Bethany Beach MD, Aug 1982.
Your eyes shimmered in the sunlight. Your mouth formed a perfect oval as the wonder of it overwhelmed you. Entranced, you turned to me, your tiny fists trembling, your face aglow and golden.
It should have frightened you, you know, --forced you back to the safety of your motherís well-worn arms. It didnít. Instead you heeded its call --Come! Play with me!-- and every fiber of your being quivered in anticipation. For you, the answer was always the same. YES!
Squatting Indian-style, you cupped your hands to hold it and giggled each time it slipped through your grasp. You patted and caressed it; squeezed and pinched and poked it. Then standing upright, you rushed to greet it with the same fierce determination you hailed the dawn. It came to meet you halfway, -- to tease and tickle, to charm, enthrall and befriend you. It seemed to sense your newness, your awesome vulnerability. Gently, it wrestled you down again and again, and found you a willing and amiable contender. It splashed and bubbled over your small body, renewing with each passage, the wonder of its playfulness, the magic of its peace. That was always a special part of its enchantment.
You looked to me and back again to a boundless ocean. "Mine!" was all you said. You stretched out your arms to embrace it in all its magnificence. "Mine!"
And it was yours! You were as much a part of it as daffodils to an infant spring or the sun to a sapphire sky. As with everything in your life, you made yourself a part of it. That was your special gift, your enchantment.
I gathered you into my arms and charged headlong into the swollen sea. Breakers crashed like gleeful monsters over and around us. We giggled and gasped, sputtered and shrieked; it was difficult to tell who was the mother and who, the child. We defied the sea to break us and in our defiance clung to each other. Fearless. Foolish. Invincible!
That evening, I sat on the rumpled twin bed next to your playpen to watch you. There was no fight for wakefulness. Your "friend" had worn you down and out and made sleep inviting. You turned to look at me, mounds of red-blonde curls framing that flawless face. I saw in that look a reflection of some nobler self Iíd never found the courage to claim. Until that moment. Until you, in your innocence, claimed it for me. Had it always been there? I suppose. But you had not always been there to show me what I would not, could not see.
I bent to kiss you good-night and brush from your forehead a few, sun-drenched wisps of hair. Your arms went up to me. One, small hand caressed my cheek. "Mine," was all you said.
Looking back now, I realize how easily we lose sight of our own uniqueness, banishing our finest offering to some dim-lit corner of the soul. We grow up and old and supposedly wise, and forget (perhaps conveniently) that we are each a gift; that gifts are for giving; that what we in our fear and faithlessness withhold from others is lost forever!
In diminishing our significance, we relinquish the freedom to fully "be." We begin that long, futile search for the triumph with no tragedy, the joy that knows no sorrow, and love that will not hurt. And sadly, we die long before weíre buried, forsaking our right and responsibility to respond to life as God intended, --with a passionate, resounding, unequivocal Yes!
Good-night, old soul. Your love has stood me well. --Mom
Time let me play and be golden
in the mercy of his means.
19 Nov 1980
7 Sep 1982
Yup...she's a Gardner!
December 13, 1948.
It was about 9 o'clock at night when the nurse told me she would be bringing in the baby girl I had just delivered. I knew exactly what she would look like. After all, I had given birth to another little girl just 17 months before in the same hospital in Watertown, NY so this little girl would look just like that other little girl. The first little girl, Linda (the name of the year) was born with a headful of jet black hair, had bright red skin, and blazing blue eyes. Except for her blue eyes, it was easy to see the Seminole/Creek blood in this one. She also only weighed 5 lbs. 14 oz., so I had gotten used to handling a tiny one.
The nurse came in and handed a blanket to me. In the blanket a nearly 8 lb., fair skinned, bald, (well, maybe a bit of blonde fuzz), blue-eyed chub looked directly at me. Don't tell me babies don't see. "Wait a minute" I told the nurse, "This one can't be mine." "Sure is" she grinned. "Isn't she a beauty?"
And so I took this little butter-ball home and introduced her to her sister. "Her name is Paula" I said. "Pauda" repeated the older girl. "Baby Pauda." And so she came into our family and changed our lives
dramatically, as each child does.
I only have my memories and a brown leather bound baby book with just a few pages filled out. But she managed to accomplish a lot in the few short years she was allotted on this earth. She was healthy, grew at a vigorous rate, was way ahead in her mental and physical development. Thinking back,I have reflected that perhaps she knew she had a short time and so she had to cram in as much knowledge as she possibly could.
We left NY in June to return to Wisconsin to live near the family of my husband. His sister, one of the nicest people I have ever met in my life, was having babies at the same time and we got together at the grandparents every Sunday for dinner. The children enjoyed the association with their cousins.
On the trip to Wisconsin, Paula who was riding in the back in a folding baby bed with sides on it, had learned to sit herself up and I spent the last few days of the trip with my hand in the back seat, trying to keep her
from crawling over the side of the bed.
