The Birth of the Twins, Part 4 of 4

Sooo…. Here’s what happened between the births of baby number one and baby number two… from what I could piece together afterwards…

Like I said, Twin One, Billy, had been born and was across the room in an incubator. I knew he was full sized and healthy and relief had washed over me. Now it was just a matter of Twin Two joining us.

As the minutes passed I had no idea that it was getting to be a dangerous situation. Yes, baby number one had presented as “posterior” but that wasn’t so unusual and he was here now. What I didn’t know was that baby number two was breech and trying to come out butt first. The clock was ticking and baby number two was stuck.

Without warning, the anesthesiologist knocked me out and the doc reached in to get baby number two out. He pushed the baby back in far enough to unfold his legs and pull him out that way. My husband was still at my side and noticed that I was suddenly asleep. “Is she still alive?” he asked.

“Of course,” said the knock-out doc. “But it was time to get that baby out of there before he drowned.”

Other than that, I don’t know what happened in the room. All I know is my next recollection was some nurse leaning down on my stomach like she was trying to kill me. I woke up hollering and realized I was alone in the room with Nurse Ratchet.

“Where is everyone?” I asked.

Nurse Ratchet ignored me and continued to push on me.

“Quit it!” I yelled. “That hurts!”

Suddenly I was being wheeled down the hall and my husband was running by my side.

“What was it?” I asked.

But Bill was in some sort of la la land and was ignoring me.

“Hey!” I yelled again. “What was the second baby???”

Bill looked at me from far away and said “a boy! It’s a boy!”

“Alive?” I asked fearfully.

“Yes,” he answered. “We have two boys!” I sank back onto the cart in relief and closed my eyes.

And I can tell you what happened next, but before I do, I have to tell you about what happened out in the waiting room during the birthing time…

When baby number one was born, it was after midnight so all was quiet in the hospital except for my many relatives hanging tight outside the maternity ward doors.

I do think they had been told that we had gone into the delivery room and my sister-in-law Karen was standing at the double doors that went back to delivery. She had her ear pressed tight and when she heard a baby’s cry she turned and said to the waiting crowd, “it sounds like a girl!” Everyone cheered.

Then nothing. That 25 minutes between babies was a long time for everyone. And those “everyones” were getting worried. They couldn’t imagine what was happening until my husband Bill appeared in his scrubs and made the announcement… BOYS! TWO BOYS! And then Bill immediately disappeared to go call his dad at home.

Big Bill was sound asleep when the call came.

“Dad,” said young Bill to his father, “it’s two boys!”

“You don’t mean it!” exclaimed Big Bill.

“Yes, dad, it is! I have two boys!”

Both men dropped the phone in their excitement.

Young Bill came back to find me and see how I was doing.

Big Bill shot out of bed like a rocket.

Now normally, you wouldn’t see Big Bill unless he was dressed to the nines. This was a man who was meticulous about his clothes and he polished his shoes every single morning before work. He was punctual to a fault and never had a hair out of place. On top of that, he was a handsome dead-ringer for James Garner and was often mistaken for that celebrity when he traveled.

But not tonight.

Big Bill pulled on his trousers, wrapped a wrinkled shirt around his shoulders, buttoned up the wrong way, and slipped on his shoes with no socks. He jumped in the car and headed to town. At every red light he slowed almost to a stop to make sure no one was around and then went right on through. He made it back to the hospital in record time.

The rest of the family, who had been there for well over 12 hours at this point, were still sitting in plastic chairs outside the elevator to the maternity floor. Suddenly, to their surprise, Big Bill BURST through the double swinging doors so forcefully that both doors swung back and hit the wall.

“Where are they?” Bill demanded.

“We haven’t seen them yet,” said Karen. “Calm down, Dad, before you have a stroke!”

And right about that time, the nurses came through those same double doors with two incubators with the twin boys inside.

The entire family rose to their feet and closed in on the little rolling cribs.

But Big Bill was having none of that….

“Stand back!” he shouted. “Give them air!” And immediately everyone fell back.

And right then, I was wheeled through the door and saw them all there in the hall in a big cluster around my newborn sons. My husband was beaming from ear to ear and took control of that crowd while I was pushed on down the hall to a hospital room.

twins newborn

I was still in a bit of a daze and wasn’t completely sure of all that had happened. And even though it was almost 2am, the nurses recognized our excitement and humored us all.

I was transferred into a regular hospital bed and most of the family left. The ones that remained were my mom and Bill and Betty and they came to my room and stood on the left side of my bed. The nurses brought my new son Billy in for me to see and admire. He was pink and healthy and a joy to behold.

And then they brought me Brad. My baby I hadn’t seen yet. They told me he was a robust 6 pounds, 7 ounces, born at 1:11 am and that he was just fine. I looked at him in wonder. “He looks like a little mouse,” I said. I reached out to touch him but was almost too tired to hold him. The nurse held him close to me and I gave him a kiss on his tiny warm cheek. His little hands wiggled close to his face and they took him back to the nursery.

My mother and my in-laws, Bill and Betty were also newly in love with these beautiful babies. They patted me from the side of the bed and told me to rest and that they would be back the next day. Big Bill was so happy he could burst. And so were my mother and Betty. It was one happy day to be celebrated in our lives.

After everyone left, Dr. Clark came in to check on me. He gently squeezed my ankles and told me to sleep. I was exhausted but I noticed that he took a seat in a chair at the foot of my bed. And every once in a while when I would wake up, he was still there.

“Dr Clark?” I would say weakly… And he would rouse and touch my ankles again.

“Go to sleep, little girl,” he would say, and settle back in that uncomfortable straight chair.

When morning came he was still there but he got up and checked me one more time. Then he disappeared and left me on my own. I knew I had made it through the night and he had stayed with me just to be sure. It was a wonderful feeling.

