Part III of the series The Legend of Zelda: Linking the Past to the Future, which follows me through each Zelda title as I prepare for the birth of my child.
January 12, 2015. Both my wife and I have grown very unaccustomed to waking up this early. Well, I should say my wife has become unaccustomed, as I have never been accustomed to waking up, really. Ever. But we have our first appointment with the OBG-YN, and it's at the terribly inhumane time of 8:00 am. I made the fatal mistake the night before of staying up too late nashing my teeth and cursing the numerous elements at fault, which never included myself, as I died my way through Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. Every time I croaked, obscenities would fly at the screen like bird turds hurtling through space toward a stationary car, trying to keep them under my breath as best I could. However, the intensity of the bullshit the game keeps throwing at me keeps my breath at quite a lofty level, so "under" really means just below shouting. The unfortunate result is that it is often heard through the wall into the room where my wife is trying to sleep. We are both very tired this morning, and not very happy.
A cold, gray drizzle makes the morning even more unpleasant. When we arrived at the medical center, we are greeted by a large, perplexing photo of a nude infant lying on plush blanket which leaves the viewer feeling conflicted about child birth and the general direction the human race is heading, and a receptionist long experienced at the disciplined art of reducing patients to the size of Nerd candies by explaining how to fill out simple medical forms in a circular and condescending fashion. Given my pre-determined disposition, I know I want to take one of those two things down, but I can't decide which one. In the end, my wife feels apologetic and helpless, and I divert to thinking more about how I was going to tackle Midoro Palace when I get home.
The Adventure of Link is one of the most interesting titles in the series. Not only does it primarily use a side-scrolling, more action-oriented combat, it also implemented a leveling up system. So whereas the first Zelda encourages more exploration, this one encourages self-improvement. Link has already discovered his world, now he needs to discover himself and find out what he can make better. The problem with self-improvement is that it is much harder than exploring. You can find the flaws in character that is getting in your way of progressing through the game, but can you improve them?
I'm happy I decide not to take out the receptionist. It turns out she has a broken foot, which she confesses to a coworker, not without some secret joy, causes her a lot of pain in the cold. I'm beginning to feel kind of like a jerk for how many times I've already rehearsed in my head the scathing speech of indignation I had prepared for her. The staff in the back turns out to be much nicer, maybe because they don't have a broken foot, or maybe because it turns out that people here actually like what they do. As we sit in one of the offices, I look outside to see the Appalachian Mountain range rolling off toward the horizon, their caps dusted with white. The rain has turned into drifting snow. Being how little we've seen of the white stuff this year, it quickly becomes to most interesting thing to look at in the dull office. After a moment, I look down to my wife sitting in the chair next me. She too is looking at the snow, her expression soft and content. I became aware suddenly of what we are here for. I immediately forgot about all the complaints I had been carrying with me all morning. She looks up to me after a moment and smiles a little. "It's pretty," she says. It really is. A faint glimmer of our tied destiny mixes with the falling snow.
The Adventure of Link begins with a lot of promises being made to us. A crest appears on the back of our hands, and old temple, sealed for prophecy, is opened. An ancient text that can only be read by the future king of Hyrule is made clear as day to us. A princess lies asleep waiting for us. Our path to our place in the world opens, and at the end is the Triforce of Courage, long kept in secret. But we're not worthy of it yet. There is a lot of improving we have to do along the way. There are seven trials in the world waiting for us.
Later in the day, my wife and I hear the heart beat of our child for the first time. It is a very poignant and rapid sound, and the slow and deep, rhythmic beating of my wife's heart accompanies it in a wonderful arrangement. As I look at her lying back on the table, she takes on a subtle transformation. It was as if the young girl with a perfect mix of dignity, grace, intelligence, clumsiness, and absent-mindedness had emerged into a full-grown mother. To be a mother, as flawed as the person may be, is pure and simple. She is the bearer of life. What holiness, giving her body, her energy and her nutrients and everything that is hers and hers alone to another living thing she has yet to meet. We didn't plan for this, but she's giving it her all, and only complaining very, very little.
