"I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I write and I understand." - Chinese proverb

Monday, October 22, 2012


Spoiler alert: Russell, my nephew, was not in fact born on this particular night. However, in the spirit of an essay by James Thurber entitled “The Night The Bed Fell,” which is how his family always referred to it even though the bed falling was about the only thing that didn’t happen that night, I take the same literary license.

Our joy knew no bounds in October, 1989. My brother Bob and his wife Rosemary were about to give their six-year-old son Robert a new brother or sister. (We all knew while in utero that Robert was a boy, but this time around everybody opted to be surprised.) We had collectively decided that should Rosemary feel the need to leave for the hospital at some ungodly hour of the night, my father would go up and stay with Robert because he (my father) was used to getting up at all hours, anyway. (So was Rosemary’s mother, who often worked third shift as a nurse, but she was somehow spared.)

Sure enough, around a week or 10 days before her official “Due Date” Rosemary called around dinnertime to warn everyone that she thought she was in labor. The doctor had said to lie down to see if the contractions went away, in which case they would not be labor pains (yet). Nevertheless at about 9:00 P.M. she and Bob decided to leave for the hospital, just to be on the safe side.

We duly alerted my father who came groggily down the stairs, put on his hat and overcoat over his pajamas and headed up to my brother’s. After a fairly short period of time my mother, in terrible suspense, decided she could wait no longer, and followed him to the scene of action. Once there, she called to fill me in. We were very excited. However, in the background I could hear my father grumbling that he couldn’t be expected to get any sleep when all around him people were talking on the phone. “There,” my mother said, “He’s going to go sleep in their room.”

We talked some more. I was washing, drying and re-hanging my mother’s living room curtains for no reason other than nervous energy, though it never hurts to have clean curtains on the windows, be it spring or fall. Finally, my mother noted she saw headlights coming down the long driveway. I hung on. Yes, it was my brother returning home but without his wife; they had decided to keep Rosemary overnight in the hospital, just in case.

As our mother picked up her coat and purse to head back home, my brother had gone into the master bedroom, turned on the light and found my father sleeping deeply. My brother didn’t particularly wish to sleep with our father (Dad snores and sleeps on the diagonal) and politely requested that he move. Grumbling again, louder this time, my father got up and headed for the small single bed in the room that was to be the nursery. “I don’t know how anybody can be expected to get any sleep around here,” he was saying.

My mother headed home again. It was pretty much the middle of the night by now. I hadn’t slept, nor had my mother or brother or, presumably, Rosemary. However, by this time my father had slept in four different beds (well, one was a couch, but that’s neither here nor there). At around 8 A.M. my father returned, clad in hat, overcoat, pajamas and slippers. He was not in good humor. Apparently when he had finally had a quiet bed all to himself, he found the room too cold and couldn’t see the numbers on the thermostat. He had piled as many things as possible on top of himself including baby blankets and old coats from the closet. He said he had hardly slept a wink all night, what with constantly being disturbed and then cold. And to top things off my brother had gotten a phone call at 7 A.M. from the hospital requesting that he come pick up his wife, as no baby was imminent.

Of course, Russell was born a week or so later. I wish I could say there was no drama connected to his birth but alas, there was some. Suffice it to say that a few unexpected – and harrowing – details occurred. In the end, though, it all turned out just fine. It’s just a good thing that by then everybody was rested up from The Night That Russell Was Born. 


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