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

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Birth, Death and Devastation

Do you believe in miracles?
If not, then come and speak to me for I have seen many miracles, large and small, in my life.
I’ve never seen a miracle without God involved in there somewhere and with a purpose. Sometimes the miracle even seems to be a curse, until you can see the purpose. The seven babies that died may not seem miraculous or purposeful, but they were not a tragedy. Those babies simply took a short cut to the Lord, but it was through them I came to Jesus as my savior. I took the scene route with all its potholes and stormy days.

When we left off in the last chapter Death seemed to be standing in the wings ready to sweep his scythe. My grandmother was in great pain and in and out of the hospital. She couldn’t eat and couldn’t sleep. She was 81 years old. At the same time, Lois had given birth on December 12, 1980, to a daughter, who was several weeks premature and whose weight quickly plunged to just over three pounds. Today we can read many stories of infants born weighing in at only a pound with good survival chances, one more argument for conception as the beginning of life. In 1980, a newborn as light as ours was at high risk and the doctors who delivered her honestly expected she would be dead by sunrise. If not, they predicted a very bleak life for her, one of blindness and mental retardation.
We hadn’t expected a pregnancy, let alone a birth, so had no name planned. We called her Noelle since it was so close to Christmas. We gave her the middle name Suzanne to match the French of her first name. Suzanne means Lily. It kind of ties things together for a Christian, Noelle means “Christmas” and Lilies are often representative of Easter.
Noelle was taken overnight from Delaware County Memorial Hospital to the neonatal unit at Fitzgerald Mercy. She was placed in an incubator with a dozen tubes running from it obscuring the sight of her. We couldn’t even touch her or hold her she was so delicate. After a few days some nurse would bring her to the window in the door to hold up for us to see. After several more days Lois was allowed in to hold her in her lap to bond, and finally I was allowed to do the same. In order to enter the neonatal ICU and touch our child, we had to first scrub (don't touch me, I'm sterile) put on a green gown, latex gloves, a surgical mask and a elastic cap, like a shower cap.
It was a stressful time. Every so often a nurse would enter the ward and jab Noelle's microscopic foot heel with a needle. She was placed under special lights because she got jaundice. It was discovered my wife and I had conflicting RH factors in our blood, resulting in Noelle having to endure a complete blood transfusion.
Then her conditions began to grow positive. She started gaining ounces. Some of the tubes came out of the incubator and at long last she came out as well into a regular little crib. They let us bring her home on New Year’s Day, 1981, giving her to us in a big red Christmas stocking. The only problem they were concerned about were her eyes.

On April 29, we accompanied Noelle to Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia, where under anesthesia she was given an intense and complete eye examination. The doctors reported they could find nothing wrong with her eyes. Two of the dire expectations given upon her birth had not come to be, she obviously lived, and she would not be blind. Now the only question remaining was mental capacity.
The answer to that came over time. She was to be regularly placed in the gifted classes in school. She earned many recognitions  (left) including the President’s Award for Academic Excellence and Citizenship signed by President Ronald Reagan and she was listed in Who’s Who Among High School Students during both her Junior and Senior years. I think we can safely rule out her being “extremely mentally retarded”.

At the end of 1980, my grandmother was in much distress. She was home from the hospital, where they treated her in the coronary unit, but the exact nature of her problem still was not fully diagnosed. Her daily suffering continued.
On New Year’s Day, 1981, her back was hurting. She slept the entire day of January 2. She was brought down to see Noelle on the third, but went home exhausted. She couldn’t pull herself up on the 8th. Now she went into a period of being unable to stay awake during the day. On the 14th, she got herself up off a chair by herself, walked from the kitchen to the living room, then fell and hurt her stomach. A nurse was visiting regularly and told her she needed to drink more. Problem was she didn’t feel like eating or drinking.
She felt better on January 19 and did drink more while the nurse was there, but by the 25th she was sick again and in lots of pain. A troublesome itching began on February 1, and by February 3rd both the pain and itching had grown worse. This continued through the 16thAnd then everything improved until May 7 when she got a new pain in her back She was up and down with pain and sleep difficulties throughout May until the 20th, then after that she went back to her old self for the remainder of the year. Her pain and suffering left her as mysteriously as they had first appeared.

On March 3rd, my family, Evelyn Weinmann and Mr. Heaney were at our house for Laurel’s 3rd birthday. (Left is Evelyn, Harry Heaney and Laurel.) Lois and I began leaving the kids with my parents at times so we could go away or have celebrations on our own.  We took Noelle to the doctor for her regular checkups on March 30. She now weighted 11 pounds and 9 ounces. On this same day, President Reagan, along with three others, was shot in an assassination attempt.

Lois and her father’s relationship had grown more strained than ever. It began to unwind when we moved from his home to Philadelphia back in the late 1960s. He accused us of stealing from him, which wasn’t true at all; meanwhile, he was snooping in our room and through our stuff. In the years after we moved, he began acting more irrational. He didn’t trust anyone and he expressed wishes about seeing the neighborhood kids dead. The neighbors on his street thought him a nice old man, but behind their backs he called them all sorts of bad names. At the end of the ‘seventies he purchased a .45 Automatic. He kept a loaded clip in it all the time and slept with it under his pillow. “If anybody tries to get in, I’ll shoot first and ask questions later,” he told us.

