My Birthday Story

angel birth?

angel birth?

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

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.

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

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

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 ’60s hit, and for the rest of my father’s life, I remained “Daddy’s little girl.”Tigers

Acts of Kindness

Grace and Benediction

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

It’s easy to forget in the every day bustle of our lives that the little things we do are often the ones that remain unforgettable.

Sometimes little acts of kindness can become giant deeds to the recipient and can make all the difference in the world. And we may not even have realized what we have done.

When I was eighteen, I decided I knew everything there was to know in the world and graduated from high school with a brick, not a chip, on my shoulder and a mental block the size of a cement block.

By the time of my graduation open house, I think my mother had actually stopped speaking to me. I had rented an apartment in Ann Arbor, thirty miles from my parents, and had gotten a job as a clerk typist for a large corporation. Now in my mother’s world a daughter didn’t do this kind of thing. I was supposed to live at home and work or go to college and receive my Mrs. Degree.

But I had no use for college or for anyone’s advice, and believe me, when I’d made up my mind on something, my family had learned in a mere eighteen years, to leave me alone.

Enter my high school government teacher, Howard Johnston. He was the only one who took a few moments to talk to me.

“You’re far too smart to not go to college,” he told me at my graduation open house. He pushed me into a chair in my parents’ living room and he sat on the ottoman at my feet. “You’ll not be happy as a clerk typist.”

Because he took those few moments with me, I began to reevaluate. I kept remembering his words. They weren’t a command or a question, but a statement. And because he had bothered with me at all, I began to open my mind to other possibilities. By the following January, I was enrolled in college and within four years, I was a teacher.

And my mother was speaking to me again.

When my mother contracted double pneumonia in 1998, I wasn’t sure when I should go back to Michigan from my home in Florida. She had a 50/50 chance for survival and my brothers and sister-in-laws didn’t know what to tell me.

One of my sister-in-laws went to the doctor and said, “Her daughter is in Florida. When do we tell her to come?”

He didn’t hesitate. “Now.”

I arrived within twenty-four hours with my mother still  conscious. She nearly pulled the IV out of her arm reaching for me when I walked into her room. Within hours of my arrival, she slipped into a coma and died a day later. I made it just in time to say good-bye.

I never thanked that doctor for his act of kindness. He probably has no idea what it meant to me to arrive at my mother’s bedside while she still knew I was there.

I never thanked my government teacher either. And I don’t know how to reach him now.

Those acts of kindness need not be with someone we know. A simple smile, a grateful word, a slowing of our pace to let someone else go first in line at the grocery store. We probably do many of these things unconsciously. Today try to consciously help someone and see what happens. Remembering to give a word of gratitude helps continue the cycle of kindness.

With so many words of hate and disparagement floating around us these days as the political season heats up, let’s remember we have more in common as human beings than we have differences. Kindness and compassion help us live in a state of grace.

It’s better than aspirin as a pain reliever.