I’m the oldest of four children. I have a sister four years younger and a brother six years younger. And we grew up fighting over the TV programs (3 channels, 3, 6, 9), playing cowboys and injuns in the back yard, and riding our bikes all over town til the street lights came on.
As I was turning 18 my parents (actually, they told me on my birthday) announced that we were having another baby. Now, keep in mind this was the 60’s and kids then knew much less than they do now!
Anyway, the day arrived, November, 1965, and I was just back from a dance from out of town. My little brother was just back from an overnight next door. My sister was with a gaggle of friends that were so important in high school (likely still her friends).
Dad announced he was taking mom to the hospital and would be right back. The hospital was four blocks away. Fathers were not welcomed anywhere near labour or birth areas. Babies were kept in nurseries, not in mom’s rooms, and a baby birth hospital stay was nearly a week.
We all sat in our wee living room waiting for dad’s return. He came back at midnight and shooed us all off to bed. As if!!! We huddled in one bedroom and peeked out to see what he was doing. Hat and coat on, he laid on the living room sofa, pillow on his chest and phone on the pillow to muffle the sound. [No remote phones and no phone silencers in those days and NOBODY had a phone in their bedroom.] He was waiting for the call!
7:30 am the phone rang. Mr. Douglas, you have a beautiful baby girl! He was off like a shot to the hopsital. Important to note here that my parents were 45 (mom) and 42 (dad) in an era when people were not having babies in their 40’s… that’s what your 20’s were for.
Well, my sister and I were delighted with the news. A baby girl! My brother quietly went down the hall to his bedroom and packed his suitcase and announced he was moving away. He did not have the fortitude to live with one more bossy sister. He moved next door to Jamie Harrison’s house. Right then. It was over.
As I look back now on how my parents handled this, it was simple wonder… Dad called on him two days later and invited him out to dinner. Our town had maybe two restaurants in it so off they went to one of them. Dad remarked later that he couldn’t believe how much my brother ate! On the way home, Dad said, “Alan, I know you don’t want to see your family but I have to stop in and say goodnight to your mom at the hospital. Would you wait in the waiting room for me?”
Grumpy with the prospect, Alan settled his 12 year old self down for the wait.
Dad must have done some major convincing to get a nurse to break the rules and get baby Pamela out of her bassinet, bundled up, and bring her down to the waiting room. But, bless her, she did. She walked in with the 7 pound bundle and sat down beside my brother. “This is your new wee sister,” she said. “I thought you might want to meet her.”
I can’t imagine how my brother felt. ‘This wasn’t a big bossy sister at all. This was a tiny baby.’ He was much bigger than this sister. And, she couldn’t even talk yet! It must have been amazing for him to see how little she was.
Dad came home after dropping Alan off at the Harrison’s.
The next morning, before school, Alan walked in, quietly went to the end of the hall, and unpacked his suitcase. Then he came to the breakfast table. Nothing was said.
Baby Pamela came home three days after that. And while the two bossy older sisters were busy developing a pecking order in the family, Alan was doing what he always did: quietly bonding with the baby he would come to protect and entertain and include for the rest of their lives.
In fact, our dad died way too young, as it turned out. It was Alan who took baby Pamela’s arm and walked her down the aisle when she married.
Who to thank here? Well, first Dad, with the foresight to handle this family emergency. And then to the unknown nurse who risked chastisement to bring a family back together!