Life Stories: biography and experience in the disabled world

Rolf Gjertsen shares his biography


                                              Scenes In Time


First Scene:   A hospital delivery room where a woman has been in labor for

                       Thirty six hours. Finally, the baby boy is delivered with forceps. 

                      “ This  baby is dead “ says the old family doctor.

Second scene: A church is being set up for a wedding, but there is something
                          Different. A ramp is leading up to the front steps and the first
                          Two rows of pews have been removed.

Third scene:  A man in a wheelchair and his Mother are having lunch in a

                       Hospital lunch room, when a nurse walks in and says “ congrat-

                       ulations, you are the Father of twins. “

Final scene:  A lady knocks on the door, a man calls out “ Who is it ? “

                       “ I am from the Florida Welfare Department “ she says, “ May I

                          speak to you ? “  The man says “ OK, come on in. “

These four scenes in time, formed part of my life story.


Chapter 1: My Background

     All four of my grandparents came from Norway. Both my Grandfathers started out in life as sailors, like so many young Norwegian men did. My
Dad’s  Fathers name was Andrea and he became a Captain. But one night after a few months at sea, he heard a voice that told him to go into missionary work which he did. My Mother’s Father’s name Ingebrigt and he too, didn’t like sea life so he also went into the missionary field.  At that time, the Norwegian government was opening missions in the United States. These missions were opened because the government wanted sailors to
Have somewhere to go , beside the bars. Also, they would have missionaries that Could understand their needs while away from home. After my Dad’s Father Finished missionary school, he was sent with his wife Marie and their son to Mobile, Alabama to begin a mission. While in Mobile, and later in New Orleans, Andrea and Marie had five more sons and one daughter.

     Mother’s Father, after he became a missionary, was sent to Gulfport, Mississippi. It was 1915, and Gulfport was considered one of the biggest seaports
In the United States. My mother’s parents, Ingebrigt and Infer brought part of Their family with them, a son and a daughter. The two older daughters stayed in Norway to be with their boyfriends. Three more daughters and one son were born in New Orleans. All of these people played an important role in my life. My parents, Jenny and Rolf, met for the first time in New Orleans in 1922 and Fell in love. They became engaged later that year. It just so happens that both Families were now living in New Orleans to start a mission there. Of course the Two lovers enjoyed living in the same city because they could see each other all The time. In 1922, it wasn’t proper for a couple to get married in a hurry. During their five year engagement they came to know each other’s way. Their love grew Stronger and deeper as the years passed. It is my belief that this long engagement Was why they always were able to handle difficult situations which came up during a life time together. Finally in 1927 they became husband and wife.

   My Father had become an accountant and was working for a private family. They paid well, but they wanted perfection. Mother had been a sales girl in a major department store and had done well. She also took care of her younger Sisters and brothers a lot because her parents were working in the mission.
     Five years passed before my Mother, jenny, became pregnant, not because they didn’t want children, but unlike most Norwegian women, Mom was small So it wouldn’t be easy for her to have children. She finally was able to get pregnant and both families were overjoyed.  All their friends said that they would make good parents. After all these years I have to agree with that statement.

Chapter 2: My Birth And The First Ten Years

     I came along five years after Mother and father were married. I was born on August 14, 1933. Mother was in labor for thirty six hours. Finally, the doctor delivered me with forceps, which is dangerous. I was ten pounds at birth and my Mother was too small to have me naturally. The doctor should have given my Mother a Caesarian section. Unfortunately, this doctor was an old family doctor so he did not have the experience with this kind of delivery. If he had, my life and my parents would have been quite different.
     Mother started to hemorrhage as I was being delivered so the doctor used forceps. When he got me out, he said “ this baby is dead. “ He put me on a side table to die. The doctor was working to save Mother’s life and perhaps he felt that my parents would be better off if I would die. A nurse and an intern saw that I was still living and started to work on me. Some of the doctor’s at the hospital found out that I had a blood clot in my brain. The next day I was operated on to try and remove the clot, but unfortunately it failed and left me with cerebral palsy. I was not expected to live but a few days, the doctor said, and if I did live I would be disabled and have to be taken care of like a newborn for the rest of my life.
     Mother and Father had waited so long for me that they wanted to take me home, but decided to wait a few days. The two families and the doctor wanted my parents to visit the Institution where they wanted me to go. The doctor got special permission , so my parents could visit and see what it would be like if they took me home.
     The Head nurse met my parents at the locked door that went into one of the nurseries and said “ Are you Rolf’s Mom and Dad ? Your doctor called this morning and said that both of you were thinking about taking your son home and wanted some instructions on how to care for him. First, I want to tell you both that you would be making be making a big mistake if you take your baby home and try to care for him. I know you both love Rolf, there is nothing stronger than the love of parents, but do you want your heart broken by a child that can’t give you love in return ?
    The doctors have told you that Rolf will need complete care as long as he lives, we can provide this.The ladies that are working here are young and strong so they can handle all requirements. They work with different groups of babies ( we call them babies though they may be of any age ) so the girls can’t get involved. The instructions are simple- if you have taken care of a six month old,you can take care of Rolf. The only difference is when a child gets older, they usually need less care, but with your child…the longer Rolf lives the more work and heartache both of you will have. “
     Mother said to her “ May we see for ourselves ? “
"Very well, “ she said," but men aren't permitted in. All our patients are in nothing but diapers, this is so we can better care for them."
My parents were young, but they knew when they were being lied to. The reason for being in diapers was simply to get out of working. So the nurse unlocked the nursery door and Mom and she went inside. They weren’t in there long. My Dad later said: "I will never forget the look on your Mother's face. All she said to me was "I am ready to go home."
     As my parents were getting ready to leave, the nurse said "I guess Rolf will be coming in a few days."
Mother turned to her and said “ You will never see my baby here, I will see to that. “   


Rolf's story continues here

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