Philip and Thea Hodge
2962 West River Parkway
Minneapolis, MN 55406
tel: (612) 722 – 3743
Groundhog Day, 1991
For the past 10 years I have enjoyed having the title of Sexagenarian. In fact, I liked it so much that I have decided that even though in numerals I now am 70 (Arabic) or LXX (Latin), in words I shall refer to my current age as Soisante Dix (French) or Sixty Ten (English).
Usually I rely on my memory to summarize the year’s activities at this time, but during the past year there were a few times that I sat at the Mac and wrote while events were fresh in my mind. Here, then, are what I wrote last Fall and last Spring:
Sunday. 26 August. 1990. It was not the usual routine landing. In the first place, we were landing at Detroit at 4 pm instead of at Boston at 5. In the second place, there were fire trucks and ambulances with motors running all along the runway as we came down. In the third place, only two of the plane’s three engines were functioning.
The pilots assured us, ”I’m sure there’s nothing to be alarmed at, but I’ve shut down the #3 engine and the ground crew wants to have the emergency equipment out as a routine precaution; as soon as the maintenance people get it checked out, we’ll be on our way to Boston and Frankfurt.” Still, we paid a little more attention than usual to stowing our on-board luggage, tightening our seat belts, and restoring our seat backs to their original upright-position. But the pilot was right. He put us down with even less than the usual infinitesimal bump, and as we taxied sedately to the gate, we could look out the window and see the evenly spaced, slow-moving proceession of fire trucks and ambulances in a neat parade back to wherever such vehicles live when no emergency threatens.
After that beginning, one would expect the rest of the 41-hour “day” which started Friday morning in Minneapolis and ended Saturday night in Munich to be anticlimactic. Being able to spend the 5-hour Detroit wait and the 2-hour Boston one in Northwest’s spacious World Clubs instead of the smoke-filled gate areas (a perk which fully justified my decision last year to purchase a membership); watching the flight engineer open various ceiling panels and intermittently plunge the entire Executive Class cabin and/or the ongoing movie into total darkness as he tried in vain to get Thea’s reading light to work; watching the cabin attendant try one combination after another of headphones and jacks before deciding it wasn’t just row 2 but our entire side of the cabin that was without sound for the 7-hour transatlantic crossing; being so full of various snacks that we could only pick at our delicious dinners of baked trout or blackened salmon when they were finally served after midnight Minneapolis time (the red sky in the east suggested that it was almost the next day’s dawn by local sun time over the Atlantic); snoozing relatively comfortably for a couple of hours before breakfast was served; landing in Frankfurt and walking so casually through passport and customs that it wasn’t clear just when we had finished; getting incredibly friendly and efficient help from a Northwest ticket agent as she called our Munich hotel to assure them that we still wanted our room even though we’d be 5 hours later than originally planned (for years I have laughed at myself as I typed up detailed itineraries for our trips, but it was sure helpful to be able to show the agent in writing the hotel name and phone number, the original train arrival time, and the correct spelling of our names) – – – on some other trip these incidents might have been worth mentioning, but they were distinctly anticlimactic after the fire engines.
However, the day was not over. I had carefully observed how the Frankfurters in the airport took their loaded baggage carts on the escalators, and I had no problem with ours as we descended from the airport to the railroad level. Unfortunately, the man directly behind us on the down escalator had not been so observant, and just before Thea and I reached the bottom his cart went out of control. I’m not sure just what hit whom, but when we had somehow disentangled us, our cart and luggage, and his cart and luggage (without causing a multi-person-pile-up at the escalator exit), our cart was on its side, both my shins were slightly bloodied, and Thea had great big black- and-blue marks on her upper and lower left arm, the latter swollen to almost twice its normal diameter. Fortunately, nothing had hit her back or hip which had been giving her trouble all summer. We took stock, decided that nothing was broken, rigged a makeshift sling for Thea’s arm, and continued on to catch our train. And, with absolutely no further items of interest to report, we reached our hotel and were early to bed after a light supper. As the ads say, “Getting there is half the fun.”
Thursday, September 6. And now we are back home with no further adventures to report. Thea has had her arm x-rayed and it’s not broken; time will eventually reduce the swelling and fade the beautiful black and blue and purple coloration.
Our enjoyment of Europe was less intense and more remote than our trip two years ago when we were researching my ancestors as we went to historic places. You are not interested in the details of which castle or museum we saw which day; in fact the details have already faded for us. Name one high point each for Munich and Vienna? For Vienna it’s easy: going to the Volksoper and seeing a Lehar operetta (The Count of Luxemburg) which we had never seen before. Not as grand as opening night at the Stats-Oper, but even if we could have afforded the $590 (that’s not a misprint; the price was five hundred ninety US dollars) each for tickets at the Stats-Oper, there were none to be had. But the Volksoper theater itself, the sets and costumes of the opera, the frothy plot and catchy tunes were all exactly what Vienna should have been.
