I like donuts. In fact, there was a time, when I liked them so much, I made them from scratch.
That’s what I was doing, the night Melissa was born, making donuts.
Now you’d probably think that with a baby on the way, I’d be doing something else, but donuts seemed to me, to be the right thing to do. Besides, neither one of us had any idea that TODAY was THE day. It was a day, just like every other day, and the one thing I know to be 100% true is, when I don’t eat, I get hungry.
So there I was, Knee deep in Wesson Oil and Gold Medal Flour, an apron on, and a few dashes on flour on my face so that I’d look authentic if anyone came around, making donuts. This was my mothers recipe, handed down over the generation of one, and since I liked her donuts, I figured it was a good place to start.
I recall distinctly, that I had the oil up to temperature, and I had just put three donuts into the oil to fry, and I heard this UUUGGGGGGHHHHHHH!
I was a father of one, but this was the BIRTH that I’d actually attend. It also turned out to be the last. Being “new” at this, I’d done my usual homework, and we’d done the breathing thing which I thought they should teach after the kid is born, because there are a lot of times, you just NEED to take a deep breath and PUSH! But anyway, I had the suitcase and all the things we’d need for this new adventure, and the lady a couple townhouses down was on alert to take care of Mickie, so I thought I had everything in order. The car even had a full tank of gas, and I’d made the hospital run several times to be sure I knew the way.
At the time, we were living in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. We’d moved here, cross country from Kansas, the previous year, and I was working as the Advertising Manger at Pittsburgh Suburban Newspapers, otherwise known as the Daily Messenger in Homestead PA, and about 11 Weekly newspapers that ringed the city from Squirrel Hill to Mount Lebanon.
We’d come, essentially because Dad had a major heart attack, and we nearly lost him. I’d sent resumes all over the East Coast, and this was as close as I could get in the time we had.
It all started in February of 1978. I was plucking away in Junction City Kansas, working for Montgomery Newspapers and KJCK-FM, and I was happy building a life there, when the phone rang. Dad was in the hospital, and no one had a clue if he’d make it or not. I recall it being cold and snowy, which it does occasionally in the Midwest, but it was worse than usual that year.
The closest flight I could get was out of some rinky dink airport in Topeka, so I drove there, left the car, and got on a plane. After I was sure he was out of the woods, I came back, and we stated looking for work on the East Coast.
I interviewed for the job in Pittsburgh, at the airport there. The Publisher of the paper flew me out and we sat and had a sandwich and talked. He made me an offer which was nearly twice what I was making at the time, and said he’d help any way he could. J.C. Pennington, as it turned out, WAS the publisher, but the guy that really held the purse strings and the pen, was his Father. I didn’t find that out until later.
So I picked up my entire three person circus, packed it into a 21 foot UHAUL, and off we went. I had found a good deal on a nice three bedroom townhouse out on Abbeyville Road in Bethel Park and we moved in. In early 79, we found out we were expecting, and I started trying to figure out how this was all going to work.
We had two cars, and one was an Orange Pinto that I’d bought somewhere along the line. Pinto’s, as it turns out, were fire hazards waiting to happen. I went and talked w/ JC and we worked out a deal for the company to buy me a car. That solved that problem, but I knew I needed to put away a little cash just in case. We’d only been married about two years at this point, and we had started with absolutely nothing, and we still had most of it left.
I got a job working nights and weekends at Mt. Lebanon Hardware. I liked that job, it gave me some exercise, and I began to save for this baby.
So now, here we are, December 16th, 1979, I’m making donuts, and I get the UUUGGGGHHH.
so I asked the obvious question. Is that THEE ugg, or just a regular uggg.
Turns out, it was THEE ugg. We piled in the car, suitcase and everything I thought that we might need. Off we went to Mt. Lebanon Hospital.
It’s not a far drive from Bethel Park to Mt. Lebanon, and on arrival I jumped out of the car, and went to the other door.
Let’s just sit here and wait, I was told.
