Today, February 21, the sky shines crystal clear upon Herman McCoy’s account of my birthday-or better said, my birthnight.

On foot, my uncle rounded the last curve between Freeburn, Kentucky, and his home in the McCoy Bottom. A heart light with love from courting Geraldine Hickman, he had no fear of darkness. His feet knew every inch of that mountain road.

Below, the McCoy homeplace came into view, all lit up after midnight! He suspected his older sister’s time had come to deliver her second child.

My uncle sped down the runoff and vaulted the gate that kept the milk cow off the road.

In hard labor, Mom leaned against the well while Dad backed his car out of the garage. Uncle Herm hastened to take Mom’s hand and helped her into the passenger seat.

“Open the gate, Herm!” Dad said.

He drove onto the runoff and Uncle Herm closed the gate.

“Get in, Herm,” Dad said.

He raced past Freeburn, over Tug Fork into West Virginia and by Thacker Hollow, his birthplace October 24, 1922. Considerate in my prenatal state, I waited four more miles to reach Matewan Hospital to arrive within the hour.

“You have another healthy girl, Mr. O’Brien,” the doctor said.

Dad kissed Mom goodbye and drove back home with Uncle Herm for a few hours sleep. They arose at daybreak that Monday morning and worked the farm. They spread the good news to neighbors who stopped by. Uncle Herm wasn’t the only one who saw lights in the McCoy homeplace the midnight before.

That’s all Uncle Herm remembers. It took gentle cajoling throughout the past ten years to wheedle that out of him. He’s never been comfortable talking about “women things.”

Since my mother held similar sentiments, she seldom spoke of her five childbirths. In the right mood, she’d let slip guarded pieces. “Libby came breach,” for instance, or, “Your dad and I were happiest when Patty was ‘borned’.” Libby and Patty appeared third and fourth respectively.

Long before Uncle Herm told his story, I found myself alone with Mom in her homeplace. She’d returned from a failed attempt to adapt to Florida living. I defied her signs of dementia and said, “Mom, please tell me about my birth.”

Memory drew a scowl on her face. “I waited for your dad to come and take us home. Then he came staggering up the steps loud and drunk.”

“Matewan Hospital’s steps?”

“Why, yes,” she replied, perturbed.

I’d trespassed my mother’s disappointment and regretted it.

“I’m sorry, Mom.”

“That was long ago.”

We sat quietly in the homeplace where she carried me, where I lived five years a stone’s throw from where Uncle Herm settled with his bride, Geraldine Hickman.

Dear Reader, today I see crystal clear the McCoy Bottom and Matewan Hospital, both sides of the story that tell of my birth and homecoming.

I ponder in my senior state, if I had asked, would my father have told the third side of the story?

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