once.
Image: S. Bielanko