Thursday, August 27, 2009


I've written in the past about my love of bicycling, and how my weight loss of recent years has brought a resurgence of my old cycling ways. Last year, I rode over 1400 miles, after riding over 1200 the previous year, and I'm on track to be around 1200 again this year, depending on the weather in November.

When I was fat and out-of-shape, but at least trying to get/stay somewhat in shape, I would ride with Molly from time to time. Which, in those out-of-shape days, could be pretty humbling. Back in my cycling heyday, Molly couldn’t remotely keep up with me, unless I was pulling the kids in a trailer, or something like that. But when I was at my fattest, I struggled to keep up with her. Which would be one thing, if she were an avid cyclist who was regularly out pounding the pedals, but she wasn’t; she’d ride with me, if it fit her schedule, but in terms of sheer miles, I was riding more than she was, and I still couldn’t really keep up with her.

But the good side of it was that, by that time, we were at a point where we really liked spending time together – all that Theology of the Body stuff, and all that. And so, we just enjoyed spending the time together, and didn’t worry about who was keeping up with whom.

Once I lost weight, and started getting back in shape, the riding situation pretty much reverted to what it had been in the beginning – if I was riding hard, she couldn’t stay with me. But we had come to enjoy riding together, and so we still looked for opportunities where it didn’t matter so much how much of a workout I got – during summer break, or over holidays, when I could get one good, hard workout ride, I’d take a second, lower-key ride with Molly, and maybe we’d stop for a picnic somewhere along the way. And whenever we ride together, usually once or twice, by mutual consent, I’ll ‘take a flyer’ - run on ahead for a few miles, and wait for her.

Last summer, we had one such ride – we didn’t have much planned, just 20 miles or so, to a neighboring town and back home. The little town we were riding to has a lovely little riverside park, but we didn’t even pack a picnic or anything – it was just a nice, low-key ride, for the two of us to spend some time together.

It started out very pleasantly. It was about 8-9 miles from our house to the town, and we were having a good time. Molly was feeling a little frisky, which made it fun for me, because she was riding a bit more aggressively than she usually does.

We got to the town, which is nestled on the banks of a small river, so there was a fairly steep descent down to the river as we entered the town, and a decent little climb away from the river, on the other side. I enjoy climbing aggressively, and so, as we came into town, I turned to Molly, said, “I’m gonna attack the hill; I’ll wait for you at the top,” and took off. There was a street corner at the top of the hill, and once I got there, I pulled my bike off the main roadway, took a drink from my water bottle, and waited for Molly to climb the hill.

A few minutes later, Molly still hadn’t arrived at the top of the hill, and it wasn’t such a big hill that she would have struggled that badly. I turned and looked back down the hill, but she was nowhere to be seen. I mean, she wasn’t on the road, anywhere. Which was really weird – where could she have gone? The little riverside park was at the bottom of the hill, and so I figured she must have stopped there; perhaps she was tired, and wanted to rest a bit before climbing the hill. So I rode back down the hill to look for her in the park. Not there. There was another park on the other side of the street, so I checked there. Not there, either.

By now, I was seriously scratching my head – where on earth could my wife have gotten to? This was a very small town – maybe five blocks from end to end. There simply weren’t that many places for her to hide. I checked the public restrooms at both parks, but no-one had seen her, and even her bike was nowhere to be seen. I rode back up the hill, noticing a mother on the sidewalk as I rode by, trying to calm her baby, who was crying very loudly. But still, Molly wasn’t at the top of the hill. There was one side street that angled off, halfway up the hill – perhaps she had taken that way, thinking to give herself a less-severe climb. But no sign of her there, either.

By this time, I was somewhere between panic (did something really bizarre happen to my wife?) and anger (did she just take off, without telling me?) and utter, stark confusion (what the heck could possibly have happened to her?). And I was wishing that she had her cell phone with her, so at least I could call her. But we’d decided that we didn’t both need our cell phones, so we’d only brought mine.

I was very reluctant to just throw my hands in the air, and ride on alone – if my wife was somewhere in that town, I sure didn’t want to just leave her there, if she was in some kind of trouble. But, after searching every corner of that town for nearly an hour, I satisfied myself that it was most unlikely that she was still there, and I took off on the road out of town.

Less than a mile out of town, my phone rang. It was Molly. “Can you pick me up?” she said. “I got a flat tire.”

