How Tom Changed My Life


 Tom was the brother who made me laugh.  Life was sort of serious growing up and Tom could always be counted on to be funny in the face of difficulty.  I loved him and wish I could have been closer to him.  This is the story of how  Tom changed my life.  You might ask how is that possible considering the vast distances between us.  Well, it was Christmas time 1968 and my mom wanted to come to California and spend some time with Tom and Jan as they were preparing for the birth of their son Brian. Tom was stationed in Point Arena Air Force Station in Point Arena California, which is a small town north of San Francisco about 100 miles.


Jan’s due date was December 25th 1968 and the physicians decided that because of a heart condition that they would attempt to induce labor before the baby reached full-term. This was being done at Hamilton Air Force Base in San Rafael about 30 miles north of San Francisco.  Despite their best efforts the doctors were unable to convince the baby to come any sooner than  he wanted.

I had always wanted to see San Francisco and was very excited to be meeting my mother there during Christmas vacation. I flew in from Minneapolis and mom flew in from Detroit and we met at the motel in San Francisco.  I’ll never forget the bus ride from the airport to San Francisco. I couldn’t believe how beautiful a city could be. Mom and I were able to do some sight seeing in San Francisco and take a bus through the hippy lair and visit other San Francisco landmarks. 

The next day Mom and I hopped on the bus to Hamilton Air Force Base. We were greeted by Tom in his usual warm and funny manner. Jan was in the hospital but the doctor said decided to let her go home for Christmas. We piled into Tom’s VW and headed north.    

PA coast

I was greeted with the most spectacular scenery I had ever seen in my life. Highway 1 is narrow and windy.  It hugs the coastal mountains on one side and presents steep cliffs to the ocean on the other. Mom spent most of the trip screaming in fear while Tom and I chuckled to ourselves. It was a scenic but noisy ride.

We arrived at the Air Force Base in point Arena and settled in for a couple of days of Christmas. It was Christmas Eve and we had finished opening the gifts.  Long around 11 o’clock or so Jan’s water broke. There was no time to drive to Hamilton Air Force Base.  As I recall,  Mom and I waited in the receiving room at the Air Force station clinic. I don’t remember it being a particularly long wait. I remember at around 1:30 or 2 in the morning Tom emerged from the receiving room.  He was wearing a long pale blue gown and I sort of remember a mask and a shower cap type covering on his head.  I was startled to see tears flowing down his cheeks.  Oh no! I thought.  Something has happened to Jan!  But, everything was fine.  I had never seen him so happy.  He wept uncontrollably.  Those were tears of joy.  

I returned to military school having decided that one way or the other I was going to live in Northern California.  Less than 5 years later, Mark and I were living in San Francisco.  I doubt if this ever would have happened were it not for that trip to visit Tom and Jan that special Christmastime.


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2 Responses to How Tom Changed My Life

  1. Katie says:

    Funny, I never knew how you ended up in California. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Mary Ellen Maguire says:

    Very sweet memories Joe, so happy you went out on that trip!