Black bears. Smelling our bacon frying on the grill and, paying no heed to us fleeing for the car, Linda pushing a stomach about to deliver, the wild ones waddle down out of the woods to enjoy our breakfast of sweet-rolls, eggs and bacon all set out for them on the picnic table. June 13, 14, 15, our weekend in Gatlinburg in a tiny cabin hanging out over a shallow creek that bubbled and gurgled us to sleep the night before. For breakfast we drive into the Great Smoky Mountains and stop at a picnic area to feed the bears.
Late evening ten days later, thinking labor may have started, we walk into the emergency room of Athens General Hospital where to the nurses greeting us, I nervously say, “We need someone to tell us if we’re going to have a baby.” Looking at Linda’s abdomen, the small crowd of ER medics roar with laughter, hustle her into a wheelchair, and out of my sight.
An hour or so later, June 25, 1958. Fifty-seven years ago just about now, Malinda was born in Athens, Georgia, where I was in Navy school. She was the answer to my long years of longing for a baby girl. Every day I rushed home from class to hold her, sit and look at her. Tell her she's daddy’s girl. When she was a month or six weeks old Linda took her to the pediatrician for her checkup and the doctor advised, “You’re a mother now, but don’t forget to pay attention to your husband.” To which Linda retorted, “Tell him to pay attention to me, he can’t see anything but the baby.”
Six weeks later we are in Norfolk, Virginia and I am Ensign Weller, ship's officer in a U.S. Navy destroyer, USS CORRY (DDR-817). A year later, on her first birthday, the ship comes into port, Linda meets me at the pier, and we drive to our apartment. Linda stands Malinda on the floor and she toddles over to me.