Saturday, May 16, 2015

Saturday Musings, 16 May 2015

Good morning,

Outside my window, the laden rose trellis signals that the world has turned again.  The men who now live in the house which the trellis climbs have tended it well and this year's blooms show the reward of their care.  I benefit from their ministrations.  The heady fragrance wafts through my open backdoor reduced by the distance to a pleasant scent.  I gaze on the vine from my breakfast nook, vibrant colors, curling petals, plush greenery. 

My mailbox yielded pleasantries last evening when I finally returned home from a full day of work and an evening with the effervescent Vivian Leahy and the lively Jennifer Rosen.  I can barely keep pace with some of my women friends.  Their eyes spark with the fire of their thoughts; their smiles radiate throughout any room they occupy.  I'm tired but happy when I spend time with them.  Friday was no exception.

But the mailbox:  a Mother's Day card from my son Patrick, with a sweet message and a snippet of The Journal, a quote that I well remember from the days when my mother introduced me to On Walden Pond and other writings from this most wondrous author.  As I read what my son has written, and the printed message on the inside of the card which he chose for me, I am suddenly drawn back to a time before he came, before I understood the purity of maternal love.

I'm lying on an examining table.  It's April 1991, and I've driven over the Pig Trail from Fayetteville to Little Rock.  I've already seen the folks in the Pediatric Infectious Disease Clinic who've made me part of a study; I've submitted to the torture of the lady in Orthopedics who strives to keep me ambulatory without the medicine that I've had to discontinue using.  Now I'm about to have a humongous needle stuck into my enormous belly for purposes of extracting some of the fluid which surrounds the baby inside me.  

I've already prepared a nursery in the apartment to which I moved in town.  I don't like pink and I'm so convinced that the child is a girl that I avoided blue.  I chose, instead, pale yellows and delicate greens.  

But the name which awaits this child signifies my certainty of its gender.  She will be "Elizabeth Lucille Johanna Corley".  My sister Joyce's middle name is "Elizabeth" and my mother was "Lucille Johanna".  The "Johanna" comes from my maternal grandmother.  I think this name will suit my child and pays tribute to three major influences in my life.  In early February, I lost this baby's twin; so I am taking extra care to be sure that Beth --- as I intend to call her -- survives.  

So I am on this hard surface with its crinkly paper to get amniocentesis.  My due date is August 21st, a day of which I'm not overly fond as it is the day on which my mother died.  But there's a certain symbiosis with the coincidence.  I'm at about eighteen weeks gestation, the very earliest they would do the testing especially since I've already miscarried one child.  

I'm in the room alone.  I've no partner, though a secretary from my office drove me to Little Rock and waits somewhere in the outer edges of the vast medical facility.  My baby's father walked away from the chance at parenthood.  So I'm going through this with the tangential help of the village which awaits the child whom they plan to nurture, ready-made aunts and uncles since I'm living far from those who bear the title by blood.  I'm lucky:  Though my nights might be lonely, and the fears many, I've a score of adults eager to babysit.

A woman comes into the room.  She wears a white lab coat.  She pulls a rolling stool and a monitor towards the examining table and settles herself.  She lifts the sheet which covers me and smears something cold and sticky on my belly.  She smiles.

"Do you want to know the gender of this baby?" she asks.  I tell her that I do not, that I would rather wait until birth and be surprised.  She holds a wand to my skin and moves it around, gazing at the monitor and then she gasps and says, "Oh, you're having  a boy! See, it's a boy!"

And I think:  What part of "No, I do not" was unclear?  But my mouth betrays me more deeply by blurting out, "What in God's name am I going to do with a boy?"

The woman stops her work and stares at me in mild horror.  I hold her gaze for a moment, then turn to face the wall.  I feel the pressure of her equipment again, and then the door opens and a gruff man enters, also clad in white.   He does the test, though he has to stick me twice since I jump the first time, for which he blames me in a tired voice.  And then the test is over and I am left to dress and make my way back to Sendie, the friend who has driven me.

I don't tell her the news.  I'm still digesting it.  I'm still trying to figure out who will teach him to throw a baseball, change the oil in a car, pee standing up, and all those things that a father would instinctively know and share.  I'm still holding fast to my Elizabeth, whom I was sure I bore.  I'm wondering what I will call this child since "Beth" will no longer suffice.

The child got born, though early.  He entered laughing.  He went without a name for two weeks until I finally grew tired of calling him "Bundle", after "Bundle of Joy", a nick-name which morphed into "Buddy", an appellation which my son bore until kindergarten.  Instead, I named him after two influential men in my life:  my brother, Stephen Patrick Corley; and my best friend, Charles Alan White.  My baby became "Patrick Charles Corley", a name that he has sometimes loathed but to which  he has, hopefully, become resigned.

The other day, my son called and asked what might be amiss to cause his turn signal to cease working.  I speculated that it could be a burned-out bulb or a fuse.  He said, "Am I the only person that doesn't know these things?" and though his question might have been light-hearted, my stomach flopped.  I realized, as we ended the call, that there had been a whole host of things that I never taught my son -- things at which I am not all that accomplished, and which in my mind must have been a father's province.

But here he is, an adult, and he has survived being a fatherless child.  I hope he understands my choice to bring him into a single-parent home.  I suffered substantial criticism for my decision, dire predictions of disaster, well-intended advice to give him to a "real" family.  But I had waited long to be a parent and even though the nausea which I felt on learning that I'd be the mother of a boychild never really left me, I have no regrets.  He's a good son, and a fine young man.   His path has taken him over some rocky roads but he keeps walking, just as my own mother encouraged me to do.

And how can a mother not love a son who quotes Thoreau in her Mother's Day card?

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

"When I see the dead stems rising above the snow by the roadside, sometimes in dense masses, which carry me back in imagination to their summer life, I put faintly a question which I do not yet hear answered:  why stand they here?  Why should the corn-stalks occupy the field longer than the green and living did?"

                                                                                                H.D. Thoreau
                                                                                                January 14, 1852 


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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.