“Where are you?” I asked her (probably more sharply than I should have, but I was still pretty upset by the whole experience).

“I don’t know,” she said, “just a minute.” I heard muffled voices as she asked somebody where she was. “I’m on Cottonwood Road,” she finally said. “Can you come and get me?”

“Um, sure, but it will take me a bit; I’m just leaving the town.”

“You’re not home?”

“No; I just spent an hour looking for you. Why did you leave without me?”

“I thought you left without me!”

“What?? I would never do that!”

“Well, my chain fell off on the downhill, so I just walked up the hill, and when I got to the top, you weren’t there, so I figured you just left without me. Where did you go?”

“I rode back down the hill looking for you! How on earth did I not see you?”

“I have no idea; I remember walking past a woman with a crying baby.”

“You were on the sidewalk?”

And suddenly the mystery stood revealed. Strange as it was, Molly had been walking up the hill, on the sidewalk, at the very time I was scanning the roadway for her, and then riding back down the hill looking for her. We both saw the same woman, struggling with the same crying baby, BUT COMPLETELY MISSED EACH OTHER!!

So Molly, thinking I had ridden on without her, put the chain back on her bike and headed off, thinking that she’d find me waiting for her at some corner on ahead, while I was frantically searching for her back in town. When she called me to pick her up, she assumed that I was already home, not miles behind her.

So I rode on to where she was, sitting by the side of the road with her flat-tired bicycle. It was still about six miles home from where she was, so I rode home alone, and came back for her with the car. And all was well that ended well.

In terms of a low-key ride together, there was precious little of it spent together, and there was WAY too much angst flying around (at least in my head; Molly has an amazing, Alfred-E-Neuman, ‘What-me-worry’ disposition) to be anything like low-key. But, when it was all said and done, it was a pretty amazing story of how we could pass within 15 feet of each other, and each think the other had somehow, inexplicably, disappeared. . .


While I'm on the topic of bike rides with family members, I can't help mentioning that the last two weekends, I've ridden with 4M. Star-athlete 4M. Four-year high-school varsity athlete 4M, who, even three scant months ago, was running on Large Urban Public High's track team, and winning the informal designation of 'The Fastest White Boy in OurTown'. . .

He has ridden with me occasionally in the past (maybe 2 or 3 times a summer), just to get some extra aerobic work in on the side. And of course, well-trained athlete that he was, and I being the 50-something weekend warrior that I was, he would mostly just kinda toy with me. Not to give a wrong impression - he got a good side workout by riding with me, but a 'side workout' is what it was for him, and even though I knew a lot more about cycling techniques and tactics than he did, his sheer athleticism just left me in the dust. Not that I ever had any illusions that it could be otherwise. . .

So, last weekend, I was preparing to go out on my regular weekly ride. My regular riding partner was otherwise occupied, so I was figuring on a solo ride, until 4M saw me getting ready, and asked if he could come with me. I told him that I had a pretty long ride planned - 45 miles - but I'd welcome the company, and also the small added challenge of having his athletic self along to push me a bit.

We started off on a fairly leisurely pace, not wanting to burn ourselves out in the first 10 miles. The route was one of my favorites, following some lightly-traveled back roads, with lots of trees and hills, and even a couple lakes. For much of the first half of the ride, 4M rode on ahead of me. At about the 30-mile mark, we stopped for a break at a party-store/bait-shop, and 4M was remarking how he hadn't really worked out much since track season ended, and how he was glad for the workout. And I, for my part, was feeling pretty good.

We got back on our bikes, to run the last third of our course on the way home. After a couple miles, we were approaching a moderate hill (actually one of the stiffer ones to be found in the neighborhood of OurTown, but honestly, our area is not very hilly), and 4M started acting frisky, and pulled ahead of me by a bit, making some suitably snotty comment directed to 'the Old Man'. Well, I wasn't about to let that pass unanswered, even as I had no illusions about his ability to respond. So I got out of the saddle and charged up the hill, letting him know as I passed him that the Old Man still had some gas left in the tank. And waiting for him to pass me back.

Except he never did. I got to the top of the hill, and was still feeling pretty good, so I shifted into my highest gear, and just let the dogs run for as long as I could keep it going. A couple times, I saw in my rear-view mirror that 4M was increasing his pace, trying to close the gap between us, and I just increased the pressure, and pulled even farther ahead. And I stayed a couple hundred yards clear for about five miles, until we pulled into a small town (the same one in which Molly and I 'lost' each other, above), and I sat up and waited for him to pull alongside.

