Letter to My Children
I am your dad. The father of all five of you pale creatures. Given how attractive and fertile your mother is, there may be more of you by the time you read this book. If you are reading this, I am probably dead. I would assume this because I can honestly foresee no other situation where you’d be interested in anything I’ve done. Right now, you are actually more interested in preventing me from doing things like working, sleeping, and smiling. I’m kidding, of course. Kind of. I love you with all of my heart, but you are probably the reason I’m dead.
All right, you didn’t kill me. Your mother did. She kept getting pregnant! I don’t know how. Don’t think about it. It will give you the willies. At one point, I was afraid she got pregnant while she was pregnant. She was so fertile I didn’t even let her hold avocados. Anyway, this is a book all about what I observed being your dad when you were very young and I had some hair back in good old 2013.
So why a book? Well, since you’ve come into my life, you’ve been a constant source of entertainment while simultaneously driving me insane. I felt I had to write down my observations about you in a book. And also for money, so you could eat and continue to break things. By the way, I’m sorry I yelled so much and did that loud clapping thing with my hands. I hated when my dad would do the loud clapping thing with his hands, so every time I do the loud clapping thing, it pains me in many ways. Most of the pain is because that loud clapping thing actually hurts my hands.
You may be wondering how I wrote this book. From a very early age, you all instinctively knew I wasn’t that bright of a guy. Probably from all the times you had to correct me when I couldn’t read all the words in The Cat in the Hat. Hell, I find writing e‑mails a chore. (Thank you, spell-check!) I wrote this book with the help of many people, but mostly your mother. Your mother is not only the only woman I’ve ever loved, but also the funniest person I know. When your mom was not in labor yelling at me, she made me laugh so hard.
P.S. How did you get that hula hoop into that restaurant Easter 2011?
Who’s Who in the Cast
Jim Gaffigan (Dad). Jim feels honored to be playing the title role of Dad. Prior to being cast in Dad Is Fat, Mr. Gaffigan also had the title role in the long-running show Mediocre Uncle. He is thrilled to be given this opportunity to work with the fine cast of Dad Is Fat. “He has virtually no training, skills, or instincts on how to play this role.” --New York Times
Jeannie Noth Gaffigan (Mom, Director, Producer, Costume, Hair & Makeup Design, Casting Director, Technical Director, Catering, Music & Lyrics, Usher, Choreographer, Additional Music & Lyrics). Ms. Noth Gaffigan also coaches Jim Gaffigan in the role of Dad.
Marre Gaffigan (Oldest, Ensemble, Founding Member of the Dad Is Fat Company). Miss Gaffigan is an eight-year-old third grader and an amazing dancer. Off-Broadway: I Once Had My Own Bed.
Jack Gaffigan (First Son, Ensemble, Sound Design & Special Effects). Jack was last seen in Yelling for No Reason at All. He is six and would like to thank God for his incredible good looks, which earned him the leading role in the hit show I’m Too Cute to Punish.
Katie Gaffigan (Middle Child, Ensemble). Katie is three years old and was the inspiration for the song “You Are My Sunshine.” She would like to thank the creators of Scooby-Doo and the color green.
Michael Gaffigan (Gateway Baby, Ensemble). Michael is one year old and has been dazzling audiences since his 2011 debut. He would like to thank everyone who encouraged him to pursue his childhood dream of playing with a ball.
Patrick Gaffigan (Newborn, Ensemble). Patrick is the newest cast member. A truly tireless performer, he has been with the company for only weeks but has already won the award for Most Colicky Newborn (2012).
Setting: Present day. A tiny, crowded two-bedroom apartment on the Bowery in downtown Manhattan.
There will be no intermission. Ever.
Rue the Day
When I was single, I was convinced my friends who took the plunge and had their first baby were victims of an alien abduction, because they would disappear from the planet and reappear a year later as unrecognizable strangers. Of course, that may have been because I was way too into The X‑Files.
