One of the treasures I saved from my father’s house when he moved to assisted living is a letter my Mom wrote from Casper, WY, where my father was stationed at the Army Air Corps Heavy Bomber Training Unit. The letter begins, Dear Mother and Dad, This is an extra special important letter so I’ll send it to the two of you (You’d best sit down, Mom). It continues, You two have been married too long to be just Mom and Dad. Don’t you think it’s time you were Grandma and Grampa? My Mom was telling her parents that she was four and a half months pregnant with me. Of course, they didn’t know me was me yet, so they’d nicknamed me Stinky, Jr. Thank goodness that it was Buddy that eventually stuck as my nickname. The letter says, I hope we do have a boy … with blue eyes and a dimple in its chin … not the other end like me. Hmm. I have brown eyes, by the way. In the letter, my Mom went on to ask if it was OK for her to come home and live with her Mom and Dad while my Dad was shipped overseas to Italy to fight the war. I’ll have a Pullman all the way home, she said … for free, too. The Army was paying. Trains played a big part in my Mom’s travels when she and Dad were first married. There was even a running family joke that my real Dad was a porter. All you have to do is see a picture of my Dad and I together and you’ll know the truth.
My grand parents said, Yes, and so, when May 20, 1944 rolled around, my Dad was overseas. Mom had developed the symptoms of severe toxemia, a dangerous condition involving very high blood pressure that can develop during pregnancy. Mom was rushed to the hospital, and as is often done with severe toxemia in later stages of pregnancy, I was delivered C-section immediately. Years later, I was told that, Your Mom almost didn’t make it, and indeed, toxemia of pregnancy (more properly named pre-eclampsia) can be fatal. However, both son (minus blue eyes) and Mom were fine. But for seventeen years after my birth, my Mom had a recurring dream. In the dream, she was in the dark and Bright Lights were flashing by in front of her face. The dream wasn’t so much a nightmare as unsettling, since she hadn’t a clue what the lights were or what they signified. After some years, she simply accepted that she’d be periodically wakened by her Bright Lights dream.
In 1961, a new medical drama, Ben Casey, premiered on ABC. Ben Casey was an intense but idealistic young surgeon played by Vince Edwards. The show was an immediate hit and was known for its opening sequence, voiced by Sam Jaffe, who played Dr. Casey’s mentor, Dr. David Zorba. Through the magic of YouTube, here’s the introduction:
The first time my Mom watched Ben Casey … and the hospital hallway lights flashing by from the point of view of the woman being gurneyed down the hall, she knew what the lights in her Bright Lights dream were. They were the lights in the halls of New Haven Hospital as she and I were wheeled to the operating room. She’d likely been semi-conscious and sedated at the time, so the images had floated in her subconscious for all those years. She never had the dream again.
I was a junior in high school when Mom told me this story and I’ve only thought of it occasionally. But at sixty-nine, it’s a precious little piece of my memories of Mom that I want to preserve. So, it’s posting on Older Eyes and my Father’s legacy Blog. I hope you enjoyed reading it.