And my star-athlete son pulled alongside me, saying, "Dang, Dad - you just ran off, and I couldn't catch up; I was pedaling as hard as I could, but every time I tried to catch you, you went even faster. I just couldn't catch you." And I smiled.

Of course, he hasn't worked out in three months, and is probably in the worst physical condition he's been in since he was in middle school, whereas I'm probably in as good a condition as I've been since I was in my 20s; if he keeps riding with me, he'll get back in shape, and my 'Window of Ego Stroking' will close. But I guarantee you I'm not by any means too proud to remind the Fastest White Boy in OurTown that his Old Man can still dust his ass when the need arises. . .

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Summer of Growing-Up II; or, Paint It Black

In my previous post, I told you all about my summer of 1973, and my dad's 'intervention' in my young life, and how I lived on my own, at the YMCA in OurTown, and learned to make my way in the world in a non-fatal manner. It really was a watershed in my life - an experience that left me changed forever. A few more thoughts occur to me, about things I learned that summer, that I thought might be worth sharing with you all. . .


Growing up Up North, I really did have a fairly 'sheltered' upbringing. Life was pleasant, and for me at least, pretty easy, adoptions and parents' divorces, and things like that notwithstanding. I never lacked for anything, and I pretty much lived in the midst of congenial people. We weren't rich, but solidly middle-class, for sure. Really, for me, growing up was pretty easy. Even when we moved toward the end of my senior year, we moved to the suburbs of a large metropolitan area, which is a different form of 'congenial comfort' than what I'd grown up with, but still pretty easy, all things considered.

But living at the Y in downtown OurTown, and working for Manpower, I was rubbing shoulders with very different sorts of people than the ones I'd grown up rubbing shoulders with. There were guys with drinking problems, for whom Manpower was their last hope of showing they could be disciplined enough to hold a job. Then there were guys at the Y, who lived on the 4th Floor, which basically amounted to a minimum-security jail. Other guys treated women vastly differently than anything I'd ever seen from my dad, or any other man I'd grown up around. . .

One time, I got a job for a whole week (which was nice, knowing on Monday that I was gonna be working every day that week), setting up a fabric store in a vacant building. The trucks showed up on Monday morning, full of all the fixtures and displays, and we had the week to get everything unloaded and set up. The air conditioning in the building went out about noon on Monday, and that entire week was a record-setting scorcher, with temperatures above 100F every day. The AC was finally repaired on Friday afternoon, just as we were finishing the final cleanup. The other thing I remember, is that our 'boss' - the guy from the store who was supervising us - was only on-site with us for about 2-3 hours every day, just to make sure we knew what we were supposed to do, and then to check out what we'd done at the end of the day. About ten every morning, a woman would show up at the worksite, and before long, the two of them would leave together. Then, about three or four in the afternoon, they'd reappear, and he'd pick a few nits on our work for the day, and then the next day, we'd do it all again. It took me a couple days (naive 17-year-old that I was) to figure out what he was up to. But even so, it was something I'd never seen before.

Another time, I got a job working in the evening, moving some furniture in a high-rise office building (in OurTown, 'high-rise' means anything over four or five stories). As I walked back to my room at the Y, sometime after dark, I noticed a couple of fairly seedy-looking women standing on the street corner, across from the Y, directly in my path. Now, I had recently read The Cross and the Switchblade (which was one of the Christian 'hot reads' of the early 70s), and so, with a couple minutes' concentrated thought, I deduced that these were hookers. And there was no way for me to avoid walking past them. What was I to do?

Fortunately (or at least, so it seemed to me at the time), I'd recently read The Cross and the Switchblade, and so, inspired by David Wilkerson's example, I smiled, and walked straight up to the women, saying, "Do you ladies know Jesus?" Which was not really their first choice of conversation-starters right at that moment. One of the women, who was black, asked me, in a challenging tone, "What color is He?", and things went downhill from there. But only for a minute or two. Before long, a police car drove up, and the officer rolled down the window and told me to run along and be about my business. (It wasn't until many years later that the penny finally dropped all the way, and the realization dawned in my brain that the women weren't 'real' hookers after all. . .) That was another experience unlike anything I'd ever seen growing up. . .

