Laura must have been about two or two-and-a-half years old. We were living in San Jose where I was serving as youth pastor. One of the families from church invited us to dinner. As we were leaving their home that evening, Laura was running around the front yard while we were making our way to the car. Next thing I know Laura is walking toward us crying. She had been walking on the railroad ties which bordered the flower garden in front. She had stumbled, catching her fall with her hands. She was fine except that she had acquired what looked like a hundred wooden splinters in her hands and wrists. What made it worse is the wood from the railroads ties was rotten, so the wood was fairly soft. I knew it was going to be some job digging those pieces out.
When we got home I had her get in the bathtub where she could soak her hands until they looked like prunes. She knew what was coming next, so she was none too happy when I showed up with a straight needle and rubbing alcohol. It took about two hours of poking and digging to get all the pieces of splinters out. Laura was a tough kid. She shed some tears but she sucked it up and there were no problems as a result. But I never want to do that again!
A few years later I was at my first duty station as a Navy chaplain. Laura was now five and very much the active hard-charger. I cannot remember her ever being sick in those first years of life. I came home one evening from the squadron only to have my wife inform me that Laura was not feeling well. I went into her room to check on her. Sure enough, she complained of a tummy ache. I’ve seen Laura fall and bounce her head off the concrete floor of our garage and hardly make a sound. She simply got back up and went back to playing. So, for her to complain was my key to try and find out what was actually taking place. Ever since she began to talk she was always very articulate so she could explain things at a level beyond her years. I asked her to tell me what sort of pain she had in her tummy. Was it a dull ache, or a sharp pain? She said it was more like a sharp pain. I experienced a similar illness when I was 18 which resulted in an emergency appendectomy. I wondered if Laura might be having trouble with her appendix. Naw! After all, she’d only just turned five. Her tummy wasn’t bothering her at that moment, so I told her that if she felt anymore discomfort during the night to call for me and I’d come right in.
Sure enough, about 2:30 AM I heard her calling, “Daddy.” I went into her room and could see she was in considerable pain. I bundled her up and took her to the car for the drive to the Naval Hospital at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, while Isaura called the hospital to alert them that we were coming in. Once at the hospital the corpsmen and the doctors could not have been better. They were very understanding and compassionate. Dr. Rodriguez checked her over, all the while listening to my concern about the possibilities of appendicitis. The white blood cell count was normal, so that seemed to rule out the appendix. The doctor said he was going to open her up and see what he could find. He said he would remove the appendix in the process, even though he did not believe that was the culprit.
Isaura and I sat and waited until Dr. Rodriguez came from surgery. He smiled and said everything was fine. I asked what had caused the problem. He said it was indeed the appendix. I expressed surprise that someone so young would have a “rotten” appendix. He informed me that sometimes they have to perform emergency appendectomies on babies right out of the womb because the appendix is bad at birth. I was glad I had listened carefully to Laura’s descriptions of her pain! She spent the next several days recovering in the hospital. Each evening I would grab a blanket and sleep in a recliner in her room until we were able to take her home.
One last story involving both Laura and Jenny. My second duty assignment was as command chaplain on board the USS White Plains AFS 4, home ported in Guam. Being a tropical island, Guam had no end of creepy-crawly critters. Laura and Jenny thoroughly enjoyed collecting frogs, geckos, lizards, and hermit crabs. I was often the instigator in terrorizing my wife which the girls thought was great fun. One time we found a hapless baby gecko that had crawled into our freezer meeting a certain untimely end. The girls and I took the little guy and placed him in a spot in the freezer where their mother would be sure to see him. Then we waited. Sure enough, there came the startled shriek, followed by the stern-voiced, “Charles!” The girls and I loved it! Another time we snagged a frog from outside (there are tons of them on Guam) and placed the amphibian in the bathwater for my wife’s nightly ritual. Low and behold, as she steps into the bath water the frog decides to leap out. Priceless! It was wonderful! You had to have been there to fully appreciate it.
The girls and I are convinced that the Lord placed us on earth to not only be a blessing to their mom, but to bring some levity into her life! I’m not sure she sees it in quite the same way. We managed to keep things lively during their growing up years. Those were great days!
I now have two five-year-old granddaughters. Hmmmm. Let me think on that for a bit . . . Yeah! What goes around, comes around, girls! I can’t wait!