Sixty-five years ago in the early morning hours of February 10 a young man raced his car through Greencastle, Pennsylvania. He ignored trafflic lights, only making sure of safe passage. He was intent on getting his wife to the Waynesboro General Hospital, Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. She was in labor. Neither of us knew what to expect. It turned out to be a long day.
Rhoda was soon in a comfortable bed, and I was given a chair beside her. Contractions came and went; nurses came in to examine her and left. I had no training in the role of a father to be, like dads receive now. I only remember that Rhoda was comforted when I combed her long hair. I performed that ritual on request. It was a pleasure to her and to me.
I think it was 5 or 6 o’clock when the nurses chased me out of the room and off the floor. I found a refuge to wait on a landing of the stairway. Soon Dr. Hess came running up the stairs. He took a glance at me and said, “they want me up there.” I didn’t know what that meant.
Dr. Hess was a nonconformed German Baptist. When I see German Baptist women I recognize them by their pointed capes and multi-colored dresses that are unique among plain woman. Every sister that I’ve asked knew Dr. Hess and his family of five sons, all of whom became medical doctors as I recall.
After the birth I remember them rolling Rhoda down the hall. She was so beautiful, so very beautiful and peacefull. They showed me the baby through a window. What I remember best is that she was screwing up her mouth, preparing, to suck I think, and to speak all the words she would later utter in abundance. They soon brought her to her mother’s room where we could hold and adore her.
When I called home to report the birth of daughter named Rachel, my mother said, “Martin, if you had been a girl your name would have been Rachel.”
Last night, 11 persons gathered at Dan and Ang’s home to celebrate Rachel’s sixty-fifth birthday with her. Her son Phil and family in Denver were present by skype.