Blogger’s note: The following passage is the from my manuscript of Summer in the Waiting Room: How Faith, Family, and Friends Saved my Life. It’s the first excerpt from Chapter 1: “48 Viewmont Avenue.” I will post weekly excerpts every Wednesday morning.
48 Viewmont Avenue
The sky was clear and the weather was in the low 50s, a typical crisp November night in San Jose, California. But for my mom and dad, that night and early the next morning wouldn’t be typical at all. As they raced north on U.S. Highway 101 in the their two-toned orange and white 1955 Mercury, they wondered how they were going to make ends meet now that another mouth to feed would soon be added to the family.
They both grew up in poor single-mother households. Now that they had their own family, they were just getting by living check to check on my dad’s postal worker salary and mom’s odd jobs cleaning houses and working in the canneries. The little creature in her belly causing her so much pain and discomfort would be their fifth child. Nevertheless, both of my parents were excited and happy as the Mercury pulled into the hospital parking lot.
My dad jumped out of the car to walk her into the emergency room. Wearing a camel colored coat and carrying a small overnight bag, she waddled up the steps to the hospital and breathlessly slumped herself onto the waiting wheelchair. As was the custom in the 1960s, nurses rushed my mom into the maternity room to await the doctor who would deliver the baby and told my dad to wait outside. Hospital volunteers showed him the way to the waiting room to join other nervous, expectant fathers who were smoking up a storm as they paced the floor.
Impatient and restless, my dad didn’t stay for very long. He left the hospital to find a place where he could belly up to the bar and knock down a few whiskey and waters before going back to meet his newest baby. My mom was an old pro, he rationalized to himself, she had been to the delivery room four other times and each time the baby came out without any problems.
Back at the hospital, my mom was going through labor pains as one day ended and another began. The baby would soon arrive as the nurses and doctors prepared for the delivery. Labor for her was not much different than the other four times. Actually, this time seemed to go smoother, the pains weren’t as strong and the actual time in labor was much shorter. Just as my dad predicted, the delivery would be quick and simple.
After finishing his drinks and taking a few more drags of his cigarette, he was back in the maternity ward anxiously waiting for the good news. They had two boys and two girls at home waiting. He was sure this one would be another boy. In the delivery room all was going well. When the baby was finally born, the doctor gently gave the newborn the obligatory slap on the backside and waited for the familiar wails of a new life catching its breath for the first time.
The doctor cut the umbilical cord and the nurses wiped the baby clean before swaddling it and allowing my tired, but happy, mom to cuddle her baby for the first time. As the doctor completed one last check of vital signs, the baby slipped out of his arms and banged its face against the metal railing of the bed. A nurse broke the baby’s fall and prevented a disastrous accident. The baby screamed in pain as the nurses and doctors worked to stop the bleeding that had emerged from the baby’s face. Luckily, that scary incident only resulted in a small scar at the tip of the newborn’s nose.
That baby with the cut on his nose was me, born on November 6, 1963, at 5:25 AM at Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City, California. The third García boy, I was 21 inches long, weighed 7.2 pounds, with dark brown eyes, and lots of thick dark hair. My parents were excited and relieved, especially after the brief scare in the delivery room. That little scar at the tip of my nose would forever find a special place in my mom’s heart.
Exhausted, she suggested a name for me, Michael. My dad wanted to name me Edward. After a few minutes of negotiation, my proud parents settled on a name: Edward Michael García. My dad spent a few more minutes at my mom’s side, slipped out of the hospital, stopped at the watering hole for one more whiskey and water on the rocks, slid onto the front seat of the two-toned Mercury, and headed south for the 45-minute drive to San Jose to tell my siblings that they had a baby brother.
At home, my brothers and sisters, David 12, Barbara 11, Patty 10, and Steve 9, were still asleep unaware of what had happened earlier that morning. When my dad burst through the front door of his modest house on 48 Viewmont Avenue in east San Jose, his four older children suddenly woke up and rushed to meet him to hear the good news. He stood at the counter that separated the kitchen from the dining room, and excitedly told his kids about “Eddie’s” chubby cheeks and thick black hair, and how he slipped, and cut his nose. After a few minutes of taking questions, my dad turned to the heavy black phone sitting on the counter and started dialing everyone he knew.
Next Wednesday: Chapter 1 flashes back to my parents courtship in Phoenix, Arizona .