The highlight of Munich was not a single experience, but the cumulative effect of eating every meal (except breakfasts) at a different sidewalk restaurant right in the heart of the city. And, of course, having a beer or two along with it. In a language as rich as English, it is strange that the same word, “beer” is used for the heady, hearty, flavorful brews served at every corner cafe in Munich and the tasteless, overcarbonated liquid that is found on supermarket shelves in this country.
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Saturday, March 17, 1990, 10:15 pm. Lisa has decided to lie down and rest for a few minutes. The contractions are as frequent as every 3 minutes when she’s on her feet; maybe as long as 10 when she’s sitting down. I’ve been able to feel useful by timing them, but now I have nothing to do.
It all began when I woke up briefly about 2:30 this morning. Saw a light on in Bill & Lisa’s room, and wondered if something was happening. But went back to sleep until about 6:30. Heard noises in the kitchen, so got up. Bill & Lisa both there, and before I could ask any questions, Lisa said “I seem to be in labor!”
Perhaps I should go back a couple of days. Thursday, the 15th I gave my class of 95 students their final exam, and with the help of three hardworking TA’s and skipping lunch got them all graded and recorded before Thea and I left for the airport at 6:00 pm. Lisa’s baby was due March 22, and my first class next quarter wasn’t until March 28. Would I be lucky enough to see my fourth grandchild from the beginning?
Friday was uneventful, but Friday evening Bill, Lisa, and I took her usual 60 minute walk – – at a pace somewhat slower (and hence more tiring) than I was used to.
So, you can see that I was more than somewhat overjoyed when it appeared that the baby would not only be not late, but would actually be several days early! I was all set to have her disappear to the hospital while Thea and I stayed home to wait for news. But my, how times have changed since we gave birth to our first born over 40 years ago. They go (not she goes) to the birth center (not the hospital) after discussing it with the midwife (not the doctor) when the contractions are 3 minutes apart (not at the first sign of labor).
Sunday, March 18, 4:00 pm. Well, things didn’t quite turn out as we hoped. They went to the birthing center at 2:00 am this morning, but were back home a couple of hours later. It turned out Lisa wasn’t as ready as we thought, having only dilated to about 2 cm instead of the necessary 10. All very disappointed, but she and Bill both got some needed sleep, and today the labor is proceeding intermittently.
But what I want to write about isn’t a blow by blow account, but the tremendous changes for the better in the approach to child bearing. I, about to become a grandfather for the fourth time, feel more a part of the forthcoming birth than I did to the births of the three children I sired these many years ago. When a contraction starts, Lisa takes a deep breath and exhales it with an audible moan. Usually Bill is immediately in front of her and she puts her arms around him and sags against his chest while he slowly and calmly soothes her, reminds her to breathe deeply, to relax all her muscles, to ride the wave, that it’s almost over now. He has learned all this in the pre-birthing classes they attended together. But Thea and I are quick learners, and if for any reason Bill is not right there, one of us steps up and assumes his role.
I had thought that hearing my daughter in pain might be distressing to me, but it isn’t. It is wonderful. It is awesome. It is profound. It is beautiful. Nature is doing its thing, and we are all helping. The moans tell us of Lisa’s discomfort, but they also tell us that she is breathing deeply and slowly and relaxing her muscles to reduce the discomfort and increase the effectiveness of the contraction process. And after the moans have continued for 40 – – or 60 – – or 90 – – seconds, she gives a deep natural sigh, releases me from her grasp and bestows a radiant smile as she says “thanks”. The world is a wonderful place.
Of course, it will be even more wonderful when all this finally comes to fruition. As I’m sure it will. But for now, we are all taking it one contraction at a time.
Monday, March 19, 5:30 pm She has arrived! Rebecca Rose Kelly was born about 2:30 pm today. Lisa called us from the birthing center and her voice was sweet music to our ears. Despite 60 hours of labor, she sounded so serene and happy. And in the background we could hear a little wail from Rebecca Rose herself.
We were together until about 11:30 last night. At that point Lisa was lying on the couch and the contractions were coming every 4 minutes and lasting almost half of that interval. Bill said, “It’s time to go”, and no one argued. I was sorry to take my last turn holding my daughter in her joy and misery, but it was time. We helped them into the car and they were off.
Thea and I slept the rest of the night, but as day broke with no word, we became increasingly edgy. Finally, about 10 am we heard from them, but the news was “no news”. But from then on they kept us posted about once an hour; sometimes Bill, sometimes their good friend Marion who was at the center with them the whole time. And then, at 2:30, our daughter’s own lovely voice, weak but proud, to tell us herself that Rebecca was here.
