When I was born, Mom was sick. She needed gallbladder surgery right away. This left her in the hospital for a while. Even after she got out, she wouldn't be able to lift at first. She wouldn't be up to taking care of an infant and a toddler, either. (J.B. was about to turn three in July.) Dad had his job as a rural route mail carrier, I think, and he was farming. Taking care of all that and a recovering Mom left his hands pretty darn full. What were my young parents to do? (Wow. Dad was 29 and mom was 28.)
Well, you call on your family. It's our way. Mom's Aunt Helen and Uncle Lawrence stepped in and agreed to take my brother and I for a while. Now Unkie and Helen had three daughters of their own. Karol was probably starting school at the local community college. She has since gotten her degree and Iowa State University and become a successful veterinarian. I don't know if Karla lived at home, then, or at the care facility. (The care facility taught her arts and crafts. She has a job there, the right balance of supervision and independence and lots of opportunities for socialization. She loves it, but comes home to visit a lot, too.) Karen was a senior in high school. She was the youngest sister and relished the idea of having her own little sister. That's how it's been since.
But that' not the point. The point is, when I arrived the family was well past having diapers and baby food around. It was a Sunday, and in small-town Iowa in 1980, that meant stores were closed! Luckily, Unkie was well-connected in the community. He called the owner of the Perry grocery store and asked him for a big favor. Half an hour later, Unkie arrived at the store and cashier let him in. He walked up and down the empty isles grabbing formula, bottles, and everything else he though I might need. Then he arrived at the counter to check out.
"Well, Mr. Bice," the cashier exclaimed, "I didn't know you and your wife were expecting!"
Unkie shook his head and laughed.
"Frankly, neither did we!"
"Now, Mr. Bice, you know that couldn't be true! When does the baby arrive?"
I think he explained the situation to her, but I can't be sure. Unkie only tells the funny parts. I lived with them for a couple of weeks, I guess. There's also a funny story about Unkie taking J.B. to the bank, but I'll have to get my memory refreshed to tell that one. Anyway, that's the story of how I became "their girl" or "their first granddaughter." It's the reason Unkie can now mortifyingly exclaim, "I used to change her diapers and spank her bare butt!" (I'm pretty sure Helen did most of the diaper changes, but there's no use arguing with Unkie.)
Unkie loves to tell the whole story to anyone who will listen: friends, family members, even a car salesman and the Avon lady. But that's okay. It's a pretty nice story.