Taking my mother to the doctor is not nearly as much of a rigmarole as when my dad has to go in the medi-van with a hydraulic lift. We can just throw her into the front seat of the car, and away we go. (Well, in reality, it may go a little slower than that. She has only one gear these days—first gear with a sticky clutch.)
She often has a story to tell the doctor. Usually it has nothing to do with health or medical issues. He will say some innocent remark, and that reminds her of a story. Today, he wished her a happy birthday in five days (December 26). She’ll be 91. That reminded her of when she was born in 1918.
So here’s the story my mother told in the doctor’s office today:
It was December 1918, and my mother’s mother Emma was due to give birth to her sixth child, my mother. Maybe Emma, who often helped the local midwife, had seen too many things go wrong in those home deliveries. But as Emma’s due date approached, she announced to my grandfather Edward that she didn’t intend to have this baby at home like she had done with her previous five children. She was taking the train in to Fergus Falls and she was having that baby in the hospital! Period. End of discussion.
My mother’s parents, Emma and Edward
Back in 1918, when it snowed in the winter time, the roads were never plowed out. The only way to get to Fergus Falls was by train. So as the due date approached, Emma, 8¾ months pregnant, climbed on a train and took a ride to Fergus Falls. There she stayed with her sisters-in-law Inga and Thea (Edward’s sisters) until she was ready to deliver. And that’s how my mother came to be the first baby in the family to be born in a hospital instead of at home.
Edward’s two wonderful sisters, Inga and Thea, took care of Emma until she went to the hospital to give birth to my mother.
Back then, they kept the mothers in the hospital for an entire week until they recuperated enough to go home. So when my mother was a week old, Edward took the train in to Fergus Falls to accompany his wife and new baby home. Emma bundled up my mother and climbed onto the train.
“I was only a week old, and it was my second train ride,” my mother proudly told the doctor. He nodded, seemingly impressed.
Edward had arranged for his brother Ted to meet Emma, the new baby, and him at the train depot in Carlisle and bring them home. Because the roads were plugged with snow, Ted had hitched his horses to a sleigh and sat waiting as the train pulled into the depot in Carlisle. His wife Alice had sent along warmed blankets in the sleigh to wrap around the new mother and baby.
But Ted was a tease, and he couldn’t help saying with a twinkle in his eye as he helped his brother’s family into the sleigh, “A person would have to be crazy to have a baby in the winter.”
My mother’s only baby picture, age one
My mother, telling the story to the doctor today, leaned back and laughed. “And do you know, my uncle Ted and aunt Alice had a baby of their own a year—to the day—later. My cousin Norman was born exactly a year after I was, December 26, 1919! Oh, my father gave Ted a hard time about that!”
The doctor laughed with my mom. Her blood pressure was fine. All her blood tests were fine. She is 91, and there's nothing he can do about that. His work was done.
As he left the room, he wished her a happy birthday and gave her a great big hug. A both-arms-around-her hug. He left the exam room smiling.
I don’t think I’ve ever had a doctor hug me. I guess I’ll have to start telling stories.