My wife, Gudrun, told me she was pregnant in February, 1982. She was 35; I was 36. Even though the baby—our one and only--wasn’t due for months, that kind of annunciation changes your life right away (as many of you learned at a much younger age than we did.) Joy predominated at the beginning. I remember how we relished sharing the news with our families, who had been friends with each other since 1954. My folks were already long-time grandparents--my older brother having started his family in 1969. Besides ourselves, I knew that the person we were making the happiest was Gudrun’s mom, Margarete, whose bountiful spirit beamed upon our son for 28 years.
Such joyful news also entails a series of decisions and the assumption of responsibilities. Gudrun and I both had jobs, of course. She had been with Southern Railway in downtown Atlanta since 1972, working in the Information Technology area. I worked at one of the libraries at Emory University. How were we going to deal with the care of our child? We reached agreement on one point immediately: we didn’t want to put him or her in day care. Okay, but how were we really going to deal with the care of our child? The solution wasn’t a no-brainer exactly, but our circumstances led us to an obvious answer. Gudrun earned considerably more money than I did. I liked working at Emory, but I wasn’t wedded to my job. Though Gudrun would gladly have taken on full-time mothering, we decided that I would stay at home with baby Klauss.
That this choice wasn’t a traditional role for a male in those days never bothered or daunted me. By 1982 one heard or read of the occasional househusband and the increased shifting of roles within the nuclear family. Even so, I never regarded myself seriously as part of the vanguard of a significant change in American society or any kind of a zealous trailblazer or rebel either. As Popeye used to say: “I yam what I yam.”
I never thought of this radical change in my life as a sacrifice. We had been given a gift. We believed we had chosen the best and most loving way to receive and foster it.
How prepared was I? Well, I had a few babysitter gigs as a teenager; I had dandled and played with my niece, nephews, and a few other infants and toddlers. “That’s all? Really?” “Yeah, basically,” he said, shrugging. Admittedly, I presented a meager resume for an endeavor that was going to fill my days and that wasn’t a “natural” for a male. However, I knew that a portion of parenting consisted of on-the-job learning. Almost every position I had held up to that point—personnel clerk in the Army, graduate teaching assistant, speed reading teacher, and librarian—had involved a mastering of requisite skills and an adaptation to conditions after I took the post. Being a parent was obviously a far more momentous undertaking, but I thought I could do it. Most importantly: I knew my heart was fully engaged, and that I wasn’t alone.
I resigned from the library at the end of August. Gudrun began her maternity leave in the middle of September, three weeks before the baby’s projected due date of October 9. October 16 arrived, and we were still waiting (somewhat anxiously). The obstetrician decided to induce labor if Gudrun hadn’t delivered by October 25. October 25: Lucas Martin Klauss arrives in dramatic fashion via a last-minute caesarean section at Piedmont Hospital. A day or two later, Dr. John Drummond stopped by to greet us and bestow his blessing.
The day after we brought Lucas home, we met with Dr. Simmons, his pediatrician. He hailed from Virginia-- a courtly Southerner with a calming demeanor. Did his eyebrows lift in surprise and consternation when I told him that I would be the one taking care of Lucas? Maybe not, but even behind a neutral expression he must have been thinking: Hmmm. I wonder how this is going to turn out? In the following months, as Lucas thrived and scored well on all the developmental tests, Dr. Simmons probably began re-assessing his initial dubious attitude. In turn, as we took each other’s measure, I began to appreciate him as a kind, highly competent children’s physician—a man we could depend upon. Lucas remained his patient until we moved away from Stone Mountain in his early teenage years. At the farewell appointment, Dr. Simmons told me (in the wonderful Virginia accent and warm manner that I would miss): “Rainer, I wasn’t sure about you in the beginning. I’ve been practicing a long time, but you were the first fellow who came into this office who took on that full-time job at home. I was a bit concerned for Lucas. You understand? I want to tell you that you and Gudrun have done a great job. Lucas is a fine, healthy youngster.”
Southern Railway had a liberal maternity leave policy, and Gudrun stayed home for five more weeks after Lucas’s birth. That gave us enough time for the intensive introductory course in infant care (largely the same for everyone and a large part of which could be titled “Exhaustion 101”). Since I was now enthusiastically engaged in on-the-job learning, I participated avidly in all aspects of the little fellow’s care.
