'Some People Even Take Them Home'
'Some People Even Take Them Home'
My tiny wrists were twisted like useless little clubs. My feet were laid up against the inside of my newborn legs. The right side was clearly more damaged than the left. My skinny right leg stuck out like a stiff stick. It looked as if it would never bend. The rigid right elbow would never throw a curveball.
Jim McGuire, the short, tough-guy World War II veteran, had been in the waiting room for eight hours anticipating the moment when the doctor would come out to tell him all that "healthy-baby, mother-doing- fine" stuff every dad is anxious to hear. The kind, small-town doctor, Frederick Balz, did rush out immediately after the birth. But he couldn't hide his sorrow. He had delivered a lot of babies in this peaceful central Michigan town of Mt. Pleasant, but he hadn't seen anything like this for a long time.
The doctor warned my dad that I wasn't the perfect child most of the other dads had welcomed into the world. But as my dad stared into the nursery he hadn't expected anything like this. The former all-conference football guard at 118 pounds, the guy whose reputation for an Irish temper got him into more than his share of scraps, stood in front of that nursery glass and bawled. He was beside himself. He cried for me. He cried for himself. He cried out of fear. How was he going to tell his bride of 10 months that her first-born, the little boy they had decided months before to name Timothy James, was badly deformed?
Jim McGuire had known bleak days. From the time he was eight until he was 11 he languished in an orphanage after his mother died in childbirth with her eighth child. In those depression years Jim grew up hard and he grew up fighting tough with a dad overwhelmed by eight kids. Money was always tight and hunger was too much a part of his childhood. Tears and emotion were not allowed. But here he was crying and fretting on the day that was supposed to be the best day of his life.
Dreams of success, money and status were unfulfilled dreams stuffed deep in his pocket, and now he couldn't even father a decent child. Wallowing in guilt, he kept muttering over and over, "I even screwed this up!" There had been a lot of bad days, but this one was the worst. His little boy was crippled!
Yet, one thought overpowered every other: "How in God's name was he going to tell Anita?" Anita was 24, but she wasn't as worldly as he was. He was 28. He'd spent four years in the army and worked supply lines behind the front at the Battle of the Bulge during the war. He drank hard and he played hard. The year before this bleak March day in 1949, it had come time to say the "I dos," settle down and start a family. Anita was a country girl, and she wanted this baby so much he feared this would break her.
Jim had to pull himself together and figure out how he was going to break this horrible news to his wife. He knew he couldn't do it alone. He didn't have a mom, but he sure wished he did. Anita would need her mom at a time like this. Could he afford to take the time to get Matilda Starr in from her rural home 20 minutes away?
He had no choice so he had to stall for time. He would bluff his way through, as he often did in card games. He was so good at poker he went deer hunting without a gun to make a little extra money at the deer camp poker games. He had crappy cards this time but he simply had to run this bluff. He was not ready to show me to my mom.
He gathered himself and walked into her room at 7:15 a.m. March 24, 1949, with as much bravado as he could find in his devastated soul. He kissed Anita and told her with enthusiasm, "It's a boy and he looks just like me." He struggled to find his confidence and swagger, but Anita knew he had been crying. She just assumed it was the excitement of his first child, or perhaps he was as relieved as she was that it was all over.