In June, 1954 I was sent to the Stanford Convalescent Home on the campus of Stanford University in California because of my severe, chronic asthma. All new patients spent the first week in the unit with babies and little kids. While in that unit I met a three year old girl named Gladys and my entire life has been different because of her. She was deaf and had no fingers on one hand. Her parents had brought her there when she was six months old and were never heard from again. Gladys was cute, smart, and full of mischief. Back then deaf children were forbidden to use any kind of sign language because people thought that would motivate them to learn to speak and read lips, but Gladys and I communicated with gestures when the nurses weren’t looking. After that week I never saw Gladys again, but because of her I learned American Sign Language, worked at California School for the Deaf in Berkeley, married a Sign Language interpreter and raised three Deaf foster kids, among many other things. I would LOVE to find Gladys and get in touch with her again. If anyone reading this knows anyone who is Deaf or who knows Deaf people, PLEASE share this message with them and ask them to help me find Gladys. Thank you.
I’ve probably shared this in the past, but it seems relevant for Valentine’s Day.My college Psychology professor taught us this definition of love:“When the happiness and well-being of another is essential to one’s own happiness and well-being, a state of love exists.”In spite of all the terrible things happening in the world, I hope we can do as Jesus said and love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
When I was a kid my bedtime was 8:00 p.m. and for about ten years as an adult I had a job with rotating shifts so I didn’t have a regular sleep schedule. But for most of my life I went to bed at about 10:00 p.m. and got up at about 6:00 in the morning. Of course sometimes I’d be out late for social events and sleep in on weekends, but those were exceptions, not the norm.Even since retiring I’ve usually kept to that schedule because of meetings, etc. However, since Covid has limited gatherings my sleep schedule has changed dramatically.My alarm clock is still set to go off at 6:00 in the morning, but I just keep hitting the snooze button and often don’t get up until 8:00. And I do almost always go to bed at 10:00 p.m. like a good girl, but I don’t fall asleep until midnight. There’s not much motivation to get up when I can’t go anywhere but a store or rare medical appointment. Of course I attend some zoom meetings, and my church has services on Zoom, but none of those things happen before 10:00 A.M. and the travel time to my laptop is a matter of seconds. I wonder how many other people have changed their sleep habits because of Covid.
2020 was the longest year in history. But January 2021 went by surprisingly quickly. Hopefully, the worst of the nasty politics is over (though I still see a lot on places like Facebook) and we won’t have more riots, hurricanes, fires, etc. With vaccines becoming available the Covid epidemic may be over soon and the economy will recover as things get back to normal. In February we’re supposed to focus on love, and I hope we really can do that.One of my college professors taught us this definition: When the happiness and well-being of another is essential to one’s own well-being, a state of love exists. To quote an old song: What the world needs now is love, sweet love. That’s the only thing there isn’t plenty of.”
(This is not a political statement advocating abortions. Instead, it’s a heads up about what could happen if abortions become illegal.) Back in the 1950s and early ‘60s abortions were illegal and most people agreed that they were wrong. Only desperate women would have them. I knew of someone planning to flee from an abusive spouse who wouldn’t be able to get a job and support herself if she was pregnant, and another with a hereditary disease and didn’t want a child who would probably have it, who decided to have abortions. And many women had abortions back then because a pregnancy would show they’d had extra-marital affairs, which were frowned on by society. But medical professionals didn’t perform abortions, so there were only two ways to have them. Someone could use a wire clothes hangar to hook and drag the fetus out of the womb, which was very dangerous. Or the woman could take some kind of medication known to cause miscarriages. But that second method didn’t always work, and people who had tried it often had babies with neurological damage. I worked with kids who had special needs for many years and in some cases knew, and in others strongly suspected their mothers had tried to abort them. If abortions become illegal again we’ll need to be prepared for lots of kids with Special Needs entering our schools in a few years.
Back in the 1940s there was an epidemic of polio.My father caught it and was sent to the Shriners Hospital for Women and Children in San Francisco. That was the only place the disease was treated because polio was called Infantile Paralysis.I was mildly sick for a day or two while he was in the hospital, but it was nothing to worry about.My father died from the polio and our family was quarantined for the next two weeks.I remember seeing the women from our church climbing the steep path to our house bringing food and leaving it inside the basement door since they couldn’t come near us.A few years later the Cutter Laboratory developed a vaccine for polio and our family doctor told us my brother and I could be the first ones in the county to get it. That Saturday morning in his office my brother and I simultaneously swallowed sugar cubes. Each cube had with an orange spot of vaccine on it.But there had been a terrible mistake at the lab and the vaccine contained the live virus!My brother got sick, but I didn’t. Apparently I’d had a mild case of polio while my father was in the hospital. Fortunately, his case wasn’t very bad and he had no lasting effects.I’m glad scientific procedures have improved a lot since the 1940s and plan to get the Covid vaccination when it becomes available. I’m sure it will be safe.
In spite of all the problems in our world today, there’s one thing we can be grateful for: modern technology. Yes, a lot of problems come with it, but just imagine being back in the early 1900s. They had telephones, but you had to go through an operator to make a call and it cost a fortune to call long distance. They had radios and newspapers, but those were only local. The internet can be frustrating, but just imagine what someone from those times would think of being able to contact other people all over the planet in a matter of seconds! I’m grateful to be living now.
Back during the Spanish influenza epidemic (they didn’t call it flu back then) my father was sent to live with his grandparents in the Appalachian Mountains because it was safer to be away from the crowded city.At the end of the school year he was able to return home.His grandparents gave him the kerosine lamp that had been on his bedside table (they didn’t have electricity yet.)His aunt was the teacher at the one-room schoolhouse he had attended, and she gave him the hand-held school bell. I don’t know how she would have been able to do without that, but perhaps they were getting a bell installed on the roof.I still have both of those things.The chimney on the lamp is cracked so it can’t be used, but the bell is still fine and rings loudly.When I was a kid my brother and I were only allowed to ring that bell at midnight on New Years Eve and I still do that if I’m home that night.This year, because we’ve had our own epidemic, etc., that bell will inspire me to hope that everything will be back to normal by the end of the school year when I ring it at midnight on New Years Eve.
This is a poem I wrote years ago and just found in my files: The familiar odor of strawIn the feed boxWhere I layGave meager comfortThrough that lengthy nightOf labor.Waiting to beholdThe joy within me grown,I feared I would be dazzled by His light.Such painful entry to a pain filled world.At last I saw my own beloved son.My God,A baby!A red and wrinkled, mewing little thing,Mine to teach manhood,Ours to find divine.How could the sky not crack and fallThat He, Almighty, should have entered thusThis aching world? I smiled and held him close,Stilling his tiny wails with my own giftOf motherhood,Blessed among women that I knewMy child would surely live to bring us life.