Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The First Son

The Boyer Family with New #5, Todd Marshall 
(click here to read previous story:

It was in July of 1964, a couple of months after Sharon's 5th birthday, that Liz gave birth to their third child, a son they named Todd.

The +5 year gap between Sharon and Todd is notable because it's by far the largest: Diann is just 16 months older than Sharon, and Todd is only two years older than the youngest child, Scott.  Sharon's medical problems probably played a big part in the size of that gap.

"Liz was stressed, to say the least," Dinon said.  "I mean, I was stressed, too.  And there wasn't much I could do."

In that stressful time, Dinon did the best he could to help his family ... and sometimes had a little help, too.

"During Sharon's last kidney surgery, Diann and I had to come back [from Boston] to Ohio early because Diann was starting school," Dinon said.  "So, I'd get her up, and comb and braid her hair, but ... it was not the best."

Diann and her long hair, obviously
braided by her mother
It just so happened that, while walking to school, Diann and her neighbor friend Patty always went right past the house of one of their teachers.  On one of the mornings that Dinon braided her hair, the teacher looked out her front window and could tell that Diann's dad had, well, tried to help.

"So while Liz was gone, she'd watch for Diann to come walking by, and then she'd call them into the house and rebraid Diann's hair," Dinon said, chuckling.  "I didn't know anything about it, I mean, Diann never said anything and of course I didn't realize her hair was being rebraided."

In 1964, the family was finally healthy and resettled, just in time for the birth of Dinon's first son, Todd Marshall (his middle name came from Liz's maiden name).

When Dinon was asked if he was excited to finally have a boy, he smiled and shrugged.

"I think I just, y'know, accepted it, thinking, 'OK, I've got another child to feed'," he said.

However, Dinon's blasé answer was met with quick objection.

"Outstanding" Baby Todd
"That is NOT the story I heard from Mom," Todd broke in from across the table.  "Mom said that Dad was OVERjoyed, that he was THRILLED to finally have a boy, that his face lit up and he could barely contain his joy.  She would say, 'Your father, Todd, he's not really very expressive emotionally, but that was as happy as I've ever seen him.'  And I believe every word of it!"

"That's the mantra, uh-huh," Dinon said, chuckling.

Continuing to argue his infant likability, Todd retold a story from his pre-crawling days:

"At the house in Troy, there was a tree right in the middle of the front yard under which, Nanny [Liz's mother] said, that I used to just lay there under the tree and I would stare up and look at the leaves and just be totally content."

Dinon smiled and shrugged, genuinely assenting, "Yeah, he was an outstanding baby.  He was SO good."

Todd grinned. 

"You hear that?  I was OUTSTANDING."

(Next story: Ice Dancing in Troy)


Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Hospitals, Doctors and Surgeries

Itty-bitty Sharon helping
with the vacuuming
(click here to read previous story: Family of Four)

In 1962, Dinon's three-year-old daughter Sharon developed a urinary tract infection.  The infection was successfully treated with antibiotics - but then it came back.  And came back again.  And again. 

"You could cure it temporarily with antibiotics, but it wouldn't stay cured," Dinon said.

He and Liz were worried about the persistence of the infection, so they began a long string of hospital visits with Sharon.

"She was not only at the hospital here [in town], we took her to the hospital in Dayton, Columbus, and New York City Presbyterian," Dinon said.  "And, well, we just couldn't seem to find anybody that knew how to cure it."

Finally, Liz ended up in the Boston area and stayed at her mother's house while they consulted a doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Grandma Boyer with her
two granddaughters
"Unbeknownst to us, Sharon had some reflux action between the bladder and the kidney," Dinon said, "and a physician there said that he could reimplant whatever-they-called-that tube so that the reflux action would not be a problem."

They agreed to proceed with the five-hour operation.  It went well, and aside from a restless desire to get out of her hospital crib (which the staff foiled by putting a net over the top to contain her), Sharon handled it well.  She was eventually dismissed and headed back home to Ohio with her mother.

"However, the physician in Boston did not provide adequate follow-up instructions," Dinon said.  "So the kidney over-healed, and the scar tissue shut off the tube."

Sharon, now four, was dealing with the same physical problems all over again.  And when the family returned to Massachusetts to confront the physician, he became defensive.

"The doctor in Boston, he blamed Liz for the over-healing, he told her it was her fault!  And she bought it.  It was NOT Liz's fault," Dinon insisted.

Family of five with new baby boy, Todd
But the damage was done: the doctor had shifted his blame and guilt onto Liz, a vulnerable young mother trying so hard to care for her sick young daughter.  And now, as a result of the doctor's mistake, the operation would have to be repeated: a consequence that Liz felt responsible for.

"Then, about a year after the second operation, when Sharon was about five, why, we found out that the over-healing had killed the kidney.  So, at five years old, she had the kidney removed," Dinon said.  "Once again, it was a long operation.  So, one year apart, three and four and five, she had major surgeries in Boston."

And finally, finally, after her kidney was removed in 1964, Sharon was back to full health.

It was a stressful time for the young Boyer family, but it was finally behind them.  And in July of 1964, they became a not-so-small family of five when the first son, Todd Marshall, was born.

(Next story: The First Son)


Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Family of Four

Dinon with his two 
small daughters
(click here to read previous story: Baby Diann)

At the beginning of April of 1959, Liz was more than 8 months pregnant with her and Dinon's second child, Sharon.  Shortly before she was due, Dinon made arrangements with his parents to take Diann home with them to Wisconsin for a couple of weeks so he and Liz could focus on bringing the new baby into the world.

When the time came for Liz to give birth, Dinon dropped her off at Akron General Hospital and went back to work ("I didn't think it was necessary for me to stay," he said).  Later that day, either April 14th or 15th, he decided to walk from work over to the hospital to see how it was going.  

Grandpa Ralph Boyer with
his granddaughter, Diann
"It was a very very warm day," Dinon said, describing an unseasonably hot mid-April afternoon, "and because I was so heated after walking, well, I got to the hospital and I fainted."

But he was brought back around pretty easily, and on April 15th Liz gave birth to their second daughter, Sharon Leigh.

Diann stayed with her grandparents for a few days after her sister's birth so that Liz and Dinon could more easily transition back home with the new baby.  After having had Diann for a total of 2-3 weeks, Ralph and Alma traveled back to Ohio to return Diann and to meet their newest granddaughter.

"When my parents brought her back, they came to the front door, ready to hand Diann back to me, and Diann didn't come!  She was not interested in coming to her father because she had bonded with my folks!" Dinon said.  "I mean, I was not ready for that.  I felt badly about it."

Grandpa Ralph Boyer with his
two small granddaughters
For Dinon, who is not an emotionally expressive person, such a sentiment is meaningful.  And to this day, of his four children, Dinon is still closest to his oldest daughter, Diann.

In 1960 or '61, Dinon was transferred, and the young family moved 200 miles from northeast Ohio to the town of Troy, just a little north of Dayton in midwestern Ohio.  The Boyers settled in well, everyone was healthy, Liz found a social circle that she enjoyed, and Dinon found a new hobby competing locally in ice dancing.

But in 1962, three-year-old Sharon developed a urinary tract infection.  And then another one.  And another one.  Antibiotics would temporarily clear up the infections, but they always returned. So they made an appointment at a nearby hospital, the first of many.