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Saturday, December 1, 2018

My Hospital, My First Birthday, My Birth

I have always said
(and I think this is true)
if I had an older brother
he would have no younger brother.

So it was
on May 4, 1943
as two of my sisters waited in my home-to-be,
(on Van Buren, six blocks away)
and two in my school-to-be
(Saint Columba, seven blocks away)
I arrived
at the Northern Pacific Benefit Association Hospital
on Charles Avenue,
Saint Paul,
the hospital I would visit again, again and again
with broken fingers,
evil appendix,
Osgood Slaughter,
gashed wrist,
and the like.

It is the place to which I ran from my front-porch steps
after I saw a terrible lightning bolt strike,
heard its boom.
The hospital chimney!
I ran at my top speed to see this brick giant.
Yes,it had a jagged, open rip from top to bottom.

It is hard to believe this memory,
but I see myself there standing alone,
as if I were first on scene,
mouth open to this destructive miracle by nature.

It is harder to believe another memory,
but I remember standing nearby,
a few years earlier--
propped by my dad's hand on the hood of his car.
My mother was in the hospital,
a patient
waving from a second-floor window.
She had to see her son on his first birthday.

I remember watching my dad disappear
around the front of the hospital.

I remember waiting, waiting
until he came back
to take me out of the car,
stand me on the hood,
and tell me to wave,

wave to that vague figure 
(behind a screen at a second-floor window ).
Dad assured me that was Mom.

:: :: ::

It always seemed normal
(and I know this to be untrue)
that my father’s railroad should put our hospital
where I could run to it,
walk to it,
whenever I needed it.
Once I went with a policeman in his car.
But that must be another story
so that this story can conclude:
I was born.

– – – – – – –

The “She had to see her son on his first birthday” line is, of course, not in the original memory. I was told this years later when I mentioned my memory to Mom. It is she who told me it was my first birthday. (Perhaps this got recorded in one of the Dad-Mom story-telling sessions of which I have audio recordings.) She said something like, “I told Pete I wanted to see my son on his first birthday.” It is easy for me to believe it was a birthday even though I don't remember that. I do wonder, however, if Mom had the number right. It's easier to believe that I would remember a fragment from my second birthday than my first. But, then I ask: if it were a later year, wouldn't she, in quoting herself, have called me “Bobby” rather than “my son.” If I had been two, wouldn't she have been relieved to have a few days away from me if I were in my “terrible-two stage? We shall never know. I know it was not my third birthday, for of that I have a memory that I long thought was my earliest. I burst into the kitchen from the back yard and asked Mom what she was doing. Her response, "I'm making your birthday cake." That is all I remember of that day, but I remember remembering it often.

(c) from date of posting, by Bob Komives, Fort Collins

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