Meanwhile, Bill and Betty had gone home and my mother went back to our house with my husband Bill. They had a couple drinks to celebrate before mom went home as well. It was still stifling hot so Bill decided to sleep in the glider on the front porch. In his underwear. Tighty Whities.

The sound of a lawnmower woke Bill up the next morning and for a minute he didn’t know where he was. He gradually remembered falling asleep on the porch and then noticed that there was new mail in the box in front of him. It must have been quite a surprise for the mailman to come up on the porch and see the man of the house snoring away in his undies. But Bill didn’t care one bit. He got his sons and it was time to go buy some cigars.

And naturally this wasn’t the end of the story. It was merely the beginning.

The Twins were here. And now we had to care for them and make sure they grew and thrived.

Thank goodness I was only 21 years old. And had a mother-in-law who was inexhaustible. No two boys in the world ever got more love or better care. Or caused such a commotion just arriving in the world!

That’s the Daubenmires for ya!

Proud Papa with his sons!

Bill twins

Love my babes even with my eyes closed!

Starr twins2

new-baby-clipart-1-tnCutest boys in the world!

boys stripes

The Birth of the Twins, Part 3 of 4

Finally these babies were really on their way. It was excitement, anticipation and fear all rolled into one. twins

So there I am, on the john, with water slowly but steadily leaking, wondering what to do. This was not something I had thought would happen. So I began to holler… “Bill! Bill, wake up!”

He did and came to the bathroom door. I explained the situation and he looked at me in total confusion.

“Bill,” I said, “you need to go back to the market (which was right behind our house across the alley) and get me some pads so I can deal with this water.”

He looked at me in total disbelief and said “NO! I can’t do that!”

“You HAVE to do that and you HAVE to do it right now!” I demanded.

He pulled on his clothes and realized he was trapped into this unpleasant mission. Bill disappeared out the back door while I sat in the bathroom and waited.

It took a while but he finally came back with what I needed.

“What took you so long?” I asked.

“The guy didn’t want to sell them to me,” he replied.

“Why in the world not?” I asked.

“Well, I didn’t exactly take them to the register,” he said. “I just told him the price and that I was going to take something off the shelf and leave. He wanted to know what it was and I couldn’t tell him. But when I explained the situation he let me have them. It just took a while.” I rolled my eyes because that was my Bill.

But at least we could now get ready to leave. I called the doc and he said come straight to the hospital. I also called my mom and Bill and Betty to tell them it was time.

I started having contractions and it was a bit startling. I suddenly knew this was going to be serious and not a whole lot of fun. But I could still be happy in between the pains and Bill and I were like Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball getting ready to go. I had a suitcase packed but it wasn’t latched because I kept changing what I wanted in it. Bill raced into the room and picked it up as it was and when he hit the front door he dropped it and everything flew out onto the front walk.

I glared at him but he was more excited than anything else. He stuffed it all back in the case and locked it shut and aimed the camera at me. I wish I had that photo to post here… it says it all!

We drove across town to the hospital and kept exchanging glances. “We are having our babies today!” we said to each other. And we were both smiling ear to ear because it seemed so unreal. At this point we were still “playing house” and it was like a magical fairy tale. Soon we would have two beautiful babes to live happily ever after with.

Well, that fantasy went down in flames pretty quick!

When we got off the elevator on the maternity floor, my mother was already there. I wondered what she would do all day since there was no family waiting room at that time. But I didn’t have long to worry about it.

I was taken to a labor room, put in a gown and given an enema. Ewwwwww! This was an old hospital without bathrooms in the rooms and no air conditioning (and I already mentioned the heat wave we were having.) So I immediately popped out of that bed and had to run down the hall to the bathroom. Bill helped me hold my gown closed on the way. When I reached the bathroom, one nurse yelled out, “Don’t close the door, you’ll smother in there!”

Bill draped himself across the door while I moaned and let the enema do its work. Contractions would hit and I would moan louder and Bill didn’t know what to do. But he was there and we were together, so it was fine.

After a long time I felt ready to go back to my room. But already, by this point, I could have cared less if that gown was covering me up. Bill tried to hold it shut while I stumbled back to my room.

We had arrived at the hospital about 10am and now it was noon or so. Since the docs had told us that twins come quick – in fact, practically “fall out,” we thought it wouldn’t take very long. We were WRONG.

The day grew hotter, the contractions grew harder and I was more miserable every hour. I had taken Lamaze classes and had naively insisted on a “natural birth” but I was beginning to regret that decision. Betty had cautioned me… “you think you want to hear that baby’s first cry, but you will be hearing them cry for years after that. Take the drugs!” she warned. I should have listened…

More relatives had arrived and they were all sitting outside the elevator since there was no family waiting room. The nurses were getting impatient about it, but Betty was friends with my doctor and he told them to let the family stay. They were a crowd! And they got hungry! My sister-in-law Karen took over and ordered food to be delivered. Twice. They all stayed all day. And one at a time they would come back to see me.

I got less and less thrilled to have visitors. I took my Lamaze training very seriously. It had instructed that I focus on some special spot while doing my breathing during contractions. There was a shiny metal trashcan in the room with a very bright reflection on it and that was my “spot.” So whenever someone came in the room to visit, they would stand between me and that trashcan. I would send dirty looks to my husband to have them move out of the way.

“You’re blocking the trashcan,” he would tell them.

“What?” and he would have to explain. They left the room in a hurry. I continued to stare at that trashcan.

I had a couple shots of Demerol but it was pretty much like taking an aspirin for a gunshot wound. It didn’t make a dent. I told the nurses I changed my mind and wanted something stronger. They advised me that I had waited too long and couldn’t have anything else. Eye yi yi!

