Johnny-on-the-Spot … by John Foster
Sunday, May 1st was a day of extremes for the Fosters.
We had left our Indiana home and headed east to my home town of Mansfield, Ohio to spend the night.
I had suggested earlier that we get a Clara’s Pizza from our old neighborhood but after being on he road for about 4 hours, we decided to eat at our motel’s next-door restaurant.
We had come back to the old haunts to be able to attend my Uncle Chuck Malone’s 94th birthday party at his home just south of Huron, OH.
It would be an opportunity to see 5 of the 6 Malone cousins and to also see 2 of my three sisters.
Way too much time had passed before “we kids” had been face-to-face.
We awoke to a thundershower that Sunday morning, grabbed a bite to eat and then decided to make a quick visit to the grave of our first daughter, Karey Deane Foster.
She was born at 10:42pm on Saturday, July 24th, 1971 in New Vaughn Memorial Hospital in Selma, Alabama.
Neav had been pregnant with Karey for about 36 weeks and our little girl weighed in at 6 pounds, 1 ounce.
We were living in Alabama since I was assigned to Craig Air Force base as a crew chief for T-38 jet trainers.
The nurses placed Karey on her Mommy’s tummy just briefly before they whisked her away to an adjacent room to “clean her up”.
I looked through the nursery window as the nurses poked and prodded our little girl.
All of a sudden, the nurses looked at each other, quickly glanced at me and then closed the blinds on the nursery window.
Later, a doctor came to us and said our daughter was having breathing problems and he suggested we rush her to Birmingham Children’s Hospital.
We found out later that Karey was born with a TE fistula, a birth defect which occurs in 1 out of every 5,000 births.
When a baby with a TE fistula swallows, fluid can pass through an abnormal connection between the esophagus and the trachea.
This allows liquid to get into the baby’s lungs, causing them to choke and have breathing difficulties.
Now this problem could be corrected through surgery.
But later, doctors discovered that Karey had a “short circuit” in her brain that caused her to stop breathing for no reason.
She underwent numerous tests and operations but eventually passed away on August 10th, 1971…at the ripe, old age of 16 days.
She rests just to the right of the graves of my Father and Mother.
The grey, damp morning somewhat matched my mood as we observed that little grave marker we just purchased a few years ago.
We crawled back into the truck and headed north to Berlin Road where Uncle Chuck calls home.
I guess there were about 50 friends and family members there, somewhat thinned over the years by this thing we know as life.
We hugged and laughed and then chowed down on a whole bunch of homemade food, including Uncle Chuck’s favorite, German chocolate cake.
The day actually turned into a beautiful May 1st Sunday with blue skies and warm sunshine.
The birthday boy, Uncle Chuck, used to be a lather and he had a small farm when he was younger with corn and some hens and a big, old barn and his own gas tank, which I thought was cool.
Rumor has it, he’s still a decent fisherman and knows how to catch those Lake Erie walleye.
The only time I ever went ice fishing was years ago when he and my Dad went out on the ice of Lake Erie and sat in a fishing shanty at least a mile off-shore.
I just remember the eerie green-yellow glow from the holes augured into the ice.
I also remember catching fish and simply tossing them outside the shanty on the Lake Erie ice to be gathered when we were done.
I went up to Uncle Chuck to wish him Happy Birthday and I grabbed his hand to shake it.
He always had big hands and his handshake was always less than firm.
But that’s Uncle Chuck.
He’s still got a lot on the ball after 94 years and I was so glad we could be with him and the family.
It was a strange day of contrasts for me.
We started by remembering a 16 day old child of ours who died over 50 years ago and then concluded the day with my Uncle Chuck Malone who was born in 1928.
Sixteen days and 34,310 days.
The differences between Karey Deane and Uncle Chuck.
But the impacts of both on my life have been significant.
German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said, “After death you will be what you were before your birth”.
The length of that experience obviously varies, doesn’t it?
Happy Birthday Uncle Chuck.
Great to be with you for awhile Karey Deane.