The title is the beginning of a silly song I used to sing to my son all during the first year after his birth. Ian Paul Lanning was born August 6, 1978 at 7:01 am, after around 25 hours of false and real labor spread out over 2 days. He was our “little man” and a miracle in our lives. But no sooner than did my young wife Adrian do this amazing thing than we were informed she needed a “Rhogam shot”. She was RH negative and I was 0 positive in blood type, so after being up for 2 days I had to leave A and Ian at the birthing center and run over to Brotman Memorial Hospital with a sample of Adrian’s blood to get her the appropriate shot. We were told we might not be able to have any more children if she didn’t get it, and it was a bureaucratic nightmare when I finally got to “Rotman” (my own personal nickname for that hospital). 3 1/2 hours later i procured the shot Adrian needed and we finally made our way home with our bundle of wonderment. “It’s hard being a parent, because it’s not apparent what to do” is one of my favorite early Lanningisms and well earned by parents everywhere.
Parents get it. We got Ian to our little bungalow (a polite word for small shack) and started to notice something strange in a few hours. We called our Physician Dr. Wasson (if you’re out there Doc, you are a dear soul and i believe i still owe you money!) and he suggested shining a light source on him. The Doc said it was relatively common for babies with parents of RH blood type differences to have what is known as “Hyperbilirubinemia”, Bilirubin is a substance that is made when the body breaks down old red blood cells, a form of Jaundice and is flushed through the body’s waste system. The light source was the normal way to treat this condition but after after 2 days of the lights having no effect on him (he was getting more listless and yellow each couple of hours), Dr. Wasson wanted to see him immediately. It turned out he had to have an exchange transfusion through his bellybutton. As if that wasn’t scary enough, at that time (1978) the news reports were contradictory and confusing at best regarding tainted blood supplies. It was the beginning of the AIDS scare and very little was known about it. We were terrified our baby would not make it and for 5 days there was a real possibility of losing him. As it turned out, we had an amazing Dr. in Wasson and after 2 more days in the hospital, we got to take him home. I remember the intense conversations Adrian and I had about cherishing every moment after that nightmare.
25 years later, Ian is in the hospital again but for testicular cancer, caught in the late stage. I will be honest for the first time in my life right here and now about this, but I didn’t have much hope. As much as I shamed myself into believing there was and feeling horribly guilty for even living in NY (he was in California) and not being there more for him, I had this awful feeling intuitively that there wasn’t much hope. It hurts even now to admit it and it could come from my feelings of inadequacy about being a good father over the years (what father doesn’t think that at some point?) He had visited me a few times in New York while working in film and television in the year and a half before he was hospitalized and I remember having a little argument with him about joining a union and getting health insurance. I also remember him having back problems around the kidney area, but thought he was just overworked. He didn’t want to join a union because he thought he’d get stuck in the same job and his goal was to be a producer and wanted to learn every aspect about the industry.
Since this blogspot is entitled “So How Do You Really Feel?” and I’m bearing my soul, I’m gonna go ahead and say that I suffered from “Shitty Father Syndrome”. I know it’s my ego doing it’s best to take me down the road of regret, but I also know there’s a case to be made for it.
Ian was almost a terminated pregnancy for a hot, confusing second. (no one is EVER pro-abortion and we were terribly young, looking back) I had never entertained the notion of even being a father myself, though I loved kids and was a natural with them. I chalk it up to my own selfishness at the time, for I was gonna be a Rockstar and save the world! (how’s that workin’ for ya’, Lanning?)
We decided to have the baby. My band was negotiating a new record deal and things were looking my up for us and our music. We had a second major label chance. Which, I might add, is rare.
