May 8, 2010

Roland's Loves

This is a work of fiction based on a true story, and is copyrighted by Amy M. Abbott, 2010.

May 1926 -- Roland and Velma met at a fraternity dance. Roland's brother Wally attended the same small Lutheran college as Velma. Wally's fraternity hosted a trade dance with Velma's sorority, a celebration of the semester's end.

Wally was the more handsome of the brothers, but Velma danced first with Roland and found him intriguing. She danced with him six more times that night. A faded dance card stuck in a book asserts this memory with Roland's wide signature intact, signed seven times with his trademark Parker fountain pen.

Both the brothers were tall -- Roland's awkward ears made him a little less attractive than his brother whose features were symmetrical. But Roland was a charmer -- his smile and eyes disarmed Velma. He was light on his feet on the dance floor, and the story goes that it was love at first sight.

Velma was petite with a huge shock of auburn hair and dark eyes.

Roland finished only one year of college. His father learned, quite by accident, that he donated $100 to the new Union building construction fund at the state university. Roland's father made him come home, because he felt that was "pure foolishness."

Didn't matter much because Roland was a natural salesman. Within months of leaving college, Roland had a job with a national company, and traveled throughout the Midwest. He never met a stranger, and made few enemies.

Velma quit college and married Roland at her home in Kansas the next winter. He bought her a beautiful brick cottage in his Indiana hometown near the Rose Garden. They set up housekeeping, the storybook couple of the neighborhood. Sometimes Velma accompanied Roland on sales trips, and they enjoyed weekends doing the things they loved. Roland had a club membership, and they both enjoyed the stables and golf.

Life was good. The couple learned that Velma was pregnant and the baby would come early in the autumn, before the leaves fell and the Rose Garden closed for the season.

* * * * *

At the end of August, the couple rode horses at the club on Saturday, as they did most weekends. In the Jazz Age, no one knew about special precautions for women in late pregnancy. Later Roland questioned himself over and over about the wisdom of riding horses on the August day.

Velma's horse threw her off. She landed on her back. The ambulance rushed her to the Lutheran Hospital where Roland paced back and forth, awaiting word from the doctor. The doctor said Velma and the baby would be fine -- Velma had some broken bones but she just needed some rest. The doctor scheduled a Cesarean section in a few weeks. The natural birthing process, the doctor said, was too taxing for Velma.

A beautiful 10 lb. baby girl was born on that September morning, before the leaves fell and the Rose Garden closed for the season. She was a gorgeous, pink baby with a shock of auburn hair and dark eyes and asymmetrical ears. The scrub nurse who held her for the first time noticed that this baby was alert and aware.

Then something went terribly wrong. Velma began bleeding out, and her heart stopped on on the operating table. The baby was minutes old, in the arms of the young nurse as her mother died before her.

Roland -- in the father's waiting room -- didn't yet know that he had a beautiful daughter. The doctor had to tell him his young, beautiful wife was dead. The doctor then directed the sobbing, brunette scrub nurse with the blue-green eyes to take the baby out to meet her father.

Roland took his baby daughter from the teary young nurse. Just for a second, their hands touched when the tall nurse carefully handed him the warm bundle.

He named his daughter Velma Jean Louise after his wife and mother. The baby stayed in the hospital for two weeks, carefully nurtured by the nursing staff, particularly the young scrub nurse with the blue-green eyes.

Heartbroken, Roland took his wife back to Kansas and buried her in her family plot.

Then the twenty-eight year old sold the brick cottage near the Rose Garden and moved baby Louise into his parent's home. And he went back on the road, selling properties for "The Prudential" across the Midwest.

Two years later, Roland decided to take Louise, now two, back to visit the nurses at the hospital. She was a stunning child, her complexion a smooth and fair contrast to her wild now curly red-brown hair.

Walking on her own, now running, Louise was a welcome sight to everyone on the floor, who remembered the baby Louise who stayed in the hospital two weeks after her mother's death.

Roland greeted all of them, but noticed one nurse out of the corner of his eye.

Was she the one?

Was she the one with whom he shared that awful-wonderful moment when he met his new daughter?

Was it her hand he touched when he reached for his new daughter?

* * * * *

May 2010 -- Two fifty-something adults sat drinking coffee in the early morning on a brick patio in Arlington, VA, reading glasses poised on both their middle-aged noses.

The eldest of the two was Matt, tall, with dark eyes. His companion was Nora, whose brunette locks were naturally highlighted with gray and white.

"Nice to be together," said Matt to Nora.

Nora's blue-green eyes watched him do the crossword with his Parker fountain pen, and pondered his receding auburn hairline.

"Who does the crossword in ink," she asked her cousin.
They laughed.

She looked at him closely, again.

"You know, Matt, I've never noticed it before, but you have Grandfather's ears."

* * * * *