Even apart from anything 'sexual', though, living where I lived, and working some of the jobs I worked, exposed me to a whole different, uh, shall we say, socio-economic than what I'd grown up with. One time, I was sent to work at a small machine shop. The owner was a heavy-set man whose hawaiian shirt nearly covered his massive gut, while he chomped on the remnants of a cigar he'd lit maybe three days previously. That day, the shop was making weldments that fitted on the back deck of UPS trucks (I still see them on UPS trucks to this day, and they make me smile). The 'temporary help' that day (there were two of us) had two jobs - one of us had to take the freshly-welded parts and chip the 'slag' off the welds, and then load them into a wheelbarrow and take them back to the other 'temp' who was painting them in the 'paint room' in the back. We'd trade jobs every couple hours.

I started out painting. The 'paint room' was a pretty fair working model of a dungeon. The walls - in fact, everything in the room - were coated with black paint. There were no windows; in fact, no ventilation at all, as far as I could tell. From the ceiling, a single bare light bulb dangled, providing the only light. And along one wall was a large 'bathtub', full of black paint. A wheelbarrow-load of parts would be brought to me; I had a supply of hooks. I would pick up a part with one of the hooks, drag the part back-and-forth through the bathtub of paint, then hang it on an overhead rack to dry. Not terribly difficult. But after you've spent 20 minutes or so dragging parts through black paint, you've pretty much mastered the art of it, and you're ready to move on to something more challenging and interesting. Besides which, 'black paint on everything' is a pretty depressing decor. So, I was more than happy when it was time to 'switch places', so I could try my hand at something new.

The other job, 'slag-chipping', was a tad more mentally engaging - you had to at least check each part you'd chipped, to make sure that you'd gotten all the slag chipped off. And every 5-10 minutes, when the wheelbarrow was full, you got a quick break from slag-chipping to run the load back to the poor schlepp in the paint room. The downside of slag-chipping was that you had to work directly with the owner of the place (Mr. Hawaiian-Shirt-Beer-Gut Guy), who kept up a steady, crude banter the whole time. And when I told him I was headed to college in the fall, he seemed to take that as a particular provocation. So that, when I returned with my empty wheelbarrow from the paint room, I found about 20 parts piled up on my table, waiting for the slag to be chipped, and the Boss was angrily chiding me that I had to keep up. So I went to grab my chipping hammer, and it wouldn't move. I tugged at it harder, while the Boss kept welding more and more parts, and hollering at me. Finally, I saw it - he had welded my hammer to the table, and the joke was on me. He roared with laughter as I broke my hammer free from the table, and then he enjoyed the 'break' he'd afforded himself while I caught up with the backlog, by deriding me and all 'college boys who thought we were so goddamn special'. . .

As I said, that summer was just crammed full of education for me, of the sort for which you can't just write a tuition check. . .

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Summer of Growing-Up

The summer of 1973 was a watershed in my life, packed full of changes and transitions, life-lessons and tons of other stuff. And I've never blogged about it, which is a little odd, since it was such a pivotal time in my life.

Several factors in my life all converged in that summer of '73 (I was all of 17 years old). In April of that year, two months before I was due to graduate from high school, my dad took a new job, and our family moved from Up North, Michigan to a huge city a couple states away. Culture shock does not begin to describe it. I lobbied hard for my parents to let me finish out my senior year with my classmates Up North, stay at my grandma's house, whatever, but they weren't buying, and when the family moved to Urban Megalopolis, I went with them. (My one small parenthetical victory was that I was able to get such credits as I earned at the New School transferred back to Up North High, so I was able to graduate with my class, albeit after a couple months away; but my diploma properly says 'Up North High School' on it, so I was happy enough.)

But leaving my home Up North, and every friend I had, threw me into a deep funk, and once I'd gotten back from my Graduation Reunion Tour, I spent a lot of my time being depressed and basically doing nothing. Which wasn't my dad's vision for how I ought to be spending my time. He had thoughts more along the lines of getting a job, and putting some money in my pocket for when I went off to college in the fall. But my depressive funk was pretty deep, and my motivation level stayed accordingly low.

