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Down the Road

Watching 'er grow
By Milt Gross
Apr 13, 2014 - 12:35:28 AM

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Our first child of four was born in the middle of the night at Stephens Memorial Hospital in Norway, Maine. Pretty typical so far.

Well, not actually typical. As any parent knows that first one is never typical.

This one, we'll call her Sally because that's not really her name and I don't want to embarrass her should she read this, came due the night of the weekend that our '62 Rambler broke down.

One must never put water in the radiator of a '62 Rambler, but, of course, one must have someone tell that to them to not destroy one's '62 Rambler engine by adding water.

Water. Pretty good stuff, usually. But this time it led to our having it towed 25 miles to the nearest Rambler dealer.

Leaving us without a car, when Sally decided it was time to try out the world for size.

A friend drove us from Bethel to Norway that evening and stayed all night. First thing Sally did was show us who was a true friend. It was Clarence.

The tale fogs out from here for about seven years, except for Imogene, our other true friend who baby sat her a lot when we couldn't be home.

The story springs back into focus, because when we lived in Swanville, Sally wouldn't talk. Well, she talked to us. She just wouldn't talk to her first-grade teacher. As The Middle TV show, only years before that show aired, we had our first teacher-parent conference. Turned out that Sally was shy, which made it also turn out that each time the teacher got her to answer a question in class, we got to buy her a candy bar as a reward.

Our first kid got rewarded for talking in class.

Next she grew up a lot, and the night came when I was returning from a reporting stint in Fryeburg in the pouring rain. I saw a young man hitchhiking in that pouring rain and picked him up. He said he was headed to a college-owned forest south of Lewiston and planned to hitchhike in the rain to get there.

Through Portland. I explained that hitchhiking through the big city during a rainy night could get him mugged or killed -- probably not drowned. He was a bit surprised, when I told him the family and I were to drive to Lewiston the next day and he was invited to stay over that night at our house in South Paris.

Sally prepared him a room, which was not surprising because Sally did a lot of housework. He stayed over and the next day we dropped him off at his college forest.

Next, Sally went and earned herself a governor's scholarship to college, and we were off searching out colleges. She found one in Pennsylvania, so Dad -- I -- was the one who was teary eyed the day we dropped her off.

She met people and friends. One was special to her, so she married him. They were married in Southwest Harbor. I did the teary-eyed ceremony, as I once had been a minister and remembered how to say all that get-em-hitched stuff.

After college and before that marriage, she got a teaching job at a private high school in southwestern Maine. She and I did a number of teaching workshops by phone. She didn't like favoring the rich so they would pass her grade no matter how poor their classwork was. That led to her resigning.

They lived elsewhere in Maine for awhile, then moved to North Carolina because her husband's kids lived down that way. She became the head of an agency that helps folks fight it out out of court, so they won't have to go to court.

Her husband died. She was sad and mourned. Sally was alone in her house, but her youngest brother, Tom -- also not his real name in case he too is embarrassed easily, came to visit and has remained. He now works in the area, staying in her house and doing some needed repair work.

But now Sally has another special friend, a college professor. She spends a lot of time at the professor's house.

Last Christmas, since we had decided the professor was a nice guy, who goes with Sally for walks in the North Carolina mountains, we sent him a Christmas present when we sent Sally hers. We gave him a wooden walking pole that must be just right for their hikes together. I take a walking stick for our walks in Maine's woods, so it seemed like it would be a handy present.

It must have been. He sent us a "thank you" note he wrote when he was not using the walking pole.

They're planning to come to Maine and visit us this spring. Which is good, because I'm not sure we could find our way to North Carolina if it is not in Maine. The Gazetteer tells me it's not. It's somewhere in one direction or another.

I kind of can guess how the conversation will go when they arrive.

Chad -- the professor's made-up name -- will shake hands with us and tell us what a fine young lady Sally is.

"I knew that," I will reply. "You didn't have to drive all the way to Maine to tell us that."

"But we're glad you did, and as long as you're here," I will continue, "why don't we take our hiking pole and walking stick, head on down to Acadia National Park, and go for a walk on a trail."

We will. Along with Sally and Dolores.

It'll be a great introductory walk.

Thanks, Sally, for being such a great daughter.

Without that, we wouldn't be taking this introductory walk.

And you know how much I like a walk in the woods.

Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at

Milton M. Gross Copyright 2013

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