Happy Birthday, Andrew! – An Excerpt from The Charm

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Saturday, June 2, 2012


Today is Andrew’s birthday! He came by early this afternoon, prior to my getting his card! Darn! I’m usually better at things like that! We had agreed that his gift would be cash. Prior to the “break”, he had taken this coming week as vacation time to spend the annual week at Mexico Beach with Jordyn’s family. Since those plans had fallen through on account of the “break”, he’s at a loss with what to do with his time off, but getting to a beach somewhere, anywhere, is part of what he hopes to do, and the cash will be put toward whatever his vacation plans turn out to be.

Rod and I spent the day with usual weekend tasks. I got some housecleaning done, and by late afternoon, it seemed that Andrew was going to be having dinner with his good friend, Lance and their family. We have known Lance’s family for years, and so I suggested that we come by later with a birthday cake. Rod picked up a cake, complete with “Happy 24th Birthday, Andrew” written in the icing on the top, as well as the most lovely card, and we went off to the Riviere’s house to join in the celebration. Wanda and Jon, along with various members of their family, were out on their newly added screened porch! What a delight to sit outside without having to worry about bugs! That we were overlooking their pool made it that much more pleasant. After Rod got a tour of Jon’s garden, we lit all 24 candles and sang happy birthday to Andrew. I know that he was pleased with the celebration, but would have preferred to be hanging at Mexico beach.

On our way to the car, Andrew walked along with us to send us off. I gave him a big hug, held his cheek to mine, and recalled the day that he was born. Up until a few years ago, I would tell the story of each of the boys’ births on their birthday. When they were little, they used to sit fascinated by my accounts of each of their entries into this world. Now, they roll their eyes. It seems the charm of the story has worn thin, but every year, whether I say the words aloud or not, I recall each of their arrivals.

Andrew’s due date was May 29, a Friday in his year of birth. In those years, most women were accompanied into labor and delivery with their husbands. I was not like most women. Tom had been clear that he did not like hospitals and was not particularly interested in seeing the down and dirty action of childbirth. For each of my pregnancies, I invited him to take part in at least observing the event, however; he kindly and firmly declined. Looking back, I suppose that I should have been more demanding. I should have required that he be present, however, I didn’t like to rock the boat too much, and figured that the baby would be born with or without an audience, and so I accepted his absence. I did determine, though, that I wanted and needed to have someone with me that I could rely on to help me out and to witness the miracle that would occur. My dear friend, Gayle Nash, was that person. She was the daughter of the couple that lived next door to me when Ian was born, and was invited to act as my labor coach. She readily agreed, and attended childbirth classes with me prior to Ian’s birth.

With the anticipation of a second child, Gayle was once again conscripted to coach me through labor and delivery. In the time between Ian’s and Andrew’s births, though, we had moved from Regina, Saskatchewan, the city in which Ian was born, to Winnipeg, a scant 350 miles away. We bought Gayle a plane ticket that had her arriving on May 27, a Wednesday, and departing the next Wednesday, June 4. I hoped that the blessed event would occur sometime within that time frame. Gayle had arrived, and we set to work with preparations for the new baby, amusing almost two-year-old old Ian, and, as the days passed, taking long walks in the hopes of getting things started. The due date passed, then another and another, and on Monday, June second, I awakened early in the morning with what I recognized as early, weak and sporadic contractions. By mid morning, the contractions were definite and regular, and by noon, Gayle and I decided that it was soon time to be going to the hospital. We gave Ian some lunch and Gayle walked him to the neighbor’s house, where he would happily play with the children there. Tom had gone to work at his office that morning, about an hour’s drive away. When I called his office number, his secretary answered the call and I asked to speak to Tom. She informed me that he was in a meeting and could she take a message? I said that it would likely be best if she interrupted the meeting and got him to the phone. Once Tom was informed of my progress, Gayle and I drove to Grace General Hospital. Not long after arriving, I was settled into a labor room, and not long after that, it became quite clear that this baby was on its way. Dr. Blomert was called from his office across the street. He left patients stranded in his waiting room, one of whom was, coincidentally, my brother-in-law, Greg! As is characteristic of Andrew today, once he decides that something is going to be done, he gets right down to it. There were a number of standing orders for Dr. Blomert’s labor and delivery patients that were not completed for me prior to delivery. I was hustled into the delivery room. Gayle, having barely gotten enough time to don her gowns and mask joined me there! Once there, and with Dr. Blomert in place, Andrew was born after a brief but powerful exertion. A boy. I had delivered an eight pound, two ounce boy!

The baby was healthy and happy, as was I! Andrew was a long and thin baby, without the typical chubbiness seen in so many others. His fingers and toes – all there to be sure – were long and skinny. His dusting of hair was the same color as his scalp, so he looked completely bald. I’m not saying that he was precious and that I didn’t fall head over heels in love with him, but Andrew’s appearance as a tiny human was, well, not especially adorable. He was, however, a calm and placid infant during our stay in the hospital.

Gayle returned to Regina two days later, as planned. Tom brought Ian to the hospital to see his little brother and didn’t have a lot to say about him, other than he didn’t want to share his toys. Family members came by to see the new addition to our growing family. Tom was scheduled to go out of town for an important meeting, and so, Mom and Dad arranged to take Ian home with them to Morden for a short vacation. After several days in the hospital, a friend from work came around to pick up Andrew and me and take us home.

Those days at home with Andrew were peaceful and calm. Andrew had been born on the eleventh day of a record breaking hot streak in Manitoba that strung twenty one days in a row of temperatures over 85 degrees, and reaching, on some days as high as 95. Today, that doesn’t seem so severe, but at that time, we were living in a bungalow that did not have air conditioning, and Andrew and I spent the majority of our time in the basement, trying to stay cool. I remember talking to Mom on the phone one of the days that Ian was staying with them. I told Mom that this baby was so wonderful! All he did was eat and sleep!

That didn’t last. By the time Andrew was three weeks old, he had become a new mother’s nightmare! Some call it colic, but I call it hell on wheels! Andrew would cry and cry and cry, seemingly non-stop from the moment he woke in the morning, until he finally was exhausted and would sleep at night. We tried gripe water and soothers, medication and driving in the car, anything at all that would allow him to rest for even just a few minutes during the day. He was exhausted. I was exhausted. Ian was annoyed with this noisy new brother. I clearly recall thinking, after days and days of trying to soothe the unsoothable baby, that if a stranger came to the door and offered me a nickel for the kid, I might not have sold him, but I certainly would have entered into some serious negotiations!

Andrew cried through the summer, and oftentimes, I joined in. He cried through the evening of a high school reunion that I attended while he and Ian stayed with Mom and Dad. He cried through the days and evenings of my sister, Jennifer’s, bridal showers and wedding day. The babysitters that I employed for these events were haggard and worn by the time I returned home from these events. He cried so much that other than those few events, I left him with no one, not wanting to inflict anyone with the pain of listening to him cry on and on!

By the fall of the year, somehow, the crying stopped. We had lived through whatever the pain was that he endured as a result of entering into our world, and Andrew became absolutely the most wonderful baby: cooing and smiling, laughing, eating, and sleeping with a regularity and calm that was astounding! As time went by, he became a most cheerful and entertaining toddler. He potty trained himself, essentially. And when he began to talk in phrases, most of his words, at least for a time, ended with an additional syllable of “uh” at the end.

He had the most lovely silky smooth white blond hair and his blue eyes were constantly sparkling! Andrew became, and remains, our families’ clown.

Happy Birthday, Andrew!

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