Things grew more intense later that night. It had been a long day and I was dying of thirst in the heat. Bill actually got me a glass of water before he found out I wasn’t allowed to have any. But I begged for more. A nurse brought in a wet washcloth and held it to my lips. I clenched my teeth around it and sucked on it like a dog protecting a bone. She tried to pry it lose from my mouth and we had a battle. I think I got a good amount of liquid out of it before she got it away from me. However, I might have won that one, but I didn’t get any more…

We were down to serious business now. The doctor and nurses would come in and check and I would be as cheerful as I could be. “I’m fine,” I would say when they were in the room. But the very instant they left, I would lash out at my husband with curse words I didn’t even know I knew. I cussed him to tarnation and back whenever we were alone.

Finally, the doc came in and Bill said, “do you think you could stay in here for a while? She goes crazy when you leave the room and I don’t know what to do!” Now HE had the deer-in-headlights look and the doc seemed to totally understand.

After that there were always a couple other people in the room with us. I had to be on my “better” behavior. Drats!

It was getting towards midnight and all of the family was still there. They knew it couldn’t be much longer. But my father-in-law, Big Bill had to go to work the next day so he decided to go home. He talked briefly to my husband (his oldest son, Bill) and told him he was leaving. “Call me when those little girls are born,” he said.

Things speeded up at that point. I was wheeled into delivery and the time was finally upon us. I was so past the pain I didn’t care what happened. I just wanted my babies to get here. Baby number one was not face down as normal. The back of the head was “posterior” and had given me back labor for many hours.

In spite of being fully dilated, there wasn’t enough room for this baby to arrive. The doc made a strategic cut – which burned like fire. My immediate thought was “this must be what it is like to be stabbed!”

baby footprintsBut I didn’t have long to dwell on that. My first baby shot into to the world at 12:46 am on June 11, 1973. It was a gorgeous baby boy, 7 pounds, 2 ounces, wailing his little head off. It was one of the happiest moments of my life. They held him up to me just briefly and then put him in an incubator across the room. I looked at him with longing wanting to hold him close, but I still had another baby to deliver.

“Please,” I said, “don’t tell any of the family about him just yet. I want to know what both of my babies are first and then we can share with everyone else.” Everyone in the room nodded in agreement.

Then we waited.

And waited.

It got very quiet and I said, “this sure beats waiting 9 months for having baby number two!”

“Jesus!” said the anesthesiologist behind my head. “I think it IS going to be nine months!”

I was a bit delirious at the time and didn’t know what he was talking about. The fact is, most twins are born within 1-3 minutes of each other. We were going on 20 minutes. But I had no idea this was unusual.

Then everything went black.

Later, I woke up with a nurse applying pressure to my abdomen. “YOUCH!” I cried as I came back to consciousness.

I realized I was alone in the room with a nurse and everyone else was gone.

“What’s happening?” I cried in alarm. She didn’t answer me. But soon I was being wheeled down the hall and my husband, still in his scrubs, was trotting along beside me.

“What was it?” I asked in confusion.

Bill had a huge grin on his face and was completely ignoring me.

“Was the baby alive?” I squealed. That seemed to get his attention.

“Yes!” he cried. “It’s a boy!” And I laid back in total relief. I had two sons. I didn’t know their condition but they had been born alive and that was the first hurdle. I could handle anything that happened after that….

twins pea pod

The Birth of the Twins, Part 2 of 4

The whole family was very excited to hear our news of expecting twins. This was unusual in both of our families and anticipation was high.

Of course my due date was pushed back to the original so I still had a month or so to go. Based on my size, no one (including myself) thought I could possibly go that long.

The doctor had told me to take it easy and be sure to have a rest break every afternoon off my feet. He said it was important to get as far past 36 weeks as possible so both babies would have fully developed lungs. So I was vigilant in complying because inside I was very fearful. I was so young and inexperienced that I couldn’t imagine both babies being healthy. I was scared to death that I would come home with only one – or none at all.

Family members would call and offer to buy a second crib or second high chair. It was so generous that I cried but I asked them to wait until the babies were born. I didn’t want to come home to two of everything if I didn’t have two babies to put in them.

Time passed and I grew even larger.

When I would lay on the couch for my afternoon break, my belly would shift to the side I was laying on. Then, when I sat up, I would have to gently shift it all back to the middle so I could stand up.

I began to have to stand sideways to do the dishes. I could no longer drive because my arms weren’t long enough to reach the steering wheel around my belly.

It was late May, early June and we were having a heat wave. We didn’t have air conditioning in our small rental house and I was miserable. I packed on 25 pounds in 3 weeks and couldn’t get my shoes on. My mother-in-law, Betty, came and got me to go to the obstetrician. I went in my slippers.

Dr. Clark, who I adored, said if I went much longer he would come to my house to see me. He and Betty were friends and he was a very kind man. Then, when Betty and I left the office she wanted to take me to lunch. I was glad to go since that was a rare treat at the time.

We went to Frisch’s and sat in a booth and talked while we ate. Betty kept reassuring me that everything would be just fine and I really wanted to believe her.

Finally it was time to leave and I started to scoot out of the booth. But after eating, my belly was firmly wedged against the edge of the booth and I couldn’t move. I froze.

Betty saw the look on my face and asked, “what’s wrong?”

I looked at her like a deer in the headlights and said, “I’m stuck.”

“Oh my god, are you sure???” she asked in alarm.

Tears filled my eyes as I wiggled back and forth and couldn’t move an inch.

“Sit still!” demanded Betty. “Don’t hurt those babies!”

I leaned my head back and took a deep breath. I tried to move again but nothing budged.

“I’m going to have them call the Fire Department,” said Betty.

“Oh, no! Please, no!” I wailed. “Please sit down and let’s think about this for a minute.”

Betty did as I asked and we looked at each other for a minute or so. “Betty,” I said. “I can’t have the Fire Department come. This is too embarrassing and I will never live it down.” Tears streamed down my face.

“Well, I’ll tell you right now that you are no bigger than I ever was so you don’t need to be embarrassed one bit,” Betty said. “And we are going to get you out of here.”

