Monday, July 17, 2006

Getting Through Trouble

The last two years we spent in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where Bill got his PhD, was a difficult time. When I look back at those years, I wonder how we got through them. The trouble started in August of 1963, when I was 7 months pregnant. Our 3 year old son was playing in the neighbor’s sandbox and came in with gunk on his hands. I looked at the box – an animal must have vomited in it. I phoned the pediatrician who said to bring the three kids in. He looked at our hands to see if there were any cuts where rabies might have entered. The neighbor’s kids had none, our son and I had some. Should we have the rabies shots? The other pediatrician had been present in a hospital where they had made the decision not to give the rabies vaccine and the man had died of rabies. It was determined we would have the vaccine, a shot each day in the muscle of the abdomen. The doctor explained that they were especially painful shots but that after a few days our pain threshold would rise and they wouldn’t be so painful.

The day of the doctors’ decision, the campus police chief came to look in the neighborhood to see if he could find the sick animal. He saw something under our flimsy graduate student house he thought might be an animal, went on his hands and knees to retrieve it, and my hopes soared. But alas, it was only a piece of cardboard.

My brother and new sister-in-law were on the road after their wedding, coming to visit us on their honeymoon, and they arrived just as the awful decision was being made. They were a tremendous comfort to us, although I often have said to my sister-in-law that with such an omen on her honeymoon, she would have been justified in turning right around for home and having the marriage annulled.

I have written about the birth in my post of May 6. My mother had come down to look after our son near the due date, but the baby was 3 weeks late. She and my father had never been apart for more than a few days. On Friday, November 23, we brought the baby home. My husband took our son to the football parade, but when he got to the site, there wasn’t a parade, only people milling around. He inquired and was told that President Kennedy had been shot. In the meantime, our neighbor came to tell my mother and me the news.

On Saturday night, my father went to visit a friend. He was distraught over the death, apparently had too much to drink, and was in an accident on the way home. He nearly died. My mother had to fly home the next day. As the days went by and it became apparent that he was not going to die, we settled down.

We had done our Santa shopping through the Sears’ catalogue. The presents didn’t come, didn’t come, and finally on Dec. 24 Bill went to Durham to see what was the matter. Only one of the presents we had ordered had arrived, a metal racing car, the kind the child gets in and pedals, the present I had ordered from my parents. Bill set out to buy for Santa. He came home with wonderful gifts, a tent, a policeman’s uniform, a life-size dum-dum, a long horn like a medieval page would blow. The car had to be assembled, there were missing pieces and most of the parts that were to go together couldn’t be made to fit, and it was complicated, and about 3 AM, after an argument, Bill went to bed, but I, saying to myself that it was my parents’ present, soldiered on. The car never did work.

On Christmas day my cousin and his girlfriend, also PhD candidates, came by and of course had to blow the horn. After they left, our son complained of sore cheeks. He had mumps. My cousin and his girlfriend got them, the girlfriend having to be hospitalized with mumps in her ovaries.

Several days after Christmas, we drove back to New England to visit our parents. I’ve written a poem about the horrendous trip, the only poem of mine that has ever been published. We drove through a blinding snowstorm; our son was restless with so little room; we were exhausted and worried.

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