It was forty-six years ago today.
Around 2:00 in the afternoon, i had returned from putting out the sports section of The Watertown Daily Times in upstate New York, and i mean UPSTATE New York, still one of my favorite places in the world over three-quarters of a century.
i had a sandwich for lunch and laid down for my usual afternoon nap. After all, i had gotten up around 4:00 and walked to work, getting to my desk before 5:30. It was my routine, i thought the nap was well deserved since on most previous evenings i had been at a sports event, mostly the Watertown Royals semi-pro baseball game.
My wife nudged me gently to wake me up.
“Jim, I broke water,” she announced in an offhand manner, “It’s time to go to the hospital.”
After her water broke, Kathie called the hospital to let them know she was on her way, arranged the apartment for me in her absence and for her return with our new infant. She packed what she would need at the hospital. She was orderly and calm.
The sports editor was catatonic. He threw on some clothes, grabbed her small suitcase, and ushered her down the stairs of the second floor apartment. He didn’t exactly break the land speed record getting to the hospital, but let’s just say he didn’t tarry in traffic.
He drove the blue 1966 Oldsmobile Cutlass to the emergency dock. She said something to the effect about his being silly and directed him to park in a regular space about a block away. They walked to the check-in counter. She was checked in and put into a room. He got to stay there for roughly three hours. They kicked him out. It wasn’t like it is today. Perhaps it was predictive of what would happen later.
He had supper out with his good friend and high school teacher Earl Weidemann and returned to the hospital. It was around 6:00. They parked him in the expectant father’s waiting room, a rather dark hole, and he waited there, worried about his wife and excited about what was imminent.
Just after 9:30, his wife gave birth to his daughter. She was beautiful, sporting a goodly amount of black hair. He was in heaven but not allowed to stay long. Her mother looked absolutely gorgeous and oh, oh so happy…perhaps because the worse part was over.
In just under two months, he would leave. The Navy looked like a good move for him to support his wife and new child, and he had chosen to give up sports writing and return to the sea. Unfortunately, it would require him to be away for long periods of time, while this new overwhelmingly force in his life would remain with her mother. His choice for them.
But oh boy, was she loved. She and her mother stayed with her mother’s parents, Colonel Lynch and Nannie Bettie in Paris, Texas but spent significant time in Tennessee. Both families adored her. Still do. One of his favorite photos of her was while he was in the Mediterranean. Her uncle, Uncle Snooks, who loved all children, seemed to have a special place for Blythe. Even though they all loved her, it was real close to the most lonely four months of his life.
When he returned, they began the Navy life in Newport, Rhode Island. Then, they moved across country to Long Beach. Then south to San Diego. Then to Texas A&M. It was a glorious time for him because he was with her even though the marriage was floundering, and he was lost at the thought of not being with her.
So she grew up well. He spent as much time as he could with her, nearly all of his thirty days a year of allotted leave time. Her mother was good about letting her travel to places to be with him and with his parents. She spent a lot of summer time in Lebanon, Tennessee, having fun.
It was as good as it could be except for Christmas. After he went to extra effort to be with her and her mother for two Christmases, he realized her mother would be lost without her for Christmas, that he was a third (or fourth or fifth) wheel on Christmas. So he gave it up. Christmas was never as good for him as it had been with her.
There are many photos of them together. He may post more later just so he can revisit good memories again.
And then she became Maureen’s daughter.
It was a wonderful thing. Then she had a sister. They are wonderful together. It makes him happier than anything in the world when they show their happiness together. He has been known to have tears well up when he sees them together.
Finally, finally, they produced a son: Samuel James Jewell Gander with his two middle names honoring his great grandfather. The old man, by now, Sam’s grandfather is so proud of Sam, his buttons damn near burst when he talks about him. If there is one thing in his life the old man would change, it would be to spend as much time as he could with Sam.
But the world and factors one can’t control often keep us from having what we want. And so it is.
She has a wonderful job now. She has a good husband. She takes care of her mother and her mother takes care of the three of them, especially Sam. It is as it should be, or as close as it can get. For his daughter, he accepts that as enough.
And oh boy, at forty-six (today), she is an incredible woman with an incredible son.
Happy Birthday, Blythe.