Now we sit, relaxed, excited, and happy, waiting for them to come home. Any minute now and I will be able to hold my precious descendant in my own arms.
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Monday, April 16 Yes, a month has gone by. Today Rebecca Rose Kelly is 4 weeks old and growing like crazy. I had thought to write something almost every day, but once Rebecca and Lisa and Bill arrived home, turning on the Mac just didn’t seem to happen.
But what a wonderful feeling it was to hold Rebecca in my arms when she was less than five hours old! My own children were more like five days! So tiny. So totally helpless. Barely able to cry at first. But Rebecca talked. Right from the start. Little coos and gurgles and grunts. Instantly, she became a person instead of an abstraction.
I was there for all of her first week. It is amazing how one tiny digestive tube can keep four adults who collectively outweigh her by almost 100 to 1 totally and completely occupied. Lisa did all of the feeding, but all of us were involved in everything else. Thea and I spent much of our time going shopping for the usual essentals of daily life such as food, and for the myriad of things such as cribs and receiving blankets which this new addition to the household required.
And we would goodnaturedly fight over who got to hold her. And watch her eyes open and close. And count her ten perfect fingers. And tell each other how wonderful she was. And look for the changes, day by day, that meant she was growing up.
All too soon, I had to go back to Minneapolis to teach my class in the new Spring quarter. But Thea had piled up advance time on her part-time job, and was able to stay. After two and a half weeks, I could stand it no longer. My class schedule permits me to take a long weekend, so last Friday night found me back in Sunnyvale. And my, how Rebecca has grown and matured since last I saw her. She shows the beginning of a smile every once in a while. Her eyes begin to focus. Her arm and leg motions still seem random, but they are increasingly strong. She holds my little finger in the tight grip of her whole hand.
What a wonderful sensation to hold her on my arm, her head cradled in the palm of my hand, her legs reaching almost to my elbow, and walk back and forth in the living room or hall. Singing. Fortunately she has no ear for music yet, so she really enjoys my singing. Gilbert & Sullivan, pop songs from the 30’s, folk songs, romantic songs, multi-versed ballads, bawdy songs, grisly songs – – she loves them all. She gazes intently at my face (where is that sound coming from). And the eyes begin to close. Slowly. They pop open and drift shut again. And she is asleep. – – I do like being a Grampa!
Dear Friends and Relations,
Phil neglected to mention above that his singing to Rebecca, which went on from midnight to 3 a.m. many nights, has had a noticeable effect on her. The day care providers in the NASA-Ames nursery where Rebecca spends 3 days a week report that whenever they play music, she stops whatever she is doing and starts rocking back and forth with great seriousness. We don’t know what this portends but she sure is a cutie.
Lisa, Rebecca’s Mommy and a Cray expert, works at Ames supporting a couple of the Cray computers there. Daddy Bill works for a computer start-up company in Palo Alto. The little company is doing well; we watch its progress on the stock exchange every day. Our son Phil reports that his area, heavy construction, is in a rather deep recession, but he still has his head above water and can still keep his plane flying. He’s very encouraging to me in my project to learn small plane navigation, sending me maps to study and answering my questions, with more-or-less patience! Sue and David and their 3 bairns appear to be doing well. It’s not necessary to say, is it, that I think Sue’s children are beautiful and bright and wonderful?
In June 1990 I retired for the second time. Phil was concerned that I would not have enough to do after 30 years in high-stress positions, but lack of interesting things to do has not been a problem. As friends who have preceded me on the retirement path have reported, it’s a lot of fun if, indeed, one has interests and hobbies outside of work. My involvement in the computer field continues through several professional societies; I have been trying to catch up on many years of reading lists; I’m taking piano lessons and have begun to work on my first Mozart sonata – the easy one! I have taken 6 trips since June 15 including the trip to Germany and Austria; I’ve made curtains and duvets; sporadically I work on family photo albums. And I have a list of things I want to do that I haven’t yet found time for. I now regret that I took that post-retirement job for 3 years; I could have used those 3 years.
Having retired I recognize, as I have not previously, that strong, healthy, agile years may be in short supply for us. One can’t know how many, which is just as well, but surely there is a reasonable limit. So it behooves us to make the most of each one. We are retiring at a much older age than did a couple of our longest-term friends. We trust this was the right choice for us. We can hardly wait until Phil retires in June; we have more travel on our list. The Americas are of great interest, and someday with luck we would like to visit Australia, New Zealand, and perhaps Tasmania. Once I get over the euphoria of being free of an office and associated constraints, I will consider volunteering in one of the needed ways in the community. Meanwhile, I am being carefree and to some extent irresponsible. I wish you all a most wonderful year.