She has given up a lot more than her body to be a mother. She's had to quit school. A lot of people inadvertently make her feel bad about this decision. They always begin with, "When I was pregnant," or, "when my wife was pregnant." But she is not them or their wives, and they don't know what her making these sacrifices really means. She's a very proud and strong woman, but she has suffered a lot of pain and sickness over these past months. I don't know how many times I alone have made her throw up just by saying "good-morning" before brushing my teeth, or by trying to cook something I identified a meal. Like Link, our path is life is also made clear, and there are a lot of trials waiting for us to prove ourselves worthy of the roles. So far, she has done a much better job of it than I.
It doesn't take long for me to lose sight of the path. I began spending more time up in my office forgetting dignity as I muttered very ugly things about the game developers and their intentions toward the player. I was forgetting my obligation as a husband while giving myself headaches and stomach ulcers, and I was losing sight of why I even set out to play the Zelda series at this point in my life in the first place. To complicate matters, Nintendo revealed during that time a very limited The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask Special Edition bundle and a Special Edition New 3ds XL. I've touched on those events in another article, but to sum up what was happening, I was become sick with obsession, and found myself ignoring what I was doing to my wife, and to my future child.
I began to become aware of my errors after leaving my wife puking in the toilet to run to a Gamestop to grab a pre-order for the 3ds. A wave of guilt set in over me as I drove home, crept up the stairs, and peaked in at her lying sick and alone on the bed. She had given up so much and was acting selflessly and putting her future on the line. What was I doing? Chasing the past and buying toys? Where was my self-control?
After a long and grueling fight to the end of the Great Temple and a nearly impossible boss fight, I see my promise held high above me. The Triforce of Courage glows on the television screen. But just as I go to take it, an old man appears before me and tells me there is a final trial. A shadowy form of myself appears, and the greatest fight in the game commences. That's the most unique things about The Adventure of Link. There is no real villain standing in your way; Ganon, the wicked sorcerer, is still vanquished. No one is plotting against you. Only you stand in your way. I'm afraid to tell you how many times I lost to myself then, and how much I'm losing still.
A lot of things slipped past me in my self-imposed absent mindedness. The worst was when I forgot to ask off for work for the second appointment, which was to be the first ultra-screening. My mother-in-law and wife were sweet enough to bring the still shots to work that night so that I could see them, but I still missed out on that moment. I missed seeing my little-nugget baby moving for the first time. I also let down my wife. I've since vowed to make it to every appointment, but I still struggle with keeping focused, with practicing self-control and making a little self-sacrifice.
There's only been a handful of times where I can say I truly felt a catharsis. A handful of movies here and there watched at the perfect time, but nothing quite felt like I did after finally beating myself. Of course, this was just in the game and the fight with myself in real life continues, but something about it just made tackling my faults in real life more possible. If nothing else, I have a fun analogy to refer to whenever I'm feeling the temptation to be a world class heel. The trials of the real world still wait for me. I think I will tackle my lack of self-control first. I know that' a pretty big and complex one, full of complicated side-quests and frustrating mini-bosses. Interestingly enough, it wasn't until I decided to finally use self-control in the game that I overcame the final boss. The anger, the button-mashing and mindlessly swinging were not near as effective as the slow-paced, well-calculated approach. To be a good father, I'm going to have to practice a lot of patience as well. Not only that, I'll have to be able to tell myself no and not give in so easily. Being slow to want and slow to anger is going to be a necessary skill.
Turning off the Nintendo felt great. As much as I loved the game, I never want to do any of that ever again. My life is too short as it is. Walking downstair afterward, I find my wife quietly sitting on the couch reading one of the Redwall books. She's really been in to children's literature lately, as much as I've been in to Zelda. With both share the goal of setting up a world full of fantasy to welcome our child. Snuggling next to her fells pretty great. She generates a lot of amazing heat, which is great for little babies and little husbands, especially during these cold winters. More snow is predicted in the forecast. This time it will dust more than the tops of the mountains. I'm looking forward to returning to The Legend of Zelda with in A Link to the Past, a title I'm way more comfortable with. But I think I'll spend a little more time before I do, just watching the snow with the mother-to-be.