The photo had sat on the windowsill for the last twenty years. It had borne the sun’s ultraviolet tentacles until they sucked the ink from each pore. The image was that of the first child, a promise of greatness and potential to be cultivated.
The child was born by emergency C-section at St. Joe’s Hospital. A choice had to be made: save the life of the mother or the child. My father chose my mother. I think he was more afraid of losing someone he knew than someone who was only an idea to him. The baby was a dream, a thought that was in the future. His wife was cut open and losing blood fast. He had to make a decision.
He had wavered on everything in his life so far: college, the army, and every job he came across. He never had finished anything that had the stamp of respectability. The only mature decision he had made was deciding to marry, and that had scared him. He described my mother as “a classy dame with great legs and smarts to boot.” Everyone said he couldn’t do any better and he’d be a fool to let her walk away. So he asked, and she said yes. In his words, “There were a lot of formal, hoity-toity shin-dings to go to before we even got to the wedding,” but he was good about it all. The couple’s showers with friends were memorable and wild, with lots of drinks and fun. The big day came, and even the reception was a party. He liked a social event where he could tell a good story, smoke cigarettes, and have a stiff drink. The stroking of egos, the laughter, and the tears streaming down people’s faces after he told a joke were seals of their approval for him.
But there were no buddies in the delivery room, just him to make the decision. So he chose my mom. Yet the baby wasn’t about to head out to pasture that quickly, and her vitals slowly got stronger. She was a fighter and must have wanted to stay with my mom. I hope she didn’t overhear the decision, but maybe that made her fight harder. Imagine hearing that decision after you have just entered a world from a place you didn’t want to leave. It would be a difficult start.
Both mother and baby survived. They both had to stay in the hospital a while longer to get stronger, but they healed. Afterward, my dad stopped into the hospital chapel. He thanked the Lord for getting him through all that and asked Him to make him a better
man. Then he left to celebrate at O’Gara’s with his friends. He was secretly glad the baby was a girl. He was dreading eighteen years of playing catch with a boy.
I think my dad always felt a bit guilty when it was my sister’s birthday. It was weird how she was always closest to my mom. To be honest, I think every time he looked at my sister he was surprised she was there.