Rob Arrives

On a Friday morning, I woke feeling like I had the flu. I put a call in to Dr. Hagrity’s office. His answering service told me he was in surgery, but for me to go to the hospital to get checked. When I arrived at the surgery suite a nurse examined me and went to speak to my doctor. Dr. Hagrity came out, telling me he would give me a shot to relax me as I had barely begun labor, and it would be a long day. He had a second surgery to perform that morning and knocking me out seemed like a good option. I laughingly said, “Aw, we will be finished by noon.” It was 8:45am and I promptly passed out.

Painfully jolted awake, my water broke, and I saw Dr. Hagrity was there. The next thing I recall as they took me into the delivery room was my doctor shouting at the nurses, “Hurry, she isn’t waiting for us.”

Dr. Hagrity’s anticipated long day for me was over at 11:49 am. On July 30, 1965, Robin Scott Shapiro, all 6 pounds and 8 ounces of him, came into my world.

Groggy from the anesthesia, I can barely summon the rest of the day other than asking the nurse carrying Rob to unwrap my baby, so I could be sure he had ten toes and fingers. All the family came to the hospital, and Tootsie was ecstatic. Robin was the first baby in the Shapiro family in 26 years.

The next morning there was less excitement. When the nurse brought Robin from the nursery for me to bottle feed, I was left alone with him for the first time. The overwhelming panic, which had sneakily caught me off guard the day I graduated from high school, returned to punch me. Holding that small, red-faced, squirming bundle all I could think was,” How in God’s name will I ever get this child up to college?” My panic attack was short-lived, but panic never quite leaves a mother.

Because my husband was in Korea, Dr. Hagrity felt responsible to be a stand-in. He came to my room several times during the day. On Sunday, he brought three of his five young children to the window for me to see them. In less than five years, he would die from lung cancer, just barely 40-years-old. He had given me a shot to keep my milk from coming in as bottle feeding was in vogue. The shot didn’t work. When I woke up on the second morning, my breast were swollen to my underarms. The nurses iced packed me, and I stayed in the hospital for five days before we could go home. On the way home Daddy drove, and mother insisted on holding Rob. Infant carriers were not invented, yet.

While we were in the hospital, Tootsie had been planning the Bris for Robin. A Bris is the ritual ceremony at the circumcision of a Jewish, male child. On the eighth day of a male child’s life, a ceremony is held where his Jewish name and why he is named is given. Prayers are offered, and then the Mohelet performs the surgery. It was decided to have the Bris at my parent’s apartment. Morris insisted that all Christian artifacts be removed from my parent’s home. The Mohelet was a dentist named Jacob Geller. I asked Dr. Hagrity to attend as I was very nervous about having a dentist snip my son. The Bris was held before sundown on Friday with 60 to 70 people in the living room. I stubbornly dressed Rob in a Christening gown before taking him out to the crowd. The Mohelet had draped surgical cloths on a card table. After prayers, he dipped a piece of gauze into the wine chalice and gave it to Rob to suck on. That stopped him from crying, but at that instant Aunt Bertha fainted. The room was hot and crowded. Dr. Hagrity sweetly tended her and afterwards the party ensued. Dr. Hagrity got loaded doing celebratory shots, and Billy had to drive him home. Tootsie’s only sister, Miriam and her husband, Benjamen (Bunny) Leff were asked to be Rob’s godparents.

Without Dad, Rob would have never survived as I knew next to nothing about infants. Dad taught me how to bathe a baby and at Rob’s slightest whimper during the night, Daddy was up. He would wake me, hand me a diaper and Robin. While I was changing his diaper, Dad would go heat-up a bottle. Being old-fashioned, he insisted that a new mother needed to remain in bed for ten days. He told me that the instructions for babies came on their heel. I nearly killed Robin trying to find instructions.

Rob was five-months-old when Larry came home from Korea. Before we married, Larry talked his parents into buying a yellow, 1963 Plymouth convertible. When he returned from Korea, they were planning on trading the car. Larry talked them into giving the car to us. His new duty station was at Ft. Ord, California, so we packed the car and headed to California.

