A Wonder Among Wonders

In my life, there have been three wondrous moments that have transcended most. Only one stands at the head of those three wonders. The latter was when i met Maureen. She and i have forged a relationship that is simply the way of a man and a woman should be for their lifetimes.

Tomorrow, the first of the other two occurred fifty-one years ago.

Now, i don’t think my life’s wondrous moments or my life itself are extra special. i’m sure most folks have their special wondrous moments as amazing as mine. But boy, mine sometimes whack me in the head with a magic wand. Other than meeting Maureen, the celebration of the one tomorrow was the first. But let’s consider the other two first.

Just over sixteen years ago, i winged from the Southwest corner to the hill country of Texas. My daughter Blythe gave birth to my grandson, Samuel James Jewell Gander. i arrived at the hospital around noon to hold him in my arms with his mother, father, grandmother there with me. i must point out again, Sam’s two middle names were to honor my father, Sam’s great grandfather. i said then and i repeat here, Sam was the forger of a beautiful relationship of a nuclear family. We all loved him and consequently loved each other a little bit more.

Then, on a cataclysmic fusion of events, November 30, 1989, our second daughter, Sarah was born. I’ve pretty well documented i had to leave the labor room to attend my Navy retirement ceremony and return for her birth. She has continued to be an amazing and wonderful young woman of whom i could not be more proud. Of course, i will write more of this wondrous moment in about four months. She and her moment remain one of the most wondrous events of my life.

The first of these wondrous events occurred fifty-one years ago tomorrow, July 7, 1972. It was a warm, humid day in Watertown, New York. i awoke, as usual for six days a week, around 5:00 am, quietly and hurriedly dressed, and walked just over two blocks from our upstairs apartment in a house on Keyes Avenue to the newsroom of The Watertown Daily Times. i arrived at my desk in the sports section and began to compose the pages for the afternoon sports section. i edited and sent all the copy to the linotypes and cold iron machines in the back room before deadline, followed it out, and with my crew, made up the lead type pages in the steel frames and checked the cold type pages for accuracy. i wrapped it up, had a sandwich and coke for lunch, made sure we were okay before press time and around 1:30 p.m. walked back to our apartment.

i asked my wife how she was feeling, and laid down for a nap when she said she was fine. About forty minutes later, she woke me up, calmly telling me she had broken water. i immediately went into a frenzy to take her to the hospital. Kathie calmed me down. She had packed her things for the hospital, made sure the house and our dog and cate were all in order, and was ready to go. i carefully walked her down the stairs and across the street to our car. i drove, er slightly faster than the speed limit, to the hospital and turned into the emergency entrance. She chastised me and instructed me to park in the regular parking. i obeyed and we walked to the check-in desk. They took us to the labor room. i stayed with her until they rolled her into the inner sanctum, where men, or at least the fathers, were not allowed. It was around 3:00 p.m. i found a pay phone and called her parents and mine, telling them of the pending birth of their grandchild — we had opted not to know the gender until birth.

i sat in this dark gray waiting room outside the delivery area for around six hours. i just sat there. i don’t know if i thought at all other than praying that Kathie and our child would be fine. It is possibly the loneliest six hours of my life. Finally, the doctor came out and told me i was the father of a beautiful daughter.

We had already decided on the name for a girl. Kathie picked a name from my family, “Blythe.” Her middle name of “Elizabeth” was connected to both sides of the family but primarily after Blythe’s grandmother, Nanny Bettie Lynch, and her great grandmother, Nanny Kat Lynch Hayes.

i walked in and, as usual, Kathie was her practical, no nonsense self. i kissed her and held my daughter Blythe for the first time.

She was, of course, beautiful, and she changed our lives radically. Kathie and i realized we needed more income to give her all she needed to grow up well and the surest way to ensure that was for me to forego my pursuit of a sports journalism career and return to Navy active duty. It was not easy but we did it. In just over month, we left a great place, and headed to Texas, so Kathie and Blythe could stay with Kathie’s parents while i went back to sea.

And to this day, i remain certain it was the right choice.

Her mother Kathie has passed too soon. But Kathie was wonderfully proud of her daughter and grandson. Blythe has become a success in every facet of her life.

And she remains one of the most wondrous things that has ever happened to me.

Happy Birthday, Blythe, oh daughter of mine. i love you.


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