Today I turn sixty. How did I manage to live this long when it all seems to be a blur that spun me around so quickly I’m dizzy? I don’t feel sixty. I keep telling myself the number doesn’t matter. It only matters if I allow it to matter. I do know this birthday more than any other thus far reminds me that I am no longer middle-aged. I don’t know what I am, but more than half my life is over. Maudlin thought? Perhaps it could be. I’ve decided to use it as a motivator. I spent far too many moments and hours in worry, angst, and distress during the first six decades of my life. Sometimes they overrode the extreme magic also occurring.
No more of that. Now it’s onto the magical part and time to leave the crap behind. So I begin by sharing this post I wrote two years ago about my birth. Truly, if my life began in such a wonderful way, then I need to make sure the rest of it is equally magical.
From December 2012: I’ll admit today’s post is highly self-indulgent and probably borders on sheer fiction. But it’s my birthday, and to paraphrase Lesley Gore, I’ll write anything I want to. This is the story of my birth as told to me by people no longer around to dispute my account of it. All memory is fiction anyway, so here is mine.
On a dark and dreary Thursday afternoon two days before Christmas, my mother felt the first contractions.
She ignored them as she prepared Christmas for her four sons, ranging in age from sixteen to five.
By four o’clock, she could no longer fight the eight-pound bundle knocking down below. As snow began to fall outside, she called my father at work.
“Meet me at the hospital,” she said.
My mother walked the four blocks to the large rambling house serving as the hospital in our small Michigan town. The snow, heavy and wet, continued to fall.
Rowe Memorial Hospital in Stockbridge, Michigan is now a private residence.
With the holiday looming and the snowstorm producing, the doctor on duty sent home his staff by the time my mother arrived. When the doctor determined my imminent birth, he did the only thing he could. He enlisted my father as his assistant.
The year was 1954, and my mother had given birth four times before. Fathers didn’t go near the delivery room in those days. It’s doubtful if he was even at the hospital when my brothers were born.
The doctor instructed my father to hold the bottle of ether under my mother’s nose as needed for pain as the contractions came closer and closer together. My mother said my father became stingy with the anesthetic at one point, and that was a mistake.
“Give me the damn ether – I’ve done this a few times before, and I know what I need,” she screamed.
My father gave her what she desired.
About two hours after my mother’s call to my father, I entered the world at 6:15 p.m. My father stared in wonderment at the screaming creature in his hands.
He gave my mother news she’d wanted for a very long time, “It’s a girl.”
Baby Patti with her mother
My father rushed home to my four older brothers watching my family’s first black and white television set purchased only months before. He rushed into the living room and said, “Boys, you have a baby sister!”
They looked up from the TV. One of the brothers asked, “What’s for dinner?” before turning back to the tiny screen in the large cabinet.
Four boys and a girl – 1973
My mother stayed in the hospital for ten days and wrote my brothers a note, which I still have in my baby book. However, I can’t find the baby book, and I can’t find a photo of me with my father except for one printed in a newspaper when I was ten. In all my moves in the past seven years, things have been lost and rearranged. As a result, I write this blog in honor of my fifty-eighth birthday on December 23 as a way of preserving the story of my birth.
My brothers eventually took an interest in the sister they never quite understood, my mother kept me in ribbons and lace until the ’60s hit, and for the rest of my father’s life, I remained “Daddy’s little girl.”I wish you all a magical holiday season filled with peace. No greater wish for you than to know the love I’ve experienced thus far.