b. Mar 12, 2005
d. Dec 10, 2009
Rain. It rained all night and drizzled throughout the day for four days straight. It was an early monsoon that had not been seen in the region for decades. What was first seen as a blessing to douse the bitterly dry landscape and bring hope for a bountiful growing season, soon turned to a curse. Construction workers were exasperated because of stop-work, their weekly pay check evaporating with every passing drenched day, their spouses and girlfriends bemoaning a dearth of cash for the weekend and late rent. Police and utility workers [decried their frustration] as their vehicles became repeatedly bogged and stranded on the endless and poorly maintained dirt (now mud) roads that constituted most of the vast county. They waited anxiously and angrily for tow trucks, who inevitably became stuck themselves. Schools were cancelled because buses could not embark off the main paved highway that bisected the county, even to turn around. Not that it would have mattered because most of the bus drivers couldn't have made it in to work anyway, nor could the teachers. Most everyone who did not live in town resigned themselves to the situation, and hunkered down; spending hours on rickety, leaky porches or in the barn, drinking coffee or bourbon, watching cabin-fevered children shed any semblance of control and frolicking in the icky mud, only to be hosed down by the watering troughs at the end of the afternoon.
Truth be told, despite the curses and [vitriol], the residents of Lea County privately welcomed the deluge. The inconvenience of being stranded and isolated aside, they enjoyed being able to spend the whole day doing nothing, without mustering an excuse. They spent time reconnecting with their household members, and when they grew tired of that, they were able to retreat to their rooms, to garages, to barns, or even to neighbor's houses that were within walking distance, leaving their over boots with 3 inches of sticky clay at the door. Telephones and cell phones were constantly in use, spreading news, gossip, and venom about the misery of having spending even a single minute more with some family member or another. Broadband had not reached the county yet, but people, youth and parents alike, logged on dial-up and browsed the web with renewed ferver.
On the fifth night, when the rain seemed the hardest all week, Tara Doer laid down on her bed. Only her husband and three year old daughter were in the house. Tara was slightly concerned. She could feel that inside her something had changed. Something was different. It was time, and she was worried about what to do next. She should get to the hospital, she knew, but how? But the feeling was undeniable, becoming more insistent by the minute. She got up and felt her way through the darkened room, opened the bedroom door and peaked around the corner into the living room. Her husband and daughter were watching a movie, both sprawled over the couch, their eyes glazed over from too many hours in front of the television. "Honey, I think it's time." Todd shifted his gaze to his wife, weary but still stunning, leaning against the hall's corner, most of her body obscured, but her soft face illuminated by the tv's glare. Her hair was tossled, but still she was lovely. From this view, you couldn't even tell she was pregnant. But she was. She was very pregnant. Todd had also felt that the time was near, though he hoped it wasn't, because he, too, was concerned. The truck, despite its four wheel drive, was firmly mired in the muck about a quarter mile from the house. He had tried to pull it out with the tractor, to no avail. Only the neighbor's Ford [big tractor name] would do the job, but he figured he'd wait till the rains stopped. Now it was too late for that. His neighbor's truck was stuck, too. All they had was the station wagon. The paramedics would never be able to make it to the house, either. Despite being country folk, the era of frontier home-births was long gone. No one they knew had ever partaken in any birth outside of your typical, sterile, hospital delivery. Hot water and towels, right? What on earth for?! What were you supposed to do with hot water and towels! No, Todd was fairly certain he would be incapacitated at even the first sign of delivery. His neighbor was a widower and would certainly be of no help. No, this was not like calving season, and he was also fairly certain he didn't want Lou McCall tugging on his kid's arms while comforting his wife with, "Come on ol' girl, squeeze it out, get on there, now!" He was also fairly certain human baby's didn't come out arms first, anyway. The nearest hospital was an hour away, but they had to get to town at least. The radio reports said the firestation managed to extract its four paramedics from their homes and had them holed up at the station. He had to make it at least to the station.
