Her 45-year-old father was in California, stationed at a military base. He thought he'd retired but idiots in Pyongyang and Beijing invented the Korean War and he found himself called up again for active duty. He was career Navy, and that was probably a good thing; he’d always been the family handful. When I met him, he was a fun, storytelling, baseball-loving man of 67. It was hard to imagine some of the stories the family told about him, but then again, it was hard to imagine some of the stories my family told about my father. And some they wouldn't tell.
Her 22-year-old mother was pregnant and the baby overdue (it turned out that lateness was something feathered into her DNA). And the young mother-to-be was likely feeling miserable in the late May north Louisiana heat. This was before air conditioning, which truly allowed the South to rise again. She was staying at her older sister’s house in what was then the country out from Shreveport (it would eventually become suburbs). The young woman decided to help speed things along and went outside to cut the grass. And she did. She cut the grass (a couple of acres) and she sped things along. The baby, a little girl, was born sometime before midnight.
They named her Janet. Her father, a movie buff who occasionally ran across movie stars in southern California, said she was named for the actress Janet Leigh (Jamie Leigh Curtis' mom) who starred in the movie “My Sister Eileen.” Her mother denied that story, and frankly, I believed her mother. But I always liked her father’s story.
Two years later, a little brother joined her. And then 11 years after that, another little brother came along. I’ll do the math for you – her father was 59 when her youngest brother was born. Did I mention that her father was a handful?
Some eight years after she found herself babysitting a new little brother, she came waltzing into the office of LSU’s student newspaper, The Daily Reveille, in Baton Rouge and said to me, “Hi. I’m Janet Lowrey. Do you have any stories for me to do?” I was the big-shot managing editor; all the reporters, of which she was one, reported to me and I assigned stories and beats.
That was in January of 1973. We were married that August. I didn’t compare to her father and my father in the black sheep department, but I was my own kind of handful.
So, I’d like to thank my deceased father-in-law and my still living, still-cutting-the-grass and-the-neighbors’-grass-too mother-in-law, for bringing that little baby girl into the world all those years ago. They never knew what a blessing they were creating for me.