Gudrun bonded with him and saw to his nursing in the age-old fashion. Working in turn or together, we tended to him day and night. It would be more than 6 months before he would sleep through until the morning. We tried several things to nudge his schedule, but nothing availed. He wasn’t ready. Except for that disruption of our sleeping patterns, Lucas was an easy baby. When he encountered his first hurdle—the switch to the bottle—he took it in stride.
Gudrun’s first day back at work and my assumption of full househusbandhood (that that word resembles one of those long German compound linguistic constructions is fitting, of course) must have gone without a hitch. No doubt we missed each other after such a spell of intense partnership, but there are no traumatic memories of the separation. In the larger scheme of things, of course, it was just another day in the neighborhood—in the world, for that matter. Life goes forward.
So, how did father and son fare? The nitty-gritty of taking care of Lucas—preparing his bottles, feeding him, changing his diapers, soothing his fussiness and discomfort, trying to decipher the message in his crying, rocking him to sleep—all of those things and more became parts of my new work. He made my day. When he was big enough to travel we ventured forth to visit my former co-workers and friends at Emory, Gudrun at her office, or other friends with babies. Have stroller, will travel. He liked getting out and seeing the world: shopping malls, bookstores, grocery stores, the library, playgrounds. Oftentimes, he would be right next to me, strapped into the baby carrier, the Snugli. Carrying him up front couldn’t help but make me feel… maternal. It certainly made me feel proud, protective, and loving.
I fell apart the first time he got sick. He was never a cranky baby, so one day--it must have been the winter of ’83-- when there was an obvious decline in his heretofore robust health, it shook me up. That morning he was fine; in the afternoon he was in distress. It was just a cold, but father and son had a hard time for a while, for different reasons.
I stayed home with Lucas until he entered the second grade, seeing him advance through the stages of early childhood: crawling, walking, babbling, talking, running…and beyond. When he was a first-grader, I volunteered at his school; I landed a job in its library. I moved on to public library work in 1990 as an Information Specialist at the Norcross Public Library outside Atlanta. Even then it was only part-time. I was at home to send Lucas off to school and waiting on him (most of the time) when he stepped off the school bus in the afternoon.
Throughout those years, Gudrun checked in for her second job when she got home. Soon after Lucas learned to walk, he would toddle to meet her at the door, give her a hug, and their close mother-and-son time would begin.
A few days after Lucas was born, I turned 37, and two weeks later Gudrun had her 36th birthday. Lucas had brought us a new life-- his own and the riches his presence bestowed on us. The circle is unbroken and blessings continue: Lucas and his wife, Meredith, are expecting a boy in May.
Memphis, TN - For the first time in our married life, Sue and I did not spend January in either Hawaii or Hilton Head, but instead have stayed close to home due to other commitments. If things go as planned, we will try to make up for this in February when we hope to take a nice Winter holiday to somewhere warm. (Although it was in the Sixties today in Memphis.)
Thanks to everyone for keeping the Jukebox going. Remember, the song will be played in the order they are received, so if you have made a request, then be patient.
The Virtual Jukebox
This Week's Selections by
Hope this will keep the jukebox spinning! I want to use a quarter and play some of the songs I was listening to in 1965. I listened to a lot of different styles of music, even some country.
Here are my picks:
#1. "Help Me Rhonda" by The Beach Boys
2. "Catch Us If You Can" by The Dave Clark 5
3. "Tired Of Waiting For You" by The Kinks
From Our Mailbox
Subject: Bama Football
Over the past 4 years, I have become fishing buddies with a retired dean (Bernie Sloan) from the University of Alabama. His entire career was spent at Tuscaloosa and of course, he is a huge Crimson Tide fan. He still keeps in close touch with his friends from Tuscaloosa. I stopped by his house on Saturday to congratulate and try and get the insider story on the onside kick which was a pivotal point in the game. During a previous email conversation, he asked me if I remembered the names of two players that Coach Bryant used on tackle eligible passes. Being an Auburn guy, I didn’t recall but told Bernie that I would find out from another friend who had played ball at UA in the early 70’s. I had sent Bernie the response and he thanked me profusely and said “wait a minute.” He went to his computer desk and removed a sheet from his printer. The sheet turned out to be the 1966 University of Alabama football roster. He had circled several notable names (ex: Kenny Stabler). He handed me the list and asked if I recognized any of the other players. I surprised him when I said “I went to school with #15, Niles Prestige and see him at high school reunions.” This just shows that you can’t get very far away from a connection to LHS.
