|Look at that enormous Sloat head.|
I’m typing this from the doctor’s office. We’re here for a checkup on Isaac, making sure he’s growing like he should and hoping he won’t be covering his face for the next ultrasound.
I’m about to be brutally honest with you, and I hope you can forgive me for it.
I don’t want four kids.
Up until this morning, I have been dreading Isaac’s arrival, I’ve been worrying about my money, my time, and the fact that I’ve got three adopted children who might grow up holding a grudge against our sole biological child.
Akeeli, Aven, and Drake, if you’re reading this, I need you to know I never loved you any less than Isaac. Not for one second. I know you can’t help feeling like you might feel, but listen: I love you more than you could ever imagine. I love you so much I’d die for you.
On the way to Tulsa this today, I had to drop my truck off in Wagoner to get the oil changed. This is in no way a sponsored post, but the guys at Kevin Grover are seriously the best, and one in particular slapped me in the face with some truth this morning.
He walked over to me, and I spent some time trying to figure out if I was looking at his smile or the sun. That’s Neil being Neil though. I’ve never thought of him as car salesman, he’s a friend who happens to be exceptionally skilled at getting me to spend huge sums of money on things with four wheels.
My son weighs 2.6 pounds today. He’s grown tremendously in the last two weeks.
We’re sitting in the lab now, waiting on blood to be drawn. In fact, I’m almost positive Alicia is actually reading what I type as I type it. She’s talking about how much Isaac has grown over the past couple of weeks, and saying that he better slow down. I think she’s finally realizing that when you have a giant for a husband, his kids might be huge too. I don’t know, maybe just my head is giant.
Back to Neil. He came over and shook my hand.
“Two things to congratulate you for, Travis. One, you look fantastic, and two, your newest little one!”
Everyone always does that. If they’re familiar with our situation at all, they’re so excited for us; for me. I get that, and I’m thankful for the empathy, but up until today, it was a forced smile, forced enthusiasm. So I smiled back at him, and I gave my prototypical response.
“Aww, thanks! Be excited for her though, I don’t want four kids.”
Neil didn’t even blink.
“Oh stop that, Travis. You’ve created an eternal soul.”
I’m alone now, Alicia has gone back to have her blood drawn, and I’m fighting tears as I type this. It’s me and one old lady in the waiting room, and I don’t need her wondering why the behemoth four chairs down is blubbering quietly into his cell phone.
We’ve created an eternal soul.
My son is an eternal soul.
Isaac is an eternal soul.
Somewhere in my brain a switch flipped. I took a couple of confused steps and finally spit out a response.
“Thank you, Neil. I’ve never looked at it like that.”
“I’ll leave you guys alone, I know you’ve got a busy day planned!”
He bounced away, frustratingly happy, unaware of the chaos he’d just wreaked in my brain. Unaware of his creating a tectonic shift in the pangean plate that is my selfishness.
You see, that’s all it is, selfishness. One thing I’ve discovered since having children is that I am, by nature, a selfish person. I didn’t realize that until after we’d adopted the kids, but it’s true. I am a selfish person. I want my time, my money, my stuff, my wife. I, I, I, I.
I’m not saying all that changed instantly. I know somewhere between now and the next eighteen years, I’m going to be selfish. But I was given a new way to look at things today. I have four eternal souls that I am now responsible for. Five and six if you count mine and my wife’s, and that’s a whole lot of souls to be in charge of.
My dad figured it out. I don’t know how, but he figured it out. Reading his writings from when I was a kid, I know he was frustrated, unsure of himself as a father, and selfish. But at some point he cracked the code. He figured it out, and he took responsibility for the eternal souls he’d helped create, and he did a damn fine job of it.
Now I’m back at the doctor’s office, waiting for my beautiful wife and my son to come back from getting a shot, which is apparently what you have to do when your husband’s blood (A+), has a higher GPA than yours (A-). We’ll leave here and go pick up two other sons and a daughter, all of which are mine.
Today is a new day. Today I was verbally slapped by a friend who has obviously figured some of it out.
Here she comes. Gotta go. I’m gonna try figure it out.
You got a fast car. I want a ticket to anywhere. Maybe we can make a deal, maybe together we can get somewhere. Any place is better, starting from zero, got nothing to lose. Maybe we’ll make something, but me myself I got nothing to prove.
