Saturday, May 31, 2014

Saturday Musings, 31 May 2014

Good morning,

My deck flowers preen towards the moisture lingering from the late evening rain shower.  I briefly contemplate turning their pots but let them be.  A bird flits from the highest eave of our house to the roof of the home behind us, squawking a little, screeching even, protecting the new hatchlings.  A woodpecker hammers at a tree, somewhere close. Morning becomes this place; everything seems new and clean.  I rest my feet on the flat surface of the porch rug and gently rock my chair.

I'm thinking about friendship today.  A small domestic crisis last evening sent me to the phone, reaching out to my friend Sheldon who came with his carpenter's tools and dispatched the problem with astonishing ease.  As he departed, he thanked me for calling him -- thanked me for calling him.  He imagines himself to be in my debt because I stood by his daughter in a time of need.  But what could I do?  I've known her since she was three; how could I not?  He smiled as he left, telling me they'll see me soon and I know they will, all of them,  his wife, Paula; their daughter; their two grandsons.  I can count on them.

I suddenly remember another Paula; a friend in Arkansas.  I'm thinking of another Saturday morning, in July, 1991, when that Paula and I sat in a small living room in Fayetteville, me large with unborn child, she small, slender and serene.  I felt a kind of tightness across my belly and felt panic rise within me.  The baby, due for a scheduled six-weeks early delivery on Monday, desperately yearned to enter the world and pressed downward.  Paula eased me down into the rocking chair which stood ready for motherhood, slipped my shoes from my swollen feet, and scooted my grandmother's footstool under them.  She brought me hot herbal tea, laughing at the odd request on  a day when the air conditioning strained to keep pace with the heat of the Ozark mountain summer.

I shifted the awkward weight of my body and moaned a little, leaning into the urgency of the sensation rippling through me.  Paula dialed the doctor's after-hours number and in her silken voice, described the timing of the contractions.  She listened for a moment, murmured assent, and cradled the receiver.  "Okay then, let's get you to the hospital," she said, cheerfully.  I felt panic rise on the wave of the last pain and protested but Paula, gentle, firm, guided me out to her car and buckled the belt around the baby within me, even more gently, with a touch so careful that I could barely feel it.

The emergency room personnel wasted no time in getting me upstairs to Labor and Delivery.  July 6th, I thought to myself, as a couple of nurses swiftly changed me to clothing suitable for a hospital room and Paula hovered in the background.  But the baby is supposed to be born on Monday, July 8th.  Not today.  "Don't worry, sweetie, July 6th is just fine," one of the nurses replied, and I realized that I had spoken outloud.  Paula twinkled, nodded, retreating further and further away as the pain came again in its terrible fury.

Twelve hours later, the midwife who assisted my OB GYN stood beside me and calmed me with her delicate Irish accent.  "I'm just goin' to let you go a bit more," she told me.  "You're just not quite ready, but I'm here, I can wait."  Beyond Moira, in a corner of the room, I saw Paula.  I looked into the brownness of her eyes, took in the smooth olive of her skin, felt the comfort of her unflagging smile.  I fell back on the pillow.  Paula came forward to stand on the other side of my bed, resting one thin hand, with its olive skin and slender fingers, on my arm.  The night droned onward, me clenching and shuddering every ten minutes, crying out; Paula soothing me, freshening the wet cloths for my forehead.  The midwife made several trips into the room but at midnight, with labor still -- as she said -- "unproductive" -- she gave me something that made the whole thing stop.  I slept.  

When I awakened late on Sunday morning, Paula sat in a chair beside me. She wore fresh clothes and held a cup of tea.  As my eyes opened, a smile broke across her face.  "Good morning, sleepyhead," she sang out, and held the cup towards me.  I took it and drank, a long draw which spread warmth throughout me.  I fell back on the pillow, gazing around me, at Paula, at the sight of morning through the window, at the board with the names of the dayshift nurses and  my room numbered scrawled across it.  I felt no pains.  But the child stirred within me and I knew his time drew closer.  I drank Paula's herbal tea and held her hand, til the nurse came and told me I could get dressed, go home, and report for delivery on Monday  morning as scheduled.

A few years ago, I looked for Paula on the Internet.  I found the man to whom she had been married back then, in the late 1980s and early 1990s when I had lived in Arkansas.  We traded e-mails, and he told me that Paula had divorced him, moved to Florida, and died under mysterious circumstances.  I read his words over and over, thinking about Paula, who once changed her surname to "Everywoman" and who had held my hand through a dozen hours of unproductive labor, that Saturday in July, more than two decades ago.  

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.