Well, it turns out, that labor for Mickie, had been some long ordeal, and she wasn’t anxious to do it again, so she thought we should just sit here, relax, and have a cigarette.
Well, I had thrown all of my cigarettes in the Pacific Ocean one day in 1976, so I was good, but my PREGNANT wife, who had smoked all through the pregnancy against my better judgment and unwanted advice, decided to have one last smoke before the delivery room. Now, it seems crazy, back then, I guess I just accepted it. Looking back, I guess I could have gone for a bottle of Jack or something too, but hey, that’s hindsight for you.
Finally, we got to the front desk at the hospital, and I’m filling out papers, and they took my wife to the room to get ready. I was still standing there filling out the triplicate papers in quadruplet, when a nurse came running up and asking who I was.
I was needed, like right now, in the delivery room, or I’m going to miss the show. Good thing I didn’t go for the Jack, or we would’ve had this kid in the backseat of a brand new Datsun 280z, and there wasn’t any backseat.
Up I go, get gowned and masked, and hustled into the delivery room where we are already into the heavy breathing. Now I realize that it’s heavy breathing that got us into this mess, but I’m the that’s supposed to be coaching, not the nurse. As I took over, my wife grabbed me by the hand, and we started in.
Keep in mind, this is my first trip to this particular zoo, and I’m more than a little bit unnerved as it is, when she starts clamping down on my arm and hand, and I’m starting to feel like this kid might pop out of thumb or something. She had me in a vice, and while I knew she was having more pain that I was, I thought it was nice of her to share some of it.
Then she looked at me, and this was NOT “the look of love” that they sang about in that song. In fact, suddenly, I had no idea WHO this was that was on the table, and I thought perhaps I’d gone into the wrong delivery room. Not only that, but I was almost sure this was Satan on the table. Face red, check. Face twisted and distorted, check. Teeth bared, got it. Eye’s glowing with some sort of sinister something or other just boiling out of them and darts with small tipped grenades about to rocket right at me.
And the, IT said, YOU DID THIS TO ME.
Kind a a guttural growl that I didn’t recognize at all, and my first thought was RUN, while you still can. But I couldn’t run, the THING had me by the arm, and was clamped down drawing me in for the kill.
It was only later on, after that near death experience that I had in the room, that I thought about all of this. She’d said, I did this to her. Well, let’s just think about that for a moment. First off, it WAS good news that I did it, I mean it could have been someone else, and then what would I have done. But then again, she spoke like she had no doubt about it, which either mean I was the only one, or, she’d had test done to confirm it.
I wasn’t sure about any of this.
Melissa Anne, Melisska Annie, Missy or Mel as her friends call her, was boring on December 16th, 1979 and I was there to witness it. So, for any of you out there who know her, and are at all unsure about whether she was boring or found under a leaf in the cabbage patch, I can testify to the truth.
A few days later, we brought this little bundle of dynamite home to our townhouse. Mom, Laurie and Dad, came to visit. I have to tell you, THIS was a FIRST. My Father, went NO WHERE. I’m serious. He went on that one vacation when we were kids, and that was it. It was work or home, or Hague. He had a radius of about 15 miles that he was willing to move around in, and that was that.
But two things lived at my house now, that he was so interested in, that he’d get in the car, and travel several hundred miles. Trust me, it wasn’t me. At this point in the game, the man LIVED for Mickie. He ate, slept, dreamed, and talked about Mickie. He was the light of his life, and he couldn’t get enough of her. He loved that kid, and she, loved him. When they got together, they were inseparable, and I simply ceased to exist.
Now he had a NEW granddaughter, and by god, heart attack or not, he was GOING down there. I’m not sure if that happened before, or after Mom told him that if he didn’t get in the car, it wasn’t a heart attack he should be worried about, but he came.
I wasn’t sure if I should just step back and watch the whole thing, or if should erect a Monument to the fact that my Father had slept here. Truthfully, it just didn’t happen.
