I Saw A Miracle by Fifi Green

Scooter's 1st Birthday

I’m rummaging through journals for information to supplement and stimulate my memories of beginning a family forty-five years ago. I open a grubby three-ring notebook. Lots of looseleaf stuff falls out. I recognize my mother’s handwriting and squint at the title, I Saw a Miracle faintly penciled in. A coincidence? It’s her take on my Rubella story.

The sharp ring of the telephone broke the quiet evening. The call was from my daughter in El Paso. Her husband was stationed at the Ft. Bliss army base. I knew she’d been crying by her tear-strained voice. ‘Mother, have I ever had German Measles?’

A cold chill ran down my spine. I knew what was coming. Jill was in the 12th week of her first pregnancy. She’d called Easter ecstatic with the good news, after two years of waiting.

That’s her waiting not mine. I wasn’t sure I wanted a baby yet, but had stopped taking birth control.

Jill had consulted several physicians. Some advised wait-and-hope, some abortion.

No physician suggested abortion; that was my idea. In fact no legal abortions were available until 1968, after the big epidemic was running its course. She continues, putting my name in place of hers.

Abortion was a horrible word, not permitted by my daughter’s religion or her personal feelings. She would not consider it. To her it meant taking a life, perhaps a perfect life. She carried her unborn baby very bravely for the next six months, never complaining, but I knew how deeply concerned she was and how hard she must have prayed. We all prayed with her.

What? It’s my mother’s god coming out all over the place. Did I tell her that to pacify her? Or have I taken the godless views I now hold, reversed time and infiltrated them into my past? What is the truth? My memory weaves through it with a thin silver thread, periodically blinding me with its reflection.

Ray, Jill and Scooter 4 mo. Venice, Fl

Little Ray or Scooter, as his family now called him, grew more beautiful each day – golden red fuzz, eyes as blue as the ocean where he lived, white skin, pink cheeks – an exceptionally beautiful child. However, we were all watching him carefully. I had taught speech therapy before my marriage and I began to suspect that he was not hearing.

We all suspected. From early on we were banging pot lids together behind Scooter’s back. No response. I brought up our concerns to the pediatrician. He placed his watch behind his head on one side or the other and when he turned his head correctly he said, “See. He’s fine.” This was no dumb kid. He could see the hand behind him. Scooter was a year old, but wasn’t babbling or saying those first dada, mama words although he was looking intently at our faces when we spoke. With great trepidation we made an appointment for Scooter at the Shands Speech and Hearing Clinic in Gainesville, Florida.


Rubella Jill


Ft Bliss Texas – Part Two

From Wikipedia, “There was a pandemic of rubella between 1962 and 1965, starting in Europe and spreading to the United States. In the years 1964-65, the United States had an estimated 12.5 million rubella cases. This led to 11,000 miscarriages or therapeutic abortions and 20,000 cases of congenital rubella syndrome. Of these, 2,100 died as neonates, 12,000 were deaf, 3,580 were blind and 1,800 were mentally retarded. In New York alone, CRS affected 1% of all births. In 1969 a live attenuated virus vaccine was licensed. In the early 1970s, a triple vaccine containing attenuated measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) viruses was introduced.”

Staring at myself in the mirror, tears running down my spotty face, getting rashier by the second. I call Ray.  “It’s German Measles”.

“Don’t get upset. It could be something else. Let’s get you to the doctor. Then check at school and see if any kids have it.”

I scream, “It’s fucking German Measles!” My mind empties. I can’t focus. My heart slams against the mesh of my lungs, vibrating the rash all over me, burning my skin, my eyes. Sucking my tears dry. I wade through the weekend making calls for help. Nobody can. The principal says “your student Bobby’s sick. His grandfather, who’s a doctor, said he’s come down with Rubella.” I moan. Why did he have to be in my class, the only pregnant teacher in the school?

”The base clinic says, “Come in Monday for a Gamma Globulin shot. It’s all we’ve got.”

I reply trembling, “Let’s do it.”

I sit in the waiting room. Looking up, away from myself, I see several obviously pregnant women surrounding me. A scene from a recent “Monkey Virus Infects the World” movie flashes before my eyes. I jump up to the desk. “I can’t stay here.” I whisper. The whole place ‘ll panic. I’ll get stoned. I mouth “German Measles.” They grab and isolate me in an examining room. Typhoid Mary! Another blow. They jam in the needle of gamma globulin. I cry, “What good will it do?” They don’t know. Maybe stop the rampage? Maybe nothing?

I  falter, check into abortions; only legal in two states, New York and Arizona. I can’t do it. I’m too late, too far along, too far away. The doctors try to be reassuring, “all the big stuff is developed by three months, except hearing.”

Living on base, finishing out the school year, preparing to leave Ft. Bliss, all is a blur, a void. My first child, that happy experience we haven’t really planned for, has taken a turn of foreboding.

Ray studying the stock market at Ft. Bliss

It’s 1967. In the next few months our lives change drastically.  The first decision is Ray’s. Taking the lead from my father, a very successful investor, he’s been studying the stock market, during his years of armed service preparing for a short internship on Wall Street and the ensuing SEC exam. A family friend has offered him a job in Daytona Beach, Florida with the prestigious firm, Merrill Lynch, pending his successful completion.

