July 05, 2004
"He was a special little boy..."
So were the words of my late mother in law, Marie Zumault Wood about her son Woody. Born on this day in Colon, Panama in 1949. A late child and the only one of 8 pregnancies to survive infancy...(the prior pregnancy resulted in premature twins, with one,George living for only three months in the hospital. Woody didn't know about this until after his mother's death in 2001) It is a miracle that Woody survived as he was born at appoxomatly 28 weeks and weighed just over 1 pound. In 1949,infants born this early almost never survived and miracle is the only word that describes the story. He spent 6 months in the hospital, being loved and spoilt by his live in mother and a cadre of doctors and nurses that held and cared for him 24/7. He was the most wanted baby in the western hemisphere. My favorite photo of Woody as a toddler was when his father won a golf tournament and took the trophy while carrying Woody in the other arm. They were inseparable. There has never been any question, given all of this, that Woody was a much desired wanted child.
My inlaws were expatriate civil service workers that met and married in 1938 then traveled to Panama to live and work. Woody's aunt Nell and her husband had lived down there several years prior and as the Depression was going on and on and jobs were still scarce, this was a golden opportunity. They lived a life of wealth and prosperity, that these two from very working lower class backgrounds could have only dreamed of in the States. Country Club Dances, and golf dates on Saturdays. Household help...Woody had a nanny until he was brought to the US. No rationing during the war, or even "hardly a thought that the war existed". A sheltered life of priviledge that one can only get with American dollars in a Third World setting
They remained there until 1955 when Woody was ready for school and that brought them back to California and a life that to me sound like it stepped off the TV screen of "Leave it to Beaver". No one I have ever met had a more idyllic childhood than my husband. From little leagues, to Cub Scouts to music and dance and golf lessons, this kid missed nothing and tried everything and excelled at all that he did. I have heard from childhood friends of his that their mom's would bring up Woody as the paragon they should all aspire to be like... As I look at photos of this blonde, sweet faced, somewhat serious, little boy I just wonder...
What made the straight A student not finish his education?
What made the accomplished musician, who was playing alternate at the LA Phil. at 16 give it up at 20 and would not touch his oboe again?
What made this aggressive athlete, who was so impressive in Prep basketball that even at 5ft6in he made the team that went on to win a multiple league championship in 1965, stop playing sports, stop caring for his body, so now at 5'8" he weighs nearly 300 lbs?
What made this brilliant kid enlist in the United States Navy at the height of Vietnam, get assigned into the elite Submarine School and do a tour of what was (at least he says was nearly all Navy SEAL drops and ceremonial duty and patrol, no combat, no swift boats up the Mekong) not continue on when offered a full ride to Officers training school? (He really could have opted out completely as he was in college.)
What made this man, who did start his degree in Physical Education, and was a part time parks and recreation director at the local district give up on his major, quit school,(go into the service) then decide that he and kids were not meant to go together so he married two women who wanted families with no intent of having one??? Was this the reason that the 120 (just kidding) girlfriends were not just the right one and you married two divorcees with a passle of problems of their own that you could focus on?
Woody you are 55 today. I love you and hate you at the same time, and I have more questions about you that you cant and wont answer with every passing year that we are together. I want to understand and I want to help. There is a secret locked inside of you that is dying to come out, I pray that you let it out before it kills both of us...