Family chemistry

In early 1971 when my mother went for her checkup after birthing my older brother Perry, the doctor told her that he wanted to talk to her about birth control. She figured he had some new product she could try since she felt like she'd tried everything out there, but he followed up by saying, "because we don't want this to happen again." My 33-year-old mother gave that doctor hell. She explained that my brother's conception was very much planned and he was not going to be the last pregnancy if she had anything to say about it and he should just shut his trap. Those of you who have met my mother know that she must have said it a bit nicer than that, but her point was made.

And so my parents went on with their lives raising a 12-year-old Doug and a newborn Perry that grew into a toddler that grew into a little kid. They were living in a two bedroom house (the green one across the street from where they live now) and my father was building an addition on it himself. Life was busy and complicated, but it was good.

My parents decided it was time to try again for another child. I learned later that they had read up on what factors could encourage a girl baby versus a boy and did what they could to facilitate that. My father sheepishly said recently, "I tried to convince your mother to douche with soda water but she drew the line there." In December of 1975, Mom was pregnant again.

Next thing you know it was March of 1976, shortly after my mother's favorite aunt Millie had died. She was lying in bed and my father was vacuuming out the floor furnace in the hallway outside their bedroom. She had a horrible belly ache, but figured it would pass. As the evening wore on she thought, "Dear God, I'm going to die. I'm going to die in this bed and George won't even know I've died because he can't hear my moans over that damn vacuum. Yes, I'm going to die." Eventually she made her way into the bathroom and passed a large blob. It was then she realized all those aches were labor pains. She collected the fetus, left Perry with Doug (who was nearly 17 then) and headed with my father to the hospital.

They did whatever doctors do in 1976 after a woman has just miscarried a fetus in her bathroom at four months and were taking their sweet time with paperwork. My father kept asking if they could go home and the nurse kept saying they couldn't leave until the bill was settled. They had insurance but there was a debate over the co-pay or something. Daddy calmly left the nurse station and went to ask Mom if she could walk. She asked why and he explained they were leaving but the nurses might be mad about it. And so they gathered her things and walked out. As they passed the nurse, she said, "You can't leave!"

Daddy: "And what are you going to do about it?" Nurse: "Well ... I'm going to mark your bill UNPAID!"

And she loudly stamped their bill unpaid with a large red stamp as they walked out the door.

Afterward, when others expressed concern or condolences over Mom's miscarriage, she shrugged it off. She casually explained they didn't have time to mourn a blob because they had to get busy making another baby. Mom was 38 and the doctors were getting more and more concerned about her being "high risk."

By August of that same year, Mom was pregnant again. She always said it was a miracle they managed to conceive me because all that summer my parents hosted Daddy's four nieces and nephews (in that same two bedroom house) as Daddy's brother went through a rough spot in his marriage. But miracles happened and I stuck around in her belly for 39 weeks and came out perfectly healthy.

We were then a busy, complicated family of five in a two bedroom house, but we were happy.

I talk about my father a lot on this site, but don't mention Mom nearly as much. Dad is the one raging against nursing staff while my mother is quietly passing a fetus in her bedroom. In many ways they compliment each other well.

My parents don't panic. My amazingly patient mother doesn't make a fuss. And my father shows super-human levels of support for his family, even if he doesn't manifest it in the most mainstream of ways.

A family doesn't just happen out of the blue on a wedding day or in a hospital delivery ward. A family (and in particular our family) grows just like a person does, hopefully taking the best characteristics of each member and blending them together. It's the closest things to magic we get to perform every day.