My thanks to ErikThread for his careful and helpful editing. Any errors are mine.
I met Rebecca Breckenridge at an informal dance in the high school gym. They were called "Sock Hops" in those ancient times since it was held in the gym, and no street shoes were permitted on the hardwood playing floor. It was my senior year and I had no steady girlfriend. Rebecca was sitting in the bleachers watching her classmates dance, and now and then chatting with a couple of her friends. I knew who she was, but since she was a year behind me, we didn't share any classes. I thought she was pretty good looking and she had a great smile. She also had a great body. I hadn't seen her with any particular guy, so I was pretty sure she didn't have a steady boyfriend.
I sucked it up and wandered over near where she was sitting. I asked her to dance when there seemed to be a lull in her conversation. She smiled and stood, and I held out my hand to steady her as she stepped past her friends out to the steps. I was pretty tongue-tied as we danced that first dance. Still, I wanted her to stay and dance some more. Somehow, she got that message and we spent the rest of that too-short noon hour together on the floor of the gym.
To cut the story short, we dated, became intimate, and married, all in two-and-a-half years. I was out of high school and working at a wholesale building supply company while Rebecca was working as a bank teller. I was aiming for a career in sales. It would be my opportunity for a occupation with the potential for almost fifteen thousand dollars in annual earnings.
If Rebecca had a flaw, it was her occasional moods, which varied from distant to downright snarly. They didn't happen very often, but when they did, she wasn't a lot of fun to be around. I put it down to her periods, but to tell the truth, that wasn't the only time when she would go off. I learned to live with it and enjoy all the other times when she was pleasant to be around.
Rebecca was working in the bank to make money which supposedly was going into our savings account. It was destined for the down payment on a house. I kept watching that account, and it didn't seem to be growing very much. Rebecca always had something that she absolutely had to have. As a result, her income was being spent before it ever got into our savings. I talked to her about this, and she got angry about my complaint. In the end, she promised that she would be more frugal. It never happened. There was always something that came first.
It was twenty months after we married that Rebecca discovered she was pregnant. Five months later, she quit her job. It wasn't a big blow to our income, since she was spending most of what she earned on non-essentials. However, it did make my new rules about expenditures that much more important. I was almost at the point where I was going to shift our joint account to a new one with only my access. I think Rebecca must have got the message, and she appeared to reform.
In the meantime, I had been given a junior sales territory. The definition of "junior" being all the accounts that no one else could crack, plus a couple of old standbys that would see that I didn't starve. I had a base salary and a commission on every sale, but the current volume of the territory would see me with little more than my salary as a counter clerk. Nonetheless, I was pleased with the opportunity, and I launched my sales career with optimism.
Rebecca, in the meantime, was exhibiting all the signs of third trimester crankiness. She was carrying our baby through the hot summer months. It was just one more thing to make her miserable. As she got bigger, she got more uncomfortable, which was natural. She seemed to think this was all a conspiracy to antagonize her, and she was in a foul mood more often than not. I consulted with some of my married-with-children cohorts. I was told this was normal, and not to be too concerned. Just try and let it bounce off you, they said, and don't take it personally.
I tried, but there were days when I didn't want to go home and face another night of complaint and argument. I told myself that this misery would be over when the baby was born. Her pregnancy was close to full term anyway, but it was tough. On top of that, my sales career was very slow developing. New business wasn't easy to find. I was young and eager but inexperienced. I struggled without much help from my boss. I had been thrown to the wolves, and left to fend for myself.
On September 29, 1977, our first child was born. I had just come off a road trip, and I was bone weary when I walked in the door of our apartment.
"Don't bother taking your clothes off, Warren, I'm going into labor," she said.
I spotted her suitcase in the hallway, helped her to her feet, and went to get her coat. No "Hi ... how are you?" No "Welcome home, dear." Just get your ass in gear and get me to the hospital. "Nice to see you too, dear," I thought.
