Sunday, June 24, 2007

Happy Birthday, Father

I've been thinking about my father a lot this past week. Last Sunday was Fathers Day; today, had he lived, would have been my father's 94th birthday. Sadly, he never made it to 65, so it's a moot point.

It's a pleasant 68 degrees and sunny outside. Typical Maine summer weather, when it isn't raining and in the 40's. Not so the day father was born. It was sweltering, the hottest of a three-day heat wave in the 90's each day, made more so by nary a breeze or breath of air in the house all shut up for fear of letting in "germs" that could kill the baby, when and if he ever decided to show himself. It had been a hard slog for my grandmother. A virgin bride, practically raped upon completion of the marriage vows and then spirited three hundred miles away from her sisters' and mother's home to live with a cranky, taciturn man, my great-grandfather, his equally taciturn and embittered wife, and my grandmother's new husband. At the age of 22, a graduate of a finishing school as well as Fanny Farmer's School in Boston. Come to live in this rural, oppressively small university town where she knew no one and no one, save her husband, had a care or kind word for her.

It had been a hard slog for everyone. My grandfather found himself in the role of nursemaid and caretaker to his wife, directed by the family doctor. The doctor's nurse saw to the actually activities in the “sick room” that they connubial bedroom had become. Meanwhile, between boiling water, finding clean towels and linens, trying to provide meals for all and sundry, the good doctor and my grandfather sat on the side porch, smoking cigars (it wasn't until my grandfather's heart precluded his evening walk that he was allowed to smoke in the home). The nurse could holler out the upstairs bedroom window at them if something was needed quickly.

Thus it went, for thirty-six hours, according to the tales I was told. Sweat dripping, shirt sleeves rolled up and collars hanging limply, trying to help bring this baby into the world. Writhing in pain, a knotted sheet clenched between her teeth to stifle her screens from being heard farther than the immediate neighborhood, my grandmother sweated buckets while cursing my grandfather's mere existence. Finally, somehow, the Doctor and his nurse managed to wrestle that infant from his mother's birth canal, forcing the birth of my father.

A portentous event. Particularly for my grandfather. Why, you ask?

Because, my grandmother did make good on at least one curse uttered during the heat of the battle. She never again had sex, for fear she'd have to have another baby...

Happy Birthday, Dad. No wonder your father resented you all the rest of his life.

3 comments:

Team Gherkin said...

OMG! What a harrowing story about your dad's birth... and the 'curse' of your grandfather as well! Geebus! I'm speechless!

My dad passed away over 11 years ago, I I appreciated the feeling from your post. Thanks.

Cyalayta
Mal :)

Wil said...

Thanks, Mal.I appreciate you thoughts.

Someplace, I know not where at the moment, there's a photo taken of him about six months before Grandfather died, sitting despondent in his chair with that thousand-mile stare we humans get. Having never met the man in person, I can only surmise that the continued deterioration of his heart (which I also have and understand his disgust very well) coupled with an inability to do anything more strenuous than brushing his teeth, resulted in the profound depression that marked the end of his life by all accounts.

Janet said...

I see a similarity in our grandmothers...after mine had her third child and only daughter (my mother), she divorced her husband and never had sex again.