It was the summer of 1994, one of the best summers of my life.
I'd gotten out of the Marine Corps the previous year, had just finished up a part-time schedule of classes at Chapel Hill and been accepted as a full-time student for the following fall. My youngest brother, who'd just been commissioned a Marine second lieutenant, and I had an entire summer to wile away with beer, booze, women and friends. That and rebuild the retaining wall in front of our parent's house. And a mighty wall it is, still standing strong and proud these 14 long years later. (The wall it replaced, designed and built by my father, a civil engineer I might add, had crumbled after a mere six or seven years.)
But that was just busy work to justify the amazing amount of drinking we did during those three months. If there was a bottle of beer, a fifth of whiskey or an unattached woman in or around the city of Pittsburgh, they weren't safe.
Life was indeed good.
The came the day my mom asked me for some help cleaning out her dresser. Like an idiot, I agreed.
"No problem Mom. We'll knock that right out."
So, there I was, helping Mom as she dug through years of detritus layered in her dresser drawers. Just as we were finishing up, she found a little notebook right in the bottom.
Perhaps all the drinking that summer had dulled my finely honed Marine sense of danger. Perhaps I was thinking ahead to that night's entertainment. Either way, I was utterly and completely unprepared for what came next.
"Do you know what this is?" Mom asked as she flipped to a couple of pages covered in columns of numbers in the high 90s.
"No, not a clue?" I stupidly asked, still not recognizing the danger.
"It's the chart I kept of my temperature during the months I was trying to get pregnant with you."