 He took away Lois’ key to his house and half the time wouldn’t answer the door when she came around. By April 1981 he wasn’t answering her phone calls and she was growing very concerned about his well being.  On May 3rd, after having no communications with him for a couple weeks, I suggested we should drive over to his house. She was somewhat hestitent about going there, fearful of his irrability and the loaded weapon, but she did tentatively go knock on the front door. No one answered her knocking, so she yelled for him.  Lois was quite fearful about trying to get in somehow. If we tried to open a window he might shoot us.
 Finally, she went up the street to her Uncle Ed’s, who was always pretty close with his brother-in-law. Ed was married to Lois' Aunt Evelyn. (On the left are Lois' mother, Dorothy - the tall girl, her Aunt Sally and her Uncle Ed as children.) He came down with a spare key and opened the front door. We discovered her father in the bedroom, half unconscious sprawled across his bed. Ed called 9-1-1 and an ambulance showed up quickly. The paramedics took him to Delaware County Memorial Hospital.

He was in intensive care. An operation was performed on May 8 and during the procedure Harry Heaney suffered cardiac arrest and essentially died, but the Doctors brought him back, why we didn't know. Considering the condition he was in, it would have been kinder to let him go. Although he was technically alive, there were no human responses. He was hooked up to several machines that performed the essential functions of his body, breathing, nourishment, etc. The doctor informed us he had a number of lesions on his brain. Her father also had emphysema, which was believed to have been caused by exposure to Asbestos when he worked in construction. Whether this exposure had also caused the brain lesions nobody could say.

Mother’s Day fell on the 10th inbetween all this drama.
My mom and grandmother came down to watch the kids. In the morning of the 11th Lois and I had to meet with a lawyer. Afterward, mom took me to Mr. Heaney’s to get his car and Lois to the hospital to be with her father. There was still no response on his part. My grandmother was experiencing back pains again and on the 12th mom took her to the hospital for back and knee x-rays. There were no broken bones. She was given pills and told to rest.

The doctors basically agreed with us that Mr. Heaney was probably dead, but they could not legally turn off life support. That choice fell to Lois. She claims I went in, leaned toward his ear and said to him, “The Phillies stink.” When he showed no reaction, I said he was dead. I don’t quite remember doing that. I do remember that I went up to him and gazed deep into his eyes and then told Lois there was no one there. At any rate, she told them to turn off the machines during the afternoon of May 13. Mr. Heaney died that evening. (This photo, as far as I know, is the last one of Harry Heaney, taken on May 1, 12 days before he died.)
The next day my mom and grandmother babysat while Lois and I visited both the undertaker and the lawyer. There was no will and no siblings, so Lois was named the Executer and the estate, what there was, went to her. Apparently, Providence had brought us the house we were never able to purchase.
This had been her second childhood home. I believe she was eight when her folks moved into the semi-detached house in Drexel Hill. Before that she lived on the 67th block of Paschall Avenue in Philadelphia (Left). She had been born in the city.

Perhaps now the bad things were over with for a while. Ha!
1030 Cobbs Street looked nice on the outside, but the inside was a mess. For some reason, although he had a garage in the back, Mr. Heaney chose to store most of his yard equipment in the dining room. Besides a power mower, electric hedge clippers and assorted other such tools, he also had television parts and other electrical coponents and test equipment scattered throughout the home. He also apparently kept every piece of paper that had ever come his way, including decades of old check registers and passbooks. The interior was badly in need of painting. Several walls were covered with dingy wallpaper, too. There was also trash and dirt everywhere.

Lois and I began the job of clean up. In the process I tried shutting a drawer in a chest in the bedroom, but it seemed to be stuck. I pulled out one of the offending drawers and there were envelopes taped to the under bottom. This was so with the others as well. When I pulled off an envelope and opened the flap money fell out. There was over $4,000 taped in envelopes under the drawers. Boy, did we check everything carefully after that.
Besides work, I was still attending classes at Widener. As if this didn't keep me busy enough, now I was spending all my spare time cleaning, repairing and painting at Cobbs Street. I finished this up on the 26th, but I had classes the next night so waited a day before bringing Lois over to see how it looked.  On the 28th Lois, holding baby Noelle, Laurel and myself stood on the front porch. I could hear a strange sound. "What is that noise?" I asked as I unlocked the door. 
The noise was from waterfalls pouring down every wall. Part of the living room ceiling lay crumbled on the floor. I dashed in and through the house, down the cellar steps from the kitchen and plunged up to my waist in water. The basement was completely flooded. It’s a wonder I wasn’t electrocuted. I was able to find the valve that shut off the water to the house.
1030 Cobbs was a double house. Fortunately, the retaining wall kept all the water out of my neighbors, but our half was a mess. All the appliances were ruined. The kitchen cabinets were warped. So were the hardwood floors. The wallpaper was either shredded or partially peeling. Basically, the interior of the house was destroyed.

Lois flopped in a chair to feed Noelle. Laurel sat on the staircase looking terrified. For years after she would panic whenever it rained hard.

A water pipe had burst in the bathroom upstairs. It had to happen on the one day of the month when I didn’t visit the house. It was a couple days until the beginning of June. We had to be out of our rental house by July 1 and here we stood in utter devastation and desolation.


Ron said...

What a life you have lead Larry! If they wrote a movie script no one would believe it. By the way, I do believe in miracles. I have seen them in my own life.

WARPed said...

What an incredible chapter of your life, Larry!

BTW, my local grocery checkout lady told me she and her siblings found $200K in their father's trailer, after he passed...IRS, eat your heart out!!!



Jon said...

What an interesting post! The story about your daughter is especially beautiful and inspiring. Miracles do indeed happen.

By the way, I read your answers to the 40 questions on your other blog and enjoyed them (I could relate to many).
I smiled when you described yourself as "an introvert's introvert".