Let me just tell you what can happen in a decade.
You laugh. You yell. You cry. You fight. You move into a terrible apartment, then get kicked out. You get pets you can’t afford, then give them away. You build friendships, then watch them fade away. You burn your stomach trying to make pancakes. You have to borrow money from your parents. You experience the pain of watching the other one pack their things, then the joy of them not actually leaving. Your wife kicks a dudes butt for you. You join churches, then you leave them. You try to start a family, then one day you do. You quit jobs, then start new ones. You worry about money. You worry about sex. You worry about the kids and how dumb they act. You go to school, then you quit, then try the whole thing again. You get caught up in online gaming and have to be yanked to reality again. You buy cars you can’t afford, then have them taken. You write a hot check hoping it won’t get cashed until payday. You take vacations that are stressful, and then vacations that are incredibly relaxing. You deal with others who try to take your happiness. You deal with each other’s issues. You realize how easy you had it with no responsibilities. You pack up one night and head to Kansas, Houston, or anywhere else you get a whim to go to. You win. You lose. You love.
|My first live Duke game.|
The Missus is not really great at gift-giving. Traditionally I have to tell her exactly what I want, or most always suffer a tinge of disappointment. Over the last week I’ve been thinking of the gifts we won’t be able to get each other this year because we’re broke, and I had a startling revelation.
The Missus has given me ten years of her.
Ten years of her life have been spent married to me. Ten years of babysitting me, laughing at/with me, and telling me time and time again, “We can’t afford it.” If not for her, I would not be a father, I would not be in school, and I would more than likely have died years ago in what the authorities would probably call an “accident.”
Turns out, The Missus is incredible at giving gifts.
|One of the first meals she made me. You can see why I’m fat.|
A few weeks ago my youngest brother sent me a text. He wanted advice on proposing to a girl. I asked him a couple of funny questions, and then this one:
“Can you imagine the rest of your life without her?”
I cannot for one second think about a life that doesn’t involve The Missus. I’ve thought about what it might be like to lose her, and my brain just shuts down, it won’t work. She has completely fabricated herself into every facet of my life, and I would not have it any other way.
|“Travis, put that down, you don’t get cake yet.”|
Here’s the thing. I like to say I wouldn’t change any decisions in my life, that I live with no regrets and no looking back. But that’s a lie. Had I known what I know today, I would have done quite a few things differently to make her feel more special, to give her more support, and to show her how much I love her.
And I’m sure I’ll screw things up in the future. Screwing things up is kind of what I do. Forgiving me is kind of what makes her so special. Forgiving me is kind of what she does.
|10 years. And a bangin’ bowtie.|
She’s not perfect. She never answers her phone. She drives WAY too slow. She won’t tell someone when she’s mad at them. She doesn’t like Mexican food as much as me.
But she can deep fry the mouse or phone you’re scrolling with and make you love it. She can light up a room with a smile and a comment. She laughs at my jokes. She laughs when I fart. She tells me I’m a good writer. She reads my blogs. She raises our children. She doesn’t make fun of me for crying in movies. She kisses me when I come home from work. She lets me touch her boobies. She drives on Sundays even when I know she doesn’t want to. She does my laundry and my dishes. She puts up with my whims, my obsessions, and my incessant need to try new things.
She loves me.
I love her.
And here’s to the next ten years. The next decade of Travis and Alicia Sloat.
|Young, stupid, happy.|
In a hundred years from now, I know without a doubt, they’ll all look back and wonder how we made it work out. Chances are, we’ll go down in history, when they want to see, how true love should be, they’ll just look at us.
Today is the second post in a five-part series on my blog called “The Road.” This series will chronicle the events of my life leading up to meeting my wife, the events that transpired after, and how it has led us all to where we are now. The series will end not by my hand, but by my wife’s. Some of this will be very hard for me to write, and as a result, will be hard for you to read. Some of you will think differently of me afterwards, but I ask that you please don’t get halfway through this series and stop. In the end, maybe you will find something here that let’s you know you aren’t alone. The roads we travel are unique, but they intersect often. I have changed almost all the names in this story in order to respect individual privacy.
Part OnePart Two: The Matrimony
It all started with a phone call.
