A Hoptown Chronicle advent story

Her husband always waited until Christmas Eve to shop, but one year, things got especially hectic

Loaded down with Christmas presents, the father arrived home to learn his wife needed to go to the hospital. Their baby was coming.

Christmas was an especially stressful time for my husband, Charlie Tilley. The days had been speeding by, and suddenly it was Christmas Eve. Only this was to be a time like no other.

Joy Tilley

Hurriedly, he left work, ran home, kissed me, his pregnant wife, good-bye and headed for Cayce-Yost downtown to do his Christmas shopping. The owner, Kenneth Cayce, greeted him. It was an annual tradition.

“What can I do for you, Charlie?” boomed Kenneth.

“Well,” Charlie said, “can you help me with this, this, and this?” as he perused his list.

Stopping in the store’s various departments, Charlie finally finished and headed out the door laden with packages. When he arrived home, I met him at the door, looking anxious.

“I think it’s time,” I whispered. 

I like to think we drove past carolers and twinkling Christmas lights before we skidded into Jennie Stuart Hospital’s parking lot. Approximately 10 hours later, John Charles Tilley entered the world weighing 6 pounds, 9 ounces, with blonde hair and blue eyes. Charlie and I congratulated ourselves on our joint venture. 

Grandparents came from Portland, Tennessee, to visit, and Christmas Day was spent gazing at the newborn. In a day or two, as snow fell gently outside, Charlie headed toward the nursery. Suddenly, he began to feel unwell. His throat was scratchy, his head hurt, and he felt warm to the touch. Afraid to infect his wife or their newborn, he headed to the doctor’s office.

The diagnosis was the Hong Kong flu.

“Go home, go to bed, and stay away from everyone,” the doctor ordered. 

“How will they get home, and where will they go?” lamented Charlie.

Alone, as he doctored himself, he thought of his boss and dear friend, Norman Wiedmer. After a record eight days at Jennie Stuart, allowing Charlie time to recuperate, the baby and I were gently deposited at 214 Andrew Drive by Mr. Wiedmer. Although Charlie would make many more trips to Cayce-Yost on Christmas Eve, he would never relive this special time.

(Joy Tilley is a retired high school English teacher. Her late husband was an executive with Hopkinsville Stone and Dixie Pavers, and later he owned J.B. Crockett’s Lone Oak Restaurant. Their son, John Charles Tilley, is Kentucky’s secretary of justice.)