The young reporter asked if we had thought of any names.
“Erin Margaret, Seth Neil, and Carrie Ellen,” I replied.
Mama was shaking her head and talking to Daddy. “I can’t believe he’s over there making up names to put in the paper. Somebody ought to tell her not to print that.”
The names, however, were no gag, only a well-kept secret. Jane and I had spent the early months of her pregnancy sifting through books, looking for one favorite name for each gender. None seemed sufficiently captivating to describe the perfect child we anticipated.
When we learned we were having a threesome the selection process became less tedious. We needed three possibilities for girls, boys, and any combination thereof. The decision process gained momentum. Henry Ford would have called it the efficiencies of mass production.
During my short visit with Jane in the delivery room, I had confirmed our choices. Those were the names I now shared with the reporter.
A few weeks later Mrs. Ward Cannon, one of our regular customers at Rooney Bowen Chevrolet, came by my workplace. She was a delightful old-timey God-fearing woman who called everyone Mister. She made biscuits from scratch and wore bonnets that she sewed by hand. She asked about the children’s names, then responded with notable enthusiasm, “Seth! That’s a wonderful name! I know you chose it from the Bible. It’s in the book of Genesis.”
“Oh, no ma’am,” interjected Rooney. “He didn’t get it from the Bible. He got if off his watch.” He pointed to the Seth Thomas timepiece on my left arm.
Mrs. Cannon searched Rooney’s face for a telling smile. He didn’t flinch.
“Well, Mr. Joiner,” she said, “regardless of where it came from, it’s still a wonderful namesake.”
“And timely too,” said Rooney, as he smiled and again pointed to my watch. “Very timely.”
As 1978 drew to a close Erin and Carrie were progressing fairly well. Seth, however, had lost weight and his lungs were still underdeveloped. His breathing remained very labored. Dr. Manning thankfully kept Jane in the hospital for a full week. She needed to be there for herself as well as for the children. She came home before the new year began, but most of her time was spent in Warner Robins. On January 6, 1979, we were delighted to hear Dr. Harvey say we could take the girls home.
Seth would have to remain in the hospital. It was sad leaving him, but even taking two of our children home seemed a blessing after seeing them that first day. The girls were almost five pounds, big enough to go to Dooly County. It was a time of rejoicing, but the joy was only temporary.
January 10th made the fourth day that Erin and Carrie had been with us. I rushed home as usual after work that day, but what I found was not what I expected. Jane was crying and speaking frantically into our phone. The flashing orange lights of an ambulance penetrated our front windows before she could attempt to explain.
Jane had checked on the girls and found Carrie motionless. She had already turned a dusky blue. Jane’s mother was staying with us and had been a nurse much earlier in life. She picked Carrie up by her feet and patted her on the back. Carrie began breathing again.
Carrie’s airways had been clogged by congestion from pneumonia. Erin had pneumonia as well. The dual oxygen tents in Room 236 dried the air and made breathing uncomfortable. Jane astonished everyone with her devotion and stamina. She stayed with them constantly despite offers from family and friends to relieve her. A mother’s love is far beyond my ability to understand or adequately describe. It is, I believe, the most perfect example of love this side of heaven.
Seth developed pneumonia while still in the hospital. After an already harried three weeks, he remained listless and frail. A January 16th diary entry is a sad reminder that, “None of them have smiled in days.” It was a difficult and precarious beginning, but better times were not far away.