And so it came to pass that, at the beginning of July, my dad made perhaps the single most significant parental move that he ever made in my life, short perhaps of adopting me in the first place. My orientation at Mega-State University was coming up, and so Dad handed me $50 and a round-trip bus ticket. "When orientation is over," he said, "I don't want you to come home; I want you to stay in OurTown and get a job. You can stay at the YMCA. Hang onto the return bus ticket, just in case you need to come home. But I want you to find a job and stay there, if you possibly can."

Holy shit! He wasn't exactly kicking me out of the house, but that was the 'existential effect' of it. And it scared me shitless. Which was not such a bad thing, all things considered. I mean, when you have to focus your mind on where your next meal is coming from, there isn't a lot left over for feeling sorry for yourself. But I'm getting ahead of myself. . .


I went to my university orientation, and when it was over, I duly made my way to the YMCA in downtown OurTown. What I didn't understand, at least at first, was that it was roughly five miles from the university to the YMCA downtown. I had no clue how to use the bus system (uh, we didn't have buses Up North), so I ended up walking five miles. Once I found the Y, I booked a room for a week (for something like $20, which was almost half of what I had in my pocket), and tried to think about how I was going to go about procuring employment the next day.

As I lay in my bed that first night, in the sweltering summer heat, I heard police sirens off and on for most of the night, which was another thing we never had Up North. It seems almost funny to look back on it. OurTown is what might be considered a 'medium-sized' city; maybe even small/medium. It's a long way from a place like Detroit or Chicago. But, from where I was coming from, OurTown was a scary big city, and I remember crying myself to sleep that night.

Next morning, for lack of anything better to do, I started walking around donwtown OurTown, popping into various establishments and asking if they had any jobs available. Nobody did, but they all told me I should go check with Manpower. I had no idea what Manpower was, but by the end of the afternoon, I was running out of other ideas, so I found the Manpower office and went in to apply. And the gentleman told me to be there the next morning at six o'clock. It was just that easy.

Except, you all being older and wiser than I was that summer of '73, you know that it wasn't that easy. I showed up at the appointed time, along with 15-20 other guys. I joined a Euchre game to pass the time, and a few of the guys got called up to the desk and given some instructions, and then they left. By around nine o'clock, the guy at the desk said, "OK, that's it for today." I really had no idea what was going on, so I went to ask him what he wanted me to do. "Come back tomorrow," he told me. "Maybe we'll have something for you tomorrow." And I suddenly had an uneasy feeling that this 'job' I'd gotten for myself might not be quite all I might have hoped for.

Still, I showed up the next day at six, and the day after that, and the day after that (oh, my horns in those days were very, very green). That first week, I actually worked two days. Which, for $1.80/hr, netted me about $28. So, after I paid another $20 for my room for another week, left me $8 for anything else. Which included food.

Now, I don't know where I got the idea from (the church I'd grown up in certainly didn't teach it), but I had the conviction that I should tithe. So, I sent $3 to Billy Graham, which left me with $5, plus what was left of the $50 Dad had given me, for food and other sundry expenses. Now, urban downtowns are not known for their abundance of grocery stores, so it was a bit of a trick to come up with economical ways of procuring food. In fact, I burned through my 'Dad money' pretty quickly, eating burgers at the restaurants I could find downtown. So I pretty quickly found myself in a serious cash crunch. I recall one day, it was about a Wednesday or so; I was due to get paid on Friday, and I had 50 cents in my pocket. And the only thing I could think to do was to buy an ice cream sandwich from the vending machine at the Y, and hope it would last me for two days. One day, I think the job I was on gave us free Coke; so that was my 'nutrition' for those couple days. . .

But then, I wasn't quite left alone in all the world, either. One day, as I walked through the lobby of the Y, on my way up to my room, the desk clerk called me over and handed me a letter. Which was odd, because my family, and one or two of my closest friends, were the only ones who even knew my address. The letter was from John, my best buddy from high school, and a fellow Jesus-freak. "I was praying for you the other day," he wrote, "and God told me I should send you $20." And enclosed was a crisp $20 bill. Which was food for a week, at least. I wrote him a letter back, thanking him, and encouraging him to keep listening to God.

