Fifty-two years ago our little boy was born. He was born on Monday night before Thanksgiving. It is the only time I’ve spent Thanksgiving in the hospital. Although it was somewhat lonely between the times when little William was brought to my room, all in all, it was an extraordinarily wonderful Thanksgiving. The disappointments had nothing to do with him.
Archbold Hospital in Thomasville, Georgia, had some very strict rules in those days (as I suppose other hospitals around the country had). The normal hospital stay for first-time maternity patients was five days, no matter what. There were no cozy “Family Room” possibilities. Fathers could not be in the room while babies were being fed. They couldn’t even see their babies except through the glass nursery window. Charles was the only veterinarian on call that whole week so it was very hard for him to get to the hospital at all, even harder to get there when the baby wasn’t in the room!
Thanksgiving morning there was a special handmade card on my breakfast tray reminding me, in the hands of a little girl from a local church, that God loved me. I had helped children make cards like that before and here was one on my tray, a happy beginning for what would be a great day. Charles would be having dinner with me.
That day the hospital rules were relaxed so that fathers would be allowed to have dinner with their wives. So at noon two trays arrived. I peeped under the cover to savor the anticipation of turkey, dressing, green beans, sweet potato souffle, and pumpkin pie. I’d wait for Charles before eating. Finally, about 1:30 the LPN came to get my tray and found it still full of cold food. I was admonished that I’d better eat because babies would be brought out soon.
By the time Charles arrived it was so late it was time for the baby’s feeding. The sergeant-like nurse came in almost on his heels and barked at him that he must leave. He looked so weary and defeated–and hungry!–but he gave me a smile just the same and a wink implying “this won’t be for long.”
In spite of my disappointment it was a wonderful Thanksgiving, one of the very best.
I studied my baby William’s perfect features, fuzz of hair, and his tiny hands as I fed him. What would those hands do as he grew? They seemed, even so tiny, as if they would be capable and strong. Those long fingers might play piano, clutch a baseball bat, bind wounds, open doors for ladies, maybe build forts or sandcastles. I prayed he would be blessed and would be a blessing. And my prayers have been answered.
Every Thanksgiving since that one in 1968 we’ve celebrated Will’s birthday in some way. I can picture him now at his five year old party when all his kindergarten class came. They crowded up to the table when it was time for cake and ice cream their faces full of eager anticipation. I guess he was twelve and his sister eleven when we gave him Traveler, a horse Charles had found that would be gentle and kind to children. Traveler wasn’t what he’d been touted to be. The children had a double birthday party, Julie’s birthday being December 9. Traveler threw off nearly every one of the kids who climbed on him. We began to fear we’d be arrested for child abuse! When William turned thirteen, he and his sister were with us enjoying a marvelous vacation in England, Hyde Park to be specific, a really awesome place to receive birthday licks!
After receiving many honors at Cairo High School, including the prestigious John Philip Sousa award as a baritone player in the band, William went on to the University of Georgia where he played in the Dixie Redcoat Band. It was during a studies abroad term, that he became Will instead of William as there were three Williams in the sixteen member class. We, however, still called him Will until he and his wonderful wife, Christi, gave us a grandson named William Stacey Graham, Jr.
Now we have wonderful times around the birthday table right before Thanksgiving, as it is this year, or on the very day, or some time that week. Will’s wife wasn’t named Christi for nothing. She is a bright Christmas lady, but she loves making birthdays special too. She and the three children including now Thomas Hamilton and Martha Elizabeth, go to very special pains to give birthday celebrations, whether we are in Birmingham or here in Cairo. In addition to a cake baked by Christi, or me, or Publix, I usually bake Will a pecan pie. On one of his birthdays growing up we spent Thanksgiving at St. George Island and had pecan pie on the beach. Pecan pie became a tradition for his birthday celebration.
I think back to the thoughts I had that Thanksgiving Day in Archbold Hospital gazing down at my precious little baby. Yes, my prayers have been answered extravagantly.
And, yes, those hands have become quite strong and capable. He gripped a baseball bat in little league as well as holding ready a catcher’s mitt. He studied piano, played in recitals, practiced with great self discipline and received honors from third through twelfth grades. He picked up pecans, mowed the grass, worked with his Dad at the animal hospital, fished at the river, and played backyard basketball and football with his buddies. He helped bind the wounds of animals. He loved to build forts in the woods and sandcastles at the beach.
I’ve seen his hands guiding the children as they learned to walk and later to play ball. His hands have been busy as, for fifteen years, he’s worked for a veterinary supply company, calling on veterinarians in central Alabama, as well as his Dad’s practice in Cairo, Georgia. He’s busy taking care of his beautiful yard in Mountain Brook, Alabama. Almost every year he brings us cuts of venison from his deer hunts. When we’re at the beach together he’s the go-to person if one of the children is wounded and always may be found at some time during the vacation building a sandcastle, his six feet two frame hunkered down with whoever will help. Or he’ll be throwing a frisbee, kayaking, and fishing. A vacation to him is a time to do as many activities as possible. And all his family joins in.
When we had COVID, Will came to take care of us. I experienced the gentleness and capability of those hands, now so strong and capable. He even had to pick me up off the floor one time! He’s always been good to call us often but has been particularly attentive since our illness and hospitalization. He talks to his Dad about veterinary drugs and equipment. He often calls just to tell me about some beautiful and/or interesting sight he encounters as he travels–a shimmering lake, a mountain, bright flowers, even weird roadkill.
Well, I’ve made this quite lengthy but it was hard not to write even longer about this wonderful Thanksgiving son! However, now I’d better let you go and I’ll go to the kitchen and start on that pecan pie so it will be ready when we go to Birmingham for Thanksgiving. We are especially thankful, with the world as it is right now, that we can make this trip.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!
P.S. Time to think about Christmas! Please take a look at my Christmas interactive journal, Christmas Carols in my Heart, released October 2019. It is available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com, and Books a Million. Ask for it at your favorite store as well. Locally, you will find it at Rayann’s in Thomasville, Center Drugs and Miss Myrt’s in Cairo.