To Jill

Written on Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

Jerelyn, my ex-wife, was a few months pregnant with Jill when we were deciding to move from the East Coast back to California. At the time, we already had one daughter, our adorable two year old Gina The decision to move was a tough one for me to make. I was very afraid that a cross country trip would threaten our unborn baby and be a risk to our  family.

One day, when I was working as Payroll Manager for The Marriott Corporation in the DC area, I went for a drive during my lunch hour. I began to meditate on this Bible verse. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.” [Matt 6:33 KJV]

A powerful sense of well being came over me. I felt if I made my decision on the basis of my best understanding of what was right, every thing would work out just fine. At that very moment. I decided that provided Jerelyn agreed, we would move back to California. As it happened, she also thought the move was the right thing to do.

A month or so later, we rented a U-haul trailer for the cross country move. The trailer, packed to the limit with everything we owned, weighed more than our car, a Plymouth Barracuda. That made the car want to swerve when I had to brake suddenly. Anytime  I was pulling the trailer, I was anxious about losing control of the car.

In a few days we arrived safely in Dallas to be with Jerelyn’s brother Jim and his wife Leta for a few days. I wanted Jerelyn and Gina to fly on to California and to allow me to drive on alone. Jerelyn wanted no part of that idea. I asked her brother to try to persuade Jerelyn to fly from Dallas to Los Angeles. He refused. He said, “She has the right to make that decision for herself. I will not try to influence her.”

I became more and more distressed each day that we remained in Dallas. Then a phrase from Isaiah began to run through my mind over and over again. The phrase was the last few words of Isa 40:11. “He… shall gently lead those that are with young.” I grabbed onto that  verse as if it were a life raft that would keep me safe from voracious sharks. I finally could accept the comfort that helped me feel that my family was going to be OK. We traveled together and we made it back to California.

After a short visit to San Diego, We drove to Monrovia and  moved into our new home. My main worry then was good medical care for Jerelyn. However, a local Doctor generously offered us free pre-natal and birth care. We settled down to wait for our new baby.

Gina was in a perpetual state of elation at the prospect of a brother or sister. Jerelyn felt good but had one deeply felt concern. When Gina had been born, Jerelyn had gone through a strenuous labor from morning to the late evening on an empty stomach. She had been ravenously hungry and had demanded a sandwich be sent to recovery while she was still in the delivery room. With this baby, she was determined not to go into labor on an empty stomach for a second time.

We had a peach tree in the back yard drooping with fruit. Every night we made hot peach cobbler buried in vanilla ice cream. Jill came two weeks later than we expected, so we downed, with relish, a huge dessert just before we went to bed every night for two weeks. It is a wonder that Jill was not born a diabetic.

Labor began very early one morning. We left Gina with Grandma, and rushed to the hospital which was just a few miles across town. I had scouted the hospital a few days earlier so I would be sure to know where the entrance to the hospital was located. However, because it was so early in the morning we couldn’t go in the main entrance. The sign said to go to the emergency entrance to gain access to the hospital. We had to walk about two hundred yards around the building to get to the emergency entrance.

I was overwhelmed with remorse. Jerelyn thoroughly enjoyed rubbing it in. “Nice job George. Here I am about ready to give birth and you are making me walk clear around the outside of the hospital. I am going to tell everyone we know about this.”

I don’t think she was angry, but there was definitely some teasing payback in her voice for her long walk. She lived up to her promise. Everyone we knew was given the opportunity to unmercifully razz me.

When Jerelyn got to the labor room, the nurse took one look and said, “Honey, don’t push, don’t push.” The nurse ran out of room to call the Doctor. All the staff were worried that the baby would come before the doctor got there.

When the Doctor came he was angry. He said, “It seems like experienced nurses like you could manage to get me here on time.” I did not mention our circumnavigation of the hospital grounds.

I had tried to work it out with the hospital so I could be in the delivery room. However, we had not gotten settled in California soon enough for me to complete the childbirth training. The doctor turned on the speakers in the Father’s waiting room so I could hear what was going on. In just a few minutes, I heard the announcement, “You have a beautiful daughter.” I then I heard Jill’s delicate little cry; I was so moved.

After Jill was born I went to Jerelyn’s room. I kissed her and said, “I have no words to express my gratitude to you for giving me my baby girl.” That was all I wanted to, or for that matter could, say.

