Monday, May 14, 2012

Kathy and Julie Neal
by Ken Neal

May 2012
I am writing about my daughters in one remembrance because most of my memories are of them together. After all, their mother and I had barely gotten used to Kathy Rene when Julia Lorraine came along.
So for more than 50 years now, it has been “Kathy and Julie.’
Kathy arrived nine months and two weeks after our wedding, only because February was a short month. I am reminded of my mom’s wry observation any time a baby was close to the wedding.
“Well,” she would say when the aunts were clucking and counting months, “it never takes as long for the first one.”
         Kathy was an early college graduation present for me.
        We lived in an upstairs apartment at 910 S. Indian Ave. in Tulsa. That apartment house was on the site of the present parking garage at the current OSU hospital.
        It was Oklahoma Osteopathic Hospital in 1957 and our family doctor, Ivan Penquite, was chief of staff there.
Kathy’s mom, Patty Jeanne, was not quite 20 and I was 21. Looking back now from the vantage point of 55 years, I realize we were all children together.
Patty was an instinctive great mother and at 90 pounds and a bit over five feet, delivered a 6 pound, 14 ounce baby girl with ease. At least it seemed easy to me. In those days, fathers were not allowed in the delivery room but kept at bay in the waiting area.
       We walked out the back door to the hospital at about 6:30 a.m. and Kathy came bouncing into the world at about 12:30 p.m.
       Her mother and I were in the waiting room together and after a bit we decided we weren’t helping anyone and took off for breakfast! Patty never forgave us!    
       We had no idea what sex the baby would be, but in my ignorance I just knew she would be a boy. I was so certain that when the nurse brought her out of the delivery room, my first question was, “How much does he weigh?”
      Poor Kathy was pretty beaten up. Her head, like a lot of natural delivery babies, was a bit like a football. She a big scrape on one of her checks due to the forceps they used in the delivery.
        But my thoughts of a boy faded quickly. Her head quickly became round, the skinned spot disappeared and by the time we took her home a few days later, she was perfect. She was not the typical red-faced baby, but when only a few days old had a slightly olive complexion. Julie and Patrick also had that complexion.
      Homecoming was to Grandma Esther’s house at 210 S. Park in Sapulpa. Patty came from a big extended family and it seemed like everyone was there. So many, in fact, that I had not had a chance to really examine my new daughter.
        I remember demanding she be handed to me and I sat down, looked at the little creature I had helped create and fell in love. Kathy still doesn’t believe me, but I never thought about a boy again until I was surprised 13 years later with Patrick.
      Kathy did everything quickly. She walked at nine months, was talking in complete sentences at a year, and learned the Pledge of Allegiance from a television show, Miss Nancy’s Romper Room, before she was two years old.
       One of my fondest memories of her was her first Christmas. Barely nine months old, she could stand between her mother and me in the front seat of our 1950 Chevrolet. This was long before safety belts, child seats, etc.
        We took her to see the Christmas lights in Tulsa and were as thrilled as she was. She oohed and inhaled with a slight whisper as she took in the bright lights.
         But -- she soon had a rival.
        When Kathy was born I was doing a part time job reserved for TU students. By the time Julie arrived Oct. 21, 1959, I was a full-time, “city side” reporter for the World.
       Troy Gordon, a humor columnist for the World and one of my closest friends at the World, wrote a column about Julie’s birth which I of course kept and have sent to Julie many times.
         Patty was in Sapulpa with her mother when she began to have labor pains. They called me at the paper but I was covering a planning commission meeting downtown, not far from Oklahoma Osteopathic. I think they talked to Troy, because we shared an extension. Anyhow, a reporter was sent to the TMAPC meeting to tell me the baby was coming.
        I hustled the few blocks to the hospital where my excited mother-in-law excitedly told me the baby, a girl, was already here.
        Patty delivered that baby in less than an hour from the time of first pains. It was as if Julie had no time for ceremony and didn’t need any help to get here. I should have known that her no-nonsense arrival set the standard for the rest of her life.
        Julie was named after another of my best friends at the World, Julie Blakley. Julie referred to herself as the mother superior of the World newsroom. She certainly was my mom in that world.
        By now, I determined to give her a formal name, realizing belatedly that two ignorant kids should have given Kathy the more formal Katherine and avoided misspelling her middle name. I confess I thought Rene was a great name, but I was so ignorant that I didn’t know the correct spelling for a woman was Renee!
I tried to get lawyer Neal to change to Katherine Renee but she is determined to broadcast her parents’ ignorance!
         Thus, it is Julia Lorraine Neal. Please don’t tell me Lorraine is misspelled!
         Not only were these girls adored by their parents, they had four grandparents on hand to spoil them. In fact, I realize now that the grandparents, themselves in their early 40s, helped us immensely with the girls. We always had sitters when we needed them and my parents especially liked to take them on the road trips.
        I am ashamed to admit that I thought myself too busy with career and building houses on the side to take many trips with the girls. I fear I neglected them in the bogus conviction that I was working double time to provide for them.
         My dad, having only me, a “hairy legged boy,” was delighted with his girls. As soon as they could walk he and mom would take them everywhere, showing them off to friends and taking them the places their errant father should have. He delighted in taking them to the Tulsa State Fair. Once, they were looking at cattle and dad delicately explained the difference between a momma and a daddy.
       Julie maneuvered herself where she could look up under a bull and loudly said, “this one is really a daddy, grandpa.”
        Grandpa had to make a decision; Did he claim her or act as if she belonged to someone else?
       When Kathy was about 6, Dad taught her to play Double Solitaire, a game that he and I played for hours when I was a boy. In that game, if you miss a play, the other guy gets to “hit” you, by giving you a card from the bottom of his deck.
        Julie was a bit too young to play, but pop delighted in appointing her to watch Kathy to keep her from “cheating.”
        I can still hear the game.
       “Watch her now, don’t let her cheat!”
       “I will, grandpa, I will!”
       Kathy regularly beat her neighborhood pals playing Old Maid. I watched the game once and she always seemed to have the Old Maid, so I asked her how she did it.
      She proudly showed me. She had marked the back of the Old Maid. I should have known right then that she would become a lawyer!
      The girls were but two grades apart in school, because poor Patty couldn’t wait to get Julie in school so as to have at least a part of the day to herself.
      So she enrolled Julie in the St. Patrick’s preschool at Sand Springs. Julie was not quite five, enrolled a year early and so was always the youngest kid in her class.
       Kathy was very quick and into everything that came down the pike. But of course Julie had to follow big sister and did everything Kathy did. I used to joke that before Julie would take an instruction from me she had to check with Kathy. It was not far from the truth.
       Once, Kathy decided to leave home. She was about 5 or 6.
       Of course, Julie decided to go with her. Patty packed a bag for them and as they stood at the front door planning their getaway, Julie said: “Kaki, where are we going.” That prompted Kathy to reconsider and they didn’t run away after all.
       There are dozens of memories of the girls that I will document in other postings.
      They are now middle-aged women with grown children of their own, but when I look at them, in my mind's eye I see two little girls whose names I use in one breath:  Kathy and Julie.

No comments:

Post a Comment