Still Learning How to Fly ~ Chapter Nine: "Wayfaring Strangers" (Pt.1)

Ken Painter By Ken Painter, 6th Oct 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Biography & Autobiography

After the loss of our first son, in an effort to recapture some joy My wife and I relocate to South Carolina for a change of scenery. Does it provide the antidote we're looking for?

A Change of Scenery

Just prior to our leaving Michigan for South Carolina, we made certain of everything by carefully weighing all of the options before us. The one which kept popping up most frequently in our mind and which had been whispered to us by a couple of our closest friends concerned the question of suing our doctor over malpractice. After all, so the reasoning went, we did visit his office the Friday morning before the birth, and Nancy had felt that something was wrong, all he had to do was to put her up in the stirrups and examine her, and he would have clearly seen that the amniotic sac had ruptured, sent her to the hospital, and we probably would have had a totally different outcome. We’ll never know for a certainty, because that he did not do.

Nancy and I had considered doing this and looking back on it now decades hence perhaps we should have pursued it. Who knows? But at that moment in time our emotions were so raw, so deep, that we wanted to bury them with the tiny white casket, and we very simply chose not to relive them. Prolonging our agony was simply too much for us. And as a result, we found ourselves fleeing to South Carolina.

And so Nancy’s dad brought his old beer truck, and once loaded with all our precious junk, we headed for Union County just to the southeast of Spartanburg up in the piedmont section of the state. It was the latter part of October 1976 and still plenty warm outside, and so we were able to leave the majority of our stuff on the truck, taking only the necessities inside to our room of the house Nancy’s folks rented, an old antebellum overseer’s house surrounded on three sides with a beautiful wide front porch for sitting in the evening. It was painted white with a green roof and looked like something out of a dime store romance novel with huge magnolia trees dotting its landscape willy-nilly among the live oak trees they sparred with.

To punctuate the point, one afternoon Nancy and I had heard the history of this place, and so we walked out back on the property to explore, and we found the springs. And down at the springs was the bathing spot, and on the back of the spot stood a large rock with the initials and date JES 1863 carved neatly in it clearly enough that I was able to trace my index finger in them. Through time the oral history of the house had forgotten who JES stood for, but he supposedly was a Union soldier who got detached from his unit and remained there on the property for the duration of the Civil War. From the beauty of the spot, I could not blame him.

Nancy and I became a part of the Union Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, of course, instant family just like back in Michigan, and this really helped, because we had ready-made friends networking for a house to rent and any available job, and of course something always turns up. About three weeks into our stay in Carlisle at my in-laws (and they were wonderful), one of the sisters in the congregation knew of a house out in Putman about 10 miles from Union toward Spartanburg that a friend of hers was renting out for $75 a month. Four-rooms, two bedrooms, huge kitchen, front porch (these are mandatory in South Carolina I believe), and the place was even brick. Deal! It was a little far out, but it was just off the state highway, and it was too good to pass up.

And my new landlady knew of a job. One thing leads to another, and so I started selling life insurance for awhile, mostly collecting premiums on old policies, but it kept food on the table while I worked my route and looked for other work. And also I’d applied to take the National Teacher’s Exam so that I could get my South Carolina certificate.

We loved this house. Our landlady lived two houses down the road from us around the curve, and she was one of the kindest souls I’ve ever known. Our road was about a mile long and her home was at the dead end with another home that she also owned in between us all strung out over the distance of perhaps a half-mile situated amidst a loblolly pine forest draped here and there with honeysuckle vines brutally interrupted by the foreign intruders, the kudzu vines growing wherever they felt like. The landlady kept a host of free-ranging chickens and ducks which laid eggs at will around her yard, so you had to watch your step when you went there. But she also owned a solitary cow, Pet, who used to wander through the forest up behind our place and chewed on the honeysuckle vines that draped over our fence, and she gave us freshly churned butter and Pet milk. No charge. What a lady!

And we immediately felt a sense security and serenity here, and so Nancy and I took another leap of faith, because we knew that the only cure for our missing child was another child. By this time, she had healed sufficiently from her previous delivery, and so we stopped the birth control. We really did think it would take a little while . . . anyway.