In thirty minutes or so I left Jerelyn’s room to allow her to sleep. As I was leaving the room, the nurses gave me directions to the nursery viewing window so I could see my little baby girl. Her crib had been moved right next to the window. The birth had been quick enough and easy enough that Jill was completely unmarked by the process of being born. She was achingly beautiful and still is to this day.

I stood at the window looking at my new daughter for a long time. It must have been at least 90 minutes. I was looking at my baby with delight but also in awed silence. I wanted to be there with her all by myself. I hoped that no one would come by and disturb us. Very few events in the ensuing years could compare at all with the thrill of becoming Jill’s father.

Jill was a delightful little girl. She was bright, giving, enjoyable, hard working and very capable. In school, she kept herself years ahead of her grade level. She did that on her own motivation. I don’t remember ever saying or thinking that she needed to to stop playing in order to get her  homework done.

Ultimately she skipped the sixth grade. That put her at the same grade level as Gina. Being in the same grade worked out well for them and was the foundation for the remarkable friendship between the two that is still a powerful friendship today. That friendship of course, includes little sister JoAnna.

Also, Jill loved to take on big projects. One time when she was about ten, she wanted to clean the garage. It was a thoroughly cluttered mess full of things like a non-functioning fuel pump that I had removed from the car years before.

There was no path through the mess in the garage. All the junk was piled up in layers.  I would not let her clean it up. My reasoning was that I should do the job. In other words, my refusal had nothing to do with Jill’s admirable capabilities and aspirations. I simply wanted to avoid the guilt feelings that  I would have because I let my ten year old daughter do a job I should have done myself.

She was very disappointed, but it worked out well. Years later, the sisters organized a garage sale selling the junk in the garage. I tried to stop them from putting out the really worthless stuff. Jill said, “Dad, that is the stuff people will want to buy.” That event was a precursor to what would turn out to be Jill’s remarkably good business sense. They sold the worn out fuel pump for a quarter.  They realized a very nice profit that day.

Jill was energetic and enthusiastic in her play, especially when all four girls were trying to wrestle me to the ground from my hands and knees during our every evening play on the living room carpet.  She was and is a lovely sister and daughter.

She also loved justice. Their grade school was largely a mix of Hispanic kids and kids of Northern European descent. One year she and her sisters were hurt that their schoolmates wanted them to decide between being a Chollo or being an Anglo. The girls didn’t know how to choose between the two groups. They wanted to be friends with everyone.

At some point in High School, Jill began saving all the money she earned babysitting and house cleaning. She wanted to spend a year in Paris with her cousins who lived there. She had to pay for the whole trip herself. She was showing her willingness to make a plan, then work like crazy to pull it off.

This trip was a sort of rite of passage for Jill. Jill loved being at home with her family. Some years she didn’t even want to go to summer camp. For that reason, going off to Paris by herself when she spoke very little French was incredibly brave. I know she was often lonely, but she made the trip work. She even took a dance class at a nearby French University. She stayed as long as she needed in order to give herself the satisfaction of meeting her goal.

She was the first of my kids to leave home for any length of time. She took her sewing machine on the airplane with her on the flight to France. I’ll never forget how my heart ached seeing my lovely daughter, with her sewing machine hanging off her right shoulder, walk onto the ramp leading to the airplane.

When she got home from Paris, she had grown up. Her maturity showed very soon after she got home; she wanted to volunteer at Union Rescue Mission where I worked. Jill her sisters and some friends did a really good job volunteering at the missions Kids Klub program for several years.

I had the privilege of performing Jill and Eric’s wedding. In one way, it was a sad time because Cousin Steve was struck with an ultimately fatal aneurysm in his brain stem the very day of their wedding. I was stunned over Steve, especially since I was with him when the aneurysm struck. I deeply wanted Jill and Eric to have good memories of their wedding day despite our family’s tragedy.

The incredible love that everyone in attendance at their marriage so powerfully felt, carried the day. Everyone fully supported the idea of the two of them getting married.I felt waves of love rolling up from the attendees. Jill, Eric and I all agree that their wedding was moving and warm. The wedding is a good memory for all us .

I love having Eric as a son-in-law. He is a very loving and enjoyable member of our family. In time there was the wonder that is my granddaughters. I love them so very much. Jill is still beautiful in every way a woman can be beautiful.

When she was a child she delighted me. That hasn’t changed.

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