She was, indeed, a pretty little girl with a mass of blonde curls and was nearly as big as her sister. Everyone thought they were twins--twins who looked nothing alike. She also had one heck of a temper and didn't mind letting the world know when she was displeased. But the girls had fun together and seemed to have similar interests. They loved dolls and playing house. They loved to color and go swimming. They were out-going children and loved to go to new places and meet new people. They had a record player with just a few little records, one of which was "Zoo Train." I can still hear that song resounding in my ears. Paula had a favorite song, too. "A penny a kiss, a penny a hug, we're going to put our pennies in a big brown jug."
She talked early, getting few words wrong at first and becoming embarrassed when she found out she wasn't pronouncing the word correctly. She called a spoon "poont" and we still say that. She could speak in sentences at a year, short sentences. She learned a poem when she was 2. She walked at 10 months. I have a sock she darned when she was 3. She could set the table
correctly at 3. By the time she was 3, she began to show more interest in homemaking skills while Linda was outdoors tearing madly up and down the street on her tricycle. She could print her name and knew all of the
letters of the alphabet.
The year she was 2, we had bought her a tricycle for her birthday (she had learned to ride on Linda's) and we had hidden it in a large pantry off the kitchen. I made the mistake of leaving the door open and she saw it. It
was a few days before her birthday but when she said "I want that trike in there", she got it. Then I had to side-step two wild girls flying through the apartment on their trikes.
One day I heard a funny sound coming from the stairway which was enclosed with a door. I opened the door and there she stood at the foot of the stair, a clothes hanger over her feet, a triumphant look on her face. "Look, Mom, I walked all the way downstairs like this." She bathed herself in an entire bottle of Avon perfume I had bought for her. She took a bath
in the kitchen sink when she was a year and a half. I found her in there by herself. Luckily she had turned on the cold water.
She loved Sunday School and told me what she had learned about Jesus and her Father in Heaven. It was great satisfaction to me to remember this on that dreadful day when the Dr. confirmed his suspected diagnosis.
In the summer of 1952, both girls got sick--fever, runny noses, usual thing. Only Paula had a raging fever and was delirious. We had just moved to another city and didn't have a Dr. The one I called said, (stock
answer) "There's a lot of that going around", and so I tried to put little nagging suspicions out of my mind. These little nagging suspicions whispered "Why is her disposition so unbearable? Why does she scream at
the least little thing? Why does her neck hurt all the time? Why does she have little bruises all over her legs?"
The whisperings got louder and I took her to a children's specialist. He suggested a list of things that could be wrong. Sandwiched among all of
the many possibilities, I heard the word "Leukemia" and I knew. She was put into the hospital for tests and back came the confirmation.
It was a Sunday morning in August and it was warm weather and the doors were open. When I got the telephone call I burst into tears and the woman
next door came running. And that was the end of the tears. I have never cried about her since. For something froze within me and I knew I had to
be strong for my 2 children (a little brother had joined us in 1951) and I had to be strong for my husband who had gone all to pieces.
She spent some time in the hospital in Madison, WI, but we all knew there was nothing we could do but watch her die. Gradually she went down hill. She lost weight, her hair came out from the little medication they could
try. Her legs ached too much to play. We bought a TV for her but she wasn't very interested. She went fast, which was a blessing. Halloween was coming and I was making costumes for my other children, one was in school
now, and costumes were a necessity. I knew I didn't have much time but I got both costumes made, got the trick-or-treat candy and hired a woman to stay with them when the time came.
They called from the hospital about 7:00 am Oct 30 and told us she was dying so it was time to come and say "goodby." They had her in a crib all alone in the children's Ward. I stood on one side of the crib and her father on the other. About 11:00 she suddenly said "Daddy, move. I can't see that." He thought she wanted to see me so he moved me over to the side of the crib which she was facing. She said, "No, Mommy. You're in the way. I can't see that." We moved, she gazed into the far corner of the room, near the ceiling, and she smiled. Whatever she saw she liked. And so she died.
We drove several hundred miles with the little white casket containing my beautiful daughter and her favorite doll, to bury her with my husband's family in northern WI. As they lowered the casket into the ground, I
thought "This can't be the end. She's here and then she's not here. It can't be."
Several years later some young missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints came to my door. A somewhat active Presbyterian, I was willing to listen to them, if only to get them out of the miserable
cold weather. When I heard their message, I agreed with all they had to say but one thing impressed me more than anything else. "If you live a righteous life, you will yet get an opportunity to raise this child to adulthood. She lives! She lives in the Spirit World and one day you will be with her again. Right now she is with her Father in Heaven."
Then I knew the answer. It was not the end. I was given the opportunity to give birth to and love this little child, to teach her all that I could in her few short years on earth. To enjoy her beauty, her joy in living, her intelligence, her sweet baby smell, her loving little arms around my neck. I had it all, and someday I will have it again. We were blessed by
her presence. We will again be so blessed.
Paula Jean Dimmett
13 Dec 1948
30 Oct 1952