Another day, I didn't get sent out to work, so I grabbed my guitar (I get a certain amusement, looking back, that the 'worldly possessions' I saw fit to carry with me that summer included enough clothes to fit into a pillowcase, and my guitar; how very hippie-like of me. . .) and went to the park across the street from the Y, to play and sing, and watch the squirrels. A fellow came and sat on the bench next to me, and we started talking. I think he meant to be 'witnessing' to me, but once we ID'd each other as fellow-Christians, we had a wonderfully warm conversation. As it drew near to lunch hour, he invited me to join him for lunch; I initially demurred, but he pressed me. I finally had to admit that I didn't have any money until Friday, and so he bought my lunch for me. And then, when we'd finished our lunch, he handed me $20 to tide me over until payday. All through that summer, in ways small and large, I experienced what I can only think was the hand of God, providing for my daily sustenance (and protecting me from my own naivete).


This is a good place for me to mention another of the factors that was shaping my experience that summer of '73. A couple years previously, my stepbrother, who was essentially the same age as me, had run away from home. And he hadn't returned. It was a painful episode in the life of our family, but it also formed in me a grudging admiration that my brother was actually living on his own. I was really too young and inexperienced to understand everything that it meant for his life, but I really admired that he could make his way in the world, and not die. I wasn't at all sure that I could do that, if I had to.

So, part of what was percolating in the back of my mind that summer of '73 was that I was being given a similar opportunity, even a 'test', to prove to myself, or whoever, that I could make my own way in the world, like my brother, and not die.

And so, as the summer wore on, I slowly grew in confidence, as I saw that, scuffling though the summer as I was, I wasn't dying, either. As I kept faithfully showing up every morning at six o'clock, the dispatcher started giving me more work, and I could usually count on getting three or four days of work in a given week. I wasn't quite at the point of positive cash flow yet, but I was getting close. And so, when I got to a point, about halfway through the summer, where I was coming up just short of what I needed (and lacking another 'last-minute miracle'), I decided to cash in my return bus ticket, in order to cover the shortfall. It was, in some ways, a gutsy and risky move, but by that point, I had confidence that, when I needed to have a bus ticket, I'd be able to get one. So, I cashed in my bus ticket, paid my bills, and finished out the summer in OurTown, always having enough work to meet my daily needs (and, as the summer wore on, sometimes even a small surplus besides). Then, the last week, instead of renting my room again, I just bought a bus ticket instead, and returned to my parents' house.

And when school started up that fall, I was there. Minus the depression I'd been nursing at the beginning of the summer, and with a freshly strengthened sense of myself, reinforced by the knowledge that I could live on my own, and not die. . .

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Me and Mrs. Jones

. . . got a thing goin' on. . .


Happy 29th Anniversary to my beloved wife, my life-partner, and the Love of My Life. Having you in my life has made it infinitely richer. And as long as there is me, I will love you with all my heart. . .

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Further Adventures in Baby-Having

In this previous post, I told the story (in excruciating detail, I'm sure) of the birth of our first child, 1F. Of course, we've had seven other children since then (what can I say? I think she kinda likes me), and there are a few stories to be told of their births, as well. . .


2F's birth was much quicker than 1F's. Whereas Molly had been in labor for 13 hours with 1F, her second labor was over and done with in about 5 hours. This time, Molly let me be in the birthing room the whole time, although she had another experienced birth-giver for her labor coach again.


When Molly was pregnant with 3M, she tripped on some steps, and broke her foot. So, to the normal discomfort of pregnancy, was added six weeks of crutches. And, when 3M had some growth-hormone issues in his toddler years, he was at first diagnosed with a form of short-limbed dwarfism (a very interesting episode in our family's life, all in its own right), and Molly and I immediately wondered if it had anything to do with the X-rays on her foot. Which was the occasion for some major second-guessing, for a while. But it turned out to be a pretty garden-variety endocrine thing, and we breathed large sighs of relief.


With 4M, all was well, until about a week after his birth, when, out of nowhere, Molly got extremely light-headed, and lost her vision. I mean, she couldn't see - her eyes were open, but there was only a black screen, so to speak. And she passed an extremely large blood clot. Fortunately, she was visiting with one of our neighbors at the time, who put her in her car and drove her to the emergency room, with baby 4M in tow. When Molly got to the ER, her blood pressure was 60/0. Yeah - that 'zero' was not a good thing. Turned out that there were some micro-fragments of the placenta left inside her uterus, and that was stimulating some nasty infection. A D&C cleaned out the gunk, and she was good as new.