When I initially started dating Jeannie, the notion of settling down and having children became a feasible reality for me. Coincidentally, I was invited to visit one of my close childhood friends who had been abducted by aliens--I mean, who got married and had a kid--about a year earlier.
My friend, his wife, and their one-year-old baby had settled in the Southwest. I was working in LA, so a weekend visit was totally doable. I thought it would be great if I brought Jeannie. We could see what it would be like when we got married and had a baby.
My friend Tom (name changed to protect his identity and possibly preserve the friendship) suggested that we could drive out and hike the Grand Canyon, which to me sounded unnecessarily difficult and way too outdoorsy, but I knew active Jeannie would love it.
Jeannie and I arrived at night. We were much later than expected, due to a flight delay. As we entered Tom’s darkened house, we were instructed to please be quiet so as not to wake the baby. I felt like a teenager sneaking back into my parents’ house after a missed curfew. We silently tiptoed into a guest room, giggling. “I feel like we’re in trouble!” Jeannie whispered. Once we settled in the room, Tom came in and said good night, announcing that we would be leaving around 7 a.m. for the Grand Canyon, so he wanted to get a good night’s sleep. As Tom shut the door, Jeannie looked at me confused and said, “I thought you said we would have dinner or something.” I looked at my watch: it was 9 p.m. I thought, “Well, he is a parent. I guess this is what parenting involves. This must be what grown-ups do. They skip their second dinner.”
The next morning, at the crack of 7 a.m., we set off to make the long, scenic drive to the Grand Canyon. Tom’s Saab was seated with men in front and the ladies in back, with the one-year-old in the car seat between them. I suppose the first really big red flag of the trip was the fact that there was one CD allowed to be played in the car. It was explained to us that this CD was meant to soothe the baby. The volume would be occasionally adjusted based on the baby’s needs. Um, okay.
So we drove and drove, talking and listening to songs with lyrics like “Ding-a-ding-dong, ding-a-ding-dong.” If you haven’t driven through the Southwest, the only thing more awe inspiring than the beauty of the landscape is the absence of people. You can drive for hours and never see another person. Restaurants are scarce, expensive, and provide little selection. When we stopped for an early lunch, I ate my first and hopefully last taco salad, with Fritos as the main ingredient. We drove past a drive-thru beef jerky store. Not just a store that only sells beef jerky, but a drive-thru store that only sells beef jerky. I guess the drive-thru makes sense, because if you’re eating beef jerky, you’re probably so busy that you don’t have time to get out of your car to buy beef jerky. At one point I started improvising what the owner of the drive-thru beef jerky store was thinking when he came up with the idea for the store. In a ridiculous voice I said: “Fur all dem folks that are in a rush and ain’t got time to park der pick-ups and shop fur some quality jerky . . .” It was kind of funny. At least Jeannie and Tom thought so. Tom’s wife, Barb (another name change), politely informed me that the voice I was doing was upsetting the baby. I looked back at the baby, who was sound asleep. I didn’t know what to say. I just shut up. We drove the rest of the way to the Grand Canyon in complete silence, listening to the soothing baby CD: “Ding-a-ding-dong, ding-a-ding-dong.”
We arrived at the Grand Canyon around 1 p.m. The government runs the Grand Canyon “hotels,” so they feel more like army barracks. We were standing in line for our housing assignment when Tom’s wife announced that the baby needed to go outside. The baby didn’t actually say he needed to go outside, but somehow Barb knew that the baby needed to go outside. Either way, Jeannie and I stayed behind to stand in line. Before escorting Barb, who was escorting the baby who wanted to go outside, Tom told me that our reservation was for two side-by-side rooms and to make sure they confirm the rooms were side-by-side. After waiting for another half hour, I reached the counter and was informed that if we wanted side-by-side rooms, it would be an additional hour-long wait. I said that wouldn’t be necessary. We would take rooms in different areas.
As they were handing me the keys (actual keys, I might add), Tom approached: “Are the rooms side-by-side?” I explained that, no, if we wanted that, we would have to wait for another hour. Hearing this, Tom got really agitated. He seemed incredibly disappointed in me and demanded that the lady behind the counter give us side-by-side rooms and that we didn’t mind waiting. I minded waiting, but again I kept my mouth shut.
