fIs time just an illusion? A mental construct?
Time flies as all us old folks say – I will be 74 years old in September. The “past” in my memory is fixed. The “future” is open and unknown. The “present” is this moment – and by the “time” you finish this sentence the “present” will be the “past”.
Is there only “now?” Only this moment?
Tomorrow will be the 4th of July – the 240th anniversary of the nation’s independence. It has been forty years since the bicentennial in 1976. I was 34 years old then.
On that July 4th,1976 my wife and I and our severely disabled son were living in a beautiful home in Charlotte, North Carolina. I had taken a job with one of the major Carolina banks the year before; before we knew of our son’s prognosis. He was our 2nd son; our first had passed away when he was 9 days old from severe birth defects.
All America was in the midst of celebration; everywhere it seemed but in Charlotte. That day in 1976 it was pouring rain and for the most part any festivities had been washed out. The local news channels couldn’t find anything worthwhile covering in town so we were seeing the 4th parades and marching bands from elsewhere.
My wife and I were sitting in our den watching television with our forever to be silent son. Everything the doctors told us the previous December was coming true. He was 15 months old and could not move from where he was placed. He gave no indication he could see or hear. That was our three lives on that July 4,1976. Now it is no one’s memory but mine. It exists no where else but in my head. When I am gone it will no longer exist at all.
Younger folks think of the bicentennial forty years ago as “history” just as I think of Herbert Hoover; something outside of my personal experience.
In any case, we sat in our den that rainy day in North Carolina watching the nation celebrate but I knew something was not quite right. It was my wife.
She seemed depressed and extremely fatigued lately; all of the time. I assumed that it was mostly depression over the declining health of our son. I tried to cheer her up. She didn’t respond. I tried again. She got annoyed. I got annoyed. We argued. She started crying.
I was dumb founded. Thunder struck. How could this be? Stupid question.
I remember taking her in my arms and holding her for several minutes neither one of us saying a word. We both knew we were two time losers when it came to having healthy children and this announcement was not exactly joyous news.
We spent the rest of that 4th of July talking it over. She felt better after telling me; she had been concerned about what my reaction might be. Since we were living away from family and close friends we decided to tell no one. At least for now.
Wemade an appointment with an obstetrician who came highly recommended.
He was a thoroughly Southern man, a caring gentle man, the son of a doctor, born and raised in Charlotte. He listened carefully to our history while patients backed up in his office. He didn’t care. He was giving us all the time and attention he knew we needed.
“We will do all of the tests available. I promise you if there is anything even slightly wrong I will tell you honestly. And if everything is OK I will tell you that as well. I promise you my best efforts.”
The follow-up appointments included a battery of tests and evaluations.
“You are carrying a girl. She seems perfectly healthy”.
And so we went home and held our breath, trusting in our doctor and the tests.
Several months later her sister and her husband visited us on short notice. My wife answered the door with her now obvious baby bump. “Oh! You’re pregnant!”. Now everyone knew and were holding their collective breath.
In January 1977, on one of the coldest days in Charlotte history, the pains came. We dropped our son off at the center for the disabled and were met by a crowd of workers from inside, who knew we were coming cheering us on. We sped off to the hospital where our doctor was waiting and that night our eldest daughter came into this world. I didn’t exhale for two more weeks.
We would have another daughter two years later before we called it quits. Our son, we were told, would probably not reach age two; he lived to be almost ten thanks to the care given to him by his mother.
I didn’t know it that July 4th but better days were coming for us. Our daughters would grow to be successful young women and their mother would see them both graduate from fine northeastern universities. I would get to walk both of them down the aisle as they married confident men with nothing to prove. My wife was able to stay at home and be a full time mother to our children. She taught them well.
So tomorrow, July 4, it will be exactly 40 years since I found out, in the middle of an argument, a child was coming; I didn’t know it would be a daughter.
That daughter is now expecting my first grandchild; a boy. She has had all the tests and all is well. The procession of the living goes on.
I am looking forward to a really happy Thanksgiving; but I won’t exhale till Christmas.
Happy Fourth of July!