At that she stood up and pulled on my side of the table with all her might. And she moved it just enough that I was able to break loose and get out of the booth. Betty immediately stood me up and smoothed down my top and helped me get my balance. She held my arm as I waddled out of Frisch’s in my slippers and dried my eyes. Then she took me home and tucked me in for a rest break. I was exhausted.

(Note: This photo was taken BEFORE I gained that last 25 pounds and got stuck in the booth!)

Starr twins

But Betty never left me in spirit for a minute. She would call several times a day to check on me and show up often to bring food and do dishes and laundry. She was a one-woman rescue machine that took very good care of me.

Finally my due date was here. The doctor told me to call if I even THOUGHT I was in labor because these were definitely full term twins and they could come fast. He even told me to consider the possibility of triplets based on my size. So I spent a lot of my downtime picking out names for all the possibilities and writing them on paper to see how they looked.

My original twin names were…

Girls: Amanda and Miranda (Mandi and Randi) with the addition of Melinda if necessary. (yikes!)

Boys: William and Bradley (Bill and Brad) with the addition of Brian if necessary.

Mixed: first choice of each.

Meanwhile, I understand that it is not uncommon for late stage pregnancy to have vivid dreams. And boy did I have them. One in particular stood out…

I had my babies but they were not babies, they were pencils. 15 of them. After the birth I went to the hospital nursery to see them. They were in long skinny boxes with no names, just colors. There were 10 blue ones and 5 pink ones. I wondered what I would do with them and how I would explain this situation. Then I woke up. Geez!!!

Now the birth was imminent but my in-laws, Bill and Betty were constantly on the watch with us. On a Saturday night they called and wanted to take us out for pizza at one of our favorite places, The Castaways. We jumped at the chance. The only thing was, this place was located at the top of a VERY bumpy hill. Big Bill drove up it slowly but it was still quite jarring to me. He and Betty both laughed and said it was part of their secret plan to get those babies moving.

We enjoyed a very nice dinner even though I had to sit so far back from the table that I couldn’t reach my plate. My husband would put the pizza on the plate and hand it to me while everyone grinned. They weren’t making fun of me at all so it was quite fun.

After dinner we got up to leave and had to wind our way through all the tables to the exit door. At one point I turned around for something and was surprised to see most of the restaurant patrons staring at me in surprise. Many of them had forks frozen in mid-air as they took in the sight of my enormous belly. Betty immediately noticed and put her arm around me. “Let’s get you to the car,” she said. And I took comfort in her support.

Bill and Betty dropped us off at home and it was a wickedly hot night. Bill and I decided to sleep in the living room with the windows open as it was the coolest place in the house. I took the couch and he slept on the floor beside me.

I awoke the next morning, a Sunday, about 7am. Naturally my bladder was about to burst, so I got up and made my way to the bathroom. And all of sudden there was a whoosh of water that wouldn’t stop.

It was Sunday, June 10, 1973 and the arrival of the twins had begun…


The Birth of the Twins, Part 1 of 4

OK, folks, I’m back in story-telling mode. The beauty of having a blog is you get to tell your own stories, your own way and people can read them or not! But it is my way of getting our family history recorded while I can still remember it. This blog is somewhat of a legacy for me, both with stories and sketches. So here goes a 4-part series to relate how my twin sons arrived on the scene over 40 years ago. They’re getting to be old farts (so I don’t know what that makes me!) but who doesn’t like to hear the story of their birth? And this one is pretty entertaining…

Having a baby is a BIG event in any family. But having TWINS really ramps things up quite a bit!

So let me give you a little background here before I tell you the story…

  • My former mother- and father-in-law, Bill and Betty, were a big part of this story. Sadly, Betty passed away this past week and I am mourning for her. I wrote about her here.
  • After the funeral, Bill called me to chat and we talked about so many things… including the day the twins were born… and that’s what prompted me to write this blog entry.
  • The fact that the twins were a “big deal” is in no way derogatory to the rest of the grandkids or my own daughter who arrived a couple years later. Every child in a family is precious. That goes without saying. And this is just the story of when my boys were born into the Daubenmire family. It was a very fun event looking back. I’m not exactly sure what it was to everyone else at the time, but I’ll attempt to tell my side of it because I am recording my family stories here on my blog.

Flashback to 1973. I’m 21 years old and have been married just over a year. My husband and I are expecting a baby. It was surreal because major life changes were happening so fast.

There were no sonograms at that time. You had to wait until the baby was born to find out if it was a boy or a girl. It was a major issue of curiosity, but it was the same for everyone, so it was part of the experience.

My husband really wanted a boy. And I wanted a boy so that I could “please” everyone. That sounds rather ridiculous now, but you must remember it was an expectation born of many centuries of carrying on the family name. It was important to achieve. Honestly, even then, if the newborn in the Royal Family of England was a girl, she would not inherit the throne if a son was born after her. It’s just the way it was. And I felt that pressure… bigtime.

While I was pregnant, my husband and I would go out in the car at times to get an ice cream cone and just enjoy a drive. We often stopped at a ballpark across town to watch the little league play for a while. I could see the wistful look in his eyes of having a son who would be playing there in a few years. I hoped upon hope that the baby would be a boy.

Naturally, we would not give it back if it was a girl, so please don’t criticize me here. Like I said, it’s just the way it was.

Time passed and I grew bigger by the day. It was distressing to look so huge and be gaining so much weight so quickly. I would go to the doctor and he would say, “Whoa! You need to slow down! You’re gaining way too fast!”

I was devastated because I watched my weight constantly and no matter what I did, it seemed to be out of control. And I got mysterious looks from everyone I knew for the size of my belly. Finally, the doctor said, “You must have calculated wrong. We need to move your due date up by a month.”

That was a relief to me and the family responded by immediately having a baby shower. It was so fun to get the tiny newborn outfits. Most were “neutral” since the gender of the baby wasn’t known. But there were more than a few hints with “blue” gifts. And that made me uneasy (although I had a smile on my face) because my gut feeling was that it would be a girl. Now I wouldn’t be one bit disappointed with that outcome, but I still worried about not “delivering” the highly anticipated male child for the family.

