You read about something like this in the newspapers and think it could never happen to you. Until it does. The day started off routinely enough. I walked my dog first thing in the morning, fed him and started upstairs to get ready for work. Then the phone rang and I heard the question: "Dad, what are you doing?" It was my son calling from his office in downtown Chicago.
"What do you mean what am I doing?" I said. "I'm getting ready for work. Why?"
His reply: "Well, it looks like Wendi is ready to deliver and I need someone to bring her downtown to the hospital." Wendi is my daughter-in-law who was pregnant with their fourth child. I hustled over to pick her up a few minutes away in the suburbs for the ride to downtown Chicago. When I arrived, she certainly looked ready to deliver and was experiencing some discomfort. So off we went. To say I was nervous would be the understatement of the year.
As we backed out of the driveway I made the decision to take an alternate route I felt would be faster. It was the height of the rush hour, and I knew it would take us close to an hour to make it to the hospital. Wendi had given birth to her three sons at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, which is where she was determined to have her fourth child. I have taken the route I chose that morning many times. Occasionally there are slowdowns, but traffic usually moves right along. I prayed that would be the case that morning. I kept assuring Wendi that I knew what I was doing and that things would work out just fine.
For the first half of the trip everything went smoothly. I was quite proud of myself for my decisionmaking prowess under fire. But then disaster struck. Traffic started to move at a snail's pace. I was beside myself while trying to reassure Wendi the traffic would let up soon. But it really never did. It was stop-and-go all the way. Wendi became more and more uncomfortable and I began to feel guilty for having chosen that route. Things became even worse when Wendi told me I should start going through red lights and that I always seemed to be in the lane that wasn't moving. She was quite explicit about my navigational skills. I kept my cool, and we were slowly getting closer to the hospital. By this time Wendi was moaning and I felt as though I had just run a marathon. Traffic came to a halt again about 200 yards away from the hospital, which is when I lost it. I noticed a policeman was directing traffic and for some reason was only holding up the lane we were in. I couldn't stand it any longer. I jumped out of the car and yelled at the policeman: "I've got a woman in this car who's ready to deliver. Get this traffic moving!" The cop looked at me and retorted, "If that's the case get her to a hospital!" My comeback was something like: "That's what I'm trying to do if you would get some of this traffic out of the way!" He did, and moments later we pulled up to the hospital entrance where my son was waiting. He carried Wendi out of the car and put her into a wheelchair. As I drove off to park a couple of blocks away, I felt like someone had hit me with a sledgehammer.
Now the best part. Six minutes after I dropped Wendi off she delivered a healthy, beautiful baby girl weighing 6 pounds and 8 ounces. Her name is Emma Katherine Lauer. What a miracle, and what a dream. Finally, a granddaughter. Will she be spoiled? Of course she will. Will she be Grandpa's girl? Of course. And will my wife and I love her forever just like we do the boys-Teddy, Charlie and Matt? You bet we will! Those are all sure things. And there's one other sure thing: I'm not Mario Andretti, by any means.
Life is full of surprises,
Charles S. Lauer