August 11, 2015

Progression run today, I was thinking about pro wrestlers.

Barb knows babies. There is very little disputing this fact. With children in the Monroe Street upstairs apartment at the very active ages of 4, 3, 2 and one, the morning sickness started again. This was a two bedroom apartment with a sunroom that had long ago been turned into another bedroom. They were absolutely spilling out of the homestead when Jimmy had another idea. Jimmy was a big-thinker, always looking forward. One night he announced his grand plan, “I am enrolling in law school”. Wait a minute, you have four toddlers, a tiny domicile, a pregnant wife and this is the big idea? Thankfully, there was family everywhere, Aunt Margie and Uncle Kevin with Terry and the twins, Margie and Kevin. There was Aunt Mary and Uncle Jack with Mary Kay, Margie and Johnny. Aunt Tootsie and Uncle George, pregnant and newly married. Pa and Pete living downstairs. Marshall and Alice close enough to oversee the activity. The support structure in place in the vicinity of Monroe Street was sufficient to construct an ocean liner, law school would be a piece of pie.

For the first time, Mom would be pregnant in the winter. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Mary, Mother of God Holy Day of Obligation (aka New Year’s Day), Ash Wednesday, and Easter Sunday would be celebrated while carrying around the fifth child. Aunt Tootsie would be pregnant with her first, so the seasoned veteran of childbirth would now be the mentor. “Oh yeah, St Anne’s is the only place, I know them all by first name”. “Morning sickness? Just carry Heidemann’s pastries to replenish you in the aftermath”. “Maternity wear? Marshall Field’s is the only place, we will have to take the streetcar downtown very soon.”

Dad was starting to focus in on his educational goals, cleaning the house was a way to think about his plans. The holidays were coming and going and the house was never cleaner. Winter turned to spring and even though the house was immaculate, the spring cleaning would now commence. On April 20, 1961, Tootsie called my mother for advice. She was having regular pains and she wanted to know what to do. My mother was close to being a nurse just by proxy. Even though she hadn’t studied anatomy or biology for a minute, she deserved an honorary doctorate. “Call your doctor”, she instructed. Tootsie followed her advice and, before she knew what was happening, she was on her way to St. Anne’s Hospital. Everyone was excited for Tootsie and George. The first child for the happy couple. My mother went to bed that night and thought about spring cleaning over the weekend with Jim. When she awoke the next morning, experience told her today was the day for her and her baby. Tootsie was still in labor 24 hours after arriving at St Anne’s. Barb informed Jim that today was the day and she was ready to go to the hospital when he was ready. Jim had called into work to say that a new baby was coming and that he might be a few minutes late. When Barb went to gather a few things, Jim saw a golden opportunity to get a head start on the spring cleaning. He began to sweep the floor. Just this one task and they would be on their way, Jimmy knew the route and could get there in plenty of time and could get there even if he was blindfolded while riding a bicycle. For those of you who have actually seen my father sweep a floor, it remains a thing of beauty. Not a grain of sand or a rye bread seed would remain in any nook or knothole. Nothing, in fact, would be left on the floor. My mother remained patient while the contractions grew closer. “I really think we should get going, we may be cutting it close”, my mother mentioned nonchalantly. My father was focused now and only had three more rooms to sweep. “Jim, I am calling the ambulance, if you do not put down that broom!” My father finished and put the broom away in the proper storage closet and escorted my mother to the car. They drove to St. Anne’s. They rushed my mother directly to the delivery room. The nurses were pleading, “Barb, why did you wait so long?”

My father was on his way to the waiting room when the nurse stopped him halfway down the hallway. ”I recognize you, you are Jimmy Dolan.”

Dad thought George or Tootsie had told the nurses he was here. In reality, he was a very recognizable customer, everyone knew him at this hospital. “Your wife barely made it to the delivery room, you are now the father of a 10 pound 8 ounce baby boy.” Jim made his way to the waiting room to find George with a full beard and a crazed look. No baby yet for Tootsie.

They wheeled my mother and her new baby boy past Tootsie’s delivery room and the delivery team was still waiting for the arrival of that bundle of joy. The date was April 21, 1961. It was now 36 hours after Tootsie arrived and she was still waiting. When Jim and Barb were finally reunited, they decided to call the baby Michael Peter. Michael for my mom’s dad (he was actually Marshall but everyone called him Mike) and Peter for my dad’s dad. They could hear screaming from the delivery room, but that was normal.  It would be another day until Michael Peter’s cousin, Georgie, finally made his dramatic arrival. They put Georgie and Michael next to each other in the nursery behind glass. Everyone was asking why that toddler was still in the nursery. George looked tiny compared to the professional wrestler that lay next to him. My dad could only think about the caraway seed he had failed to dislodge from the oak floorboard in the kitchen back at Monroe Street.

The long path. Favorite song today: Think performed by Aretha Franklin

Coalton Trail

Coalton Trail

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