It was late in the evening on August third, 1983 - twenty-five years ago tonight. I was upstairs, frantically trying to finish painting so the carpet installers could come the next morning. Sheila had already gone to bed. She called me down to time contractions. About nine, we decided the contractions were close enough and consistent enough that we ought to head to the hospital. I remember a moment of acute consciousness as I drove down a dark Cedar Avenue, in that sharp curve just before crossing the little side track, Sheila performing rhythmic breathing in the passenger seat. I knew it was a moment I would never forget. Tonight would be a night of irreversible change in our lives. I was a little frightened by it, but eager for it.
We parked in the emergency parking lot, then on the west side of the hospital. The contractions were coming so quickly that Sheila could make it only from one car to next between them. She would lean on a car and expel those rhythmic hisses till the contraction eased.
It was a long night. Sheila bravely, determinedly, and without anesthesia, labored until three A.M. Finally the baby's hair appeared. At three thirty-one with a final brave push, she was born: kinda messy but beautiful. The nurses had prepared a little cloth-lined bath basin and, after her just-as-beautiful mother had held her a bit, I got to hold the most precious thing I'd ever held to that point in my life and bathe her. Yes, it was a "her". I had not been concerned to wonder about her sex, I'd been so wrapped up in the wonder of her birth and the counting of her fingers and toes.
By the time mother and baby were settled into a regular maternity room, I had to leave to finish getting ready for the carpet guys: we wanted the house ready when Brannon came home. I'll be forever in the debt of our wonderful friend Cotton Franklin who met me at the house to spend a couple of very early hours frantically getting the upstairs cleaned and ready for the carpet guys. Then I rushed back to the hospital.
I went to sleep on the floor of the hospital room -- probably drooling on the carpet. Our pastor, James Sanders, and several others came by to see us, only to find us totally unconscious during the first visiting hour. (Sheila has a very complete journal of those days, but I haven't reviewed it in a while. I think maybe my sister Joan and our friends Mildred and Philip were among the ones who found us sleeping.) We managed to be conscious by the afternoon visiting time.
I had never felt vulnerable in my life till 3:31 a.m., August 4, 2008. The world changed for me at that moment.
Brannon, the joy and fear and excitement and love and ambition and admiration and awe that you (and later your sister) have brought into my life could never be adequately conveyed in the pixels of a computer screen or in any combination of the hundreds of thousands of words in the English language.
I love you unconditionally.
My silly song for Brannon has always been "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You". Here is A very young Ricky Nelson singing the song.
Here's the post and slideshow I made of Brannon pics for her birthday last year.