Book Ends


My doctor didn’t come to see me during my five-day stay after the birth of my first child, my son.

His associate, an older man (Dr. Gray, I’ll call him) came by my hospital room on rounds.  I remember him standing by my bed.  He wore the traditional white coat.  He didn’t sit.  I noticed that he didn’t touch me.  He hoped I would understand that he didn’t want to examine me or to be part of the “situation.”

I didn’t really understand.  But I came to. He was afraid of a lawsuit.  People told me that I should sue.  That I had plenty of grounds.  The early breaking of my water and resulting cephalohaematoma; the hurried delivery of the placenta; the missing anesthesiologist; the loss of blood and limited supply available; the barely averted (by me) delivery of an incorrect dose of the wrong medicine after surgery. All of these were reasons for a lawsuit.

I had no interest.  I was in love.  My baby was perfect.  That was all that mattered to me.  No lawsuit would change that.

My stay in the hospital was wonderful.   I welcomed any and every guest.  I couldn’t wait to share my boy, my miracle.

When you are pregnant for the first time, you believe that there is a baby growing inside of you, intellectually anyway.  But you have no idea, really.  I remember having dreams of giving birth in the hallway of the middle school where I was teaching seventh and eighth graders.  My baby had a tail.

So when the reality set in and my perfect baby arrived, I wanted everyone to feel what I felt.  I guess I acted like I was the first person in the world to ever have a baby.

Then life carried on, changed for me forever.

Until a little more than thirty-one years later.

Again, I would be told that I had a legitimate lawsuit to file.  Again, I would say that a lawsuit would not change things.   This time, it would not bring back my beautiful boy.

People said I had a case.  Why was no one contacted when my son left the protective custody of the institution to which he had been sent by the court?  Why wasn’t more done to keep him from running when everyone knew it was a possibility?  When he had admitted it to his counselor and others in authority?  His counselor thought he was depressed.  She knew he was struggling hard to find a way to let the program work for him, to find a way to live within his new reality.  Why when his counselor had told me that the people at the institute wanted to talk to me, had they instead been stone silent?  Not a call, not a letter, no sympathy, nothing.  When I sent his death certificate in order to stop the onslaught of medical bills for the broken elbow he suffered while under their care, it was returned unopened with a message on the front of the envelope.  No such person was a client at their facility.

Right.  Because he was dead.

Even going back further along the run of his interactions with the “system,” there were so many injustices. And if fighting about them legally would bring him back, I would be all over it.  But that can’t happen.

And so I am left with the book ends of his life, lawsuits imagined and not acted upon.

With some differences.

In the beginning, I was there.  We were together.  I watched him take his first breath.  He didn’t cry.  His eyes were wide open and he lifted his head to see the world around him.

In the end, he was alone.  I wasn’t there to hold him and tell him it would be okay.  I don’t know how it was for him, if he knew what was happening, if he was in pain or scared.

I hate the wondering.

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17 responses »

  1. Your pain – and your love – are so evident in each word of this post. How I wish the wondering could be erased. From this and your other writings, I have sensed the great love you have for your son. Surely he knew that as well. And that had to be something he held on to, even in the worst of times.

  2. I agree with the first post. Your love shows in your words in each post where you write of your lost son. I’m sure, even if he doubted many things, your love was not among those things.

      • My husband sometimes says that parenting is like a crapshoot; even if you give them all your love, do the best for them, and are dang good parents–you still have no idea how kids will turn out. Combine that with the disease of addiction–you did your best, and that is all any of us can do. I think of times I used to resent my parents, and then the day came and I grew up and realized that they were doing the best they could with where they were in their own lives. You so definitely have a story to tell. I hope the telling is cathartic and helps you along the journey, and one day I hope you meet your son in Heaven and he tells you he’s been watching over you. Hugs and love to you.

      • Alas, maybe the stories you tell of your life, love, and loss will fill the shelf between the bookends in such a way that the story of your love and life with your son will take on new meaning for you and for all who read the story. Your memoir is powerful not only in that it helps you make new meaning out of life–it also touches us all. Thanks for opening yourself and putting yourself out there. You are a courageous woman!

    • Your husband is a wise man. I know when I began parenting that I thought I would be so smart and that the things my parents did that “didn’t work” would be things I would avoid. It is just not that simple, is it? I did my best. And no one would question my love for him.

  3. I concur. I’ve read your posts and mostly remained silent as I could not bring my reactions to words on screen. But I can say with absolute conviction that I feel even in the most hazy of his views, you and your love for him were clear and despite any struggles, that part of his heart, that part with you, knew your love and found comfort, in his way.
    This writing was so powerful and the flow and language just sing.

  4. I’m so glad you’re back to writing these stories. This was beautiful. You really have me thinking about beginnings and endings and birth and death and all of it. I can feel how much you miss him. Sending love your way.

  5. Oh my…the bookends of life…of his life…of your life with him..and now…your life missing him….My very Italian mother in law often talked of how birth and death were one…that we must give a life whenever a new one came into the family…In your post I am reminded that mothers are always one with their children….the bookends of life…sometimes with lawsuits pending but always wrapped with love….

  6. The writing, the story, always touches me, and it is not easy to put into words a response. Yet it also seems impossible not to try. There seem to be some questions we just never get answers for… the love has to be enough. The love is so constant in your writing.

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