Strand of Pearls II
More on My Life
The continuation of "Strand of Pearls." More of my life story.
The days and nights were filled with emptiness in the Strand home after Henry's passing. All of the children began acting up and lashing out. The little cape cod, where they had lived comfortably, began closing in on them. All ten of them fought for their mother's attention; not wanting to share her. Not one of them knew where they stood or what to do with themselves. There was a gaping hole in their world and without realizing it they were taking their grief out on each other.
Betty had become a hollow shell. She was so in love with this man, she nearly worshiped him. She thought maybe that he had been taken away from her because she placed him above God. There was so much darkness even in the light of day, Betty knew she loved her children deeply but at this point she could not feel it.
Betty would only allow herself to cry in the privacy of her room. She didn't want her children to share her burden. She didn't believe that they needed any extra sadness. She didn't realize that not sharing her grief with them only strained them more. Withholding her feelings may have caused some to feel unloved. Of course since she couldn't feel it herself how could she show it properly. She felt so numb and unreal; as if it were all a dream, she was just sleep walking. She just knew she would wake to find this horrible nightmare gone.
But the nightmare never ended and she still went from day to day as if
in a trance. Going through the motions of living much as she had done
before as a mother but no longer as a wife. Family and neighbors stopped by bringing
food and offering their condolences. She accepted their assistance, yet
she was so withdrawn--pulling away from the world. She began to feel as if
she didn't belong anymore and stopped going to family functions. She had died right along with Henry.
A Little Bit of Hope
One day, as Betty was going about her household chores, the children were getting along a little better and her load felt a bit lighter. Those who were old enough were performing chores quietly, listening to records on the stereo as they worked. the music seemed to soothe everyone in the house.
Darlene was too small to help so she sat on the back of the couch looking out the picture window. Suddenly, she started hollering to her mother, "Mommy, daddy!" pointing out the window."Daddy, daddy!" Betty looked out to see who her little girl could have mistaken for her father, only to see no one there. So, she went on with folding the laundry. Darlene continued to claim that her father was there and wanted her to come play, she was so certain that Betty began to wonder if maybe her daughter could see something that she could not. She had always believed that infants could see and hear God, angels, and those who had passed on. Darlene was not an infant but it was still possible that she could.
That evening as Betty tried to sleep, she felt a presence enter her room. She sensed someone walk over and sit on the edge of her bed. The bed weighed down and leaned in one direction for a moment then in the other direction as if taking off shoes.Then the presence laid down beside her and loving arms wrapped around her holding her close. She knew in her heart it was Henry, he had come to comfort her.
"Donna, would you come down here, please?" Betty hollered from her bedroom. Donna was the oldest child the only one over sixteen. Donna made her way down the hall to her mother's room expecting to be asked to run to the store for milk, but what she saw when she entered the room shocked her. Betty sat crumpled over her enlarged abdomen in pain and there was a pool of blood on the bedding. At first Donna couldn't think, but it only took a second for her to realize she needed to get her mother to the hospital.
The Doctor worked diligently, trying to stop the bleeding but was unable. He began to fear for the child Betty carried in her womb and decided he needed to perform a cesarean section to save the baby's life. After the birth of her son she began to hemorrhage again. Investigating the cause the doctor found that her uterus had collapsed. Betty was still a bit groggy from the last surgery but knowing that she was a bleeder the doctor knew he had to do something fast. "You don't need that old thing anymore do you?" Dr. Phelan asked her about her uterus. She stared for a second then slowly shook her head.
Back in surgery the doctor performed an emergency hysterectomy to end the bleeding. But Betty had lost so much blood that her vitals dropped drastically. Concerned Dr. Phelan turned to the nurse, "Contact Betty's parents, they will want to be here!" Wanda obediently, headed for the door. "Never Mind, She's gone!" the doctor exclaimed. Shaking his head and leaving the room. As he did so he muttered to himself, "How do I break this to those children so soon after losing their father?"
Betty's body lay still on the table covered with a cloth but her spirit soared to reunite with her late husband. She reached him and they held each other for a few moments. "You've got to go back." Henry told her then added, "Someone has to take care of our children." Betty felt so peaceful and happy she didn't want to leave but she knew he was right. Their children needed her, she couldn't bear the thought of them being separated.
As the doctor was leaving the room Wanda called out shakily, "Doc, you might want to come back here. She's just sat up!" Dr. Phelan thought her silly, "Sometimes bodies twitch a bit, it's just the nerves." he stated. But as he could see once he turned around, Betty had returned to her body. "You are one amazing lady!" the doctor said shaking his head. "I had one foot in heaven and my husband kicked me back down." Betty informed them hoarsely, with a weak smile.
Baker's Dozen Minus One
"You sure make beautiful babies." Wanda smiled at the newborn in Betty's arms as she wheeled her to the car waiting down stairs to take her and her preemie home. He was born 6 weeks early. Only 2 months after Henry passed away. Betty became quiet and her eyes misted up as she thought of how happy Henry would have been to finally have his Mitchell Ivan. She thought of how sad it was that the two would never meet. "When this baby is born we'll make a Baker's Dozen!" Henry teased with her when he was told of her pregnancy. He was always so proud of each one of his children.
The ride home was quiet as Mitchell slumbered and Betty rested her body in the passenger seat. Her mind was another matter however, as she thought of how 1964 had been a very stressful year already and it was only March. She hoped that the little amount of money the government allowed her from her husband's Social Security would stretch far enough. It would be hard to feed and clothe eleven children with the amount doled out for only three. The Veteran's Administration was the same, she was only allowed to have three children on it at a time.
She couldn't complain about the government though, it was certainly better than nothing and they had helped her and Henry purchase a brand new house when he came home from the war. The first house built on that block; a freshly built Cape Cod. They had three children when the house was finally ready for them to move in. Henry III was just tall enough to cut his teeth on the windowsill of the large picture window. Now there were going to be eleven children running through that house, but Henry would not be there to chase them around and tussle with them.
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