Saturday, January 31, 2015

Journal of an Infrequent Journal Writer

January 31, 2015

            Earlier this month Maureen found an old photo album with fast fading handwritten pages I wrote years ago.  She suggested that I type them up before they are lost forever to fading time.  So…

September 22, 1979

            I've been threatening this for a long time.  I haven't kept a journal since 1972-1973 when I was a senior in high school.  I'm starting one now for several reasons:  I see an interesting, exciting life ahead for me, a baby on the way!, and I'd like to record it.  And, I'd really like to write a book or books in the future and I'm sure this will help.

            I threw away my first journal.  Maybe I'll regret it someday, but I don't think so.  I was alot [1-31-15 I finally did learn how to spell a lot] different person back then.  I didn't like myself too much, and reading that old journal reminded me of that – so I didn't like the journal either.  The more I changed – and I have changed – the more painfull [and painful, too] reading it became.

            I hope that won't happen with this journal.  One rule (or non-rule) will help:  I'll write only when I have something to write and as little or as much as I feel like writing.  No minimums or maximums.  No finger-tapping or brain-wracking, trying to come with something to fill in every day of the year. 

October 15, 1979

            I tried for thirty minutes to get to sleep, but I couldn't.  This was my traditional nap-before-going-back-to-work-after-my-night-off nap.  I couldn't sleep so I thought I'd write. 

            (I want to interject something here.  When I was laying in bed thinking, I was really ready to write, I was rarin' to go!  But now I can't get my thoughts together.  I took twenty minutes to write that first paragraph – really struggled with it, wracked my brain.  That's exactly what I promised to avoid.  Maybe I'm warmed up).

            I layed [laid] in bed and came to two conclusions.  One, that Zeny has an aire of childlike innocence when she sleeps, her face free of wrinkles and worries.  Not earthshaking, but that's what I was thinking.  Two, having a baby is really mind-boggling and mysterious!  It's all hard to comprehend.  I'll take any chance I can get to hold my hand on Zeny's stomach and feel the baby.  This sleepless thirty minutes was no exception.  I could feel a little body right there in Zeny's stomach, our baby!  Fascinating! 

November 14-15 (written December 28, 1979)

            November 14 at 11:30pm, just as I was leaving work to home, Zeny called to say she was in labor.  I whizzed home and found her complaining of intense pain lasting 45 seconds, about 2 minutes apart – our baby was on the way!

            I waited outside the Delivery Room area, while Zeny went in for the standard enema and cervical dilation check.  After about 20 minutes of pacing and worried excitement, I was allowed in. 

            A concerned looking maternity nurse handed me a scrub suit.  "We're not getting fetal heart tones," she said.  "It may be the machine, or it may be more serious than that."

            Zeny lay on the delivery table.  I walked into the delivery room, a step of confidence, a step of fear, then a step of hope.  A blue-green surgical suit, mask and cap hid much of my feelings.  My eyes probably broadcast the fear and hope I felt, but all were too busy to notice. 

            Zeny rested on the table – briefly.  She motioned that a contraction was beginning and the doctor ordered "push".  The contraction subsided and Daisy, maternity nurse, again attempted to pick up our baby's heart beat with the Doppler.  Silence.

            Hopeful eyes became worried eyes.  I placed a hand over Zeny's tummy, where our baby lived.  "I think I feel movement!"  Hope shone in my worried eyes.  "But maybe it's just her uterus moving."  Worry prevailed. 

            Zeny – what a sport!  She knew nothing of what was really happening.  The nurses talked in low tones and I kept silent.  She pushed during contractions, rested in-between, barely a peep out of her, working hard at birthing our baby, indifferent to all else. 

            During contractions the doctor performed the episiotomy – local anesthetic and "snip, snip, ship," thus a larger opening to help the baby make its debut without ripping mom's vagina. 

November 15 (written January 16, 1983)

            Some more contractions and then she was born.  We didn't have to wait for the doctor to turn the baby when the head was out to make it easier for the shoulders.  She was born all at once, very quickly, but all motion was the result of the last contraction. 

            The nurse held a stethoscope to our baby's chest.  The traditional spank to promote breath would not be necessary because the nurse looked down and shook her head "no". 

            I will never forget that scene – how Teresa lay lifeless, how the nurse used the stethoscope and shook her head.  Nor will I forget Zeny.  She strained to lift up her head to see, still oblivious to it all.  The nurse had wrapped Teresa in a white towel and were laying this bundle on her chest.  "What did I have?" asked Zeny.

            My feelings at this point were of shock and disappointment, little grief, which would come later – and still comes on occasion.

            "It's dead, hon." I said painfully. 

