I’m not very good at keeping up with birthdays, but it’s easy to remember when our children were born. A struggling stork landed in Warner Robins with Erin, Seth, and Carrie on December 22, 1978. That was forty years ago, so now seems like a logical time to reminisce.
If you’ll indulge me for the next four columns, I’ll return to the usual themes after that. The triplets’ arrival changed our lives and it changed us. I hope you’ll enjoy some glimpses from our family’s past. And I hope my children will forgive me for letting the world know that they just turned forty.
Jane taught school in Cordele back then and sometimes stopped by Piggly Wiggly on her way home. One such afternoon in October of 1978 she was in line at the grocery checkout. That was before the days of the almost silent electronic scanners. The efficient clerk was rapidly keying in prices and quantities of various items. The rhythmic rat-a-tat-tat of her register abruptly halted. “You’re kidding!” exclaimed the startled young woman standing behind it.
“No, really,” my wife assured her. “I’m only six months pregnant.”
The disbelieving clerk searched Jane’s face for a telling wink or laugh but found none. She turned back toward the register and said with a sigh, “Honey, you must be having twins!”
About a month later Dr. Manning, Jane’s obstetrician, ordered x-rays. An x-ray on a mother-to-be sounds archaic now, but that was the pre-sonogram era, a time when imaginations were relied on as much as imagery. Jane had already lost her driving privileges, so my mother took her to Warner Robins.
I was working for my cousin, Rooney Bowen, at his Chevy dealership in Vienna. I left after work that day and drove the 12 miles to my parent’s home on our family farm. I was going there for supper and to pick up Jane. I assumed that I would hear an official report that twins were on the way.
I expected to find a table overflowing with food and a house bursting at the seams with excitement. I found instead an eerily quiet family gathering.
“Well, Neil,” said my mother while struggling to keep her composure, “how many children do you think y’all are having?” Through watery eyes Jane blankly gazed toward me, her lips noticeably quivering. Daddy sat close to her and was gently patting her on the back.
“We must be having three!” I gleefully exclaimed. At first no one believed I had said it, then they thought I was kidding. My mother suspected that I had called Dr. Manning’s office.
But there was no mystery in my confident answer. For several months we had felt there was a strong possibility of twins. Jane had not gained any weight in her slender limbs or face, but her abdomen obviously sheltered more than one baby. I knew that a confirmation of twins could not be responsible for the sober atmosphere encompassing Mama’s kitchen. When I said that we were having triplets, I had no doubt about it.
“What are we going to do?” asked Jane. Her question was punctuated by tears that were rolling down her beautiful cheeks.
“Triplets!” I said with genuine enthusiasm. “This is fantastic!” Even though I had seldom been around small babies, I instinctively knew they would be a lot of fun and very little trouble. I found out later there is a significant degree of unreliability in fatherly intuition.
Jane was as perplexed by my laughter as I was by her tears. That didn’t change much in the coming weeks. Her friends were tender and caring and spoke in hushed tones. My pals slapped me on the back and wanted to know what kind of diet I was on.
Overall, I would say that I handled Jane’s pregnancy with remarkable ease. She was, of course, quite miserable in the latter stages. For me it was a breeze, but the winds of change began blowing noticeably stronger.