My favourite Texan

2008
Reynolds, Larry

Jolene was a Texan, exiled and transplanted into a cold Canada far from family, home and heat. I was her family doctor. She was my... “favourite Texan”. I do not remember our first meeting as I have left that part of Canada and this was many years ago. I do recollect her pregnancy visits. They were filled with questionings and smiles and testings as we got to know one another. Was I able to pass her trust tests? Big smiles, deliciously accented Texan, fragrant body lotions and mutual admiration of her tanned baby swelling belly were at the core of our encounters. I looked forward to her visits. The birth was powerful and beautiful. I remember the room, a beautiful girl and my Texan was magnificent, radiating strength.

Before long, dark clouds rolled over her horizon. Breast feeding did not go well despite the ministrations of a determined and skilled lactation consultant. Jolene became depressed and she worried about the baby’s health and safety. About this time the news was filled with the account of an American mother drowning her children. Jolene could not get over this and it hung over her like a dark sticky cloud that burned her spirit. Endlessly trying to make sense of this, she could not let go or accept it. Evil never makes sense any more than one can take the square root of fire. Recovery happened. A second girl was conceived and well born. The girls were loved unconditionally, well dressed and polite. They and our friendship grew. Jolene’s husband Bob, outnumbered by the women bore his burden manfully .Winters were hard on our Texan but she persevered. Visits from her Lone Star mother lightened her burden. Clinic appointments were double the fun when they both came in together. I also was out numbered and out classed by these two Southern Women.

Jolene fell pregnant a third time. All seemed to proceeded well. The big sisters were excited participants in prenatal visits. Both Texan grandparents journeyed up for the birth. When labour came Jolene was fortunate to be admitted to one of the recently built birthing rooms. The scene was set. Grandpa and Grandma with the granddaughters hovered in the background. Mom and Dad were ensconced in the birthing room. There were just two outsiders, an experienced unflappable maternity nurse and a much more excitable family medicine resident Dr. N (“just call me Jim”). Jim was part of the tide of boat people that washed out of Vietnam to land on the welcoming shores of Canada. His successful family had been blown away from home by the typhoon winds of war. The American Empire was colliding with communism in Asia. Uncertainty and not belonging spun him into a whirl .He worked and worked to stretch his small body into the shape of big Canadian expectations.

As the tides of labour rose, Jolene was drawn into the waters. Whirlpools seemed to comfort her and despite the pulse of labour she anchored herself in a place of calm. Slowly a surging ring of fire broke through and she whispered her need to push. It was too late to move. Resident Jim not knowing what to do tried to straddle the tub. Instead the plug was pulled. As the water drained the baby’s head slipped out and up he dove onto his mother’s abdomen, calmed and comforted by her welcoming breasts.

In a few minutes after the clean up and the drying, we were ready for the rest of the family to join us. The girls rushed to their mother then shyly admired this strange new creature, a brother. Grandpa Texas moved in to admire his grandson. His rounded belly bordered with his red braces pushed up against the warmer. “Doc” he said “I’d be much obliged to you if I could do something for this boy of mine”. Reaching into his pocket he pulled out a clear bag of red earth. “I want to plant his feet on this Texas dirt.” Go ahead I said and tenderly he pressed the tiny feet and niblet toes into the soil. Now he had taken possession of his grandson and claimed him for a distant republic.

My greens were draughty with the cool wetness of the reddened waters of birth. As witness to this order of love and belonging, of story and of blood, I am moved by the honour of my little part in the drama of a family’s life. Caught up in the intersections of generations, of suffering and of joy… I know that I, for a few moments, am standing… standing on holy ground.

Theme: Patients | Patients
Theme: Birth | Naissance
Theme: Family | Famille

Stories in Family Medicine | Récits en médecine familiale [Internet] Mississauga ON: College of Family Physicians of Canada. 2008 --.

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