It was August 31, 1964 and I was in labor at the base hospital
at Aberdeen Proving Grounds where my husband was stationed.
Those were the days when husbands were relegated to the waiting
room- or in our case- sent home to wait for a call to announce the
birth of their child. "This is a first baby and your wife has a long
time to go until delivery," the nurse told him- and me. "Might as
well go home. We'll call you," and I was left to labor alone,
totally alone. Such was maternity in an Army hospital in 1964.
About 8 hours later, I was holding our son in my arms, tears
streaming down my face. I thought he was the most beautiful
being I had ever seen and I hated to give him up to the nurse,
while I waited for my episiotomy to be sutures and for the
saddle block anesthesia to begin to wear off. When Carl showed
up an hour later, I was both drowsy and anxious, as this
hospital was not set up for rooming in and I desperately wanted
wanted to breastfeed our new son. But one look at his proud,
handsome face and I was saying, "We need to name him Carl
Allen, Junior." And this from someone who had always insisted
that I would never have a "Junior". But it just seemed right,
He was, from the beginning, a people person, hating to be
anywhere alone. And he didn't sleep much, preferring to be
awake and alert, his always-curious eyes taking in all within
their scope of vision. Though speech was late in developing,
his physical abilities were not, with Carl Allen able to dribble a
ball and run and throw by the age of two. Of course, once he
did talk, there was no stopping him and questions flowed from
him like water from a mountain spring... or gusher, perhaps.
Mischievous? Oh, yes. Good at getting into trouble? Most
certainly. Intelligent? Without a doubt. A challenge and a
The death of his dad was a life-altering blow for him, as it was
for his younger sister and brother, Hope and Mark. This was
just not supposed to happen to the strong, vital, athletic man
whom their father had been. But leukemia had the first and last
word, and all of our lives were forever changed on that October
day in 1975. And from that day, without ever saying it, Carl
took upon himself the role of "man of the house", always and
ever determined to protect us all, an impossible task for a boy
of eleven. But how he tried.
Fast-forward to Florida, where he began to scuba dive. He
graduated from high school, and received an appointment to the
Air Force Academy, where he discovered- much to his chagrin
and disappointment and disillusionment- that military life was
not at all what he had expected and the compromise of his own
personal principles to the school Honor Code was more than
he could bear. A couple of years at Clemson followed, with a
return to Florida, where he began diving in earnest, finding
within the ocean's depths the same wondrous challenge and
freedom he had hoped to find in space. And it was while
pursuing this great passion that he died in a diving accident in
a Cenote in the Yucatan in Mexico, less than three months
before his wedding to his fiancé and diving shop partner,
To say I miss him does not begin to express the hole, the
empty space, his absence has left in my life, in my heart.
And yet, each time I have embarked on something which,
for me, is daring or outside the box, like traveling to East
Africa or making the canopy walk in a park in Ghana or
writing and publishing my books, I can hear his voice,
encouraging me, urging me on. "Yes, Mom, you CAN do it!"
And so today, on this anniversary of the fiftieth year of his
birth, I say to my firstborn, "I loved you then; I love you still.
I am so glad you were a part of my life, of all our lives. And
wherever you are, I can see you soaring through the farthest
reaches of space, relishing every moment and laughing your
own inimitable 'Carl' laugh." And who knows? Perhaps your
dad and your grandpa are with you.