H. Neal Glanville: Doubly surprised
December 1, 2008
As my little girls near their dreaded 40th birthday, I take pride and a certain amount of sadistic joy in reminding them of all the little things that occurred in their youth that were not only fun when they happened but should be memories they pass on to my grandchildren.
A day I’ll never forget
Dec. 18, 1969, started as a workday for a young couple expecting their first child.
I was preparing myself for the third- or fourth-worst job I’ve ever had. Of course, false alarms and the general pre-birth tension didn’t make going to work any easier, but off to work I went.
Sometime around 10 or 10:30 a.m., I got ‘The Call.’
“It’s time. It’s really time, this time,” the girl’s mother, calm as the eye of the storm, said.
I had practiced and timed the route home, then to the hospital several times. Twenty minutes to the house, loading pregnant wife, one suitcase and the trip to the hospital an additional 12.
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That morning, our rag-top Corvair Spider got me home in 15 and to St. Joseph Hospital in much less than 10.
After I had dropped my former wife off (in the olden days you weren’t allowed to be part of your child’s birth), I set out to fulfill my child-birth promise of getting a haircut. How many times have I had that ponytail cut off? My ever-growing bald spot would love that hair back, even if just to refresh an old memory. The soon-to-be proud father returned home with cigars, a very, very expensive bottle of Scotch and a hand-held ponytail. Music seemed appropriate, so out came Jimmy Reed’s “Bright Lights, Big City” album. I plopped onto the couch, fired up a cigar (I’m not sure how cigars became part of childbirth, but they need to rethink that custom), and began fantasizing of all the things I would do with my new son or daughter. Somewhere between horses and skiing deep powder, the phone rang.
“Mr. Glanville?” the voice asked. “This is Sister Ann Marie of Saint Joseph’s Hospital. Would you please come to the hospital as quickly as possible?”
“What’s wrong?” I yelled into the phone.
Sister’s voice still was calm, a sure sign of trouble.
“I’m sorry Mr. Glanville, we’re not to speak of problems. We need you at the hospital as soon as possible.”
When the phone hit the floor, I already was on my way. My brain was firing on 74 cylinders.
What was wrong?
The doctor had told us many times “it’s going to be a big baby and I don’t have to tell you how active he is,” not a hint of any trouble.
“May I help you?” the much-too-soft voice asked.
“Damn betcha,” I barked. “I was just here, and they’ve moved the maternity ward.”
“Let’s see if they put it over here,” soft-voice said, gently guiding me across the room.
“This new father needs a little help,” soft-voice said to the candy-striper behind the counter with the sign that said “Maternity Ward.”
“May I have your name, please?”
“Glanville. What the heck is wrong with my wife and baby?”
“I’m sorry Mr. Glanville,” candy-striper said. “You’ll have to wait for the sisters.”
Sisters, my aching :
“You are Mr. Glanville, aren’t you?”
Just what I needed: a stern-voiced penguin to give me the bad news.
“Yes, I are,” I stammered.
“What’s happened to my wife and baby?” I pleaded.
“This way,” soft-voice was back now, guiding me down a hallway away from the maternity ward.
The worst had happened, I’d lost both of them.
“Here, Mr. Glanville, wait here please.”
I looked up, and there it was, a huge plate-glass window ribboned with chicken wire. The venetian blinds behind the glass were drawn closed.
“Are you ready?” stern-voiced asked.
This was it. The life I had dreamed of was over. I could only nod my head.
Rapping lightly on the glass, she said, “Here we go then.”
How could stern-voice sound so light-hearted?
Suddenly, the blinds shot skyward. What was I to do? There in front of me, pushed against the glass :
I have no memory of fainting.
I do remember a sister holding my head, as a nurse patched the two holes in it.
“Up we go” the nurse said pulling on my arms. It was still there, up against the glass. Two bassinets labeled in bold pink letters GLANVILLE A, GLANVILLE B.
“Girls,” soft voice said, “identical twin girls.”
“But the doctor never said there were two.”
I was going to faint again.
“Don’t look at me,” laughed stern-voice. “It’s your genes that caused this miracle.”
“But the doctor :” I stammered again.
“Maybe the doctor will help you buy two of everything,” stern-voice said.
“You’ve certainly got an arm load,” added soft-voice.
They were, and I loved every minute.
Pass that on, birthday girls.
Until next time
There I was, surrounded by woulda, coulda and shoulda, when I said to myself, “Self,” I said (’cause that’s what I call myself when I’m talking to myself), “it’s too bad people can’t take pride in a job well done and let the accomplishment of such care for itself.”
Thank you for your time.