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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (March 11, 1997)
Family, friends support new mother
“There's nothing you can't tell
your parents. Sure, they're going
to get frustrated and angry, but
at the same time, they're always
going to love you no matter
'• ' ^Sp- ' 'Kim Coffeen
GRACE from page 7
what was best for Kim.
“We fight. We all talk at the same
time. We scream and yell,” Buchan
said. “But we really, really love each
other. Deep down, we love each other.”
Driving it home
That love was about to be tested.
“I knew the one person she did not
want to hurt in the whole world was
her dad,” Marcia said. “When we got
down to the hospital, I didn’t know
what his reaction was going to be.”
On the way down, the family dis
cussed plans for the baby. Marcia ini
tially sided with adoption. Carla even
offered to quit her job and raise the
baby for Kim. And both said Bob
would not let go of his own flesh and
blood, saying, “She’s a Coffeen. And
we don’t give Coffeens away.”
They brought their inhibitions,
anxiety and shock into the hospital
room to greet a very pale, and very
Then Katherine Grace was brought
“Kim and I just started bawling,”
Marcia said. “My only child, my baby,
just had a baby.”
Marcia, though moved by the sight
of her granddaughter, made it very
clear to her daughter that if she wanted
to keep the baby, her mother would
help, but Kim had to raise her.
Kim’s decision wasn’t cemented,
however, until she brought her father
down from the pedestal on which she
kept him and freed the bounds of un
Marcia and her sister left the room.
Pride without prejudice ~
Bob Coffeen’s father grew up dur
ing the Depression. Bob said his father
taught him early what it meant to make
the best of a situation. As a young man
with a pregnant wife, Bob was laid off
from his job at Union Pacific. He
turned to his and his wife’s family for
help and also learned early the value
“Kim and Marcia have been my
whole life,” he said. “Everything I’ve
done has been for them.”
Bob had high goals for his daugh
ter. He said he always trusted her to
do the right thing. His pride in Kim’s
going to college in Lincoln was vis
ible by the walls of Husker parapher
nalia in the basement of the family’s
home. His pride in his daughter also
was evident in the way she held him in
such high regard.
And his pride did not waver in that
He reassured his daughter he would
support her in whatever decisions she
made, and that her health and well-be
ing were his primary concerns.
But he was still disappointed.
“I think I’ve failed as a father if I
put that much pressure on my daugh
ter if she couldn’t have come to us,”
he said. “That’s my disappointment.
That I’ve been that kind of father, for
whatever reason, my child felt she
couldn’t come to me.”
Knowing his daughter held him
high on a pedestal, Bob brought Kim
up from her well of fear and taught her
how a family can build.
“I can’t put two boards together. I
have no talent with my hands,” he said,
“but I fix things.
“This is just another opportunity for
me to fix a situation.”
Bob admits getting a phone call dial
his daughter just had a baby forced him
to take a softer approach to die situa
tion than if Kim would have told him
in September that she was pregnant.
“The conversation would have
started with, ‘What the hell are ycnr
doing? You can’t raise this baby,’ but
the shock would have worn off.
“... We wouldn’t have thrown her
off each wall of this house ... no way
in the world would we say, ‘You’re out
of the will. Get out of here. We’ll never
see you again.’”
The news of a baby should be treated
with joy, and, as such, Bob said he en
joys being a grandparent. He calls him
self “grandpa” and jokingly banters with
his wife, whom he now calls “granny.”
Bob came from a small family. His
parents are deceased, and his immedi
ate family is now small, he said, so he
was excited for a grandchild so soon.
An extra stocking on the mantle or an
extra plate at Thanksgiving fulfilled his
desire for a larger family, he said.
“Just think how fun the holidays are
going toiler’ he said.
Two for one
Bob’s family may have to buy two.
Christmas stockings instead of one,
though. In addition to a granddaugh
ter, he may soon have a son-in-law.
On Valentine’s Day, Clete slipped
an engagement ring on Kim’s finger.
The ring had belonged to Kim’s grand
Clete just turned 24, and Kim will
be 19 in June. They plan on marrying
in June of next year. But with family
support, they’re trying to build their
Without Clete, Kim and her secret
were alone. Their telephone conversa
tions calmed her, she said.
But one phone call wasn’t as calm
Clete was working at Sutherlands
in Omaha—where the couple met two
years ago — on the Saturday morning
after the birth. Kim called him at about
7:30. She had a baby. She was keeping
it. He had to come down and sign pa
“I was in a world of shock,” Clete
said. “I was paranoid, and I didn’t want
to tell anybody.”