            "Huh?"  I'll never forget the way she said it.  It was not what she expected to hear, she had no idea, and the words belonged to a television show – to Dr. Welby, or whatever – and not in this delivery room where she had just delivered our baby. 

            "She's dead, hon."  Zeny frowned in disbelief, straining to see the lump of baby, Teresa Jean, being held by nurses on her chest.  My had was on her shoulder and I was down closer to her ear.  She kept frowning in disbelief and shock.  They took the baby away to wash it.  We just stayed there in silence, Zeny staring at the ceiling, me at Zeny.

            November 15 (written November 15, 1985)

            At the time I couldn't grasp the seriousness.  I thought the grief would be at a minimum and be brief.  I though we could move right on to other things and forget all about this.  At the very first instants I envisioned that there would be no burial, no funeral, no name.  I thought the hospital would just "take care of it."

            Well, I'm glad that it didn't end up that way.  I'm glad we handled things – and continue to do so – as if she had lived a few months and then died.  Almost as if.  I always keep the "almost" in perspective. 

            And yes, we did move on to other things – to Maureen and Lorna!!  But I do not feel the least bit embarrassment about remembering Teresa on her birthday, visiting her grave, etc. – even six years later. 

January 31, 2015

            After that last paragraph I rambled on for another two.  Our friend from Guam, John Wilson, had just died a week before.  Most of what I said seems weak and irrelevant now, compared to all that has happened since.  The only relevant thing I said in those two paragraphs was, "I think of Teresa and I think of what could have been.  I think of John and I think of what was, and what could have been."

            Here's why that matters.  With a stillborn baby, there is only "what could have been".  But on November 15, 1979, and the days that followed, Zenny and I promised ourselves, and the World, that we would never forget Teresa.  She would be an equal.  She would be more than a lost baby.  She would never be forgotten.  We would think of her on November 15 every year.  We would visit her every year.  And we have kept our promises and never missed a year. 

            We gave her a name, not just "baby Waite" like I had imagined was the protocol.  We gave her the name we had planned to give a daughter.  We didn't save the name for the next daughter.  That was her name.  Teresa Jean Waite.  She was what was and what could have been. 

            Some more "never forgets":  In our time after the delivery, as we visited together with Teresa on Zeny's delivery bed, I will never forget how warm she was.  I wondered, I hoped… had they made a mistake?  Was she still alive?  Was she really dead?  On about November 16, 1979, my mom and dad came to visit us at Kaiser Hospital on North Greeley in Portland. I will never forget the obvious surprise of Kaiser staff when we asked that they bring Teresa up to Zeny's room.  Our request must have been unusual at that time.  I like to think now that we helped change the usual. I remember my co-worker at St. Vincent's Hospital who was shocked that we took pictures of Teresa that day they brought her up to us, as well as a picture of her in her little baby coffin.  I don't think that's unusual now.  I think we helped change the usual. 

            (Of interest, this would be the hospital where Maureen and Lorna would be born, in 1980 and 1982 respectively.  This building is no longer a hospital, now Adidas USA headquarters.  Also of interest, the hospital in Prairie City, OR, where I was born on January 12, 1955, is now a nursing home; I like to think that I could do as salmon do, if I wish). 

            So much has happened since November 15, 1979.  New lives have been created and old lives have passed away.  Maureen and Lorna were born, grew up, and married wonderful sons-in-law.  Now there are grandchildren, Elsa and Azara.  Two first cousins passed away prematurely.  Grandparents have passed on.  Most of my aunts and uncles are now gone.  Mom died on December 4, 2014, and Dad five weeks later on January 7, 2015.  I was once young, fulfilling my role with the old.  Now I am among the old, fulfilling my role as uncle and grandfather to the young. 

            And then back to Teresa, in her special place as our first, our oldest daughter, where this journal entry began.  Teresa remains an equal, who truly was, and was what could have been.


  1. This is a beautiful (a huge understatement) entry. How wonderful to be able to read these words now as an adult with children of my own…How wonderful that you and Mom helped change the 'usual' and made and kept the promise of never forgetting…How wonderful that Lorna and I were so much included in celebrating Teresa's memory, and even Elsa and Azara have been included. I love you so much Dad.

  2. I agree with what Maureen said about a beautiful and hugely understatement.
    Richard has always kept Teresa story and not forgotten.
    I remember going to the cemetery with you and Zenny the year that we visited you. I did not know that was her birthday. I would have understood more if you told me about her. I could only fathom the pain that you and Zenny went through at that time. I guess that is the only reason why you did not say a word. Richard told me at the cemetery and I respected you both by not saying a word

    Teresa, our special first niece, and the rest of the family will never be forgotten for me and Richard.

    The Waites, in my eyes, have been pioneers in changing the "status quo" for the better.

    We love you, Zenny, Maureen, Lorna and their husband and our grand nieces.