A BABY SHOWER FOR DADDY, THEN GOODBYE. The story of how we got to Iowa after we married. (A Legacy Story)
Often it is only once in a lifetime that a person hits their personal and professional peak at the same time. But in this case my husband had. He was in his first teaching position in a small northwestern Kansas community named Hill City. When he arrived to start the position we were within two months of the birth of our second child, a son named Steve. We were new to the community, yet people were very kind and accommodating.
By the time our third child Shannon was born, my husband was entrenched in the school traditions, coaching and teaching and in all of the school’s activities. He had become a fun-loving practical joker, and was always involved in his student’s lives. Among his many peers were a group of the school staff who had become personal friends, and were a great support to our family. Life was good.
One day, when the new baby was only a couple of weeks old, I was invited to secretly come to the school and bring the baby. I was escorted to the balcony of the auditorium and then the bells rang and the students began to pour in. All teachers were with their classes. My husband had no fore-knowledge of the plan, or the topic of the assembly, and he stood quietly at the end of a row in his characteristic stance. His hands were lightly grasp in back of him and he stood so straight, one would have thought it was the result of a military bearing. He gave his students his famous warning look that said, “No talking”. They responded with quiet giggles and whispers to each other, knowing his bark was worse than his bite, though they also knew the line not to cross. At that moment, the principal took the stage and asked my husband to come up and the entire audience went silent.
Completely at a loss, my shy guy straightened his frame to rigid mode and went to the stage as requested. Always the well-dressed man, he was wearing a shirt and tie which showed his very muscular frame which had not changed since college. He always turned the heads of the women with his slim waist, impressive build, and tight buns. (Author’s note; had to include that to embarrass him. Author’s prerogative.) He always denied other women admired him, but the women never minded sharing with me how much they enjoyed watching him walk and run. As a coach, he believed in staying in shape so that his football players could have a run for their money when they challenged the “old man” (still in his 20’s) in practice. He was all of twenty seven.
He still stirred me just walking into a room, so, as I watched him take the stage I counted my blessings and looked at our beautiful daughter in my arms, thinking she had no idea how lucky she was to have such a handsome, loving, and proud daddy. I had begun to figure out the purpose of this special program. A Baby Shower for her daddy. I now realized it included the entire junior high which was attending en-mass. Also all of the faculty and staff, including auxiliary employees in the janitorial and secretarial areas had been invited.
The curtains opened and there was a very “creative” throne, which I would learn later had been built by the students. The moderator had my husband sit on the throne with his red face, rigid body language and “stern” face. They began a program based on the students own stories, jokes, poems and sayings about who he was, and his being a dad. They presented him with gifts, each was a joke gift until they got to the baby’s gifts. They had all chipped in and bought beautiful quilts, blankets, and outfits, for a little girl. We learned later even the student’s parents had contributed.
I stood in the balcony bouncing the baby who had awakened, and I was weeping and overwhelmed by the knowledge of how loved he was, to garner this kind of unprecedented acknowledgement. How dear this community had become, and how much this man who overcame a challenging childhood, was loved and appreciated. I could only wish those in his hometown of Billings, Oklahoma, could see him now. I was so very proud of him.
Few would ever know how “hard” it was for my husband to accept such attention, and how hard it was for him to accept the accolades and the tribute intended to show how much they looked up to him and his leadership since coming to their community. Being humble would be a lifelong characteristic .
It was a few months later we began to notice some problems with the baby. She had developmental delays. She did not sit up until almost eleven months old, and then with a pillow to assist. She was not pulling up to walk like the other children and began to have seizures. The seizures increased until she was had as many as six – 10 grand-mal seizures on some days, and 12 on her worst days. At fifteen months she didn’t walk unless assisted.
Medications weren’t stopping the seizures and consultations with prominent specialists only confirmed what we had already been told by our community physicians. She was so ill, and requiring so much medication, she might be retarded by kindergarten. Diagnosed with idiopathic seizures it seemed to actually translate to “she has seizures but we can’t figure out why.”
