Me and Betsy

Hurricane season. They warned us this year would an active season. Talk about an understatement. Harvey in Texas. Irma in Florida. Jose on the heels of Irma. Unprecedented, they say. Since I moved to Houston in 1981, I’ve lived through Alicia, Allison, Rita, and Ike. But before those hurricanes, there was another one I’ll never forget. My very first encounter.

I was living in the Florida Keys in 1965 when Category 4 Hurricane Betsy cycloned down upon us on September 5.

“Betsy was a huge storm — more than 600 miles from edge to edge with an eye estimated to be 40 miles wide at one point. The size of the storm meant that while the eye passed over the Keys, serious damage stretched north to Fort Lauderdale. The storm brought a six-foot storm surge that flooded Miami and Fort Lauderdale and is said to have nearly covered the island of Key Biscayne.” (Sun Sentinel, September 9, 1965)

On August 25, 1965, my daughter, Shawn, was born. Earlier that day my second husband, and Shawn’s father, Johnny, was at work on a lobster fishing boat in Key West. I was alone in our Airstream parked in Big Pine Key. The baby wasn’t due for another month. I started having back pain that got increasing worse. Was I in labor? Something was pushing against my back. I tried telling myself, “No, just relax. The pain will go away. This doesn’t feel like labor pains.” But the pain didn’t go away. I needed help. I ran outside to the few other trailers in the area and pounded on doors. I screamed. Nobody answered. I limped back home.

By some fortunate calculation where I must have foreseen this happening, or maybe the doctor had given me a copy,  I had a book on “How to Deliver a Baby by Yourself.” As I positioned myself sideways on the couch, I now read this from cover to cover and again until I practically memorized it. At one point when the pressure became urgent, I went to the toilet and discovered I could touch the baby’s head.

I screamed. My husband burst into the door. He’d had a premonition that he needed to leave the fishing boat and rush home. He put me into the car and rushed me to his boss’s house. His boss ran inside and telephoned for the paramedics. When he came back to the car, I was on my knees in the front seat and Johnny was delivering my 5 pound baby girl. As he held our baby, he picked up his fishing knife, and asked, “Should I cut the cord?”

Having read the book on how to deliver a baby by yourself, I screamed, “No!” Fortunately, the paramedics arrived minutes later. They put me in the ambulance with my baby Shawn on top of my stomach, cord still attached, and drove to the hospital in Marathon Key. There the doctors delivered the afterbirth. The actual birth on my knees in the car was almost pain free, unlike the afterbirth.

Three weeks later we drove to a motel in Homestead with many of our neighbors to hunker down in the wake of Hurricane Betsy. Johnny brought his guitar and we all tried to keep calm in that one cramped motel room. I had bottles of milk since I was physically unable to breastfeed as much as the baby needed. With the loss of electricity, we heated her bottle in the radiator of the car amidst the onslaught of winds and rain.

When Betsy finally moved on, we ventured back home. We viewed the fallen trees and destruction on the way and wondered if our Airstream and attached cabana would still be there. The cabana was long gone, but our Airstream home was sturdy as ever.

 

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Women’s Rights

I’ve been hearing a lot about certain politicians stomping on women’s rights. I’m talking about denying women equal pay for equal work, and trying to overturn Roe vs. Wade. What is striking to me is that they say they want less government. Why do they want the government to dictate women’s lives? I don’t hear them saying men should abstain from sex or not use a condom or get snipped. Nothing like that. But according to them women are not allowed to have an abortion even if she is raped or in danger of dying or cannot take care of a child. On top of that, these old men don’t want us to use birth control to prevent pregnancy. Does that make sense. They say abstinence is the only answer. Fine. From now I vote never to have sex with any Republican men.

If a young woman does get pregnant and she can’t afford to take care of the child, who pays the bills? Once the child is born, they don’t care anymore. So send the bills to her representative. Men, you can’t have it both ways. No sex for you! Or you can pay the price!

Women, stand up for your rights as an equal to any man. You deserve equal pay because most women work harder than men anyway, plus raise children and run a home. And do it better. You are smart and know what is right for your body more than any man. Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t dislike men. But no one, especially old men in government, can tell me what I can do with my body. I can say these things because by golly I’ve earned the right and I’m old enough not to have more children.

As for abortion, I’m not saying I’m for it. I’m not, for myself. That’s my choice. But that’s the point. Choice. The point is that the government should not be able to tell us what to do with our bodies. Do they put restrictions on men? I think these men are afraid of us. They want to control us and they think they can legislate control. They don’t have a platform of their own so they pick abortion, low pay for women, and marriage rights. They want to force religion – their religion – into the government. I say: Mind you own business, go to your own church, marry whom you want and leave government to those intelligent and sane enough to run the country – like the man who is there right now.

CAN ONE MISTAKE RUIN A LIFE FOREVER?

Most people go through life as law abiding citizens. They have bank accounts, rent apartments, hold down jobs, have families. But suppose, just suppose, you are young – say early twenties – and you smoke a little pot with friends, sometimes even experiment with harder substances. One day you get stopped by a traffic cop. They decide to search your car and find a small amount of cocaine that a friend gave you to hold. You are arrested on a felony charge of possession. You are tried and convicted. You spend a short time in jail.

In all other aspects of your life, you follow the rules. You have a husband or a boy friend, a good job. Maybe you have children. But you make one mistake. You have a felony on your rap sheet.

From that moment on, your job is in jeopardy. Maybe they don’t know or care. But if you lose that job someday in the future, you may never get another one because of your past record. If you move and try to rent an apartment or a house, you’re out of luck because of your past record. Your credit rating plummets.

Maybe you’re still  young. Life hasn’t yet begun. That one mistake means you have cut short your potential. How are you going to get a job? A place to live? Once a criminal, always a criminal?

Unfortunately, for many this is their life. One mistake can make you are a criminal for life. What happened to second chances? Can you get your past erased? Maybe after seven years and a good lawyer, which costs money, you can get your record expunged as far as credit ratings and jobs and housing is concerned. Meanwhile, what can you can do?

You might be able to get a job that pays cash under the table. That won’t get you a place to live. What are your choices? Became a career criminal? Sell drugs? Live on the street?

With the economy the way it is today, the homeless is a growing cancer in America. How many start out full of dreams and ambitions. Talent and desire can get you to the top. One mistake can tear down that delicate fabric that separates success and failure.

Examining the lives of the homeless, I wonder how many would not be there if they had a second chance to make up for that one mistake in their youth.