Wednesday morning, September 23, 1964, Dr. Ulrey examined my mother who had begun labor pains a few hours before.
“I don’t think the baby is ready to arrive within the next few hours, or even today, but I’m hoping it will arrive tomorrow so we can share the same birthday.”
Robert Ulrey, born in Seymour, Indiana in 1920, would turn 44 years old on that Thursday in September 1964.
After World War II where he served in England, France, and Germany, he returned to the states where he graduated from Indiana University Medical School. Dr. Ulrey moved his family to Elwood, Indiana, in 1956, where he would serve as a general practitioner until 1968.
My mother, Diana Barmes, became a secretary/receptionist for Dr. Ulrey in June 1963. Mother and her family, Leroy and Donna Barmes, adored Robert and Jean Ulrey, as did many of our friends and family from the communities of Elwood, Hobbs, Tipton, and Alexandria.
Wednesday, September 23, 1964, was a bit muggy by the afternoon. While my grandmother, Donna Barmes, was with Mother, timing the contractions, she received a telephone call that her ten-year-old son, Tommy, had cut his head open at baseball practice. Mother rode with Grandma Donna and Tom as they to Dr. Ulrey’s office. While Tom was receiving stitches, Grandma Donna held Tom’s hand while looking out the window to time Mother’s contractions. Several times, Dr. Ulrey looked out the window to give Mother a thumb’s up.
By nightfall, both grandmothers were at our house on the huge hill at the corner of Ninth and Main Streets. They were urging Mother to reconsider going to the hospital earlier than Mother’s intended midnight departure. Mother kept insisting that she felt fine and knew it was not time. While Mother took a bath, taking her time, she would call to Grandma Donna in the kitchen who was still timing the contractions.
Finally, shortly before midnight, Mother was dressed and announced she was ready to go to the hospital. One of my grandmothers went to wake my napping father, all of the twenty-two year old father. Danny Jolliff was ever barely coherent upon awakening from any kind of sleep and that night he lived up to comic proportions as he searched for his keys (in his pants’ pocket), trying to find his light-weight jacket (it was hanging on the back of a dining room chair which he passed a number of times during the search), and when he heard Mother groan from a contraction, he dashed outside and drove his white Chevy Corveire through the backyard and right up to the porch.
“Danny, I feel as though I could walk to the hospital,” Mother laughed. To this day, it would not have surprised me if she had walked to the hospital, five blocks away.
Mother said that around 2:00 AM, Dr. Ulrey, now the “birthday boy,” arrived to check on Mother. I was not ready to make my appearance.
“We still have twenty-two hours for the baby to make my birthday party.”
The warm September sun rose and Mother was still not dilated enough, despite the fact that I was head-down in the birth canal.
Morning. Afternoon. Evening.
No baby Jolliff.
Mrs. Jean Ulrey had driven to the hospital, several times, to check on Mother so she could report back to her husband who was busy at his office.
Dr. Ulrey came to check on Mother before heading out to celebrate his birthday and also, after dinner.
It was now Friday, September 25th.
The next morning, Mother, greatly fatigued, was told that when the time came he was going to give her anesthesia because he didn’t wish for her to risk her own strength, possibly health. Mother was disappointed but understood his concern.
The day languished on for Mother.
The moment arrived and Mother was wheeled back to the delivery room where the anesthesia was applied.
6:03 PM, Dr. Robert Ulrey welcomed me into the world. Since Mother was sedated, I always smile on the fact that this beloved doctor not only delivered me but was my sole welcoming committee.
The Ulreys moved to Evansville, Indiana in 1968. Dr. Ulrey became an anesthesiologist, retiring in 1985.
I was never to meet my Delivery Man, again, but since childhood, knowing my birth story, I’ve never forgotten to remember the good doctor on September 24th.
As our family began welcoming guests to Mother’s visitation this past August 2019, we deeply appreciated Dr. Ulrey’s son, Steve, driving from Bloomington to pay his respects.
For me, personally, it reconnected me to the day his dad was my Delivery Man.
God bless you, Dr. Robert Ulrey, as you continue your eternal rest.