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Part Four, of “ A Grandchild Odyssey

“So long as one day follows another…” 1

Monday, June 19, 2017


“What is it?  A contraction?”
“Yup.  Pretty strong.”
“Been any others?”
“Yup – they’re running about five minutes apart.”

Then, almost because we drew attention to them, the contractions stopped.  Altogether.

Again and again, over the past week, Rachael would feel as though labour was beginning, only to be disappointed.  She and Michael kept their medical appointments, and were told that all things were normal: the baby’s vital signs are good; she is properly positioned to get born; and mom is in good health.

But the great moment for which we are all waiting, the intense primeval struggle that will end with a new person in the world, just doesn’t happen.

As a result we are all – Rachael, Michael, Heather and I – in a state of suspended animation.  Michael works from home, but he has put off or cancelled some business trips; Rachael, now exceedingly uncomfortable, sleeps a lot, or scrolls around on the Internet; Heather and I could go off and be tourists, for there are many interesting things to see and do in this part of California… but we don’t, for fear of being out of reach when the big event starts (Rachael wants her mother in the delivery room, and Heather dearly wants to be there).

I had planned to be back in Winnipeg by now.  Foolishly assuming that a “Due date” means that a baby will arrive on that particular day, I had laid my plans based on meeting my new grandchild on June 10, and giving myself the entire following week to visit with her.  I would, so my plan went, return my rental car and fly home on Friday, June 16, and be back at both altar and pulpit on the 18th.  Yesterday.

But I’m still here.  Still waiting for the baby to be born.

Around Tuesday of last week I began to realize how silly it was to have structured my travel around a “due date.”  But what was to be done?  I have this “half-time” job at St. Mary’s church!  Can you imagine people coming to church on Sunday, only to be told, “Tony isn’t here; he’s still in California; please go home”??

So I decided to make some phone calls – to retired and part-time clergy who might be free to fill in for me on short notice… and hit pay dirt on first try.  Actually it was Heather’s suggestion – she thought that Brian Rountree, the Honorary Assistant at her sister’s church, might be free, and he was, and agreed to do it!

Immensely relieved, I contacted the administrative secretary at St. Mary’s, then typed up detailed notes for Brian, and let the churchwardens know what I had done.

Meanwhile, the outdoor temperature, here in Sacramento, began to climb.  It hit 43°C yesterday (109.4°F), and a “Severe Weather Alert” – an “excessive heat warning” – is in effect for much the next week.

Think: uncomfortable pregnant ladies.

One prefers to stay in air conditioned spaces.  Church, yesterday, was air conditioned; Rachael and Michael’s home is air conditioned.  Before the heat began, last Tuesday, I let off some steam by taking a 6 km. walk, but that isn’t going to happen now.

At least, with all of this sitting around, I got a chance to complete a major project for the parish.  Before leaving on this “Grandchild Odyssey,” I had helped to lead a parish conference entitled, “Catching our Breath.”  It produced a type of parish self-portrait, which may be useful going forward, in the process of finding someone to be the next Rector.  I needed to assemble some statistical data from the conference, and write it all up.  So, as the sun blazed overhead, outside, in the coolness of my daughter’s home I spent some very constructive time completing the report, which will shortly go both to parish officials and to the Diocese.  Like Michael, I’m “working from home” – though it’s his home and not mine, in which I work.

But the main focus remains that elusive “Roo.”  When will she be born?  Will I be scrambling to find a clergy replacement for another weekend?

On this Monday, nine days after Rachael’s “Due date,” it’s still too soon to say.

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1  While this is a very common phrase, found even in pop songs, I like it best in J.S. Bach’s Cantata, BWV 30 – “Freue dich, erlöste Schar,” where, in a soprano recitative, we hear, “…so long as one day follows another, just as long I will, erect and firmly, my God, through Your spirit live to honor You totally and completely.” (in German, “Solang ein Tag den andern folgen läßt, So lange will ich steif und fest, Mein Gott, durch deinen Geist Dir ganz und gar zu Ehren leben.”)
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