Sunday, February 1, 2009

And The Attacks Scale Upward

In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.1 Peter 1: 3-7
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Romans 5:1-5
When last we saw our intrepid hero, he was dangling over the cliff of unemployment by his fingertips with a baby in one arm. I had been sending out what seemed like hundreds of resumes and being sent on wild goose chases by an employment agency with whom I had signed. It reached July 1980 and I had received no positive feedback. I felt the medical center might be regretting telling me I could stay until I found something. Perhaps I felt that way because they were now hinting...well, I must be gone by September. 
Near month end, I got a call from a large bank in Delaware. 
Delaware? They had banks in Delaware? I had been in Delaware off and on during my life, but always on the way elsewhere. I didn't see Delaware as a place where people actually lived. It was a little state you went through to Maryland, Virginia or other points south. But indeed, in the flutter of resumes I had mailed, I had answered a newspaper ad for this bank in Delaware. It was for a job as Financial Analyst. I had never been a Financial Analyst, but I had once worked in a bank and I knew how to add up figures on a ledger sheet. I mean, how much more did I need to know?
I drove the forty-five minute trip from our PA. home to Delaware. This was my first time in Wilmington and it seemed to be all one way streets all going the opposite way than I needed to go. Good thing I left extra time. I found a lot to park in and walked back and found the building on Tenth Street.
My meeting was on the sixth floor, which was really the seventh floor, unless you counted the mezzanine, then it was the eight floor. (I don't know what distinguished it as a mezzanine -- lower ceilings, perhaps.) It is this way in the buildings down here. All the first floors are on the second floor. All the actual first floors are called Street Floor. (We don't count the one, two or three below ground floors as floors, just as basements.) 
My meeting with Mister K., who was Vice-president of Finance at the time, seemed to go well until his last sentence.
"I'm not sure Financial Analyst is the right position for you..." Well, that wasn't too encouraging. "But we have this new position in another department that might be right."
So he took me to talk to Double W. Double W was 11 years my senior and Vice-president over what was called Deposit Services and Data Preparation. There was a chemistry between us. We liked each other at once and he took me to meet the Assistant-vice-presidents of his three sections, who preceded to fire questions at me. At the end of this, he thanked me and said he'd be in touch.
A few days later, he called and said his staff liked me and things looked good. I just needed to meet his boss. He set up a luncheon appointment.
I traveled down again and we ate in the Brandywine Room of the Hotel DuPont, a restaurant full of dark wood. His boss was Mister C., Senior Vice-president of Operations. Once again I fielded a bunch of questions and felt it had went well. They would get back to me.
Once again, Double-W called me and told me he wanted me for the job. A few details had to be worked out and then he'd let me know when I would start. Great, I went into the medical Center and informed them I was going to a new job. They said, great and good bye, nice to have known you and my medical career ended like that.  
Then the waiting began. I was sweating it out in the dog days of August and the telephone wasn't ringing. Had something went wrong? After two weeks of growing anxiety, I called the bank. Oh, it was just procedures. Then I was told for my level the Senior Managers had to make the final decision at their meeting, which didn't take place until the 25th of August.
Though it cost me some toss and tumble nights, a positive call did come and I began my new job on September 3, 1980. Had an private office, too.  It didn't have any windows, but it came with a paycheck. I even began going back to evening college, now at a third university taking a major in accounting.
We were getting back on our feet. The house we were renting was nice, but maybe now we could start saving for a place of our own. Looked as if it was smooth sailing ahead, and for the next two months it was, right up until we were walking to that Christmas Party and my wife said, "Honey, I think I'm pregnant again." 
OK, she lied about tied tubes again and we weren't in Jersey near that Christian doctor and one can't expect too many miracles, can one? It wasn't a bit surprising a week or so later, before ever even seeing any doctor about it, she came and told me she was miscarrying. 
I got the minister's wife to stay with Laurel and we rushed off to the county hospital emergency room. They took my wife off somewhere and I sat on a hard bench in a massive waiting room. After a while a doctor came up to me, put out a hand and said, "Congratulations, you have a daughter."
What? How? My wife thought she was no more than two months along. She wasn't showing, not even a bump. She had a baby with no medical attention prior to birth and the baby lived? That's great.
Until they said the baby probably wouldn't live the night, she was too premature, too light. Today newborns under four pounds are probably at less risk, back in 1980 it wasn't promising. 
Then they told us they were sending her to another hospital, one which had a neonatal intensive care unit, one of the hospitals I use to budget, my last employer. We were then told even if our daughter survived, she would be blind and severely mentally retarded. "It would be better if she didn't survive," was their opinion. 
There was another problem. I had left the medical center at the end of July. I had started in the bank in September. My medical insurance had ended with the medical center. I had new medical insurance with the bank, but coverage for pregnancy did not kick in until I was employed there for six month.  It was now only December.
Our new daughter lived through the night. She was behind wired glass, inside a small glass rectangle called an incubator with a thousand tubes running into her. Every couple of hours they stuck a needle in her heel. She had jaundice and had to be under special lighting. my wife and I had opposing RH Blood factors, so the baby had to have a blood transfusion. She had a fever, she had something else, she had that. We could only hold her outside her little box for a brief time each day. The kid looked like a yellow plucked chicken with a tongue too large for her mouth. I said she looked like Alfred Hitchcock. She weighed 3 pounds 6 ounces.
Three weeks later, Noelle came home on New Year's Day 1981 inside a big red Christmas stocking (Picture on the right).
God had blessed us with another miracle. The hospital blessed us with a number of bills. Well, we'd just have to put off owning a house for awhile.
My wife's father had been acting erratically for awhile. (Her mother had died when she was 17.) He was convinced there were people hiding in his bushes at night, that someone might break in to rob him. He had demanded my wife return the house key and he kept a loaded gun under his pillow. He said if anyone tried to break in he would shot first and ask questions later. Needlessly to say when he wasn't answering the phone in May, my wife was concerned. We drove to his house, but no one answered the knock.  My wife went up the street to her uncle, who was her father's best friend, and he called the police. No one wanted to try and break in remembering that gun with which he slept.
He was unconscious. An ambulance took him to the hospital and they took him to surgery. the man had suffered from emphysema for years. He had lesions in his brain, apparently the effect of working with asbestosis in his youth. During surgery he had a heart attack and died, but the doctors brought him back to life.
If you call it life. He was on machines. The doctors told my wife any decision to turn off the machines were hers. They couldn't advise one way or another. I looked into her father's eyes and there was nothing there. Why they brought him back when he died made no sense. I talked with my wife. We prayed. She told them to turn off the machines and when the electricity died, so did he.  
She was an only child. All his estate went to her. We had a house of our own, but like the first car I got at 16 when my grandfather died, it came with a mortgage of guilt. 
The house was free and clear, but something of a mess. He had kept the outside up nicely, but ignored the inside. It was dingy and dark. junk was piled everywhere, old TV parts, a lifetime of old papers, the power mower and other yard tools stashed in the dining room. We found over $3,000 dollars in envelopes taped to the bottom of bureau drawers. The house was not really fit to move into with a baby and a three year old.
I spent all my free time in this house fixing up, cleaning, hauling away junk and painting. We wanted it ready to move into by the end of July because our lease was up August 1. I was working hard to make it and finally, sometime in July, I brushed on the last dab of paint and it was ready.
I didn't go there the next day, because I had classes that night, but on the day after I took my wife and two kids to see how nice a job I did. 