Subject: Roy Orbison
Thanks to Sarajane for shedding some light on the allusion to: "My Huckleberry Friend" in Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini's Oscar-Winning song.
One of Roy Orbison's most ardent admirers was Elvis, b/c of his impressive vocal range; Roy could nail the high notes that Elvis could only dream about.
Around 1967 Roy Orbison and his band came to Auburn to give a concert in the old Student Activities Building, called "The Barn" for good reasons. In addition to concerts, AU basketball SEC games and intramural sports were also played in that vast open space with a curved tin roof and old wooden white siding. It actually burned down DURING a home football game against LSU; it should be noted that, even though The Barn was located right across the street/almost next door, to Jordan-Hare Stadium, football fans never left the stadium. On TV, one could see the flames licking the sky way above the top row of end zone seats.
To attend this concert, all it took was presentation of a student ID at the door and $1.00. Roy performed non-stop for about two hours, and the only parts of his body that moved were his lips and the fingers on his guitar; such was his style, standing stock-still and crooning away behind those big thick black glasses. At one point he said: "We were planning on setting up the band on stage in front of a semi-circle of six Vestal Virgins on Pedestals. But I am sorry to have to tell you, that we searched all over the Auburn campus.............and we just could not find......any Pedestals."
Roy Orbison survived not one, but two, coronary artery bypass grafts, but could never give up smoking cigarettes. He died too young of heart disease.
Subject: Lost Artists
Last week we lost two contemporaries: Glenn Frey and David Bowie, the latter a bit older than LHS classes '64-66. I never was a fan, but he had enough impact to land on the cover of this week's TIME magazine.
Glenn Frey was indeed a contemporary (age 67) and died of complications of Ulcerative Colitis, a type of Inflammatory Bowel Disease similar in many ways to Crohn's Disease, which took out our beloved Carol Jean. Though his music did not appear during our high school years, many of us grew up listening to hits by "The Eagles," many songs of which he wrote, co-wrote, and/or performed.
Subject: Last Week's Issue
Ann Pat King
I'm sorry to hear about your "egging" lately - that has to be a bummer even to find upon waking. It's a different world, for sure, than how we were raised.
As I was reading John's input in the newsletter about the "records" of our day, I got to thinking about the records we still have in our house... What do you all suggest we do with them? Sell them? Keep them? etc. I could still probably play them on "new" old-style-turn-table with a cassette player and a CD player/recorder that Roy gave me for Christmas a couple of years ago. But really don't ever think to do it - or have a reason to. So if anyone has any suggestions of what to do with the albums, I'd love to hear from you.
It is amazing to think - looking back over our generation at all of the unique "inventions" (for lack of a better word) that came and went and now seem practically extinct especially to this generation. I'm still laughing at the young boy's question, "Dad, what's a record?" So, so true. We are finding, however, that goes around, comes back around, just in new packaging and bit more "modern." Guess that gives us something to look forward to.
Being the quiet, reserved type in high school, I would have been mortified to have done either of these two things. But later in life, I did have experience with both. When I was the freshmen sponsor at Austin High School in Decatur, I discovered that some of our finest students were about to egg some of the cars at a local dealership. Knowing the damage that would do, I marched over there and threatened them with everything in my power (In-School Suspension, Out-of-School Suspension, or even expulsion), so they stopped. I even grabbed one, probably the leader, and pulled him up by his collar.
Later in life, a group of very respectful women who were my friends, went over to another friend's house to roll the lawn. I can't remember the reason, but I still remember being afraid of being caught by someone...anyone. Fortunately, we didn't have much paper, didn't stay long, and left.
One addition: I loved Escoe's choices of records from the '60's.