After wasting an hour, we unloaded our stuff in our side-by-side rooms and set off to hike the Grand Canyon. Tom and Barb had lived in the area for a while and were experienced at hiking around the Southwest, so they came prepared. Tom gave us special backpacks filled with water, and the baby was secured in a backpack with a sun guard on Barb’s back. I felt like we were smuggling the new Dalai Lama out of Tibet. Gear secured, we were all set, and off we went. Twenty minutes into the hike, the baby squeaked a little. Barb immediately announced, “Well, we have to go back. The baby needs a nap.”
For a moment, I thought she was joking, but I then realized something horrific. They thought we were going to go back, too. It had taken us longer to get the unnecessary gear on than the time we had “hiked.” I looked at Jeannie, who was clearly disappointed that she had traveled so far to visit the Grand Canyon for the first time and the day was about to end. She just looked at me like, “Well, I guess we have to go back.” In a rare moment of chivalry, I blurted out, “Well, we’re going to go on. This may be our only time to do this. That’s cool, right?”
After a pause that took way too long, Barb said, “Of course. We’ll just go. C’mon, Tom.”
Tom seemed frazzled again and asked, “How long do you think you guys are going to be?”
I looked down at the long, winding path, trying to get a glimpse of the Colorado River miles below. “I don’t know, an hour or two?”
“Well, please knock at our door when you get back.” Wow. I mean, I’m not that out of shape.
After they left, I realized that Jeannie and I had not had a conversation alone since beginning the trip. “I don’t know what’s going on,” Jeannie said, “but I grew up around a lot of babies, and normally babies will nap wherever they are.” Not wanting to gossip about my good friend, I just assumed we were ignorant about how daunting the task of having a one-year-old would be. I gave Tom the benefit of the doubt.
Hiking into the Grand Canyon is not easy, but I did it. Unpaid, I might add. I was disappointed to find out that when we were done hiking, we had to climb back out of the Grand Canyon. There was no elevator. Can you believe that? Jeannie loved it. My legs burned, I was really exhausted, but I acted like I loved it.
Upon returning to our hotel room we were surprised to see Barb and Tom sitting outside their room next door. Did they get locked out? A weary Tom explained. “We just got the baby to sleep.” I remember thinking, “Is this baby ever awake?”
As I unlocked the door to our room, Barb and Tom followed us in and sat on one of the beds. Tom picked up the remote control and started flipping through the three available channels. I apologized and said I needed to take a nap before dinner. Could they possibly watch TV in their own room?
Tom and Barb seemed shocked. “We can’t turn on the TV in our room!” Tom snapped. “The baby is sleeping in there! We were hoping we could hang out and watch TV in your room while the baby napped. We’ve been waiting for you to get back for two hours.”
I was confused. Was this what parenting was about? I explained that my legs really hurt and I was really tired and I needed a nap. Tom, obviously trying to contain his anger, asked if after I was done with my nap, I could kindly knock at their door so they could come into our room. Again I apologized, but I was barely able to walk. I had to lie down for an hour or I would be done for the rest of the evening. Barb and Tom stormed out.
“Well, that was awkward,” said Jeannie. She went to take a shower and do girl stuff while I fell sound asleep with my shoes on for forty-five minutes.
Upon waking from my nap, I lightly knocked on their door, and we gathered to head to dinner at some government cafeteria. Barb, already in pajamas, didn’t want to go. When I asked if we could bring her something, she curtly replied, “I ate my dinner already with the baby. It’s fine. Just go without me. That’s just the life of a mother. Can I use your bathroom to brush my teeth?” Uh, sure. I wouldn’t want your raucous teethbrushing to disturb the baby.
On the walk over, I noticed Tom was being very quiet. When I asked if there was anything wrong, he stopped, looked down, and chuckled. “You won’t understand till you’re a parent.”
“I won’t understand what?”
He condescendingly explained, “You will rue the day you took that nap.”