Twenty-Two: Death and Life

Three things marked this year of my life. Right around the time of my twenty-second birthday in September, my father-in-law died of a head injury sustained in the auto accident I described earlier.

In November, John Kennedy was killed in Dallas. I remember where I was when I heard the news (as most of us who remember that day at all must surely do). I was working in the engineering office at Bellsouth when someone came in and told us. I was devastated, stunned. John Kennedy and his beautiful wife represented a new era. Camelot and all that. And then, he was gone.

I remember staying glued to the television for days. I cried as though I’d lost a close friend. What was it about a young man as President that so captured our imaginations?

A few months later, my husband and I had big news of our own. I remember when we told my parents I was pregnant. They had come to visit us, and we had just found out. I’d gotten highlights in my hair for the first time, and my mother kept talking about how pretty I looked. I remember what I was wearing when we went out to dinner with them that night–a slim, white wool skirt and a matching white sweater. I did feel pretty, a little magical, and in awe of what was happening to me.

We were nervous about telling them, though. We’d only been married eight months, and I had my job, and two more years of medical school loomed. But when we told them, my mother said, “I knew it!” She said I had that “glow.”

Here I am in a photo just days before the baby came. I wasn’t very big at all.

Baby shower

Yes, it’s a baby shower. A gloriously happy time, right, in spite of that awful plaid dress. But notice the triangle of people in the picture. I’m opening baby gifts. The young man in the coat and tie is my husband. Does he look simply detached, or ready to bolt?  And that’s my mother, looking a little askance. I don’t believe she was quite ready to be a grandmother, but oh, she did love my babies.

That child made his entrance into the world two days after my twenty-third birthday. You’ll meet him in the next post.

Are we ever grown up enough to be parents? Or do we grow along with our children?

17 thoughts on “Twenty-Two: Death and Life

  1. I’m laughing because my mom was 23 when she had me, but still complained she wasn’t old enough to be a grandmother when I had my first at 33. She famously spent 6 months debating what she wanted grandchildren to call her (she chose “Mimi”) before my brother pointed out she should probably congratulate me.

    I loved reading this, Gerry. The overlapping of tragedy and new beginnings. You and I have a parallel, as we nearly lost my dad in a tragic car crash that caused him a brain injury 3 weeks before my son was born. Similarly, Liam was born 2 weeks to the day before 9/11. Like Kennedy’s death, don’t we all murmur of 9/11, “I remember exactly where I was when the Towers fell”?


  2. I was a horseshoe toss away from my 23rd birthday when I had my first baby, too. No one was prepared. No one thought it a grand idea. I would have told you that I didn’t care if I ever had kids or not right up until the time I was actually pregnant. Then? Hormonal insanity. Some dormant gene kicked in and I was über-mom…still haven’t figured out how to turn the thing off and that was coming on 29 years ago.


  3. I was just reflecting on this very thing this weekend, as my daughter was packing her car to go back to college. How old do you have to get to feel old enough to have grown children? =)


    • I’m behind, too, Jane Ann. I was trying to hit the October Challenge list every few days, but I’m blaming a three-year-old grandchild in the house this past week for my not keeping up! I’ve enjoyed the challenge, both the writing and reading aspects of it. I’ll miss having this focus once we’re done. Thanks for “catching up”!


  4. I didn’t have my first till I was 27, but I was ready. I always had a very strong maternal instinct. (I would have pushed for them earlier, but I was sick – as you’ll see in my posts.) My husband wasn’t sure he wanted kids – we’d been married 4 years, and he said he liked things as they were. (I am addicted to change; Ian hates change). I told him I wouldn’t get pregnant without his agreement, but if he really didn’t want kids, to tell me now, so I could leave him and find someone who did want them, because I wasn’t going to live my life without kids.
    Not to worry – when they came along Ian was smitten and has been an excellent Dad – as I always knew he would be.
    Jane Ann


    • I had played “babies” since I was a little thing. I always wanted children, and I knew I wanted more than one, having been an only/lonely child. We wound up with four. All boys. I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t smitten, although I know such people exist. I can’t imagine it. I worried that I wasn’t ready to be a grandmother, either (the aging thing), but oh, the first time I saw each of those babies was unforgettable! There’s nothing like it.


  5. Gosh Gerry, so many similarities. I married at 19, had Jonathan just short of my 21st bday and Kerstin at 23 and finished my BSc! My mother was furious at being a “grandma” though and absolutely refused to have anything to do with it. Lucky you had a lovely mother who was there for you.


    • You did get an early start, Veronica! I was lucky to have such loving, supportive parents. They were there for me in many ways–never interfering, just *there.* They adored my boys, and it was mutual.


  6. Hmmm, intriguing question. Maturity-wise, I was ready to be a mother despite my young age: my maternal instinct was very strong. I had a harder time with my son five years later, and an even harder time once the girl became a surly, anxious, know-it-all teenager. The older they get, the more clueless I feel. I think they’re sucking the maturity out of me. I can’t wait to be a grandma, though: you don’t need to be grown-up to be a grandma, right?


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