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Monday, September 24, 2018

Thursday's Child

Monday's child is fair of face
Tuesday's child is full of grace
Wednesday's child is full of woe
Thursday's child has far to go,
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child works hard for a living,
And the child that is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe, and good always.

August 29, 1957, was a Thursday. There was no hospital in this tiny hamlet of Polo, Missouri, and so the mother, heavy with child as she was, knew that there was a drive to Cameron in her near future.

If history had taught her anything, it was that she had better get to the hospital when she felt her first "pains." So she quickly got the two older children ("older" being a loose term, since the oldest daughter would turn 3 tomorrow, and the son just turned 1 three weeks earlier.) to the church babysitter. She then enlisted her minister husband in driving the 24 miles on a hot August day.

The mother's obstetrician had warned her early on not to have any children at all, given her Type 1 diabetes ("juvenile" as it was then called), and its danger to not only her but the children as well. But the two older children were born healthy and she had minimal problems, so she had no reason to believe this birth and child would be any different.

In the 1950s, it was common practice to use heavy anesthesia to, in effect, put the mother to sleep while the doctor delivered the baby. And in this small town, that practice still existed. But this mother was a study in fast labor, so when she and her husband arrived at the hospital, she was well on her way to delivering her third child.

Goodbye to the father ... not allowed into delivery unless by emergency edict. Not long after, a baby crowned. 

"Put the mother out!"

The hapless mother couldn't understand this backwards event. The baby was being born! She didn't need to be anesthetized. What was going on?

From the doctor's perspective, there was something dreadfully wrong with the baby. He was convinced the baby had two heads. Sparing the mother this sight upon delivery was his main objective.

Fast forward to recovery. The doctor met with mother and father, telling them that the baby had a rare condition known as hydrocephalus. This had resulted in a water "bag" on her brain that had looked like a second head at the time of birth. Newly developed and understood procedures allowed for draining the cerebrospinal fluid, but the doctor had more bad news: the baby girl also had half an extra vertebra, which would cause problems later in life; he warned that due to the pressure on the brain, she may not live to go home from the hospital; if she did go home from the hospital, she may not live beyond 8 years old; if by chance she did live that long, her mental capacity would never surpass a 12 year old.

Numerous hospitalizations were followed by a move to a tiny town in eastern Iowa, followed by another move to a tiny town in northwestern Montana. The infrastructure wasn't much better in either location.

At the age of 3, what should have been a running toddler/preschooler was scooting around on the floor on a cookie sheet, as she was still unable to walk, and had never crawled, due to her spasticity. Her speech was nearly incoherent. But she was indeed happy. The mother described her as the happiest of babies.

The town of Conrad, Montana, was approximately 60 miles from Great Falls, the largest city nearby. So instead of going to preschool or kindergarten in a town of 2000, the little girl was driven to a special class, physical therapy, and speech therapy down the highway. She would bring home scrapbooks full of glued letters and cut out animal and food pictures. Eventually, she was walking, talking, and putting two and two together.

Time and care availeth much! Although her speech still sounded like she had hailed from Massachusetts, progress was happening.

It became obvious, around the age of 10, that the girl had scoliosis. By that time, the father had joined the Air Force as a chaplain and was being transferred from Montana to Minnesota. A fortuitous move for the family. Opportunities and resources became readily available. Little D was fitted for a "Milwaukee" brace that covered her body in steel and leather until the time when the doctors felt it was time to do back surgery.

That time came not in the US, but after the family was transferred to an Air Force base in Japan. At the age of 12, the daughter was taken to a nearby hospital for surgery that would remove some hip bone, remove the half extra vertebra, and fuse her spine; in essence stunting her growth from that point. She was 4 feet, 10 inches tall at the time.

With the steadfast love and care of a mother, Little D progressed mentally as well. Upon relocating to Missouri, and then California, she was about to graduate from high school ... no small feat. But one of the requirements of the high school was to be able to swim two laps of the swimming pool. The young woman's spasticity (what one side of the brain did, the other did also ...) prevented her from driving, swimming, and the like. Anything that required the two sides of the body to be working independently. (Although she DID learn to type at 56 words per minute!)After much intervention from the parents, the school recanted and allowed her to graduate on the merits of her schooling alone.