We spent the first night on the road in Las Cruses, New Mexico. When we went into the room, the wall next to the bed was entirely covered with a mirror. Pushing the bed next to the wall, I placed Rob on his stomach facing the mirror. I went to help Larry unload all the baby stuff and returned to find Rob hanging by his chin on the outer edge of the bed. Seeing himself in the mirror, he became excited, started kicking and worked himself backward across the bed.

We arrived at Ft. Ord on the Monterey Peninsula, which in my book is the most beautiful area in California. Seaside, Monterey, Pacific Grove, Carmel and Carmel Valley are all unique cities along the coast. The 17-mile-drive at Pebble Beach has the most spectacular scenery as it meanders through wind-swept forests and down along the rocky coast line where gnarly curves twist above the pounding surf. The massive, sparsely settled area south of Carmel Valley is called Big Sur. Majestic, heavily wooded mountains rise on one side of Highway 1, and on the Pacific ocean side, the cliffs loom over the beaches. It’s a breathtaking view.

The NCO club was built on a hilltop overlooking the Monterey Bay. The military family housing began at the bottom of the hill, and our house was the first one next to the club driveway. Our neighbor behind us was an adorable couple, Betty and Albert, who had two boys, four and six-years-old. Betty adored Robin and would come over daily to play with him. During the Korean War, Albie, a medic, was in the field giving aid to a wounded soldier. Seeing that they were the same blood type, Albie began to give the soldier a transfusion directly from his own arm. A mortar round landed on the soldier, and in a confusion of dog tags Betty was notified that Albie had been killed in action. She held his memorial service in West Virginia and collected his life insurance from the Army. Nine months later, Albie woke up in Letterman Hospital at the Presidio of San Francisco. Adding the two boys to their family, they struggled to repay the insurance money for several years. With a mangled arm and an aching body, he managed to remain a medic in the Army.

Larry had a difficult time adjusting to fatherhood. He would wait impatiently while I packed up all the accouterments required for an infant just to go to a movie. Rob discovered Larry’s record collection, and his sticky, little hands smeared fingerprints on Larry’s 45 records – that became a major argument. Rob’s first birthday arrived and we had his party with the neighbors.

Shortly after his 1st birthday, Mother and Daddy drove out to visit us. It was Dad’s first trip beyond New Mexico, and he was ecstatic. We toured the Monterey Peninsula area and went down to Jade Beach in Big Sur. On an evening drive to the lighthouse Rob was in his car seat, and nothing I could do would stop his crying. As we neared the lighthouse, a fog began to roll in over the beach. With out warning, the fog horn blasted and startled Rob. He quit crying and instantly fell asleep.

We took my folks up to San Francisco where they saw the Golden Gate Bridge and China Town. Driving through the Haight-Ashbury area where the flower-power, incense-burning, acid-dropping, tie-dye-wearing, peace-and-free-love hippies lived, Daddy almost stroked. Seeing almost all the young men with hair hanging to their waist was almost more than my father could bear. We drove up to northern California to tour the missions and the Napa Valley wine country.

Not long after my parents left, Larry and I got into a colossal row. Betty called Daddy, telling him he needed to get us out of there. The Ol’ man immediately sent me tickets, and Rob and I flew home. I put Rob in daycare and went to work at a bank in downtown Houston. In one of his rare act of generosity, Morris got me the job. Still at Ft. Ord, Larry begin seeing a Mexican girl who was an MP. His only memory of his real mother was that she had black hair, and he always had a thing for black-haired women. Receiving orders to go to France, he shipped our household goods to Houston. Rob and I moved into the apartment complex where Mother and Dad lived.

I got off from work at the bank about 3:30 in the afternoon and would pick up Rob from daycare. By 5 o’clock, Dad would be at my house. Taking Rob’s hand, they walked around the block to get ice cream. Rob had dessert every night – first. When he was 18-months-old, Rob developed chicken pox. I was home with a cranky baby when Larry knocked on the door. He was on his way to France and begged me not to divorce him. All the appropriate promises were made as he swore he didn’t want to lose me or his son. I agreed that I would follow him when he was re-assigned to Germany. President de Gaulle made the decision to have all American troops removed from France, therefore Larry’s tour would be short. Working in the Army’s Finance Department, Larry was assigned to the American Embassy in Paris.

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Published in: on June 15, 2010 at 4:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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