Sunday, February 1, 2009
Seven: The Number of Completeness
And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature. Romans 13:11-14
(Left: my wife and I in 1975)
Our Years of Protest and Anger
My wife on the left, was to be the vocalist in our band, "Ethereal", music by Jim (with bongos), lyrics by me (holding guitar).
Those weren't costumes, we actually dressed that way.
THE EARLY 1970s
Parties, Sex and Booze
B. and W. in rare photo - fully clothed
This is not the case with the Polaroid photos on the sheet W. holds in his hand.
J. (far left) and L. (far right), friends through both periods, part of the Hippie group, a writer and later Vietnam war hero. They named their first child after me.
My wife and I are in the center. The little chest on the table next to my wife held a canister of Scotch and a canister of Wild Turkey Bourbon.
There was a well-stocked bar somewhere in the room, our idea of high sophistication.
New Years in the Poconos. We and nine other couples use to rent a lodge each Christmas week. This was actually a good time. Despite the toasting, there was little drinking. Mostly we went sledding, ice boating and popped popcorn in the fireplace. Note there were children present. Several of the other couples were social workers and longtime friends of my wife's back to high school.
One of several parties with V. and M. V. is playing my guitar. Another gathering where mostly sanity prevailed. Note again the presences of children. V. was from the Caribbean and of African-Indian decent. The couple with the child on the right were Jewish. M.'s foot is on the left, she was a "good" Catholic Jersey Girl.
New Year's Eve 1974 with G. and B. No children here. There was a lot of booze.
This seemed to be our fate at this point, just drift along in life having parties and not much caring about anything else.
We did not know with the dawn next day came a year which would change our whole perception of life.
By 1975 I would say we were in a state of resignation. The old associations and activities were left behind. I had been through three different jobs and as many addresses within three years. In 1972 we had moved to New Jersey because the company I worked for was going to build there. Instead it folded. In 1973 I began work with a steel fabricator in South Philadelphia as an assistant bookkeeper. By the end of that year I was the assistant controller and by 1976 I would also become the systems manager. In 1974 I quit going to night college and stopped sending out manuscripts, seeing my last piece published that year in "Animal Lovers Magazine". We were also now living in a nice modern luxury apartment at Ski Mountain.
I was also resigned to the fact we would never have children. This didn't seem so bad. We were unencumbered. Outside of work it was all play with friends or going to concerts and taking trips. Life had become something of a continuous party and a little bit of risk taking. As far as the Ten Commandments, if I thought of them at all, it wasn't that we were breaking them.
The first four didn't count anyway, since I didn't believe in God. I certainly didn't have any gods before or behind him. I was my own god, although I didn't think of it that way. I didn't have some complex, it was just that I was the only thing I really believed in and relied on. As far as taking his name in vain, well, I never had been a curser. I just didn't vocally blaspheme, so I figured I was pretty good on that one. And I rested on Sundays. I wasn't any too certain what keeping the Sabbath meant. If it meant going to church, then I didn't keep it. I didn't worry about it either.
Honor our mother and father, certainly, we kept on good terms with our parents, if at arm's length. They certainly felt more comfortable about us now that we had shed that Hippie persona. They didn't know anything about the sex and drinking.
We hadn't murdered anyone. We might have wished a few people drop dead, but hey, everybody does that!
Although we had a sex-oriented relationship with another couple, we weren't having physical sex with either of them. I had never had sex with anyone other than the woman I married. Oh, I had opportunities, but never took advantage. My wife said this was because I was too naive to know when a woman was coming on to me. I like to think I was just too honorable to commit adultery.
I hadn't stole anything since those "girlie magazines" when I was 13. I was honest. If someone gave me the wrong change in my favor, I pointed it out and gave back the difference.
I didn't tell lies about other people and I didn't envy anyone.
In my humble opinion I was a good guy. I certainly wasn't a sinner. Sin was doing things that hurt people, like stealing. The things we did weren't hurting anyone. They weren't any one's business.
But why was my wife depressed so often and why did I have a constant feeling of dissatisfaction?
What we needed were a few more adventures. (I'd prefer not to go into some things. Let's just say we did things not made for the family channel.)
Then coming out of a coal mine tour in Central Pennsylvania during a vacation trip, my wife said; "Honey, I think I'm pregnant again."
Yes, she was. And baby number seven wasn't going to be anymore lucky than the six brothers and sisters that preceded her. Amy was going to be born in month five and die just like Sean and Michael. The other four miscarried before getting that far.
[Do you know what babies look like when born too soon?
Back when we lost our babies, five months was too soon. Today a lot of those lost children would have lived. Human life begins at conception and it ain't above my pay grade to tell you that!]
Oh well, I'd been down this road before. We'd get over it. Except Amy was a fighter. They put my wife in a labor room of the hospital and did what they could to stall off birth. They had a monitor that registered the baby's heart beat. It was a strong beat. It stayed strong the whole week my wife was in that labor room and I was by her side every day after work. My wife was drugged up and often drifted in and out of sleep. I sat sometimes for hours in a silent room except for that beat...beat...beat...beat.
Once upon a time, a decade before, a strange cross had appeared on the wall of my bedroom when I thought I was dying. I had forgotten that cross. I couldn't forget the beat...beat...beat. It was so determined. And when I was alone at home after the visits, I could not get that heartbeat out of my mind and I realized that God had to exist. I sure wasn't god. There wasn't a thing I could do for that baby or for my wife. I could only listen to the beat of life. And in that beating I knew there was something greater than me, greater than us all.
When the day came they could not stall any longer, labor was induced and Amy died. When the beat stopped it was to be the beginning of the deepest valley I ever saw my wife enter. And although I felt as helpless in rescuing her as I had felt about saving that baby I knew something had survived and was alive in me, a belief in God.
To be continued: An Oasis in the Valley of Death