Where do babies come from? This is something that had never crossed my mind. Sure, we all took that class in Jr High. But all I remember was sitting in the back of the class with the cool boys and snickering under our breath. Nope, nope, nope. Survey complete. Nobody had a penis that looked like the one our substitute teacher, Sister Sarah had drawn. We lost interest very quickly after that.
At some point in Denver after four years of marriage – your Mother – posed the question. “Don’t you ever want children?” All I could think was – what? Where did that come from? Was she not feeling well? Luckily, these were things in my mind and for just once in my life, the brain – mouth – foot continuum was too shocked to speak. With precious seconds ticking by, the “right words” escaped me. Finally, I stammered weakly, “Well I guess so?” CORRECT ANSWER! I really am at my best during periods of extreme mental and physical stress.
Jennifer was born at Fitzsimons Army Medical Center. Fitzsimons, now closed, was the premier location for treating casualties from WW II. It was named after 1st LT William Fitzsimons who was the first medical officer to die in WW I. When Jennifer was born in 1978, this was the Army’s main medical training facility. To handle all the pregnancies, the hospital needed an entire floor for all the delivering mothers.
There are two life events where husbands/men are truly not needed. The first is weddings. It seems that before you can even form the words “will you . . . .“ The women around you jump into hyper mode. The venue, the ring, the honeymoon, the new car, the new house, the right college, etc. all decisions that fly by. These things are way too fast for you to comprehend. These are all planned around you. Enter an opinion at your peril. The next thing where men are not needed is births. I’m truly thankful to live at the time when husbands/significant others are permitted in for the birth and to “assist.” This was a rather new invention back in the late seventies. For me, it was scary as hell! First, it hurts, you feel the pain, you live the pain and nobody seems to notice how you hurt. Next, you’re tired and they make you put on scrubs and other stuff which makes you feel like you should have at least a little bit of medical skill. Which you don’t. You can’t fix anything, you made it happen and you can’t put them back. While everyone says they want you there, you’re not very helpful. Sure, the nurse gives you ice shavings and wipes the sweat from your forehead, but let’s face it, you’re a basket case. Luckily, for you Jennifer, your mother was strong enough for both of us, or forgive me, all three of us. So, while the young army doctors got to sign off on your birth, I know the truth. I helped deliver you and it was a hell of a start for one hell of a journey.
Shortly after Jennifer’s birth and back in a small room, six or seven Doctor students got to inspect Lillian’s business end. Not being in medicine myself, I didn’t fully comprehend any of this. Perhaps they were looking for Jason? If they’d asked I would’ve told them, sorry guys, he’s still two years away.
Lillian spent two days in the hospital, this I remember because I got a bill. While medical services were free for military members and their families, meals were not. All told, Jennifer cost a total of $16. We paid $8 per day for her. I often said I’d have paid an even $20. Up to.
I remember Billy being with us in Denver. Not in the delivery room, but in Denver. Bill engineered a trip to go to a school that didn’t seem to be quite ready for him. Billy traveled from Germany to attend a school that didn’t even start for another month. Too costly to fly back to Germany, Billy just hung out to see his new God Daughter. I was going to night school and closing in on my college degree. While I was at school, Lillian remembers Billy staring at her all evening while she went into labor. Billy stared at Lillian and looked at his watch. “Were, was he? I sure as hell didn’t sign up for this part!”
Eventually, I got home from class and took your mother to the hospital. After two days in the hospital, I remember paying the bill and taking mother and daughter home. I also remember stopping at a Wendy’s on the way home. So, all of two days old, we got to share a Frosty. The cold ice cream on your lips causing a very sour face and was not what I expected. On the second sip, you farted.
After that, you grew up and left home.
Many of the details of your first years seem to now be in a fog, they seem overwritten by so many newer memories. This should not be allowed. I can remember being happy, making you laugh, having serious discussions, and watching you sleep. At some point, my mind might have to let these memories go. But not my heart.