His resolution crystallized. They had to make it out. "Okay, honey, let's go." Ruthie rolled off the couch and plopped on the floor, slowly slinking her way to her room to get dressed. Tara got her overnight-bag out, she was prepared. Todd pulled on jeans and a clean-looking shirt. Rain slickers, check. Over-boots, check. Cell phone, check. In the car they went. He called county dispatch and told them what he was going to attempt. They advised against it, but they had no alternate suggestion. They had a rescue vehicle with mud tires and chains that could probably make it, but the fire chief had strict orders to only mobilize it in a life-threatening situation. This was not one. The car running, the three said a group prayer and embarked. Todd had laid a good layer of base-course on the drive some years ago and there was no problem there. But between them and the highway lay 4 miles of mudway. Through the darkness, in the headlights, he could see the rain pooling on the muddy roadway, completely saturated. This first mile stretch was untarnished since the sole users (them and their neighbor Lou) had promptly gotten their trucks stuck before making it too far. But Todd knew that the last three miles would likely be a mess due to other brave souls trying to make it out. Momentum, he knew, was key. The car was much lighter than the truck and maybe, just maybe, it could gain enough momentum before sinking in. The front wheel drive would hopefully keep the car on the road. Tara was quite, unusually quiet. She had her eyes closed, her hand on her belly, and was breathing shallow. He had to get them out of there. Ruthie's eyes were wide, her face bearing an expression of shock[?]. From here, it was a straight shot. He took a deep breath, and quickly accelerated the car. 20mph, 30mph, 40mph. They were about three hundred feet out, and Todd could feel the car sink slightly and the tires spin, but the care continued to gain momentum. This was critical. If he went too slow, the car would sink. If he went to fast, he could lose control and wind up in the ditch-cum-waterway [?] that lined the side of the road. The car began to slow, despite the fact that the speedometer stayed at 40. He had to keep going! He accelerated slightly, the speedometer appraoched 50. The car started to move faster again. The car drifted, he let up, and the car corrected but began to bog down. Again he sped up, repeating the frightening ordeal over and over. Tara remained with her eyes closed. Her mind was somewhere else. Connecting with the child inside her, perhaps. Focusing on the miraculous event that was soon to take place. They hit the one mile mark, where intersections from other roads began. Sure enough, the road was well rutted, with a few trucks already mired and abandoned on the side of the road. Now Todd worried about veering off and striking one of them. The car caught the ruts. It would now be centered in the road, but it quickly started losing momentum. Todd gunned the accelerator, rockeing the speedometer to 60. The tires spun, the car slowing already to about 35, but it gradually began to pick up speed. The car was violently rocked side to side by the deep and ragged ruts, occassionally catching and edge and bouncing the car out of the rut, threatening to drift the car to the side. By decelerating and careful steering, the coaxed the car back into the ruts and trudged on. Halfway down the road, just three miles left, Todd could feel the road underneath become more solid. The county had added a layer basecourse up this point a decade back. One could usually never tell, but now you could. Rather than the mud going down a foot, it was only a few inches, the ruts much more shallow, and the car's tires found purchase. The last three miles took five minutes, which seemed to last forever. At last the car approached the stop-sign. This was a good omen. The road that had stranded no less than a dozen vehicles, had let this station wagon through. Ruthie was wide-eyed with mout slightly open. Todd finally let out a breath, "We made it..." he said with an almost sqeeky voice. They had, indeed made it to the highway, but they still had to make it to the hospital.
The rain had relented somewhat and they raced down the highway at a conservative clip. In ten minutes they were in town. He was about to pull into the fire station, when Tara opened her eyes and said, "Don't stop, keep going." Todd replied, "Are you sure? Are you sure we can make it to Roseburg?" "Yes, just go." Todd hesitated, but finally turned back onto the highway and kept going. He turned onto the interstate and headed to Roseburg, 40 miles away.
[continued narrative about trip to hospital, not being able to find the entrance, quick delivery, possible birth complication that made going to the hospital a smart move, etc.]
[now narrative from Samantha]
That was my first day. [narrative about her first month, year, two years, third year]
[now narrative about fourth year, about all the discoveries, the joys, the sadness, the frustrations, the love.. encountering other kids whos lives were not so good, about other kids whose lives seemed better]
[narrative about illness, the last weeks, the last day, the last hour, the last minute]
[narrative about the aftermath, the desperation, the mark left on the world]