On the phone, Clete told Kim,
“Well, that’s your problem Kim. I want
nothing to do with this baby,” and said
he wasn’t coming.
Clete’s driver’s license is suspended.
To get down to Lincoln, he would have
to tell his mother. Instead, he went to a
basketball game with his nephew.
“I did not accept being a father at
that point, because I felt like I was los
ing my life,” he said. “I saw my entire
life flash in front of my eyes, thinking
all the things I’ve never done I’ll never
After Marcia threatened to call
Clete’s mother, Darlene Spencer, Clete
went to face her himself.
Clete’s father passed away last Oc
tober, and he said he wasn’t looking
forward to throwing any more turmoil
into his mother’s life.
Darlene;said she was obviously
shocked, and scolded her son for not
being responsible, but they wasted no
time in getting on the road to Lincoln.
She said she did not know why her son
or Kim — who she said she treats as4
her own daughter — did not tell her
“I would have been there for them,”
she said. “Both families have so much
^ Bob said Clete “initially didn’t come
to bat” ^ -r A;
:f ;^m thought he wasn’t going to
^^^itemity,” he said. “Thatwas
>' “JB8amom didn’t say, ‘We’D get a
lawyer and fight thisthing,’ or kick him
put^e was cordiU to ton,” and Clete
Now Bob, Kijtn and Marcia say
Clete’s deniatwasonly a lapse.
- Clete sayQ^pgpse ended when he
walked into the hospital room and saw
“I looked at her and I thought, T
can’l; give her up.’ I just decided it was
time to stop being stubborn.” j
Sitting next to his fiancee on the
<toud^pkai^|ntwo weeks later, Clete
said be :hop|||“ someday, maybe Kim
will forgive me.” ?
“I’ve already forgiven you,” Kim
'Said. “I was mad and wondering why
ydu weren’t there, but you’re time for
The couple now says they’ve been
drawn closer together after sharing —
and owning up to—die one secret they
thoqgfat would force them apart.
They’re excited to get married,but
willing to wait. And that issue brings
some tension between the two families:
Darlene wants the couple married
sooner than the Coffeens do. As both
sides work with schedules, conflicts
and tensions, they’re working together.
“Our families are very close,” Clete
said. “It makes me happy to see all this
happening in front of my eyes.”
Children. Marriage. Graduation.
2 It was supposed to be the other Way
around, Kim said, but she was ready
to take steps backward.
With a laundry list of friends and
relatives to watch Katherine, Kim said
she will enroll at the University of
Nebraska at Omaha in the fall and con
tinue on her career in journalism. Af
ter setting the date for next year’s wed
ding, the couple said they will plan on
moving into a place of their own.
Kim also said it was possible they
will have another child five years from
now, after she graduates.
“When I’m alone, I kind of feel
down because it’s like this is not the
way I wanted everything to go,” Kim
said. “... Now it seems like it’s totally
“It’s kind of a lot to swallow.”
Going from one week a college student,
to the next week a mother, took a toll
on Kim, but she said fraternity parties
are now second place to watching her
daughter grow up.
“... My roots are here. When I was
in Lincoln, I missed Clete and my fam
ily,” she said. “Right now, I’m so happy
I wouldn’t trade anything I have right
now for the world.”
The bough holds
On a Saturday afternoon, Bob and j
Kim are trying to stuff Katherine into s
a red, fuzzy Husker jumper, which j
matches her grandfather’s Nebraska j
Katherine swims in the bulky fab- I
ric as Kim puts a matching Husker cap
—much too big—on the baby’s head.
Maybe she’ll have grown into it i
before Bob takes Katherine to her first
game at Memorial Stadium and bap
tizes her as a hue Husker.
The Husker outfit was one of her
first. After Katherine’s birth, the fam
ily went on a necessity shopping spree
and Kim took a crash course in
Since then, gifts and advice have been
flowing in. At a baby shower in Febru
ary, Kim sorted through boxes and bags
full of baby necessities and Looney
Tunes-themed gifts (a favorite of both
Kim and Clete) from friends and family
members on berth sides. And Katherine
made the rounds of cradling arms.
“This isn’t the way it’s supposed to
happen,” Kim said. “They’re supposed
to be mad at me or kick me out of the
house. , .
“They’re very supportive.^’
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