Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

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

-- Larry E.
Time II

Saturday, December 31, 2016

God in a Heartbeat

Old Man 1974 shuffled off into history to let Baby 1975 begin its short life. For us it slid over from one year to the other with very little change. We left behind 1974 and welcomed 1975  drinking at Bill and Grace Stones. Bill didn't get into harapozoids until sometime after midnight. Lois was feeling good early on and I felt no real effect.
There was no reason to see anything significant in a new year, just a flip of the calendar page from December to January.   .If I had been writing a memoir back then I would have expected to just repeat the year past. It would be more of the same-old-same-old.
About the only difference was buying a new car and that wasn't so unique anymore. It seemed I changed vehicles about every three years. Auto loans were the only debt we had and it was perpetually there. I'd get one auto paid off, have some problems with it and purchase something else. 
I began with a 1954 Ford, which I inherited so no debt there. Then a 1960 Studebaker Lark
followed by a 1963 Lark, which I bought from my parents in '65. I purchased a VW Beetle new in 1966 and sometime about 1970-71 a Chevrolet Chevelle. In 1975 I traded that in for an orange Toyota Corolla with 5 on the floor (pictured right at Chalet).  It was a car I really enjoyed because I felt part of the road every time I drove it. There was something sporty about driving a stick shift rather than an automatic. 
I was going into my second year working at Welded Tube. I was only the Assistant
Controller  still, I wouldn't add systems manager to my roll until halfway through the next year.  Victor Ernest and I had cemented our friendship. We played tennis almost every week day at lunch and continued through the winter playing golf every weekend. It might seem we would have put the clubs away once the cold and snow set it, but the main concession to the season was to purchase a set of orange Titleist that would be visible in any snow covered fairway.
Victor had met and married Marsha in the late fall of the previous year and Lois and I were getting together with them more often. They had moved into a West Deptford condomenium, which had a real tennis court where we sometimes played on weeknds.
They never had any children.

I was now certain we would never have children so the idea of enjoying ourselves was an even greater goal. There was no reason to be saving money, especially for things like retirement. That could wait until I was forty or older. Lois wanted to get a house, but why? We could afford to live in very nice apartments now with no upkeep to concern us and if the place deteriorated we could easily move elsewhere. Our money could go for travel or having fun. (My, my, my, the 1970s sure had ugly clothes.)
May 10 we went to my parent’s for dinner. That Sunday, the 11th, was Mother’s Day and I gave my mother an African Violet. That same weekend Lois announced she was pregnant again.  She wasn’t doing very well; she feared she was going to lose another one.
On May 16 she was in the
hospital getting her cervix sewed up again. This would be the second time she tried this procedure called a Shirodkar cerclage. She had the Modified Shirodkar that would not be permanent and require a caesarian birth.  This hadn't really worked the first time. On the 17th she said she was feeling better.  Everything was okay so far.  I was not happy about this turn of events. I felt she was taking a chance with her health and suggested she give up any further attempts after this one ran its course. She was optomistic that the this time the procedure would succeed.

My family celebrated our batch of June birthdays on June 22. We did this because my  
grandmother, mother and my birthdays were all in June, as was my parent’s wedding anniversary and Father’s Day. It seemed practical to have one big celebration. We went to The Farm for dinner. It is odd, we seemed to go to this particular restaurant quite often in those years, but I can’t remember the place at all. I have tried an online search with no success.  (Right, Lois and me sometime during 1975 in our Chalet living room.)

On the 29th my grandmother came to Chalet to stay with Lois, who after a second time in the hospital was restricted in what she could do as a further precaution. Despite these efforts,  I was awakened by Lois’ cries in the early morning of June 30. At 5:40 I drove her to the John F. Kennedy Hospital in Stratford, New Jersey on East Laurel Road. The irony of this address escaped me until I began writing this account.

They took Lois directly into a labor room and hooked up an IV with some drug designed to

retard labor. There was a monitor strapped about her midsection that amplified the baby’s heartbeat into the room.  I sat with her most of the day and night surrounded by the steady drumbeat of that fetus. Sometime in the wee hours of July 1 they sent me out to a waiting room.
I paced a bit. I sat and tried to read one of the magazines scattered on a table to no avail. Finally, I just sat. My mind kept coming back to those heartbeats heard all day. They sounded very strong and determined to me. That baby was fighting hard to live. Why?
Heartbeats thumped in my brain and it seemed they were the voice of God. But I didn’t believe in God so why should I feel that way? Yet the more I listened to the heartbeats in my head  the more I concluded there had to be something else, something greater than we were. That idea simply would not leave me alone.
At 4:30 AM, Lois delivered the baby, which died. It was a girl. She did not make it past 22 weeks of pregnancy, the dreaded, dooming 5th month. We named her Amy.
I went to work for half a day and then back to the hospital, where my grandmother joined us for the night. I went for a full day’s work the next day and back to the hospital that evening. On July 3 Lois came home. The hospital handled the remains. On the way home Lois said that had been it; she had them tie her tubes after she lost Amy.

She would have crying spells the rest of the month. We escaped some of our current upset when I got vacation during the week of August 8. We spent a day in Pennsylvania Dutch Country with Joe and Linda Rubio, taking in the Strasburg Railroad, The Amish Farm and the general store in Bird In Hand.

On September 9 I attended my cousin, Little Francy’s wedding and reception in
Coatesville. I don’t believe Lois went with me. By September she had sunk into a deep depression, the worse I had ever known her to have. She lay in bed most of the time and didn’t want to do anything. I was at my wit’s end.
I sat down next to her on the bed. “Maybe,” I said, “we should try church again.”
“What church?” she muttered.
“How about the new one they build down at the bottom of the hill.”
Yes, a brand new church building had opened only a couple weeks before. It was along Blackwood-Clementon Road less than a mile from the exit of West Branch Avenue, the road our apartment complex was alongside.
“What good will it do?” she asked.
“I don’t know, but we have to do something. It can’t hurt."

That Sunday we drove down to this church, both nervous about it.  It was a large red brick structure with a giant cross against a white background down its front.  The parking lot was in back.
We walked around the side on a sidewalk and entered the front door. A man greeted us as we entered and handed us each a bulletin. A couple other people smiled and said hello as we went into the sanctuary and down the center aisle. We selected a pew halfway down and took the two spaces near the opening, so we could easily escape if need be.
A tall man in a gray suit came over to us and welcomed us and shook my hand. He chatted with us a bit. After he returned to his own seat, I finally glanced at the bulletin. My gaze stopped on the next line  after the name Laurel Hill Bible Church. I read "A Fundamentalist Independent Baptist Church".

A what?
Fundamentalist? What have I got us into?
I nervously looked about. The people absolutely looked normal, but I expected some would begin rolling in the aisles at any second. My instinct was to flee, to grab Lois by the hand and pull her out of there, rescue her from what was about to befall us, but the service had started and I didn’t want to draw any unnecessary attention to us. We would wait and slip out as quickly as possible when the service concluded. I looked around for a side door or some quick exit. There was none. From all I had ever heard about Fundamentalists was they were cults full of religious nuts, who screamed in strange tongues and tried to scare you with fire and brimstone rants about Hell.

I was sweating as if the flames of hell were already close. I was scared to death of these people. Heaven help us...assuming there was such a thing as Heaven.

1 comment:

Jon said...

I always enjoy reading your blog and the memories that you share. My very best wishes for a wonderful 2017!