Saturday, July 6, 2013

Saturday Musings, 06 July 2013

Good morning,

The distant rumble of a trash truck signals the morning has begun.  I have dragged a large pile of rubbish from the basement, the fruits of an Independence Day cleaning brigade.  I'm satisfied, smug:  I can use the laundry room again, and it only took two of us four hours to get it clean. I draw in the fresh June air. Three birds, flying in formation, land in the tree over our yard.  I listen to their song, wondering if they chatter amongst themselves or if they each have their own refrain. 

The neighbors' house stands in a state of stalled repainting.  The contractor husband divides his time between his flip-house projects and his wife's bedside.  Her perilous pregnancy demands constant medical care, just seven days from the planned early delivery.  A few corridors away in the same hospital, my mother-in-law lies in uneasy discomfort, having fallen in her "Memory Unit" and broken her femur, causing an irreversible change to her already fragile existence.  My husband and hers sit in the two chairs allocated to her private room, holding her hand.  I can picture the sweetness of her smile.

I spent July 06th in a hospital myself twenty-two years ago.  Another Saturday, two days before a planned C-section at 34 weeks gestation, my little baby eager to have the ties between us severed.  Labor pains started that morning, and the cadre of women in white decided to let the baby come naturally if he chose to do so.  I panted, listening to the somewhat patronizing tones of the nurses admonishing me to relax, just relax, now breathe, that's a good girl.  I gritted my teeth and glared at them but between contractions, I clung to them.  They seemed to understand the alternating waves of despair and dependence.  They patted my hand and smiled, unaffected by the daggers which I hurled at them in my pain.

Other hands held mine in turn.  The thin, cool hands of Paula Fulcher; the motherly grip of my friend Laura Barclay and the clumsy, caring touch of her husband Ron; the soothing, calming grip  of Joshua Dara, my colleague from Nigeria who divided his time between lawyering and preaching in the only black church in Fayetteville, Arkansas in 1991.  They endured it all with me, that little labor team, uncomplainingly, even though to Ron and Laura there must have a tragic tone of irony.   I seemed to have conceived so easily, I, who had no husband, when they had been trying for years without success. 

I walked the halls and stood at the nursery window, that Saturday, so long ago.  I watched the tiny babies being tended by the efficient nursing staff. I gazed on women as they lay in stretchers, pushed down the halls, their huge bellies draped with soft blankets.  I yielded to passing wheelchairs surrounded by dazed, delirious family members, and smiling aides carrying flowers, new mothers on the way to  the rest of their own indelibly altered lives.  Once I doubled over, flailing, as a strong, urgent need rippled through me.  But the hours marched by, and the contractions brought no dilation, and finally, midnight came.  July 07th.

My midwife happened to be in the room at that moment.  I screeched at her to stop the labor, now.  She spoke in soothing tones, assuring me that I could endure for another few hours and soon the baby would come and I would forget the pain.  She did not understand.  Stop this labor NOW, I demanded.  I clutched her arm.  It's not doing anything; it's six weeks early, and July 07th is the father's birthday.  I will not spend the rest of my child's life thinking about the father that is not here.  My hysteria convinced her. She gave me a shot; I went home at noon, and reappeared, refreshed, with a well-rested labor team, ready for the birthing that Monday morning, July 08th, 1991.  Ron started the video camera; Laura and I were prepped and gowned, and Joshua stood beaming beside Paula's diminutive figure, my last sight as they wheeled me head-first into operating room number two.

A half-dozen years later, Ron would die when an aneurysm exploded in his head, apparently lying in wait since he skidded to avoid a deer someone kept in town as a pet and hit his head on the steering wheel.  He and Laura had just adopted a group of four siblings whom they had fostered.  She's raised them on her own.  Joshua slowly phased out law while he built a church in Louisiana; he and his wife, accustomed to the fifty-percent infant mortality rate in Nigeria, had eight children -- hoping for four.  Those eight children have all grown now, and Joshua is contemplating a run for Mayor of his small central Louisiana town.  I'm told Paula left Arkansas several year ago, and died under mysterious circumstances, in northern Florida, far from home. 

I still see them, in my hospital room.  Ron wears a Cardinal's shirt over his stocky frame, and bustles around, taking pictures that now have faded in a photo album.  I wish I could bottle that look on your face, he proclaims, in his gravely Oklahoma voice.  I'd make a fortune!  "Essence of Motherhood", I'd call it.  Laura crinkles her eyes in his direction, her glance flavored by the highlight of love.  Joshua hovers in the background, slightly embarrassed, averting his eyes from a woman, not his wife, nursing her baby.  And Paula, with her golden gaze, her diminutive frame, reaches her slender arms to take the baby so I will rest.  She settles into the rocker beside my bed, murmuring something only she and the infant can hear, and he drifts to sleep, the sounds of silence surrounding them both.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

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The Missouri Mugwump™

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I've been many things in my life: A child, a daughter, a friend; a wife, a mother, a lawyer and a pet-owner. I've given my best to many things and my worst to a few. I live in Brookside, in an airplane bungalow. I'm an eternal optimist and a sometime-poet. If I ever got a poem published in The New Yorker, I would die a happy woman. I'm a proud supporter of the Arts in Kansas City. I vote Democrat, fly the American flag, cry at Hallmark commercials, and recycle.