Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Patrick Flynn and Ronald Tipton, 2016.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Thursday, July 7, 2016

When Doctor Dreadful Dances By

Conception must have happened in the cold of winter, around very late February or early March. She had been back and forth to doctors all Spring with some mysterious ailment. She was feeling poorly again as June began. My mother and grandmother came down and took her to see a Physician in Malvern named Ludwig Clifford Lewis. Cliff Lewis, specializing in baby deliver since 1951.  This initial visit was on  June, the 3rd to be exact. Leslie Gore was leading the charts with. "It's my Party."  Clifford  confirmed her suspicion that she was pregnant. She was two months along, he said.
We hadn’t planned on a child so soon, although it was one of Lois’ strong desires to have children. We had discussed this before we married and agreed on having four children. We just didn’t want them this early. At least, I didn’t. I wanted to wait until I was making that magic number of $100 a week before we took on the added expense of a child. I still had a way to go; I was making $64 a week.
This condition was pretty inevitable unless there was something physically wrong with us. We were not exactly ascetics. We weren’t sleeping in separate beds like some TV Sitcom couple. We weren’t Shakers, a cult that disbelieved in procreation or having sex and a cult that died out for some odd reason. We also were not making use of the remaining 141 condoms given me by my father. And we were most certainly not celibate.

Her due date was December 1. We decided if it were a boy we would name him Sean and if a girl, Emily.
Lois was barely showing, although she had put on some extra pounds in the just past months. She continued to work, riding in on the Paoli train with me as usual. I know the impact on us financially was weighing on her mind, but I felt we would just have to deal with it. Otherwise our routine and mostly pleasant life went on as it had been.

On July 20 I brought my grandmother up to our place to help Lois prepare a picnic lunch for the next day. We were going with Dave and his wife into the country on the 21st, which we did.
We went to my parents for supper on  July 24. We were also there on the 27 and 29. We drove up looking for them on August 2 and eventually found them at the Goshen Fair, so we walked about and enjoyed the festivities until late evening. On August 3 we came up at noon for breakfast while my dad fixed my car. It was leaking oil. Lois went into Pottstown with my mom and grandmother. I mowed my parents yard. Everything was pretty much normal. As I stated, our routine and mostly pleasant life went on.

That Monday morning, August 5, Lois wasn’t feeling well. She decided to call sick from work and I rode the eastbound train alone. Later I got a phone call from her.
“I think I’m going into labor,” she said.
“Did you call the doctor?”
“Yes. He doesn’t think so. But I’m scared. I think I am. Can you come home?”
I clocked out. I had to catch a train and it took me well over an hour to get to my house. When I got there and opened the front door everything was quiet. It was much too quite actually. There was no sound of a TV playing. It was just dead air.
There was no sign of my wife. I hurried straight through to the bedroom and found her in bed. She looked awful. Her face was pale and streaked from crying. Her hair was a mess.
“He wouldn’t believe me,” she blubbered out. “He wouldn’t come.”
“Who?”
“The doctor. I called him again after talking to you.  I told him I was going into labor. He said that was impossible, all in my head. I was imaging it. He said I was overdramatizing the pain, being hysterical, but would send a prescription for the pain and not to bother him anymore about it.
“Then I lost it.” She began crying. “Right after I lost it the drugstore delivery came. I had to put on my robe and go to the door. I had blood running down my legs.”
“Did you call the doctor again?” I asked.
“Yes. Just after you said you'd be home. He said he would come.”
"Where is he?"
"He hasn't come yet."
“Where’s the baby?”
“In the bathroom.”
I went into the bathroom. There was a basin sitting on top of the toilet tank with a towel over it. I lifted the towel. It was a boy. He looked absolutely perfect, as if he was sleeping.  I re-covered him and went back to Lois. Just then the doorbell rang. It was Doctor Lewis...finally.  I let him in.
“Where is she?” he asked rather brusquely.
“In the bedroom,” I pointed.
He brushed by me into the bedroom. I called my parents and my mom answered. I told her what had happened. She said they would come. I don’t know why, but my dad was home instead of on the road. I hung up as Doctor Ludwig Clifford Lewis came out of the bedroom.
“How is she?”
He paused only briefly. I looked straight into his hard, heartless eyes for a long minute. He looked annoyed and angered. 
“She’s fine,” he said hurriedly heading to the front door.
“What do we do with the baby?” I asked.
He had his hand on the knob. “I don’t care what you do with it,” he said. “You can put it in the trash for all I care.” With that he hurriedly left.
I wanted to run after him and punch him in the nose, no, I wanted to strangle him. If ever I had murder on my heart it was at that moment.
Lois was calling me. I went in, sat on the side of the bed, held her hand  and stayed with her until my folks arrived. Lois said she was afraid I’d hate her. Why would I hate her?
I didn’t have any loving feelings toward Doctor Ludwig Clifford Lewis though.
My parents and grandmother stayed a while. When they left my dad went into the bathroom and took away the baby, little Sean, wrapped in the towel. My mother cleaned up the place. My dad buried the baby somewhere out in the field where he put all the deceased pets. I don’t know if that was legal or not. There was no one advising us differently. The Doctor said to put it out with the trash.
How could Doctor Ludwig Clifford Lewis say such a thing? How could any decent human being suggest such a thing at such a time? Cliff Lewis did not deserve his title of Doctor. He was a mean, cruel person. "I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug."  This Neanderthal seemed to have skipped that line in the Hippocratic Oath.
This quack died in 2015 from stroke complications. He couldn’t have died of heart attack, of course, not having one.
In his obituary it said this, “He made sure he was available for his patients. If someone with a cut and it was the middle of dinner, he’d stop and sew hem up. He was a good old-fashioned country doctor.” So where was "this good old-fashioned country doctor" during August 5, 1963, when he couldn’t take time to attend my wife? Why did this bozo tell her “labor was impossible and it was all in her imagination”. Then when his heedless disregard for her pain and request resulted in the death of the baby, essentially a murder by neglect, he had the gull to say, “Throw the baby in the trash.” The man was a monster.  No person of decency would say such an insensitive thing at such a time. Only a hard-hearted and cruel person would do that. (Pictured is the home at the address given for his practice.)

