THE SONIC BOOMER
Today is my daughter Jennifer’s birthday. She is 36, which is hard to believe because I’m 36. Well, at least mentally. Physically, I sometimes feel like I’m 86. But not too often.
Jen was my first baby, which makes her extra-special. We grew up together. I had never been a mother before, and she had never been a baby before. We had a lot to work out, but fortunately, she got off to a great start. I had a great obstetrician — Dr. Kemp.
Dr. Kemp isn’t practicing anymore, which is a shame. He was a great doctor — down-to-earth without being scary. I always felt I could trust him, like he had my best interests at heart.
I still remember riding from Military Trail (where we lived) to Good Samaritan Hospital (where Dr. Kemp had his office) on my scooter — 56 cubic centimeters of raw power that sounded more like a horde of angry bees than a motorcycle engine. I was in about my eighth month of pregnancy when he gently suggested I stop riding it. Maybe tossing my helmet up onto a table outfitted with stirrups sort of jangled his nerves.
I tried to explain that the scooter was my only transportation. We owned a car, but my husband needed it to get to work. Dr. Kemp wasn’t dramatic or preachy, but he thought maybe a friend could drive me.
Well, OK. If it would make him feel better.
Another serious conversation I had with Dr. Kemp concerned money.
He brought it up.
I was in my ninth month by then, and it had gotten kind of obvious that Jennifer was going to make it. So Dr. Kemp said, “I notice you pay for all your appointments with cash. Don’t you have insurance?”
“Your husband doesn’t have insurance through his job?”
He paused, then asked, “How are you going to pay for this baby?”
“I saved up.”
From the look on Dr. Kemp’s face, he had never gotten that answer before. He didn’t laugh, but he did swallow kind of loud when he said, “How much did you save up?”
“A thousand dollars!” I said proudly.
He smiled. “Well, that ought to just about do it.”
Back in 1978, $1,000 would do it. And, being young and blissfully ignorant, I had never even considered that anything might go wrong. That I might need extra care. That Jennifer might need extra care. That we both might need extra care. Never crossed my mind, not once.
Youth is truly wasted on the young.
Seven-pound, one-ounce Jennifer was born two weeks later at 8:03 p.m. By noon the next day, I was released. My bill? It was right at $1,000. Good ol’ Dr. Kemp.
By the next day, when Jen started turning a little yellow due to jaundice, my mother was already there to help out.
“Move her crib under the window,” she said. “She needs sunlight.”
She did, and the baby was fine.
By the time my son was born two years later, we had insurance. And when Charlie started turning yellow, the hospital immediately slapped the poor little guy into a special crib with lights so bright he had to have a black mask strapped over his eyes. For the next three days, my baby resembled a naked, hot and miserable Zorro.
And I missed Dr. Kemp.