It did not.

We were so damned fecund! It must have happened the first or second time out, because immediately she began noticing little subtle changes like her wrists began to swell. Just a bit, and, of course, she shared this information with me, we shared everything, but we told no one. And we sought no medical confirmation. At some point we would, but right then she knew how to take care of herself, and I immediately bought her some prenatal vitamins, and we just shut up and prayed . . . because, as I said, it was a leap of faith. We had no medical insurance.

A Little Family Drama

Of course, we couldn’t get by without a little family drama. Nancy had additional family besides her mom and dad living in the area, and they, too, went to the Union Congregation, These were her older brother Dale, his wife Polly and their son, and her older sister Evelyn and her husband Burt and their children. The drama began when the congregation in Union reappointed me as a Ministerial Servant in fairly short order after moving there. Basically what they did was to sort of continue my appointment as such from the Leslie Congregation in Michigan based on the recommendation of the elders there which they were completely free to do. I had no say whatsoever in the matter. Well, that got Evelyn’s knickers in a twist, because when Burt and Evelyn had started coming to Union from the Winnsboro Congregation sometime before us the Union elders hadn’t done the same thing in his case, and they’d been there for over a year and he was still waiting. Burt and I were the same age, but Evelyn felt put out over the situation, because Burt was a lifelong witness, and I was a recent convert, etc, etc. You get the picture. But what none of us never knew, or would know, and what Evelyn was forgetting was that we never knew what was in the letter from the elders in Winnsboro to the elders in Union and what it was in Burt’s character that was preventing him from being appointed at that moment in time. But Nancy and I couldn’t say a thing. We just stayed out of it. However, Evelyn despised me for years. Eventually, since they couldn’t find whatever it was they were looking for in their character to alter at that moment, they did perhaps the next best thing that could happen and that was that she and Burt finally removed themselves from the Union Congregation . . . they lived halfway between Union and Winnsboro anyway, and they returned to their former congregation where he was eventually reappointed as a Ministerial Servant, and, in time, going on to serve as a respected elder. Sometimes, you’ve just got to grow up. Ripen. I’m still finding this out.

After my appointment as a Ministerial Servant in Union though, I was given the propitious assignment of my first hour talk. This would be akin to a Sunday sermon given by a minister in a regular church elsewhere with the exception that it would be 55 minutes in length, and they would be giving me the topic and an outline to work from, but I had a certain amount of latitude with which to deliver it. And I had a month to work it up. By this point in time, as an experienced teacher, I really didn’t have a lot of trouble with it other than the length, and so when I delivered this the next month, I began what would go on to be a long and successful life as a public speaker from the JW platform, this being the first of dozens upon dozens of addresses, although over the years the length got shortened a bit, but still not enough. Jehovah’s Witnesses are a long-winded lot. They truly believe in quantity. But on that first day, it all went well enough, and, if I remember correctly Evelyn chose not to be in attendance.

Teacher's Exam

Long about this time I took the National Teacher’s Exam in Spartanburg. Passing it was the only requirement for a South Carolina teaching certificate. Up until the date of the exam, I hadn’t given the test a lot of thought. I’d mailed in my application with my check and for all of this I’d received back in the mail information about the test date, time, and place, and most importantly how to prepare for the test which of course I’d completely ignored. I hadn’t cracked a book at all. However, in my defense, I didn’t have much access to anything really unless I should have broken down my will and gone into the public library way into town almost a dozen miles away. The booklet which they sent me said we needed a passing score of 70%. C. I could do that. At least I thought I could.

Well now I found myself on the day of the test sitting in the test room on site with a bunch of kids fresh out of college feeling like an old man at 25 years old and 2 ½ years past graduation, and all around me I was hearing stories about how difficult this test was. A guy was sitting next to me talking to another person, and he pointed out another woman across the room who he claimed had moved downed from Virginia and this was her 12th time taking this test! He was positively wide-eyed with horror! So-and-so on the other side of the room whom he pointed out was taking it for the 4th time, and he graduated from Wofford College across town just last year. And I started thinking, wow! At 25 bucks a pop, it might take me awhile to pass this thing! Maybe I should have cracked some books? Oh well, too late now! And I settled in to do the absolutely best that I could do.