When I put the key in the lock, I thought I heard a strange noise. I threw the door open and I saw the source. Water was running down all the walls. The living room ceiling lay in a heap upon the floor, all the wallpaper had peeled off and all the hardwood floors were buckled.
I dashed down to the basement where the water shut off valve was located. I jumped into water up to my waist, fortunately I wasn't electrocuted. Firemen had to come to pump out the water. 
A inflow pipe had burst in the upstairs bathroom. How long it had been flooding the house, I don't know, but our interior ceilings were ruined as were the floors, all the kitchen cabinets and appliances and the furnace.All the wiring and plumbing would have to be replaced. Basically, the house had to be gutted and rebuilt to be livable. 
My daughter Laurel huddled shivering on the stairs. For years after she would have nightmares when it rained. The photo at the beginning of this post is my wife feeding Noelle in the ruined living room. You can see the despair on her face.
My father-in-law had insurance, but it would do only limited and basic repairs. We had to decide whether we wanted to stay there or sell the place. We were tired of moving. We decided we were going to stay in this house for a long time and would spend the extra money to built it with higher quality than the insurance would cover. Now I had to get a mortgage to cover the costs of this rebuilding and the remaining bills from Noelle's birth. 
But it seemed my wife's three wishes had been granted: I had a job I liked, we had babies of our own and now we had our own home. Maybe we really could settle down for a while.
And then in early 1982 my wife said: "Honey, I think I'm pregnant again." 
There was no thinking about it. She was. This time she got to a doctor and he determined so much scar tissue had built up she wouldn't be able to deliver naturally. Once again it was back to bed for the term and in August she had a Cesarean delivery of our last child, a son. he was also born prematurely.
He was the giant of our litter. He came into the world weighing 6 pounds 10 ounces. The hospital placed him next to a baby weighting over 10 pounds. We named him Darryl, not realizing that in the future this would subject us to a never-ending series of "Larry-Darryl-and-Darryl" jokes thanks to Bob Newhart.
Having a third child brought up another decision. The house we had was somewhat small for a family of five. Combining this with my long drive to Delaware everyday, we decided to sell the house after all and move once again, this time to Delaware. We have lived in this Delaware home for over 26 years now. I was employed by that bank for 21 years. Our kids grew up healthy into nice people and Noelle was not blind. Both she and Laurel were Honor Students. My wife and I have been married 47 plus years and I've been a Christian almost 34 of them.  
Through it all we have persevered.
And the first thing I did when we moved to Delaware was look for a Bible-Believing church.


  1. Larry,

    Your posts describing your journey into and through faith are so moving and transparent. I've got a lot of catch-up reading to do, but your posts are riveting and it's hard for the reader to say, "OK, I'll stop here."

    The Lord in his wisdom knows that if life becomes easy after we accept his gift of salvation, we wouldn't continue to grow in our faith and our trust in Him.

    My favorite verse in all of scripture is John 16:33, especially the part where it says to take heart. In one of the versions I memorized earlier in life (I think Revised Standard) it says, "Be of good cheer!"

    It's not a question of steeling ourselves for the fight and convincing ourselves that we can endure ... it's simply letting God give us the peace and joy that only He can provide, even in what seem like impossible situations.

    (Yes we need to put on the armour for spiritual warfare, but I mean that the joy and peace that we have isn't just a matter of choosing to be happy but it's something that God (and only God) provides.)

    Your faith, getting stronger through the years even with everything you've gone through, is a remarkable witness for all of us readers.

    Thanks for sharing so openly!


  2. I read the entire story, and it was very interesting. You are a wonderful and living example of what God can do with a life given to Him, even an angry atheist. :-)