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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Father (as in paternal parent, not God) (04/10/08)

TITLE: 36 Hours
By Nancy Jo Wilson


I can only tell the story the way my father does. Because he is a master storyteller, I cannot guarantee that while the facts are without dispute he hasn't embellished the details somewhat.

The year was 1970. My father, a major in the army, had received orders for Vietnam. However, his father was in intensive care and as a result of the only son rule, the orders had been suspended. Meanwhile my mother was pregnant with me, their third child. I was a little late. Okay more than a little, almost a month. (Perhaps a very early indicator of my trouble with deadlines.) This was before there were diagnostic tests like sonograms and it was assumed by the doctor that my mother had miscalculated.

My grandfather improved and came out of intensive care, leaving my father with a date to go. It was Tuesday and his orders were to ship out Thursday at 6 am. Now, my mother was essentially ten months pregnant. If a woman at the end of normal term is hormonally dangerous, imagine one a month overdue with a husband about to go to war. She, overwhelmed with her situation, broke down hysterically in her doctor's office. Seeing her state, the man decided that even if she'd miscalculated, she was due. So I was induced.

It was clear when I was born that I had indeed been baking too long. Fluid had filled my lungs and they had to drain them by sticking a tube down my moments-old throat. Of course, Dad wasn't there for that because fathers weren't allowed on the delivery floor. I arrived at 6 pm on Tuesday and he was leaving 6 am Thursday- 36 hours.

Remember it was 1970. Fathers weren't allowed to hold the babies. In fact, they were kicked off the floor when the nurses brought the little ones to be fed. He had seen me, but he hadn't been able to hold me. It was Wednesday and he didn't want to leave like that.

My father was a veteran of Korea, so he didn't have that first timer's fear of war. But he wasn't above acting like it. As an MP, he could be running convoys deep into the jungle from Da Nang or sitting at a desk. But no one needed to know the desk part, especially not the nurses.

Utilizing his training in special warfare, my father shamelessly played on the sympathies of the staff. He went for the head nurse. She was a battle axe of German descent, as wide as she was tall and very stern.

Fixing her with puppy dog eyes, he said "Ma'am, I'm leaving for Vietnam in the morning. I don't know if I'll be coming back. I just want to be able to hold my baby before I go."

The desired affect was achieved; all of the nurses, including Battle Axe were in tears. Dad was swept into a room and outfitted like he was going into surgery- gown, mask, cap, even the booties on the shoes. They sat him in a rocking chair and brought me to him. After all, he wasn't trusted to carry me.

Having stayed in the Mommy Hotel too long, my skin was all pruney and I was shedding from head to toe like a lizard. The tubes had scratched my vocal cords, I had this strange, guttural hoarse cry that was reminiscent of a dying cow. But my father saw perfection. He rocked me and fed me sugar water. An hour of policy breaking was all Battle Axe could allow. It passed in a nanosecond and I was taken from him.

The next morning he was gone. I'm not telling my mother's story, so I won't elaborate on her washing away the ward with her tears. Dad did not go to Da Nang, but instead brilliantly restructured the field office and amazed all with his skills at command. (I'm sure that part is completely unbiased.)

So that's the story of my birth. But it's also the story of my father. It incorporates all that he is: determined, clever, charming, adoring, witty. Now thirty-seven years later, only the hair color has changed. I certainly don't remember these events so I have to take his word on them.

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This article has been read 608 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 04/17/08
Delightful—and I'm sure dad remembers it EXACTLY how it happened.
Betty Castleberry04/18/08
Oh, what a sweet story. You've managed to be sentimental without being mushy; not an easy thing to do. The humor was clever, too. What a fun read!
Sally Hanan04/18/08
What a beautiful story, and you wove all the elements in in perfect measure.
Debbie Wistrom04/18/08
I'd love to hear your father tell this tale in person.

Thanks for sharing this family history. So glad for you. Great writing as well.
terri tiffany04/19/08
Great flow and pace! I could feel the emotion in this--well done! I ,too, would love to see it done from your dad's point of view.
Laury Hubrich 04/19/08
Very good story! And very timely. Nice job...