Now let’s clarify this again…

Young women today may not realize the significance of this time period when I felt such pressure to birth a boy baby. They might say, “that wouldn’t have mattered at all! We would love a girl as much as a boy!” And that is absolutely true. But what I am trying to acknowledge here is the generational pressure to produce “an heir” – which embodies the traditional expectation of many families past and present. It is unspoken now, to be sure. But it was – and is – still there. And maybe it was more my own impression because it certainly wasn’t voiced specifically outside of a few “hints” that I was very sensitive to.

So back to 1973…

I grew and grew.

I was enormous.

I felt like an embarrassment.

The day after the impromptu baby shower I had a doctor’s appointment. I gathered up all the “doubles” I had gotten at the shower and made store returns on my way to the doctor. I was proud of myself for being so organized.

When I got to the doctor that day in May 1973, my personal doctor was out on an emergency and another doctor was filling in at the office. “Oh, no!” I thought. “Now I’m gonna get yelled at by a new doctor when he sees my weight. That’s just great.”

I went in when my name was called and faced the dreaded scale. Then I climbed up on the table and prepared myself for a good scolding. I felt like some kind of failure at being pregnant.

The substitute doctor came in and sure enough, he said, “You’ve gained way too much weight and it is piling on every week. What’s going on here?”

I began to cry. “I’m not doing anything different,” I wailed. “I just don’t understand!”

He softened at that point and had me lay back on the table. He took out his tape measure and recorded my belly size. Then he began to gently feel my belly with his hands. An odd look came over his face. I waited to hear what he had to say.

Finally, after several tense minutes, the doctor looked down at me and said, “I think I know what is going on here. I’m pretty sure you have two babies in there.”

I was stunned. That thought had never occurred to me but it would explain a lot. Boy would it ever!

“I’m going to send you for an x-ray right now,” said the doc. “It’s right down the street and they can tell immediately if you are having twins.” I got up and left in a daze.

I drove over to the hospital where I was greeted by a clerk in the x-ray department. She directed me to a cubicle where I was to change into one of those hospital gowns that ties in the back.

Ahem… needless to say, this gown wouldn’t begin to go around me and now my entire backside is hanging out. And while I am trying to do something about it, the x-ray technician comes to get me. I am mortified.

“My gown doesn’t fit!” I exclaimed.

“Don’t worry about it.” he replied. But I did because he was a very handsome, very young MAN and I was a hippopotamus. I was embarrassed to death.

“Follow me,” said Mr. Dreamy. And I did.

I laid on a slab of a table while he pointed an x-ray machine at me and left the room. I heard the clicks and then he returned.

“What did it show?” I asked.

“I’m not allowed to say,” Mr. Dreamy replied. “Your doctor has to get the results and then he will call you.”

I began to cry again. And this seemed to affect Mr. Dreamy in a sympathetic way.

“Alright,” he said. “I’m not supposed to say anything, but either you are having twins or your baby has two heads.”

“You saw two?” I exclaimed.

“Yes, but don’t say I told you so. Just get dressed and get out of here so I don’t lose my job.”

And that is what I did. I was so befuddled I didn’t care that my gown was open in the back. I got dressed quickly and left.

But I only drove half a block when I spied a pay phone outside the drug store on the corner. I wheeled into the parking lot, got some change out of my purse and called my husband at work. I simply could not wait another minute to share this news.

“Hello,” came his voice at the other end of the line. “What do you need?”

“I just have to tell you something,” I replied. I paused for a few seconds and said, “I just had an x-ray at the hospital and we are having twins!”

Now I had had a few minutes to absorb this idea, but he hadn’t. And the other end of the line went dead. I heard a thud as he must have dropped the phone and it hit the wall.

“Bill? Bill?” I shouted into the phone. “Are you there, Bill?”

No answer. I had to hang up and go home.

By the time he came home from work, he was more used to the idea. Still we looked at each other in surprise. We were going to have TWO babies. How was this possible? And how would we manage? Things were tight. We were prepared to stretch for adding one child, but now two? What were we going to do?

My biggest worry was that I could carry and birth two healthy babies. It seemed like a long shot. I was very concerned.

But Bill looked at me and said in all seriousness…

“I’m going to have two sons!” And he grinned like the Cheshire Cat in the story of Alice.

Meanwhile, my heart sank just a little as I put on a wan smile.

“Of course you are!” I agreed. But I knew in my heart that we would have two girls and while we wouldn’t be disappointed – NEVER disappointed –the pressure was on. And now it was double….


For the Love of Betty Jean

This morning, at 6:45am, Betty Jean Tisdale Daubenmire, age 84, took her final breath on this earth.

Most of the world will not have noticed this event but it is one that took my breath away.

For several reasons…

One, this woman gave birth to the man I married in December 1971, William E. Daubenmire, Jr. He was her oldest son and my husband from 1971 until 1994. Somewhere around 23 years or so.

My husband and I had 3 children… twin sons, William, III and Dennis Bradley (called Billy and Brad) – Billy, of course, was named after his dad as well as his grandfather (Betty Jean’s husband.)  Brad was named for Betty Jean’s father, Dennis Tisdale. But Betty’s dad “Denny” was a real rascal… and his middle name just happened to be William, so he claimed both of my boys as his namesake! (Of course he did!) But my father-in-law knew what was what and never minded. A couple years later I had my daughter Ellyn – also one of the best days of my life.

Second, Betty Jean was one firecracker of a gal. She was the oldest child in her family, followed by – count ’em – FIVE younger brothers. Her momma and daddy made a worker out of her and that was what she was for the entire rest of her life.

When I met Betty back in 1971, she was an experienced mother of five, with children ranging from age 22 to 5. Yep… her oldest daughter was grown. Then there were 3 boys and another daughter just barely into kindergarten.

