How It All Began

“Monday’s child is fair of face…” — Traditional

Sunday, December 29, 1963

A violent storm was raging over the sleepy desert town of Tucson, Arizona. My mother, who was 18 and very pregnant with me, was advised to go to the hospital, even though the contractions might be false labor – I wasn’t expected for another three weeks. With great delicacy and precision Mom was bundled into the car, and her mother, who was tasked with the responsibility for both lives, sped off in a northerly direction towards Tucson Medical Center.

It was a difficult labor. I had failed to make the final turn, heads-down, as was expected. I guess I was always a bit wayward, and stubbornly refused to comply with the natural order, as it were. The doctors, concerned for my mother’s health, knocked her out with some powerful drugs, and all throughout the night, I can imagine my grandmother nervously waiting, mumbling under her breath, chatting up the doctors and nurses in long orations until she ran out of breath. At 10:41am Mountain Time, Monday, December 30th, I was finally issued forth, ass backward, into this world. 21 inches long; six pounds, 14 ounces. Male. Born under a Full Moon.

My original name was going to be Michael Todd, after the American theatrical and film producer. Mom was infatuated with him, but the family didn’t like the name. So, it was switched around and placed on my birth certificate: Todd Michael Willis.

It took a while for Mom to heal. The doctors implored her to stop moving around; it was making things even worse. She wouldn’t listen to them. Grandma finally stepped in, and in her most commanding voice, said “CAROL JOYCE, YOU SIT STILL RIGHT THIS MOMENT. DO YOU HEAR ME?!” Grandmothers are powerful beings; they make things happen. Mom eventually healed and we were taken back to the red brick house on East 21st Street, where Mom had spent the last three years of her teenage life.

I imagine when I was finally presented to my father, Richard Alan Willis – now in the Navy – that he was happy to see me. He was only 18, just like my mother.

Later that evening, a lunar eclipse hovered over North America. You can make of that what you will.

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