A bout of morning sickness makes me fully aware of my pregnancy in all its glory and distress. Being of strong body and positive nature I keep my apprehensions at bay and concentrate on a healthy beautiful baby. After a short visit home with our families on the Gulf Coast we cross the state to begin our new life and find a sweet house in a family neighborhood half a block from the beach. I find an OB/GYN who tells me not to worry my pretty little head about the German Measles epidemic. Everything will be fine. I want to remain in the sheep-following stage of the 50’s, wanting to believe the “Doctor knows best”, and ask no more questions.


Cars on Daytona Beach

Although student protests are beginning, first over segregation, then over the war in Viet Nam, Texas and Florida lag behind. The schools in Florida are just beginning to integrate. The medical community lags too. At Halifax Hospital where my son is born on Oct. 21, fathers aren’t even allowed on the Obstetrics floor. They have to wait in the lobby downstairs. I’m given a shot of painkiller as soon as the labor is strong and regular. No one asks me if I want it. Natural childbirth is out of fashion with the advent of strong painkillers. My one question about the possible damage to the fetus is answered with, “We’ll do a hearing test along with the other birth assessments.”

Next Time – Child Birth


Life and Deaf – A Memoir of Life with a Deaf Child… and more.

I’ve started a memoir Life and Deaf and thought if I put excerpts on my blog I might be more apt to keep up with it and maybe even finish it before I either lose my mind, my life or my urge to write. Here goes:

Feeling flushed I get up to look in the mirror. Spots. Couldn’t be. Don’t want it to be. I lean closer. My heart pounds in fear. The sight swells around me rushing blood and adrenalin through my body and before my very eyes the spots multiply all over my face and neck like in a horror movie. German Measles. There’s an epidemic raging. This is a mild disease when kids get it – a little rash, a little fever, runs its course in a couple days. But in pregnant women, especially first trimester, it attacks the fetus and destroys the cells of whatever isn’t fully developed by then.

I’m three months pregnant with my first child. I grab at impossible straws. I want to believe I already had them as a child. My mother would know. I call her.


“Hi Jill. How’re you feeling? You over the morning sickness yet?”

“Yes. Much better. I wanted to ask you? Umm. Did I have German Measles as a kid?”

“What? The epidemic! Oh no! Oh yes, I’m sure you had it. Oh my God! Do you have symptoms? I’ll have to find your health records. Don’t worry.

I’ve been hearing about it on the news. Biggest epidemic they’ve ever had. Already affected ten thousand babies in the US.

“I’ve got a rash spreading over my face, throat, and chest. I’m going to the doctor tomorrow, but as soon as you find anything please call me back.”

“Is it going around your school?”

“I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”

“I love you. Try not to get upset. I’ll call you tomorrow.”

Ft. Bliss El Paso Texas

Two years married, but still so young, my husband and I are in stage two of our lives together. Phase one ended with our graduation from the University of Florida, me with a degree in English/Biology and Ray in Business, neither of which we’ll follow for awhile. The military has recruited us to Ft Bliss, Texas where Lt. Ray will be a fixed wing pilot. That doesn’t sound too bad when we get here, but now the winds of war are blowing stronger as the first U.S. combat troops have been sent to Viet Nam. They don’t need fixed wing pilots. They need more helicopter pilots, but that’s an easy transition. The helicopters are easy targets as they hover over the killing fields picking up the newly dead.


Martin Luther King Jr. being denied entry to the whites only Monson Motor Lodge restaurant by owner Jimmy Brock. Current site of Hilton Hotel.

Ray’s best friend Mo is one of the first to go. It cuts us to the core.  Pushes me left of center. Makes me remember my first SDS protest that had filled the Gainesville streets; the redneck cops walking the edges of the crowd joyously wielding their billy clubs. Florida hasn’t had protests like this since the civil rights Sitdown in St. Augustine a few years earlier. The cops in gleeful agreement with the leashed dogs, barking and slathering wildly to fulfill their training and ‘kill them niggers!’ And I was there, but horrifyingly on the wrong side with my husband’s racist relatives cheering, egging the armored men on to attack these defenseless stool-sitting black lunch counter patrons who had been denied service only because of their black color. I was mortified, back away. So this is the other side of the ruling gentry that treats their “help” well by giving them the leftovers of their lives.  We’ve left the herding instinct of the 50’s. The 60’s bring a new war of no good purpose with it and the young and newly educated begin to rebel. We’ve been spouting ‘Make peace not war, man! Make love not hate!’ Now we have to do something about it. Protest. Nonviolently. Throwing flowers as we go.

Teetering on the brink of shipping out to Vietnam, a doctor friend of Lt. Ray’s returns with a purple heart, a shrapnelled ass and a belief in the injustice of this war. He gives Ray a medical reprieve from helicopter training. No Viet Nam. We’ve settled into life on the base, Fort Bliss, close to El Paso and surrounded by desert and mountains. Ray takes care of courts martial and the mess hall. I’m just finishing my second year teaching in an elementary school close enough to the Mexican border to have a cafeteria with Mexican food so good you wished the other two days of the week they didn’t serve American.

Tune in next week for the medical results.