The young lady who drove that Chevy Corsica was named Alicia. Most of you here might know her as “The Missus.”
I asked her out on a date, and we went to Arby’s one night after work. She wound up paying.
My brain is really bad at remembering all the smaller details of life. But I remember laying on my trampoline one night, talking to Alicia on the phone, and telling her that I was pretty sure I was going to marry her. I remember walking into her house for the first time and being attacked by an eighty five pound Husky. I remember breaking up with her several times, and always coming back. I can remember proms, and the horrendous yellow dress she wore to mine. I can remember laughing so hard at something that I farted in front of her for the first time. I can remember falling asleep in her bed, and her dad being absolutely furious. I can remember one night in particular, after church, Alicia looked at me and said, “We have to talk,” and she took me to that same blueberry farm, parked in the parking lot, and looked up, and I could see it in her eyes.
I wasn’t an idiot. I knew what was going to happen. I was about to get dumped.
She looked at me, opened her mouth, and I waited for the ax to fall. It was then I realized how very much in love I was with this woman, and I realized that it was all going to go away if I didn’t do something.
But I couldn’t get words out.
“Travis, I want to apologize for how I’ve been acting lately. I know I’ve been treating you terribly, and I just want you to know I’m sorry.”
I had a million questions, but the big one was, “What are you talking about?” You see, she hadn’t been treating me bad. I hadn’t noticed anything different at all. But I was thrilled, because I still had Alicia.
I planned the proposal. I was going to rent ad space before a movie in a theater, and have them post in big words, “Will you marry me?” on the screen. Details were lined out, theaters were contacted for pricing, and then I made a huge mistake. I mentioned it to a mutual friend of ours, who immediately went and told her what I was planning. The whole thing was botched.
I got her parents permission. Lord that was tough.
My mom helped me finance the ring. I was nineteen at the time, and didn’t really have a credit history to speak of. Alicia had picked out several that she wanted, and I didn’t think any of them were good enough for her. However, I got her the one she wanted. Then I waited for another brilliant proposal plan to strike my conscience.
Sometime in November of 2002, Alicia looked at me and said, “Travis, we’re going to a football game tonight, and I want my ring. My friends need to see that I’m getting married.” After those words were spoken, she went to finish getting ready, and I was left wondering what I was going to do.
Her parents had a bowl of mint Life Savers on their kitchen counter. I quickly tore open a package, pulled the mint out, ate it (I was really hoping she’d want to make out after this), and put the ring in the mint package. When she came back out, ready to go, I asked her if she wanted a mint.
“Are you sure? They’re really good.”
“Travis, shut up. Let’s go. Do you have my ring?”
Sheepishly, I pulled the ring out of the mint bowl, got down on one knee, and asked the smartest question of my life.
She said yes.
We went through marriage counseling. During this, the minister asked us to each make a list of ten things we loved about the other.
The engagement lasted seven months, and then one morning it was June 28th, and I was up 8 hours before the wedding, getting ready, and driving ninety miles an hour to that little church in Okay, Oklahoma. I got there early, still not convinced in my mind that I was really about to be married. But I was.
|That was my, “I’m about to have so much sex,” face.|
|That was my “I’m about to have so much cake,” face.|
The honeymoon ended, and life set in. I worked a midnight shift for a while during the first year of our marriage. It was pretty rough working that schedule and being a newlywed. I started to revert back to some of my old habits, being controlling and possessive. Our first fight was over a cat. She wanted to get one, and I said no. I wound up leaving a very hateful message on our answering machine that my younger brother heard. We made up.
I tried to impress her by making her pancakes. She “caught” me. We bought a German Shepherd that ate the entire house, costing us not only our security deposit, but also any good will we had with our landlord. We eventually got that cat, then gave her to my mom. We went broke when I took a job selling vacuums. We moved three times in two years. I discovered XBOX Live. She discovered she didn’t have a tolerance for me playing video games forty hours a week. We cried, we laughed, and we explored our options as a couple.
Then one day, we finally went back to that little church in Okay. Then we went again. It felt just like home. After a few months of this, the pastor pulled me aside and said, “Travis, you know we’re looking for a youth minister, right? I want you to pray about it.”
We did, and shortly after I had my first stint in the ministry, leading the youth at Okay First Baptist Church.
And then I made The Mistake.