We made it in plenty of time. Those were the days when fathers weren't commonly allowed in the maternity ward inner sanctum. We were expected to sit in the waiting room until they were notified that the deed was done. I didn't smoke, but I might as well have lit up a few with the air quality in that room. There were three other guys, all expectant fathers, and two of them smoked.
I went home to my bed about four on Saturday morning. I had finally been informed that there was nothing happening and probably wouldn't be for a few hours yet. I remember falling into bed, but nothing until I woke at nearly nine the next morning. I panicked a bit, thinking that the baby may have been born already. Then I remembered that the hospital had promised to phone me if anything happened. Just the same, I showered, shaved, made some toast and instant coffee, and drove to the hospital again. There was no need to rush. Rebecca was sleeping and nothing had happened.
I had been invited to my boss's house for dinner on Saturday. I took him up on it, and then drove back to the hospital about seven. I went home at eleven that night, once again having been assured that nothing was happening. When the phone rang, I looked at the clock on the night table and saw it was just after three. I groped my way to the phone in the hall and answered it.
"Warren ... why aren't you here? You have a son, Warren," Rebecca said, sounding irritated.
"Oh ... that's great. How are you?" I asked solicitously.
"I'm sore. Giving birth was no fun, I can tell you. You men don't have a clue what we go through for you."
"Well, I'm grateful for your ... efforts, dear. Is the baby OK?"
"Yes ... he's fine. Why aren't you here?" she repeated.
"Uh ... I was ... I mean ... I've been in that waiting room almost since you were admitted. I needed to get some sleep. They said nothing was happening, so I came home. I'll get dressed and come down right away," I said groggily.
"Well don't put yourself out," she sneered and then hung up.
I leaned against the wall and tried to get a grip on myself. I was delighted that we had a healthy baby boy. By the sounds of it, I was happier about the birth than Rebecca. I went to the bathroom and splashed some cold water on my face. I didn't bother to shave, but I brushed my teeth, and staggered back to the bedroom to get dressed.
I arrived just after four that Sunday morning. I went to the waiting room to find a duty nurse to take me to see Rebecca.
"You're too early. Visiting hours aren't until eight," the stout matron pronounced.
"But I'm the father," I protested.
She looked me over carefully and then walked out. I assumed my plea had been ignored, but a minute later another nurse came through the door.
"Are you Mr. Browne?" she smiled.
"Come with me please," she said politely. She made me feel a lot better.
When I entered Rebecca's room, she was holding our baby. She was looking at him with what I could only describe as loving eyes. It was a Rebecca I hadn't seen for a while, and I was mightily relieved.
"Hi, babe, how are you doing?" I asked, all the while gazing at our baby.
"Better, now that it's over. I'm not sure I want to go through that again, but ... god, he's so beautiful, and so tiny. Do you remember what we decided to name him if it was a boy?" she asked, smiling. She was actually smiling. I felt my whole spirit lift with that one gesture.
"Yah ... I remember. Jonathan Michael Browne. Jon for your father, Mike for mine," I smiled.
"Yes. Say hello to Jon Browne, Father," she smiled up at me.
I don't think I'd felt that good about anything in a long time. Our first child, a son! It was the very thing I had hoped for, but never dared tell Rebecca. I was sure she wanted a daughter. Maybe the sight of that precious little boy changed everything. I'm not sure, but she was definitely a happy mother at that moment.
The euphoria lasted quite a while. Rebecca was nursing little Jon, and she was a natural at motherhood. She was happy to have someone who was totally dependent upon her. If it was possible to spoil a newborn, Rebecca managed it. When Rebecca was happy, I was happy.
A strange thing happened at the same time, and I'm pretty sure the two things were connected. Since her turnaround in attitude, I suddenly began to experience some success in my sales territory. Maybe it was because I had a much more positive attitude. Or possibly it was just that I had kept at it and didn't quit. Whatever the reason, I was suddenly writing a lot of new business.
.... There is more of this story ...