We had planned to spend the Christmas Holidays together, and I had to work through until Christmas Eve so we could get the annual Christmas editions out.
On the morning of December 22nd, I went to work, and left the family to have a nice day. The girls were going to make goo goo eyes at the baby, and watch her drool. You got that Mel’s co-workers? She DROOLED, and that’s not all!
As I pulled into the parking lot behind the office, which sat just across the street from the big U.S. Steel Homestead Plant, I saw a bunch of my coworkers standing outside. I thought that rather odd, so I parked and walked over to the group.
A little early for a cigarette break, I couldn’t imagine what was going on, until they told me.
Three days before Christmas, not even a full week after Melissa was born, and four days after we brought her home, and ONE day after my parents and sister arrived for the occasion, we were ALL out of work.
J.C.’s Dad, fed up with the Union, had locked everybody out with ZERO notice, and shut the place down for good.
We all sat there, in the snow, and we sang Jingle Bells. Seemed like the right thing to do at the time, I mean it was 830 in the morning, and not only didn’t I drink, but the bars weren’t even open yet.
So standing there, we sang, we cried, we hugged, and then we all got in our cars, and left for the last time.
I’ve never seen or heard from any of them, ever again.
The drive home that morning, was something I will remember the rest of my days. Sobering to say the least. I had a part time job now, my full time job, which really paid the bills was gone, I had no immediate prospect of employment, and I had a new baby at home, a four year old, and my entire family, none of whom were expecting me back until later this evening.
What do I do now? I was reeling. This was something right out of a bad movie.
I pulled into the parking lot at home, next to mom & dads car and our Chrysler Cordoba “family” car, turned the engine off, and sat.
I didn’t want to go home. I didn’t want to have to face them all, and tell them the bad news. Dad was here. And I was a failure. How do I tell everybody this. I’d dragged everyone hundreds of miles away from their homes, created a new life, and I’d make a HUGE mistake trusting these morons. I had failed at taking care of my little family, and I felt like dirt.
I’ve had some “bad” moments in my life, we all have them, but this one ranks pretty high up there on the I’m disgusting list.
Up the stairs I went, like a man walking to his death chamber, knowing that the electric chair was waiting, and trying to suck in every last ounce of good air, before they hit the switch and your head blew off. Dead Man Walking, that’s what I thought.
I opened the door and everyone was in the living room, still doing goo goo eyes and laughing, the problem was, in about a minute, I was going to have to stop the laughter, and I wasn’t at all sure that we’d laugh again any time real soon.
And that’s when IT happened.
My wife said she’d had a strange phone call about an hour ago, some guy wanted me to call him as soon as I got home. I looked at the number and it was in our area code, but I didn’t recognize it.
We had a phone in the bedroom, so I went there and dialed the number. It was a newspaper in the area, and I was told to hold on, the Publisher wanted to talk to me.
And just like that, I had a job. No interview. No nonsense, no haggling. He asked me how much I was making. I told him and he said, no problem I’ll give you 50% more, and you’re out new Assistant Publisher. I thanked him, we wished one another Merry Christmas, and he told me to come to work on January 2nd, he’d send a Holiday check over to welcome me to the team.
Five minutes ago, I was on my way to a date with Old Sparky, and just before they pulled the switch, the phone had rung, and the Governor had issued a full pardon.
I slid off the bed, onto the floor, and I cried. Then I cried some more.
Not only was I saved, and my family saved, but I could quit the part time job, and spend more time at home and I was simply overwhelmed. The day, which was barely four hours old, had packed so much emotion into it, that I wasn’t sure I had the physical, let alone mental stamina, to go downstairs and join the family. I felt like I’d worked 24 hours straight in a steel mill, and then told, I’d won the lottery.
The range of emotions, THAT single day, took my breath away, and as I relive it in this telling, it does so again.
I am forever grateful for a God who takes care of fools and drunks. I hadn’t had a drink in years, but I certainly qualified as a fool.
Thank you Jesus. Thank you. From the very bottom of my heart.