Saturday, November 08, 2008

Gramps & Gigi, Part II

To catch up, read here and here.

Why did they do it? Gi-gi told me once that she married Jim because she "felt sorry for him." Of course, this was decades later after they were divorced, so who knows? Did Jim imagine that a strong, independent, career-minded woman would settle down to become Suzy Homemaker after the "I do's"? If so, he was to be disappointed.

They bought a house in town, a few blocks from Jim's parents' and added on to it. They had my uncle in June 1950, 10 months after they were married. Three weeks later his about-to-expire reserve unit was called up to go to Korea. His reserve time was due to end within days, but they didn't want to lose the troops from the system, so started with the units about to be released. And new baby or no, he had to leave (and you think today's war-politics is obnoxious). He was gone until the baby was 11 months old (and 33 lbs!).

I can't imagine that dynamic. Walking back into your family after a long time - 'meeting' a little boy that you probably don't even know what to do with - and your already independent, capable wife seems to be doing it all just fine... without your help or input.

Within a few months, they were expecting my mother. She was also born in June (1952), with some considerable complications. Gi-gi was in labor, and was in a hospital room with the back of the bed towards the door. The doctor was telling the nurse, in the hallway outside, that it was gonna be a while before the baby was born. About this time Gi-gi realized that was not the case, and worse, discovered the baby was footling breech (one foot hanging out, I think). She could not get the attention of the doctor, and no one else was in the room (didn't they have those nurse call-buttons?) so she removed one of the steel stirrups from the foot of the bed and tossed it backwards over her head, clanging into the hallway. The doctor came and my mother was delivered with the umbilical cord around her neck and not doing very well. She did improve, though, and they became the 'perfect little family,' big brother, baby sister, $27/mo. mortgage payment.

I don't know a lot of the daily-life details of the years following. Grandpa returned to work at this hospital at some point, because I remember his retirement from there in the 80's. Gi-gi continued to take classes, toting my toddler-mother to campus, depositing her under a tree with color book and crayons, and checking on her periodically. A different world, obviously! Gi-gi eventually graduated with a real-life degree in the 70's, some 30 or so years after her first post-high-school class. She also had become a school nurse, keeping similar hours and seasons as her kids.

I know Grandpa didn't involve himself much in certain areas. He got no end of grief from Gi-gi when Gi-gi discovered that instead of changing my mother's diaper (when he was tending her), he'd lay her on the seat of the car and drive three blocks to his mother's house so she could do it. :) When her reminder to mow the lawn wasn't heeded within a few days, she'd do it herself. And that summed up a big part of their relationship, I think. Her 'get-it-done' attitude ended up emasculating him, and lowering him in her eyes. Sometimes I see this tendency in my own marriage, and I struggle against turning into that kind of wife.

Well, the story is growing too long, so stay tuned for another dramatic episode. :)

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