Mom loves telling the story of when she went into labor with me, Dad was getting ready to have a nighttime snack. He was going to insist on eating his bowl of crackers and milk before taking Mom to the hospital. Mom, who had been through this pregnancy thing twice before, convinced him that if he didn't get in the car and start driving right away, she was going to deliver me in the back seat on the way there.
Once the realization of urgency kicked in, he sped through Derby, Kansas -- notorious police speed trap -- "90 to nothin'" probably in hopes the cops would pull them over, and they'd get themselves a high-speed escort the rest of the way to St. Joseph Hospital in Wichita. Amazingly, he didn't get stopped, Mom avoided pushing until they got to the delivery room, and I was born just before 2 a.m. on December 1, 1971.
Those were the days before men joined their laboring wives in the whole delivery scene. There was no Lamaze breathing, no coaching at the bedside. Dad warmed the waiting room seat with his fellow pops-to-be. Since there weren't ultrasounds back then, he didn't know he had a baby girl until some medical personnel popped out to give him the news. I was a "she," and I had ten fingers and ten toes, and a head of black hair.
Thanks to a rather twisty, many-forked family tree, Dad had, through marriages, inherited children and grandchildren that he loved like his own. But I came along when he was in his mid-40s, a bit of a surprise to my folks, who had sort of given up trying for me. He turned out to be an incredibly overprotective, fiercely loving father. He was my daddy; I was his punkin'.
It hit me again tonight, when I opened my cards, that this was the first birthday card I'd ever gotten that was just from Mom. He passed away last January 12. In recent years, she had still signed for him when Alzheimer's had taken his ability to write. And about this time last year, as we were moving him into the nursing home to get him the 24-hour care he needed, he wasn't even always sure who I was. I remember one night before we moved him, I was trying to get him to lie down in bed to sleep, and he looked at me and asked, "Now, who are you?" I told him I was Amy. He broke into a big smile and said, "Oh! I have a daughter named Amy!"
He may not have recognized me, but he remembered me. Although his mind was devastated by that awful disease, it's nice to know that kind of memory stuck. Yes you do have a daughter named Amy, and she loves you very much, Daddy. And she's thinking of you on her birthday.
I hesitated to even write this because as soon as Mom reads this, it's going to make her cry. Mom, I don't want to make you sad. I loved the card you sent. And I love you too.