I was soon to marry her 20-yr-old son Bill and she was thrilled about it. Betty loved me on sight – I have no idea why, but that is really how she was – and she was one whirlwind of a person. My boyfriend, Bill would drag me out to his mother and dad’s house on BIS Road and Betty would usher me in with open arms. “Sit down at the bar and talk to me while I cook!”

I was shy and had no idea what to say but that was never a problem. Once Betty got started talking there was no stopping her. And when it was time to say goodbye… that’s when Betty really sprang into action…

“Do you need some mixing bowls?” she would ask.

I’d look at her a bit dumbfounded and not reply.

“Well, I have all these mixing bowls I can’t use so you might as well take some home with you.”

And so we would load them in the back of my vintage 60s VW and then Betty would say, “Wait! I just thought of something else!”

Back in the house she would go and come out with dish towels, serving trays, soap, paper products and even a couple boxes of cereal for good measure. I truly did not know what to think. And it took me 10 trips into the house when I got home to unload it all!

THAT… was Betty Jean. For the whole time I ever knew her.

I can honestly say she was my mother-in-law for over 20 years and I NEVER left her house empty-handed. Ever.

But as they say on those infamous late-night commercials… “Wait! There’s more!”

With Betty, there was ALWAYS more.

More, more, more.

She was the most generous woman ever born on Planet Earth.

When Betty started her own private party business in 1973 I was the first one she hired and trained to help her. She taught me to waitress, bartend and be an all-around hospitality specialist. I was glad for the work, but I was never as enthusiastic as she was to make people happy. Me? I wanted to get the job done and go home. Betty? She wanted everyone to have a wonderful experience and she made sure it happened. Which was an awfully nice thing. Except I was a young punk who didn’t appreciate her at the time and I wanted to slug her in the face at times.

No matter. Betty knew her customers and she took care of them. In spades. She also knew her employees (including me) and took care of them, too. Betty was so wildly generous she would pay me for more hours than I worked! She would even pay me when I didn’t work at all!! She loved her family so much that she would donate her own pay to make sure that her grandchildren had the nicest clothes, the best shoes and the latest toys on the market.

Was it Paradise? Heck, no…

There were times when Betty and I drove each other crazy. Absolutely Bat-$hit Crazy.

Betty had a heart of gold but a notoriously short temper. She was known to let loose a raw opinion or two. And I was sometimes the target.

So we fought. And made up. And fought. And made up again.

After all, I was the first daughter-in-law in the family. We both needed someone to practice on…

Then… finally… her other boys got married.

And their wives were not nearly as shy as I had been.

All hell broke loose. Betty ran rampage over the new DILs and took no prisoners. I sat back and enjoyed the show. After all, I was looking pretty spectacular at this point…

But soon, we all settled down and got along. Betty loved her family above all else and that was what ruled. And like a big ole fat cat, I took on the role of Number 1 DIL… I was “Her Highness in Waiting” right behind the woman known as Betty Jean… (or to the family as “Queenie.”) And I LOVED it.

Hey, I had paid my dues to the well-known MIL terrorist. Now everybody else could just stand back and kiss my ring!

Things went along smoothly for years and years until the mid 90s. My husband Bill moved our family away from the sacred nest to a location about 100 miles south. The kids and I didn’t want to go but we did. And it turned out to be a good move after all.

Sadly, my husband and I divorced a couple years after that move but that didn’t matter to Bill and Betty. We remained close in all those years since.

Time passed.

Betty developed Alzheimer’s Disease. The entire family was thrown into a downward spiral…

At first she could no longer tell Billy and Brad apart. She would look at Ellyn and wonder if she knew her from somewhere. She would talk to me about getting divorced and ask, “what happened?” It was like she was my teen-aged girlfriend, not my second mother…

Down, down, down she went. Into an endless black hole that there was no escape from.

Betty’s husband Bill took excellent care of her. He tended to her every need at home for as long as he could. When that was no longer possible, he put her in constant care but went and helped every single day. For years.

A couple days ago it became obvious that Betty would not survive much longer. My FIL Bill was told this news and went home to begin his grieving process. He called me and told me about it. We cried together on the phone.

When Hospice was called in, everyone was notified. Betty was at the last stop on the train station of life. Our heartbreak was about to materialize.

Betty Jean’s husband Bill is no coward. He took the situation in hand. He tried to feed her until the very last moment when she could no longer take in sustenance. He never – ever – gave up.

At the end, Hospice advised Bill to get into bed with Betty and hold her as she gasped for her final breaths. With no qualms at all, this brave soldier of a man threw back the covers and climbed in beside her. He had loved her dearly for every day of their 67 year marriage and he would not leave her alone now. No way. No way.

And that’s how Bill and Betty Jean spent the last night of their lives together on this earth God has blessed us with. At 6:45 am this morning, Betty Jean took her last breath with her husband’s arms tight around her.

I am so happy that he was there for her. It is a love story like you will never see in a Hollywood movie. It was true. It was real. It was a lasting tribute to 67 years together.

How privileged I am to be a very small part of their lives. My children and I knew them for well over 40 years. Through good times and bad. Through thick and thin. And they never wavered. They faced everything life dealt them head on.

One of the best things I ever did for my children was marry into this family. My father-in-law – and his lifetime wife – have given my children a legacy I could never create if I tried. I love them so much. I will love them for eternity.

This post is for the Love of Betty Jean. I was stupid enough not to appreciate her in the beginning but God gave me enough time to love her with all my heart.

And… here is a postscript….

Back in 1994, I was working on portraits of Bill and Betty as a gift for my husband. Then life happened and the project was never finished. I already had Betty’s done and put it away for another time. Now… 21 years later, here is the colored pencil  rendition of Betty from 1994.

Betty Jean

I’d like for someone in the family to have it, so we’ll figure that out.

