After several years as an early childhood educator Libby was well on her way to becoming a well respected and even admired teacher in every school in which she taught, my career with Olan Mills, however, was another story. Libby and I had talked about starting a family and I had quickly realized that a photographer’s salary was not going to provide sufficient support for a family, especially if she decided not to go back to work. After some serious discussions with Libby and lots of prayer, I quit my photography job and enrolled full time in the engineering program at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga six long years after graduating from high school.
To help with finances while I was in college I had as many as five different jobs at one time including free lance photography, a bottled water delivery business, construction and solar panel sales. Four years and a lot of sleepless nights later I would graduate from UTC attending commencement exercises in the spring of 1986, but not before Libby announced a commencement of her own.
During my junior year in college Libby became pregnant with our first son Jerod and he was born in November of my senior year. On Monday after Jerod was born I skipped class with plans to hand out bubble gum cigars to my professors until I found out how much a box of bubble gum cigars cost, that’s when I decided that I would hand out the “real” cheap cigars wrapped in blue cellophane proclaiming “Its a Boy!”. After all, the guys had Phds, so surely they knew the hazards of smoking. In hind sight I should have destroyed the empty cigar box because Libby found it and was not happy with my choice.
I had always marveled at Libby’s ability to fall in love with the students that she taught and become absorbed in their lives far beyond the classroom. I had never before seen such a capacity to love so completely and so quickly, but then we had our own and she fell in love more deeply than ever before.
Our family was not the only thing changing; during my second year of college I began working for a small construction company designing and building earth sheltered houses, installing storm windows and other energy conservation materials in houses. I enjoyed the work and as the small company began to grow we began designing and building more commercial projects and soon Libby and I took out a second mortgage to buy stock in Construction Consultants Inc.
When Jerod was nearly two years old, Libby gave birth to our second son Nathan and seemed as if everything was going perfect for us with two healthy boys, a growing business, a great church, great friends and a close family. Life was good and we often commented to each other and to our friends that were indeed blessed. Then we received a call from the hospital.
The phone rang late one evening as Libby listened to the caller I watched the life drain from her face. Libby quietly hung up the wall phone and starred into Nathan’s eyes. When I asked her who was on the phone she told me that one of the nurses who had been in the delivery room when Nathan was born had called to say that we needed to bring him back in for additional tests. The nurse went on to tell Libby, in a very matter of fact tone, that one of Nathan’s screenings had shown some abnormalities which indicated mental retardation and we needed to make plans to bring him in for additional testing to see the extent of the retardation. Libby and I had just gone from most amazing high to the deepest low in minutes and for the remainder of the evening Libby could not be consoled as she sat in the living room floor cradling Nathan in her arms and sobbing.
Jerod must have sensed the uneasiness in the house that evening because it was difficult to get him to sleep as I spent most of the night in the guest bed next to Jerod’s room because he was so restless. The next morning I found Libby still in the living room holding Nathan praying and sobbing. I never asked if she got up early or stayed up all night because I was in a daze as well. After breakfast I dressed the boys and got them ready to go the hospital while Libby called the doctor’s office to find out where the test would be performed, but when the nurse looked up Nathan’s chart she said there had been a mistake and someone was supposed to call us back to let us know that there had been a mix up in the lab and Nathan’s test was fine.
Libby was not happy with way that the hospital staff handled the situation and that may have been the most angry I have ever seen Libby in our 35 years of marriage (at someone other than me). Libby was a bundle of emotions as she was simultaneously relieved, irritated, ecstatic and frustrated.
If nothing else the episode demonstrated to us both how precarious the good times can be and how quickly things can change, a lesson that we would continue to be taught many more times in our life.