Monday, September 6, 2010
What Labor Day Means to Me
Strapped to a gurney in the back of a C-130 military transport plane on my way from CCK Air Force base in Taichung, Taiwan to the Navy hospital in Taipei, I remember thinking how could I have been so stupid.
What in the world was I doing there, you ask.
This requires a little backstory. I married my high school sweetheart his last year of college. I was already a nurse and working in the Pediatrics department at the local hospital where I trained, but left it all to follow him to Nashville for his last year of college. One day in downtown Nashville, he and a friend went to see the local Air Force recruiter just for grins and hubby took the tests necessary to be a pilot. I talked him out of it because he was about to graduate with an engineering degree and had a really nice job lined up in St. Louis, Missouri, where two of my brothers lived.
Life was good.
Until Nixon instituted the draft lottery and he was number 17 in our small town and most certainly would be drafted into the Army. Quickly, he went back to the recruiter and signed on the dotted line. Thus began his military career where his first assignment was to CCK Air Force Base in Taichung, Taiwan, flying C 130 Hercules aircraft around Viet Nam transporting everything under the sun, including prisoners of war.
Did I mention how young and stupid we were at the time? CCK was considered a remote tour, but if wives went there, the Air Force would take care of them. I was seven months pregnant with our first child and we were so afraid if we waited, it would be three or four months after the baby was born before I could go. So, with two dogs and my fat self, I made the trip, missing my flight in San Francisco and having to stay over with no makeup or clothes.
When he left for his assignment, I was in hot pants (we all wore them back then) but the girl who stepped off the plane could no more have gotten her fat body into hot pants than Humpty Dumpty could have. My feet were swollen to triple their size, I was swollen and all I could do was cry that I wanted to go home.
Actually, it wasn’t so bad. CCK didn’t have a hospital, only a male clinic, so my prenatal visits were with a psychiatrist. Pregnant women had to travel to Taipei two weeks before their due date and wait in a hostel for women until they had the baby. I tricked them when my water broke two and a half weeks early. Thus the ride up in the C-130, affectionately called the Baby Bomber.
Two days later, I was still waiting for the baby when they decided to induce me. What I remember vividly about that experience was that a young Navy officer’s wife was brought in with contractions right off a commercial airliner. Being seven months pregnant, they were unable to give her anything for the pain. “The baby’s too small. We can’t medicate you without hurting your baby,” they said. As God is my witness, the woman screamed, “I don’t care about this baby. I want drugs.”
In the meantime I was waiting for the pitocin drip to start my contractions, alone in the room with no mother, no sisters, not even my hubby. Since the hospital was so small and there was another woman in the room, he had to wait outside. I was stuck in the room with this crazy lady who was ready to kill for demerol.
But this story has a happy ending. That night, I had a beautiful seven pound baby girl, and we called her Nicole. The next day was – you guessed it- Labor Day.
You can't make up stuff like this!!
What does this have to do with writing? Absolutely nothing, but I figured no one would be reading this blog today anyway. Hopefully, all of you are grilling hot dogs, at the beach, around the pool, with family celebrating the fact that we are all alive and healthy and able to work our jobs.
Cheers to all you workers out there, especially to the three young guys who flew the Baby Bomber that day so long ago and kept coming back to check on me. Guess they figured if I got them out on their day off, the least I could do was have a pain or two. It never happened.
Happy Labor Day to y’all. Happy Birthday, Nicole.