Thank you for reading today about my love of Betty Jean. She was so special. Very special indeed.

Betty Jean Tisdale Daubenmire – July 19, 1930 – June 16, 2015 – sadly missed by a very large, loving family who owe their own existence to her. We will always love you, Betty Jean.

Jurassic World

I think it was just about 22 years ago that my family made a beeline for the movie theater to see the breakout movie, Jurassic Park. And what a thrill it was! We jumped in our seats and munched popcorn between scenes where someone would suddenly be ejected off camera into a waiting dinosaur’s mouth. Yikes!

Back then I didn’t have any grandkids yet – now I have 5 and a new one due in a few weeks. (Very excited for that!)

So last week, my daughter called me up and said, “hey… wanna go see Jurassic World with us on opening day?”

Wow, did I! Her kids are my oldest grands. AJ is 16, Josey is 15 and Colin is 13. All old enough for some dino action. I actually got excited about it because I knew it would be rich in special effects and I could enjoy it without getting scared out of my wits for real…

You see, I am not a person who likes scary movies. Not the slashy murder type anyway. Good grief… that stuff really happens! I don’t need to know too much about it to keep me awake at night!

But dinosaurs? I’ve got that covered. They are not sharks in the oceans or grizzlies in the woods so I can get down with non-existent dinosaurs. Seeing them recreated is rather fun.

So me and the fam met at the theater and we all stocked up on popcorn and drinks. We snuck in our candy treats as usual. We rearranged our seats a couple times until we were all comfy. (Colin is the youngest and he still wants to sit next to his Nonna (me) so that’s how we roll.)

Finally the movie started. Colin and I were sharing a monstrous bag of popcorn and enjoying every salty, fake-buttery bit of it. We whispered back and forth because we knew the movie was going to get pretty exciting any minute.

And it did…

Jurassic World is a theme park, you know. And soon the dinos are gonna go wild. But for now, a huge shark is lowered over a water tank and the MOST ENORMOUS CRAZY CREATURE swoops out of the water to eat it! We all lunge back in our seats and try not to choke on our popcorn.

And that’s only the beginning….

Now we are immersed in the movie. The villian-istic Indominous Rex gets loose and the entire park is in danger. One thing leads to another and soon Teradactyls are swarming the skies and plucking innocent park-goers off the ground. We duck and sway in our seats.

But of course there is our hero, Owen – and his previously non-admitted love interest, Claire. Who just happens to have her nephews visiting the park that day and they are in imminent danger! Oh no!!!

Claire (in high heels) joins Owen to rescue said nephews who are busy rebuilding a car engine in the long-lost parking garage of Jurassic Park film #1. How a 12 and 15 year old are capable of this is a bit mysterious but we fully believe that not only can they do it… they will escape from Indominous Rex – leaving Owen and Claire to battle it out on their own. We can only wonder… will Claire be able to run in those shoes?

Colin and I continued to eat our popcorn and exchanged many surprised glances. And occasionally we reared back in our seats and stared at each other in surprise. This went on for the whole movie! (I don’t think Colin could open his mouth any wider!)

At last, Owen takes his team of raptors on the hunt through the Jungle for the wicked predator. He is their “Alpha” and they run furiously by his side as he speeds his motorcycle through the night-lit vegetation. The Raptors are my FAVORITE so I have drawn them here…

Jurassic World

Let’s just say the movie plays out as you would expect but in true predatory style, you never see the surprises coming. And that’s what makes it so fun. Colin had wrapped his arm in mine and would occasionally hide his face but at one point he jumped back so forcefully in his seat while our arms were still entwined that he nearly caused me to slap him in the face with my own hand!

But what a fun time we had.

Honestly, it was the best film I’ve seen in ages. I love getting scared over things you can’t really get scared about. And that’s a rare thing. It’s like going to an amusement park. Everyone wants to ride the roller coaster for a thrill. Ha! I HATE roller coasters… they scare the liver out of me. They are NOT fun. They are DEATH TRAPS as far as I am concerned.

Nope… take me to a spin-ny ride immediately. The spin-nier… the better. The scrambler? Love it! And my favorite? That one at Cedar Point (Sandusky OH) where you get in this big round tube with velcro on the walls. It spins so fast that when they drop the floor out from underneath you, you stick to the wall! Your hair is plastered all round your head and you are hanging there for dear life. I could ride that thing all day. (And I have… alone!)

So give me spin-ny rides and movies like Jurassic World. That’s my idea of a BLAST!!!

Finishing up the Hampton Garden

Hi everyone! Thanks for indulging me while I recount my once-fabulous Hampton Garden. It took years to build and develop – with a lot of help – and it meant so much to me. I think this post will get the rest of the decent sketches out of that garden journal and then we’ll have to move on.

Moving on is never a problem. Fortunately for me, my best friend in the world (my daughter Ellyn) has been establishing my new garden. She asked me the other day what I will call this one. I have been referring to the one at my former house as the “Hampton Garden” since I lived on a lovely street called Hampton Place. And NO ONE had a garden or house or front porch as nice as mine. I couldn’t have done it alone, of course. But all my kids helped and I spent many a year enjoying it for all it was worth.

My new place is in a complex called Greenmont Village. Ellyn and I were tossing about the idea of the “Greenmont Garden.” But as I sit here and think about it, I’m kind of favoring the “Village Garden.” It just has a nice ring to it for me. (You are welcome to leave your thoughts in the comments below and I will consider them!)

Meanwhile, let’s wrap up the Hampton Garden which will always live in my memory. And isn’t that a nice thing? Nothing stays the same forever, but no one can ever take your memories from you. Thank goodness for that. So here we go…

My back garden on Hampton had a lot of shade and Hostas were the perfect filler plant. I had many varieties…

Hampton Hostas

After the big old Water Maple Tree out front had to come down, I got LOTS of sun in the bed right by the front porch. It was perfect for a KnockOut rose in cherry red. That thing got ENORMOUS and thrived in that spot!

