(Readers, I’ve updated this post I wrote a year ago to mark Garrett’s birthday. It’s that time again.)
“Honey, I think my water broke.”
It was 15 years ago, almost to the minute, when I heard those words. They came during our exile in Henderson.
Karen had gone to the bathroom that morning in the old house we were renting from Evelyn. It was a quirky house. Not in a good way.
Pine needles covered the yard. And pine cones. From the mess of pine trees that surrounded the house. Our neighbor to the rear, Miss Patsy, must have thought we were barbarians. We joked that she never even let a pine cone hit the ground in her yard before she got rid of it.
The house was large and terrible. We never used the front door. I’m not even sure we had a key, but I guess we did. We rarely used the front room. It was a pale shade of green, with a carpet so light we dared not step on it. The curtains were even worse. They looked like they would crumble at a touch. The best thing about that room was the pocket doors it had. We kept it closed off so we never had to heat it.
Did I mention the heating system. It had this weirdo coil system. I think the coils were in the floor. Which meant the floors were never cold. Which also meant that it was extremely inefficient.
We didn’t heat it, so that front room was as cold as Evelyn’s heart. I think she was the only landlord I ever had who didn’t return a full deposit when I moved out.
But there weren’t many houses for rent in Henderson, so we took what we could get. We wouldn’t move out for another year or so. And then only because Evelyn’s stepson helped make it possible (which is a tale for another day).
“Honey, I think my water broke.”
Oh, yeah, back to the point.
Garrett was coming. We didn’t live far from the hospital, and we didn’t waste any time getting there. Which was a good thing. For perhaps the only time thus far in his young life, Garrett was in a hurry. We quickly dropped Austin, Lauren and Nicki off at Miss Patsy’s. They weren’t pine cones, so she treated them like gold.
It was only a couple or so hours later and Garrett was out, in all his orange glory. It had been a bit of a difficult pregnancy, and he had jaundice. Nothing a little time under the hospital sunlight wouldn’t cure. No drama like we’d had with Austin, when he’d been rushed to Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte (again, a tale for another day) within minutes of being born.
No, we thought Garrett was going to be easy. Of course, we thought a second cat would be easy, too. Not to mention a third.
Maybe we should have had an inkling things wouldn’t go so smoothly that first night. I picked up the kids from Miss Patsy’s and took them to see their new little brother. They were pretty fascinated – along with being orange, he wasn’t so pesky in those days. (Your not-so-humble Arthur knows a thing or two about being the pesky little bro, by the way. My sis is 11 years older than I am; my brother is seven years older. So I’m not criticizing G. when I call him pesky. It’s a compliment, a family tradition.)
But Garrett was not, and is not, easy. And I mean that with every ounce of love in my body – again, I wasn’t easy either. My mother was fond of saying I was a bad baby. Contrarian that I am, I’ve always appreciated that.
Our first real indication of that would come a few months later. I think we’d moved out of Evelyn’s by then but we remained in exile in Henderson.
He got sick. It was just one of those baby things. He pooped a lot and vommed a lot and before we knew it, he just looked terrible. We rushed him to the local hospital, where the doctors had the good sense not to mess around. They sent him to Duke. By helicopter.
Now, any of you who know me know how I feel about dook’s basketball team and the university in general. But you’ll never see me misspell or mispronounce the name of the hospital. Because those doctors and nurses and others at the pediatric intensive care unit there took fantastic care of my boy, whom it turned out had contracted a fairly common quick-acting virus. They stabilized him, built him back up and in less than a week we had him back at home. It was like nothing had ever happened.
But it happened. And it was scary. And we’re thankful to have our youngest with us.
He’s 15 today, and we couldn’t be prouder of him (or for matter, of his brother and sisters).
In a few weeks, he resumes high school at the Central Academy of Technology and Arts, where he’s studying software development. He’s funny, kind and as loving an uncle as you’d want to see. And did I mention tall?
I write and edit a lot of websites. If I were writing a website for him, my keywords for him: birthday, love, great kid, big future, proud. The easiest ones I ever used.
“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” _ Abraham Lincoln