So much for chances. Suffice it to say after all the hard work on that album, we were essentially a tax write off (again!) and we had run out of gas after 5 years and 4 record releases. Now what? Pick up gigs, an Ice Cream store scooper for 7 months, a year long stint dressed up as a gorilla in my burnt orange Hornet Sportabout, driving down the freeway on my way to deliver a “Supergram”! It was a singing telegram outfit I worked for in ‘80-’81. Also the occasional Lime Green Suit with matching bellcap, Zorro, a Pirate with a hook and of course when the season demanded, Santa! Not humiliating at all. I also spent several months hanging drywall and fiberglass insulation for a studio my friend Brion was building. (try getting fiberglass out of your skin every night! two words: cold baths) It was all I could do to contribute while my wife, bless her heart, went through a series of shitty jobs. The only halfway decent job she had was an office manager for a wine company that somehow got the clearance to import the first wine from the Communist Eastern Bloc. They were the first importer to introduce Stoli Vodka from Russia into American culture, during Perestroika. (Oh, the Greyhound parties we had!)
Now, I have always had a deep seated, general sense of desperation that has dogged me my entire life, and having a child to take care of during the Reagan era when a shitload of services were cut and wages were low, did not help that sense of desperation. Meditation and songwriting and the occasional gig was my solace. That and our “little man”, Ian and later Lauren Lanning! Lauren Lanning! Lauren Lanning! Our darling daughter! There is no love like the love of a child. None.
I loved my children with all my heart and felt guilty for not giving up my dream and going back to school full time to do something else. I was driven. And desperate. Always desperate. I did go back to school to brush up on music fundamentals and take some acting and philosophy classes. I also started concentrating on my songwriting skills.
Adrian’s and my marriage disintegrated and she went down the road to drug addiction (meth) and I had to let my sister Mary and her husband Jim (God bless them!) take my children for at least 6 months while i gathered up enough money to take them back with me. (there was an incident in getting them back from Adrian I won’t get into here....suffice it to say she was a mere 97 lbs and her meth boyfriend at the time hurt my boy...’nuff said)
I struggled as a single parent for which seems like years (it was actually little short of a year, and I do not know what I would have done had it not been for Mary and Jim) when I met my headstrong, stubborn, smart and amazing future wife/2nd divorce Tiffany, who had an extremely intelligent and precocious boy named Joshua. We merged our two little families into kind of a scaled down, new age Brady Bunch. Miracle of miracles, the kids got along, especially the boys which we were both concerned about early on. But there were no real worries, save Lauren getting teased and picked on relentlessly (sorry Laur-Laur! What doesn’t kill you, almost does! I mean, makes you stronger!! :o) and the three of them over the years became uncommonly, tremendously close. They had each other’s back. Josh and Lauren to this day have each other’s back and are closer than ever.
I don’t remember if I really had a point to this blog, suffice it to say that I will always have regrets regarding my parenting choices, I don’t think there’s a parent alive that doesn’t. If they say they don’t they’re either outright lying or worse, lying to themselves. Life is messy at it’s very best, and it’s the caring and the love that always gets us through, mistakes be damned! I am extremely proud of Lauren and Joshua and the lives they lead now because they are Real People. They can’t do fake. Neither could Ian. And I’d like to think that both Tiff and I and the rest of our family had a little something to do with that.
One thing I do know is that my entire family misses Ian every minute of everyday. (as do all of you that knew him). It reminds me of the conversations my sister Mary and I had after Mom died (for perhaps years after) about how we would think of Mom and want to call her and tell her something or get her advice and then realize “she’s moved on”.
There were days when I refused to accept that my son had “moved on”. Hell, I couldn’t bring myself to take his number out of my cellphone for 5 years! Again and again, like someone slapping me in the face as hard as they can, it forces me to be in the moment and realize the gift that Ian keeps giving me is the moment. this. moment. now.
When I would get stressed (which was a lot) Ian would always say “Dad, Dad, Dad.....you’re standing in a field of flowers!” It would irritate me or make me smile depending on my stupid mood, but to have such a brilliant mirror, my firstborn, my “practice child” and some of the deepest part of all the love in my life, was, even for what seemed such a short time.....a gift beyond compare.
I miss you my “little man”.....dad.....
M. Lanning 8/6-8/16/2011