Take A Number Please

As Jalene and Chuck visited countless apartment complexes in an effort to locate a short-term residence, they located a brand new apartment to call “home” while Chuck completed his basic officer’s training.

Jalene was unable to find friends during her days of isolation in the apartment. When not cleaning, doing laundry or running errands, her days were filled with sewing for the new baby and meal preparation for Chuck.

Medical technology of the 1970’s did not permit gender identification of the unborn babies. Therefore, all of Jalene’s hand sewn treasures had to be gender neutral. She desired a daughter, but a healthy baby was far more important than the gender. God had already chosen a child for them, so only He knew whether the baby would wear pink or blue.

One of the loneliest holiday seasons Chuck and Jalene experienced in their marriage was that of 1971. They were financially destitute as Chuck didn’t receive a check from the U.S. Army until 60 days after arrival on the base. Because Jalene was no longer employed and without money in a savings account, they struggled to meet their daily necessities. There were no Christmas gifts for each other. They had purchased gifts for their families prior to departing Oklahoma. The few gifts they received from their family had been packed among their meager possessions, transported from Oklahoma when they departed; awaiting to be opened on Christmas day.

As Jalene reflects upon their Christmas of 1971, it was lonely, but sincerely the only Christmas in their 44 year marriage there were no hostile words between them. There was no arguing about where the holidays would be spent, whom would be invited over for the festivities or even what food would be prepared for the holiday meal. They were a couple of young 20′ somethings; alone, financially broke and with only the other to lean on. As in the Tale of Two Cities, ” it was the best of times and the worst of times”, those words were never more true than December 1971. They sat alone in their tiny, sparsely furnished apartment on Christmas Eve. and Christmas day; no gifts to share,  nowhere to go, no money for even a tank of gas; looking toward their future.

For Jalene, she anticipated what would lie ahead for each of them with Chuck’s career, a home and most importantly their new family. In less than 3 months Jalene and Chuck would be parents.

With his new duties as an officer in the U.S. Army, Chuck would frequently be away from home for several consecutive days while performing field training. Thus, Jalene’s long days alone were arduous for her. The lonely days were tolerable when Chuck informed her they would be returning to Oklahoma before their baby was born.

Jalene’s experiences at the local base hospital for all of her pre-natal check-ups were certainly atypical of the care she had received prior to their departure. Jalene’s  OB physician in Oklahoma; a man 20-30 years Jalene’s senior was a caring and compassionate man whom although had never endured childbirth, had been alongside his wife when she gave birth to their 5 children. Therefore, Dr. Perry voiced his trepidation to Jalene when he realized she would be residing on a military base during much of her pregnancy.

During Jalene’s first pre-natal appointment on the base, she understood  Dr. Perry’s apprehension. All the women awaited their appointment in a large room after “taking a number”; akin to the local deli. The women were not assigned a physician, but would be the “next in line” when their number was called. The examination was as insensitive as the appointment process. The physicians were rote, both physically and emotionally.

Due to Jalene’s severe illness during her pregnancy, Dr. Perry had displayed much concern. However, the base physicians had no unease with her condition. They were cavalier when citing the symptoms and illness would cease in approximately 4 months.

The return trip to Oklahoma seemed longer than their departure, as Jalene was now only weeks from giving birth. Her nausea and vomiting had never subsided and the pain in her back and legs was extreme. Chuck’s attitude toward the frequent stops along their journey were now better tolerated than on the departure from Oklahoma.

Chuck realized this pregnancy was difficult for Jalene.  It was apparent by all whom saw Jalene’s swollen face and limbs that she would be thrilled when she was a new mother rather than an expectant mother. As they pulled into the driveway of Chuck’s parents on a cold, wintery day in 1972, Jalene had never been as happy to see her in-laws.

Chuck’s mother had been extremely outspoken about becoming a grandmother; especially due to her great disdain for Jalene.  She was in such physical discomfort from the long trip home that Jalene realized Lorraine’s traditional sarcasm and criticism would have no effect upon her.  Jalene was thrilled to be able to lie down on a bed and stretch her legs from the long automobile ride.

The next day required Chuck and Jalene locating a new home as they settled back into Oklahoma. Chuck’s military assignment had not been an international assignment as he expected, but rather one in Oklahoma. The war in Viet Nam was concluding and the requirement for officers was diminishing. Because Chuck had chosen not to remain in the army full time, he was assigned to a unit in Oklahoma training new recruits on week-ends and in the summer. Therefore Chuck had the freedom to obtain a job of his choice in his chosen accounting career.

Please continue with me as Jalene and Chuck begin the next chapter of their lives.

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