I’ve sort of gotten side tracked in telling this story. Plus I’ve gotten busy. The idea was I wanted to tell you about the miracle of my youngest son. I’m going to fast forward to that.
No one in the family who remembers Hannibal, remembers it fondly. We’d been through some pretty awful stuff. We’d had some funny experiences with the kids – things that are funny now, but weren’t at the time. Like the time my oldest son Nathan and his brother faked illness to stay in the hospital. They had matching coughs and were admitted to share a room in the hospital. Jason knew how much fun this was sitting in bed, watching TV and having nurses call you sweetie while they brought you popsicles and pudding at the ring of a bell.
One day the doctor decided to give Nathan his antibiotics by injections in the rump. I was working upstairs in the hospital. I heard it. Paging Dr. Strong – the code for a person who needed to be subdued by all the men available. We used that page a lot on the psych unit. This time it was for peds. It was Nathan to be subdued.
As my coworkers hurried down the stairs to assist, he was nowhere to be found. He ran away from the hospital. A very angry and unprofessional doctor discharged both of them immediately. We entertain ourselves at family gatherings with this story and many others – they are call the Nate the Great stories. Sometimes we add some about Jason as well.
Nathan, ever creative, was also troubled. Remembering his abusive father, he had many, many issues. All of the older children did to varying degrees. Many times, I drove the streets of Hannibal wondering where they were. I thought at first it was the Huck Finn syndrome – they’d go off on an adventure. Many times the police would find them before we could find them.
The church was no help. In fact, they were a huge problem. Prejudice and narrow mindedness caused them to do some pretty terrible things to us. The love of God, grace, mercy and compassion seemed far from this congregation. Someday I'll tell that story in detail, just not today.
And I was pregnant again. Overall, it was a very bad time. A sixth pregnancy didn’t help. To add to it, my husband decided he wanted to go home. No, not back to Columbia – but home to his native country. I faced the thought of being a single mother once again – this time with six children, the last yet to be born.
It was a terrible pregnancy. I was sick all the time. I was working. I was praying. What would I do? How would I manage alone with six kids? Even though we had two incomes, money was tight. We’d buy rice by the 100 lb bag, store it in a plastic bag inside a plastic trash can. Most nights we had rice of some variation with little meat. The older kids still say that the rice and lentils was the best – they said when I made that they eat all they wanted. Other times, when there was meat in the meal, that wasn’t the case. It was rationed.
Then there were the roaches. Have you ever had to deal with an infestation of roaches? I have a few times in my life. They are near impossible to get rid of… we cleaned, we bombed, we sprayed. For a while, my husband would pay the children a penny for each roach they killed. That didn’t work. At times, I would open a can of something like tuna and they’d march toward it from every direction. It was GROSS.
My mother bought a sonic contraption that was supposed to get rid of roaches. I plugged it into the wall. It was warm. They made nests in it – the roaches loved their new breeding grounds. I kept food sealed in plastic bags. Many things were kept in the refrigeration that didn’t need it – it was safe from the roaches. They don’t like cold. In case you’re wondering, we did eventually get rid of them. Someone told me to get Boric Acid – it works! There’s your free tip for the day J
It was spring and a new life was soon to be born. There was no happiness or hopeful expectation. Facing single parenthood again, with no support from anyone, I prayed. I prayed for this child to be born. I prayed for God to help me, to give me wisdom and strength. Soon I would be delivering a child for the sixth time. I thought about what it would be like to say good-bye to my husband for the last time holding a new infant in my arms.