It took watchful care around the clock to tend to her, and with my husband teaching days and two children to care for, one a toddler, I was exhausted. We were blessed to have a Great Dane that was young, and slept by her bed, alerting us if she had a seizure. I believe Shadow was a fore-runner to Service Dogs, and at that time there were no such things for seizure control as these specialty dogs. Had there been, he surely would have been one. I also believe he was our “Angel Unaware” and an answer to prayer and a true gift of God to help us get through. This was also a God-send when I had to nap due to the exhaustion and during the nights when we both were sleep deprived and would try to go to bed.
The community wanted to help but what could you do? We didn’t share the story of the financial devastation we were encountering with seeking a cure or maintenance for the illness, and in hindsight that was directly attributed to our pride. When we finally found help for her, then spoke with our medical specialist about it since it involved her dramatic response to chiropractic care, he said in a sincere and caring statement, “Being in the medical field, I cannot openly condone chiropractic care. But I will say, that given the circumstances, if this was my child and there was even a glimmer of hope and response, I would do whatever it took to get her help.” This from the specialist who garnered the highest recommendations in the Midwest.
The ultimate decision meant moving hundreds of miles away from our beloved community to Iowa, and my husband having to ask to be released from his teaching contract mid-year. While any sacrifice was worth even the slightest improvement, I feel the greatest sacrifice was made by my husband.
The official goodbye when we left Kansas was one of the most heart wrenching and heartwarming, at the same time. The children and I had already settled in with my parents in Iowa, anticipating the move. My parents were going to watch the children while I returned to Kansas to finish packing up the last of our belongings, and to help my husband drive the rental truck with our furniture. It was a staggering task to do when you are exhausted, but it is unbelievably challenging when you are emotionally drained. I arrived in time for his last day at the school.
Once again I was in the balcony when the assembly took place. I watched a man hold himself erect with control and steel resolve, then take his place at the end of the row with his students for the last time. It was a hushed group of students with none of the frivolity and playfulness of my last visit there. I stood in the back of the balcony, too emotional to sit. Once again, I found myself weeping.
I listened as one by one the teachers gave my stoic husband a little “roast”, telling stories of his practical jokes, his good humor and his dedication. I watched as the students made their presentations to him and said their tearful last words of goodbye. But, what I was not prepared for, and to this day can still envision and hear in my mind, is when the entire school at the end of the assembly stood. Accompanied by their small instrumental music group they all sang, strong and loud, “Oklahoma”. My husband left the platform as the last notes of the song resonated through the halls. I joined him and we left the school together. Incredibly, he didn’t break down. I did, enough for the both of us.
This impassioned radical Oklahoma Sooner was overwhelmed, as was I. He did not break emotionally, but I have never seen him so moved before or since. We left the school, changed clothes, and left his dream job behind. He would never be as happy or as care free in his personal or professional life again, but he would focus on the one thing that has been his priority his whole life. His family.
My husband would always say it was sad to leave our home and lose that position, but he would never regret it, as his daughter became seizure free in her new setting.
He always believed it was God’s way of moving us on. We would have never have chosen to leave had it not been for her illness and we believe the move resulted in betterment of our children’s future opportunities. Their lives became full of advantages we could never have provided for them, isolated in that dear, yet, little community. And the medical and financial advantages were substantially greater, and we found we would need all of that as years went by.
Our beautiful baby would grow to be a beautiful woman and have a daughter whose picture, put side by side with hers, is hard to tell apart. Below is the picture of our daughter, and on the right, her daughter Samantha. Shannon grew up healthy, married, and had two children (A son Jeff was her first).
What a testimony, and what a “karmic” event that she would chose to marry a Chiropractor. For it was chiropractic that in the end, was what stopped the seizures within days of our arrival in Iowa, and what kept her seizure free the rest of her life.
We grew from the love and nurture of friends there in Hill City, Kansas. We grew from the love and nurture of the people we met next, in Davenport, Iowa and we learned that valuable lesson from the simple saying of “Bloom where you are planted.” FEW OF OUR LEGACIES HAVE HAD GREATER IMPACT.