"She will not live past ... she will never ..." 1. graduate 2. get married 3. live independently 4. have meaningful employment

And this is where we come to the chapter of disclosure.

She moved in with her sister for a short time, and then into a boarding house, where she went to work for the county in a training program. This led to an aide position in the public school system, for special needs students, with whom she could empathize. This led to going to a local church and singles group. Which led to dating, and eloping to Reno, Nevada!

Diane ... my sister ... is nothing short of a miracle. She has held her aide position, as an awarded member of the school employees, for more nearly 40 years! She almost singlehandedly assisted our parents through their life at a local retirement community, until their deaths. She has had the difficult job of sorting through all of their things, as well as sifting through probate issues.

God has the final word! Not the "she will never" naysayers. Outside of a limp and still sounding like she spent years on the East Coast, Diane is a thriving giver to her church, school, and family communities.

Today, Diane is a wife, a sought after teacher's aide, a gardener, a camper, one who gets asked the tech questions, a kitchen gourmet, and a believer in Jesus. Maybe I should have put that one first. Above all, that is what matters most. God has been gracious and merciful in more ways than temporal. His grace is eternal.

Thank You, Lord, for my sister and the miracle that she is. She has come far. Just like Thursday's child.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

One Score Minus Three

September 7, 2001, we closed on our newly constructed home. We began the laborious move across town, and by "across town" I mean about 40 miles away. On Monday, September 10, we finally closed the new garage door, full of boxes, and went to sleep, wondering how we would acclimate to our commute to Moody Bible Institute the next day.

Mark awoke just before 3 AM, as per usual, readied himself, and got to the radio station by 4:30. His morning program went from 5 AM to 9 AM.

My alarm went off at 4:10, so that I could get on the road at around 5 AM and hopefully miss the dreadful commuter traffic on the Stevenson (I-55 heading into Chicago).

My desk was in a quad toward the back of the building housing Moody Press (now called Moody Publishers) and Public Safety. I went to work ... which included greeting all my coworkers and combing through emails to find the urgent items of the day. And, as a dedicated wife, my hubby's program was on in the background.

As the years go by, certain memories bubble up, but exact times are not some of those memories. I've never been good with sequential events.

It must have been just before 8 AM when Dave Mitchell, the morning program's news director, broke in with the sad news that an airliner had just "crashed" into one of the World Trade Center buildings in New York. We were so shocked, wondering how does that kind of accident happen? It wouldn't be long before we figured out ... this was no accident.

At that point, we had computer video news going as well as the WMBI audio.

And as all eyes looked on in horror, the second plane hit the second tower. Shock doesn't begin to describe the realization that intentional mayhem had just occurred.

The towers fell. Another plane heads into the Pentagon. And the heroes on Flight 93 brought down the terrorists, and therefore the plane before it could hit its most likely intended target: the White House or Capitol building.

No one was concentrating on anything productive. The TV was on in the conference room, and as the plane hit the Pentagon, I began sobbing uncontrollably. My brother is a military retiree working as a consultant to military medical practice. He would have been within walking distance of the Pentagon on a typical day.

We were called together as employees to pray for the responders, the family members, and our nation. The one line I will never forget is, "Lord, thwart the evil intent of these people."

For a short while, the nation rallied. Flags everywhere. People back in church. "We are America strong!" The skies were devoid of aircraft, as everything was grounded. Those stranded at airports had to try to find rental cars.

Soon, the TSA was formed. Security lines. Armed police and military at the airports. Travel, and life, would never be the same.

There has been an undercurrent of distrust ever since. Will it happen again? Will they use trucks? Cars? Are my neighbors suspect? And yet, there is an entire generation coming up now who have no knowledge of why this emotional buzz is just part and parcel of our reality.