Wherein the writer recreates on this surrogate for paper the personal story he did not tell at an event in which the thematic subject of the evening’s exercise was “Grace.”
(Note: I imagined what I’d have said during a recent ocean-side excursion. The rendition was spectacularly “on the money” in organization, clarity and flow. I have never once been able to produce such spontaneous lucidity in print. My experience informs me that my “think-talk” connection is demonstrably superior to my “think-write” connection. For a writer, the disparity is extremely frustrating.)
I knew exactly what my opening line would be, had I been selected after volunteering to relate my impromptu anecdote before the audience, there to witness professionals in action. As I planted myself onstage behind the microphone, the first words out of my mouth would be,
“What did I do?”
The rest is an approximation of my performance, if I had delivered one, which I didn’t.
“On the subject of Grace.”
I’d take a breath that said, “Lord, I know I am not a believer but help me”, and off I’d go.
“In about two months, our daughter Anna who is now 34, will be having a baby.”
(ACKNOWLEDGING THE AUDIENCE’S APPLAUSE)
“Thank you. I’ll let her know strangers are excited. This upcoming blessed event reminded me of how, it seems like two weeks ago, my wife and I had had Anna.
Sunday, March the twentieth, 1983, a good day to have a baby because there’d be less traffic. I, of course, would be the one driving us to the hospital. Judging by the traditional signals, it was now time to get in the car.
My wife is, um… she does not care for the way I drive. I am too pokey and deliberate, and she’s like,
‘Make the light!!!’
So between my driving and her increasingly frequent contractions,
It was not a fun drive to the hospital.
We get there, I park the car… after a couple of attempts… and we go inside for the impending ‘Miracle of Birth.’
We are immediately ushered to to the “Birthing Room”, with flowered, you know, like,
‘Liberty’ print wallpaper. It was apparently scientifically determined that flowered wallpaper is calming. The room’s message was, ‘Yes, you’re having a baby, but you are having it in an English seaside motel room.
After being examined it was determine that it was not time for the baby to come out… to use the medical vernacular. We were invited to watch TV, and they would see what was what later in the day.
We watched this movie, “The Master of Ballantrae”, a 50’s sword-fighting picture, with capes and kilts. I imagine that was my choice. The imminent ‘mother-to-be’ was surely otherwise engaged.
After the movie, they came in and checked her again. Finding her still not ready to deliver, they offered two alternatives: We could go home and have the baby tomorrow. Or they could medically ‘move things along.’
Imagining another drive to the hospital, we decided to have the baby that day.
Then, things went fast and crazy.
My wife experienced what she later described as one long contraction, which was apparently not how that was supposed to procced. When she was quickly whisked out of the “Birthing Room” to a nearby Operating Room, I started to worry. Not just because I am a congenital worrier, but because the medical professionals looked worried.
We had done our obligatory six-week of Lamaze Training. I knew my job: ‘Breathe, honey.” By I was immediately told to ‘Shut up!’ First, by the woman having the baby, and then by a leathery nurse, who took over, delivering us capably to the ‘Finish Line.’
The baby was born at 5:25 P.M. It was a girl. Which surprised me, since, although my wife secretly knew otherwise, I was assured it would be a boy. In one of my greatest ‘on my feet’ rewrites, Benjamin Alexander transformed immediately to Anna Benne.
There was a moment of indescribable elation. Then newborn Anna Benne was taken off to the ‘Baby Room’ and I was shipped back to the paisley ‘Birthing Room’, while the medical professionals wrapped the loose ends. As it were.
Whatever they were up to was taking quite a while, and once again, I began to worry. Finally, after what felt like a lifetime, I was called back to the Operating Room.
The doctor reported that after the birth, there’d been some concerning post partum bleeding, and if they were unable to stop it, they would have to perform a hysterectomy.
THE SPEAKER SIGHS
I write comedy for television. I am not good with reality. The thing is, the person who handles the serious problems in our family was currently anaesthetized. People were looking to me for direction.
I told them to do their best to stop the bleeding. Adding… and these were my exact words:
“‘If she wakes up with less parts than she went to sleep with, she’s going to be really angry.’
Now back in the “Birthing Room”, my anxious waiting is augmented by feverish pacing. Moments later, the door opens and a nurse walks in, carrying my newborn daughter Anna.
She tells me that they had to take her out of the “Baby Room” because her constant crying was disturbing the other babies. I could not get my head around that. Somehow, newborns, who are unable to communicate, had circulated a petition to have my daughter Anna thrown out of the ‘Baby Room.’
And they listened to them.
The nurse walked out, leaving me, alone in the “Birthing Room”, cradling in my arms an amoeba with my face, as my sleeping wife underwent emergency surgery in a nearby Operating Room.
Not my usual situation.
Worrying and pacing are now supplemented by unceasing moaning. And not from the baby. I am alone in a predicament I am unsuited for, having nowhere to go and no one to turn to.
And then it happened.
A man steps into the “Birthing Room”, another about-to-be or recently-become new father – paunchy, a dark mustache, slicked-back receding hair, I believe of Hispanic descent, but I’m from Canada so what do I know? And what difference does it make? A man had suddenly materialized like some comforting angel, and he told me what I needed to hear most at that moment, which was that everything was gonna be okay.
The man remained with me a while, and then left. Not ‘Poof!’ But it felt like it.
Some time later, I was called back to the Operation Room. Alone. Apparently, the newborns in the ‘Baby Room’ had agreed to give my daughter Anna a second chance.
I was informed they’d been able to stop the bleeding. A precautionary night in ‘Intensive Care’ would determine what treatment, if any, would be subsequently required.
The next morning, she was fine, and not long after that we went home.
There was no discussion about my driving.
Flash Forward, as they say in movies, to fifteen years later. We are attending a ‘Meet the Teachers’ event at Anna’s High School. I look around, and there, across the room, for the first time since that time in the ‘Birthing Room’…
I see the man.
I go over, tell him the story, and say thank you. A long hug may have also been involved. And why not? A miraculous thing had happened. And that guy had saved me.
That’s my story about ‘Grace.’
As close as possible to how I remember it.