I have many times asked myself the question of how somebody could be that cold and mean. How can you ignore a woman’s pleas to come attend to her when she believes she is losing her baby, and how can you tell anyone who has went through such agony that the baby is just trash that can be chucked away with the rest of the daily debris of life.
My dad said burying the baby was the hardest thing he ever had to do.
I refer to the child as Sean, the name we had picked out if we had a boy, which is what we had. Lois preferred not to place a name on it. This was hard on me, but much worse on her, not just physically, but psychologically. This event was probably the trigger to other problems Lois had.
Lois’ difficulty physically was two-fold, a womb in the wrong position and an incompetent cervix. The womb misalignment was a birth defect that surgery later fixed. Whether the incompetent cervix was the cause of this premature birth or caused by it is an unknown. At any rate, Lois could not retain a fetus after the fifth month of pregnancy due to the weight. Of course we did not know any of this until several years after the loss of Sean.
Lois’ psychological problems were more complex and predated this although they grew more and more apparent after this event. Looking back there were certain signs in her letters to me and in her behavior, but I only saw these after the fact. Lois suffered manic-depression, or Bi-Polar Disorder. We didn’t find this out until decades later.
Both her physical and psychological difficulties would play a major roll in our lives going forward, but we did know why certain things happened over the next two decades. The result of our ignorance about her conditions was not just going to affect us emotionally, but also financially. It was not going to take long for this to manifest itself.
There were also a number of psychological and emotional problems about to rock my mind as well. In the summer of 1963 my career seemed solid and improving. By the summer of 1965 I would believe everything was over for me. Between those two seasons a lot happened.
Lois went back to work the next week after her loss. She was further upset by the demeanor of her boss and fellow employees. She found them insensitive to her loss. Two days after she lost Sean, on August 7, Jacqueline Kennedy had an emergency C-section to deliver a son, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy. He was 5 ½ months premature. A good deal of fuss was made over this birth by the media. This was the first White House Baby since Grover Cleveland.
However, the baby quickly developed breathing problem, now known as infant respiratory distress syndrome and died on August 9, 1963.
While Lois was healing and grieving the TV and newspapers were constantly harping on the death of the First Lady’s boy. When Lois returned to work the next Monday she found everyone talking about the Kennedy tragedy and expressing sympathy to Jacqueline while basically ignoring her own situation. Lois knew how Jacqueline must be feeling, but could not understand how people she knew didn't understand she had the same feelings. “At least,” she said, “Jackie has two healthy children.”
I returned to work to the same, especially since the Mailroom Supervisor was a Kennedy Fanatic. Bill Mayberry had a picture of John F. Kennedy on his desk next to one of his family. He practically worshiped Jack Kennedy and he had to restrain himself from crying over Jacqueline’s child’s death. I was aware that my own loss paled in these people’s minds to the loss of a famous person that they really didn’t even know. It is the reality in a country of celebrity worship.

I was too busy to worry about other people’s thoughts. I had a Speedaumat Unit to organize and run, plus I was still attending evening college at Temple. Meanwhile Lois gradually came back to her normal self. She stopped sulking about it or being angry with the Doctor and her fellow employees. She talked about having a child in a couple years. I passed my Sociology Course and prepared for the Fall Semester, which would be more demanding.
Meanwhile the world was about to change.

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