Knockout RoseAnd since I love Roses so much, Ellyn helped me plant a few more in the sunniest spots.

sky's the limitRoses

Then…. the only thing I love as much as flowers…. is TOMATOES. Oh my…. GLORIOUS TOMATOES. Big ones, little ones. early ones. late ones… I love them all. In fact there was a very small variety called SPUN SUGAR (or something like that) that was my absolute favorite. They were a small yellow oval about the size of a grape and not a one of them ever made it to the house. When I would look out the window and see that flash of yellow in the sun, I would race out and pluck it and eat it on the spot. Most delicious thing in the entire world.


So now we have wrapped up the Hampton Garden and I will be continuing on with my new Village Garden. It is the highlight of this time of year. It is not like my former garden at all, but it is still very lovely. And there is lots to tell!

Hampton Garden, continued

By now you know how much I loved my Hampton Garden. I have a couple posts left here to share with you the beauties of that little paradise.

As far as spring bloomers went, there were several stars among the plants. First, Bleeding Hearts.This plant with heart-shaped blooms loves partial to full shade in moist, well-drained soil. I truly loved seeing its glorious display each spring…

bleeding hearts

And then there were Coral Bells.This plant enjoys shade or filtered sun. Thankfully, Ellyn had some extras in her yard and put a few in my border at my Dayton House. They are glorious! (And very popular with hummingbirds).

Coral Bells

The Columbine were always spectacular. I have a grandson named Colin and he likes to think that Columbine were named for him. Hey… who am I to argue that? These bell-shaped flowers are also attractive to hummingbirds. That’s good enough for me to include them in my garden…


Then there was the Dogwood. This tree, with its vibrant pink spring blooms, could literally stop traffic. Because it is one of the earliest spring-blooming trees it gives everyone cabin fever. But come fall, the leaves turn a fiery red to herald fall. In addition, its fruit is a major food source for robins and cardinals. Maybe that’s why those birds made a permanent home in my yard!


I think there might be one more Hampton Garden Post left. Thanks so much for letting me recall the garden I spent so many years building and enjoying. It truly was a small paradise.

Catching Up on the Hampton Garden

I’m still posting from my Hampton House Garden Journal while I work on some new sketches. They are very fond memories for me. I invested in a custom made copper window box for the one front window that was open to the southern sun during the day. It sat in its wrought iron holder and the flowers just bloomed and bloomed.

copper window box

One thing I loved about my little brick house was the matching brick garage and the brick archway between it and the house. I never minded that the garage was detached. The house was built in 1951 (the same year I was born) and it was part of the charm. I felt like me and that house were in the same time warp and I enjoyed keeping it just the way it was.

Hampton garage

I added some echinacea to the side beds along the drive and it multiplied beautifully. It finally spread so much that I was able to move a patch of it out back. Having perennials and dividing them is a wonderful thing.


I also put in a blue hydrangea out back where I could see it from the kitchen window while doing dishes. But it didn’t stay blue. I guess it depends on the soil whether the blooms are pink or blue and I ended up with pink. I know you can amend the soil to get what you want, but I never did. I just love hydrangea blooms.


Then one night I just sat out back and did a sketch of the garden in progress. I only had a blue pen on me so this is the garden in blue… as it was at the time.

garden in blue

I’ll probably do a couple more posts of the Hampton Garden and then wrap it up. Then I’ll have a record of that garden that I loved so much!

Garden Critters

The nice thing about a garden is that various kinds of wildlife find it and make it their home. It’s a great thing to see when you’re smack dab in the city and my Hampton Garden was very much an oasis among acres of green lawns.

For years a family of cardinals lived in the large pine tree out back. They stayed year-round and were beautiful to watch on a snowy day. The male, of course, is the bright red one while the female blends in more with the trees. I’m sure that’s for her protection since she is constantly raising new broods. And I just love that they mate for life and both help raise the young.

This cardinal family was actually very active. On a spring or summer day I would be sitting on the front porch reading and see one or both come flying around the side of the house and land in the neighbor’s tree across the street. They would sing and flit about for a while and then fly back to their home in the big pine in my backyard. Over and over they would repeat this circuit and I enjoyed it immensely. And I’m sure some of the babes stayed on because there were always cardinals in the yard for the over 20 years I lived there.

cardinal 1cardinal 2

Another critter – a much less welcome one – was the racoon. I kept blaming my neighbor’s dog (he was always jumping the fence) for my trash being spilled until I realized something was taking the lids off the cans. My son was back home at the time so he put a flashlight by his bed. One night when he heard the trash cans being disturbed, he jumped up and shone the light out the window.

And there they were… 3 masked bandits looking for something to eat. Racoons. Three of them!

Racoons may have a charming look, however they are anything but. They have excellent night vision and superior dexterity because they have thumbs! They are also very clever and have been known to outsmart and even kill hound dogs trained to track them. Their teeth and claws can be deadly. So my son and I cleaned out a place in the garage to move the trash. No need to attract these guys to the yard at night!

racoons 1racoons 2

But one of my very favorite pages in my Garden Sketch Journal is the following page. I was in the garden sketching one day and I saw a chipmunk. Not the usual squirrels. After a quick chat I learned his name was Charles and he confided some of his secrets. I asked him if he would like to do a guest column in the sketch book. He was hesitant at first but he did think it was important that humans have a better understanding and more respect for his kind. Especially when it comes to cats. And then he really surprised me by sharing a few family photos. So if you are as intrigued as I was, click on this photo and click again to enlarge it. Then you can read what he had to say!

Charles Chipmunk

I’ll probably be staying on this garden journal subject until I get most of that book posted. And then we’ll be off to who knows where. Every day, even in a very ordinary life like mine, is somewhat of a new adventure. If I don’t leave home my mind still wanders to fun places and I enjoy recording it. I hope you enjoy it, too.

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