But not before spending another night in the hospital. Which got us into a kind of 'Catch-22'. Molly was nursing, and didn't want to have any interruption, so she wanted to have the baby with her in the hospital. But 4M was not, technically speaking, a patient, so he couldn't be admitted, and no-one in the hospital was willing/able to tend to him, even just to bring him to his mother (who was bedridden) to nurse. So we ended up working out an arrangement where we brought a bassinet from home, and they let me sleep on the floor (shades of John & Yoko), and when the baby fussed, I could bring him to Molly. Thankfully, that only lasted for one night. Major gratitude to the folks from our community who took in the other three kids so I could be at the hospital, too. . .

That situation after 4M was born was probably as close to abject terror as I've ever experienced. I was staring into the face of the non-trivial possibility of losing my wife, and having four children, including a week-old infant, to figure out how to raise without her. When her vital signs stabilized, I may have been the most relieved husband and father in the entire civilized world. . .


After 4M, I don't remember so many of the details of Molly's pregnancies or labors. I do recall that, as she went along, Molly got MUCH mellower and more laissez-faire about who came with her for her birthings. Once she arrived at a certain 'comfort level', where she pretty much knew what she was doing, some friend of hers would tell her that she'd never witnessed a childbirth, and she'd always wanted to, and Molly would invite her along to watch. I remember that 2F, who was only 10 at the time, came to watch 6F being born (1F had declined the offer). 1F (who was 16 at the time) saw 7M being born. 'Labor Coach' became, for all intents and purposes, an honorary designation; I joked that we should give the hospital advance warning when Molly's labor started, so they could bring in bleachers. And I would take orders for carry-out, if the labor started going long. I think it was for 7M's birth, though, that Molly's labor coach was a bit too low-key (or maybe just timid). Molly started flagging a bit in mid-labor, so I, having been through six of these before, and having a pretty good feel for what was required, stepped in and got Molly back on-task. So I got to take my turn as 'labor coach' after all.


By the time Molly was pregnant with 8M, she was 45 years old. And 45-year-old women just don't do pregnancy quite as well as 25-year-old women. As the due date drew near, Molly was beyond weary of being pregnant, so when a few desultory contractions began, she walked (yes, walked) to the hospital (it's a bit less than a mile from our house), hoping to get things going, but by the time she got there, the contractions stopped, and they sent her back home. The next day, contractions started up again, more vigorously this time, and when she got to the hospital (this time, she had a neighbor drive her), the docs were all set to give her the pitocin and let 'er rip (uh, so to speak), but when they did the preliminary checks, they found that 8M had flipped into a breech presentation, so they gave her a labor-stopping shot instead, and sent her home again, with a different set of instructions.

It turned out that the hospital had a doctor - a woman, unsurprisingly - who was trained in a technique for 'flipping' breech babies. And Molly, being on her eighth pregnancy, was an ideal candidate for the procedure - her uterus was sufficiently 'pliable'. So the docs told Molly to come back the following day, and they would have the 'baby-flipping' doctor on-call. I took the day off work, and we walked to the hospital again, Molly's third trip in as many days. When they did the preliminary checks on the baby, he was still in a 'head-up' orientation, so they called the 'baby-flipping' doctor, and she came right over. I watched as she laid Molly on her back and sort-of 'lifted' the baby, and just slowly torqued him around, all while hooked to an ultrasound, to keep track of the umbilical cord, and such. The whole procedure took less than a half-hour, and once he was properly head-down, she got him 'engaged' with Molly's pelvis, and all was in readiness. And at that point, the regular family doc started the induction, and a few hours later, we had our eighth child, and fifth son.


Looking back, I'm actually a little bit impressed at the number of stories that have been generated by Molly's eight pregnancies and deliveries. I mean, we might have had eight pretty uneventful pregnancies/deliveries, and I'm sure a decent percentage, even of mothers-of-eight, have exactly that. But we have more interesting stories to tell. . .


Our week at camp went wonderfully well. The weather was beautiful all week - mid/upper 70s, hardly any rain (quite a bit was forecast, but hardly any actually fell). Just a wonderful time in the woods, on a lake. And for the Entertainment Night, eight of us Joneses (Molly and me, 2F, 4M, 5M, 7M and 8M, along with 6F, who came up for a visit that evening) regaled the camp with a rousing rendition of 'Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da'. And yes, it was definitely nice to have Molly at camp with me, for the first time in the 18 years I've been going to this camp. . .