I pulled into the driveway, stopped the car and got out. Wind blew down my open jacket collar, making me shiver. Despite the afternoon sunshine, the early March afternoon had a sharp bite to it. Patches of melting snowdrifts dotted the yard. I shrugged, thinking, “The air is chilly, like inside an old-time refrigerator, but as soon as the snow finishes melting, it’ll feel warmer.” Pulling the mailbox open, I found several envelopes. Among them was the monthly letter from my elderly friend.
Saving the letter for later when I could sit down and slowly read it, I began preparing supper for the family. Having prepped our meal the night before, my husband Arnie, our two children and I were able to sit down to eat lasagna a mere hour later. Arnie came to the table and glanced at the mail I’d brought in from the roadside mailbox. He chuckled, “I see your boyfriend wrote to you again.”
“Yes!” I admitted with a demure smile. “It isn’t every day a gal has a sweet old boy writing to her all the time, telling about his life 70 years ago in the very house she lives in!” After serving everyone, I sat down to rest and enjoy my meal with the family.
Looking at my daughter’s chart, the Nurse Practitioner instructed, “Bring Tammie back to see me in two weeks.”
To access Tammie’s electronic records, the clinic appointment scheduler requested her birth date. Tammie, who was in fifth grade, leaned against me and answered like a small adult, “It’s two, twenty-two, eighty-two.”
Later in the car, I suggested, “Would you like stopping for a treat before I take you back to school?” Tammie’s answer was of course, an enthusiastic yes.
Taco John’s advertisement for Taco Tuesday blared from the car radio. I complained, “Ugh, the words ‘Taco Tuesday’ turns into an ear worm whenever I hear this! It plays over and over in my head.”
Tammie asked, “Could we go to Taco John’s for my treat?” The fast food restaurant happened to be along our route back to school, so I happily pulled into that parking lot. Instead of a savory taco, my daughter ordered a desert taco, which looked and tasted a lot like a chocolate-covered waffle cone filled with ice cream. While eating it she commented on how she liked all the two’s in her birthdate.
My Dad held my one-year-old daughter Tammie on his lap with the familiar ease of a man who had raised seven children. She squirmed, so he slid her down between his knees, giving her a chance to practice standing while being fully supported. Sitting down on the couch across from him, I realized that no one had ever held Tammie that way before.
Tammie has TAR syndrome. (thrombocytopenia with Absent Radius) This is a rare birth defect. TAR causes low blood platelet levels which can cause bruising and bleeding. Radius bones in the arms are always missing, but the hands are fully formed. My daughter’s arms are elbow length. One syndrome challenge that we needed help with were her knees. They didn’t seem to have joints.
My husband sat down beside me and said, “Our doctor told us that if Tammie is ever to walk, she needs surgery on both of her knees.”
Nodding, I added, “He also said there isn’t a local doctor who can do the type of surgery needed. We’re taking Tammie to see a doctor at the Mayo Clinic next week.”
The three-hour drive to Rochester, Minnesota to the famous Mayo Clinic required us to leave home before daybreak on an overcast, early spring morning. Once there, Arnie and I were asked if we would allow interns to be present for Tammie’s exam because, “We don’t see many children with TAR syndrome.” During his exam the doctor demonstrated to several students how neither of her knees were functional.
That year Tammie had surgery on both knees and was fitted with cumbersome, full-length leg braces that were cable-connected to a belt buckled around her waist. She took her first steps when she was two and a half years old. Arnie and I weren’t sure if she started walking because of the braces or in spite of the braces.
The dreams began near the end of my pregnancy. Each night there was a baby, not necessarily my baby, but someone’s baby assigned to me. Each night I’d forget all about the infant. Each night in my dreams there were fires, floods and other natural disasters threaten our wellbeing. However, I never once remembered to pick up the baby when I ran out of the slumberland house to save myself.
One night I took the baby given to me and laid it in a crib in the upstairs bedroom of my childhood’s farmhouse. I immediately forgot all about the little one. A few days passed before dreamland me suddenly remembered. Filled with great apprehension, I raced to the crib and peeked in. Somehow, inexplicably, the neglected baby had multiplied to become three or four smaller babies.
I didn’t need to visit a psychiatrist to figure out why I was having these dreams. Eight years earlier, when I was twenty years old, my husband Arnie and I had had a baby daughter. Christy was born with a rare birth defect and was very sick. To make the situation scarier, I had never taken care of a baby before, not even babysat for one. The idea of taking Christy home scared me. I loved her, but didn’t want to take care of her.
I took my daughter home two different times, but she had to readmit to the hospital after only a day or two because of her ill health. The experience made me fearful of childcare. I was ashamed of how I wanted a healthy baby, not the sick one I’d given birth to. Christy died at two months of age on April 2nd, 1971. My guilty feelings began to grow. I felt like a bad mother.
Opening the large paperback Bible to Proverbs, I settled into the chair next to my bedroom window. Small print densely covered both pages. Having recently finished reading the Psalms, I knew that reading too much at a time would make my brain lose focus. In order to get as much as possible out of my daily reading, I gave myself permission to only read 14 proverbs at a time if that was all I could handle.
Most mornings I stop for a few moments to read a page from the Bible. Consequently I’ve read the Good Book from cover to cover more than twice. With each reading, I notice different things in the familiar stories. Reading the fascinating books of Ruth and Judith, I have a hard time stopping, but with the book of Leviticus, reading it once was enough.
Later that morning, I looked up the definition of ‘proverb’. The dictionary said proverbs were short pithy sayings in general use, stating a truth or general advice. In thinking about it, that seemed true of the biblical proverbs. The ones I’d read that morning had to do with fools versus wise men, and lazy or unscrupulous men versus honest, righteous men. Only one made me wonder if Solomon was prideful when he wrote, “The king’s lips are an oracle; no judgment he pronounces is false.”
Many secular proverbs exist. Most of them are born of experience. For example, a proverb in my mother’s family was, “For as long as spring peepers sing before Saint George’s Day, that is how long they will be silent after it.” They believed that if the weather warmed up too soon in April, there would be a deep freeze on Saint George’s Day, April 23rd, causing the peepers to burrow back into the mud and be silent.