My best was an 85. Says a LOT about educational schools in the south at that time. I say at that time, because I would hope they’ve improved themselves since then. I know from experience the University of South Carolina (because I later took an on campus extension seminar) was already a quality educational institution up to snuff, but obviously not all local establishments were if some people were taking the test twelve times! Or the other argument could have been made that perhaps they weren’t making some students as good as they used to. But I got my SC teacher certificate on the first take, and that’s all I really cared about.

Pregnant Again

During Nancy’s first pregnancy she’d gained about sixty pounds, and unfortunately she’d lost only about twenty of that when she got pregnant with our second child, and so she recognized immediately the need to be more careful this time around. Our residential location probably aided in this. While Union contained a population of about 12,000 people, we lived at least ten miles out from town and within the unincorporated community of Putman, population of about 30 or so, maybe. So we just couldn’t be running out very conveniently on a cheeseburger run if the cravings got bad though I did perform that chore at least a couple of times during the ensuing nine months. But only a couple. She was allowed a couple Get Out of Jail Free cards.

By the time Nancy got halfway through her third month we felt it was time for her to seek medical attention before she got into the second trimester, and as happenstance would have it our sister-in-law Polly had also recently become pregnant with her second child, and Nancy had let her and only her in on our little secret though she was about four months further along. Nancy had decided to at least go to Polly’s doctor for an exam. It was a good starting point.

He confirmed what we already knew, of course, and more. First, we’d been keeping meticulous track of missed periods, etc. We weren’t going to have any doctor telling us this time around that we had miscalculated anything. Because we had been keeping such careful track, we were pretty certain that she had conceived approximately the third week in November and therefore the baby should be due sometime about the third week in August of 1977. The doctor could find nothing faulty in our reasoning, and commented that he wished all such prospective parents were so diligent. But that wasn’t his biggest contribution to our cause, and it was the second part of his message which proved to be life-altering.

You’ll recall we didn’t have any medical insurance, and so that particular visit was on us. Not a problem. I paid for it. However, from that visit we learned that the state of South Carolina at that time in history had one of the highest infant mortality rates in the United States, and to help combat that there were U. S. federal tax dollars at work. So in taking Nancy’s prior health history this doctor found out EVERYTHING. And EVERYTHING, the prior infant death coupled with Nancy’s current weight problem . . . these two factors alone threw us right to the top of the list for the SC infant high risk program or whatever they were calling it, but what it meant for us was a whole lot of good things.

Did a mention before I feel like I have a guardian angel?

This program took Nancy out of the care of the doctors and the hospital in Union which sorry to say is third-rate and sent her into the care of top-notch (read New York-trained) physicians at Spartanburg General Hospital for her regular monthly visits where she was carefully monitored. Our only part in this was the gasoline to get her there and that wasn’t a problem; living as far out of town as we did, Spartanburg was only about a 20 mile drive. And as for cost, our co-pay was based on our ability to pay, and since our ability to pay was minimal (we turned over all of our tax information to them) we really didn’t have to pay a whole lot for all of this, praise be to God.

And so we made preparations to do this right, because we felt the security that this time Nancy was getting the absolutely best care available. Because of this, she really tried to take care of herself, and during the course of the entire pregnancy she would gain only fourteen pounds.

(In the next installment, I change jobs as Nancy's pregnancy progresses to delivery. What a ride!)

Link to next installment . . .

Link to last installment . . .

Link to beginning of book . . .


Autobiography, Jehovah Witnesses, Jehovahs Witnesses, Memoir, Memoirs, Memories, Pregnancy, Pregnancy Care, Pregnancy Problems, Pregnant, Serial, Series, True Experience, True Experiences, True Stories, True Story

Meet the author

author avatar Ken Painter
Retired Chicago public school teacher. Singer, songwriter, musician, author, & opinionated old curmudgeon. Married to my husband & living in Colorado, USA. Also a father & grandfather.

Share this page

moderator johnnydod moderated this page.
If you have any complaints about this content, please let us know


Add a comment
Can't login?