Day 183-My Tuesday Essay-My Firstborn Son

This day and age, it is not unheard of for someone to have a baby out of wedlock, for me however, 34 years ago it still had the stigma attached. When I had Sean, my firstborn, I was still in the Army, unmarried, alone, scared and unsure of how my parents would react. The letter I wrote to my mother was tear-stained and heartfelt, the hardest thing I had ever written in my life-due to the time it took for letters to go back and forth, I had to wait an agonizing amount of time before I got her answer back. That answer surprised and relieved me, for she agreed to help me and from then on, my only fight was with the military as I had to convince them Korea was not the place I was willing to have my child.

When I left to join the military, my Dad and I had talked abouut what it was like to be a woman in the service, I felt I let him down by going a bit wild and was ashamed of the fact that not only did I not have a partner to help me raise my son, I simply did not know who the father was. It was a crazy and confusing time when I was in Korea, there was way too much partying and alcohol kills the brain cells you know. Anyway, I can’t blame anyone but myself, sleeping around was not seen as cool or hip, and I was afraid my parents would only see me as a promiscuous whore and want nothing to do with me. My mother, being a mother, convinced me, however, that everything would be alright and she was going to help me. She did not lecture or judge me, and told me not to do anything rash, just talk to my Top and get home.

That was easier said than done, but after going through many channels, talking to my “boss” who was my Top Sergeant (also a pediatrician!) who tried to convince me to have an abortion, all the way to the Army legal personnel, or JAG as they were known-who said “Woman, doesn’t he know you’re about to have a baby?” They were the people finally responsible for getting me on a plane out of there, just in the nick of time. I had to wait until a C31 was ready, he did not want me flying on the less-than-safe C4 plane. That meant a short layover on Osan, where I frantically waited to transfer to the safe flight home. I was over the limit considered safe to fly, which was 7 months by that time, by 10 days. When I arrived at the airport in Dallas, I was still so small, my Mom said, “I thought you were pregnant!” I was not even showing yet.

In Korea, black marketing items was rampant, so there was not a lot for me to eat. What I did eat, I usually found off base somewhere, and I was trying to eat healthy for the baby. When I got home, however, my parents set out to make sure I got lots of comfort food, and by the time Sean came, I had gained around 20 pounds. That still did not make me look very big, the doctor had a hard time finding him on the sonograms prior to me giving birth and when the time came, I spent 22 hours in labor before they declared it an emergency for me to undergo a c-section. Turns out my pelvic bones never spread and they said it would kill me or the baby to try to have them naturally, therefore all my babies would have to be delivered that way.

Just to be clear on one point, before I left Korea, I did talk to two of my closest guy friends, potential baby daddies you might say these days, and tearfully told them of my dilemma. Both of them were stand up guys and offered to help, even to marry me, but I just could not bring myself to ruin someone’s life, not knowing for certain if either man was the father. One of the guys actually stayed in touch with me for a few years after I got out, even after knowing there was no way he was the father, I was always thankful he was my true friend. Eventually the letters and visits stopped coming, that happens when you get married and start raising a family. The other guy I talked to was someone I had a mainly sexual relationship with, I saw him three or four times and did not know him very well at all. I could never remember his last name once I got back home, so Sean nor I have any way of locating him, and he may not be the father anyway. What a mess I made with our lives.

Unfortunately, my mother compounded that mess, insisting I carry on with the rest of my tour, saying she would keep him until I got out. Her way of “helping” me. What I could never know at the time, was that Sean filled some void in her life, she needed someone to love and take care of, and had no intention of giving him back to me to raise. Sometime later, unbeknownst to me, she adopted him and I did not know it had been done-she even got me to sign the paperwork, telling a naive me that it was something for insurance purposes and took me to get it made legal. After that, there were other excuses every time I asked if it was time for me to take him, you need to finish school, etc. until finally, when Dave and I got married, she threatened me that if we tried to take him, she would not attend the wedding. That did it for me, and I decided that he was better off with her, having been with her four four years by that time, and we would not disrupt everything he knew, or ruin our relationship, such as it was, only now, I wonder if we should have.

Sean and I in 1982 after coming home from the hospital
Sean and I in 1982 after coming home from the hospital

He is 34 now about to turn 35, still confused and having a difficult time in life but has a job and lives with my dad, a good arrangement for the both of them. I have told him the honest truth, many times, yet I have no idea what my mother told him in his developing years that may have influenced his thinking and view of me. When he was a toddler, he used to call me Mama Kid and my mother was Mama to him. To him, I looked like a kid that was playing his mama, that’s how he saw me. Due to my short stature and easy going personality, I can see why he would think of me that way. At least we lived close by and once Dave and I started our family, the boys could play together from time to time, although it was always stressful. My mother was very lenient with him and we were pretty strict with our boys, Dave and I spent a lot of the time biting our tongues. He knows now that he was a spoiled child and that is the reason he has a hard time understanding why everything can’t go his way in real life. Some day he will grow up and learn to live on his own, that is my hope anyway. I have tried to get him to seek counseling, talk to a professional about why he seems unequipped to deal with life like everyone else does, yet he is stubborn and wants to figure it out for himself.

He has a lot of issues, and for that I blame not only my mother but myself. Back in the day I was a wild child and who knows what his father might have also been doing at the time. We have no way of knowing what the contributing factors may have been, developmentally. He seemed normal as a baby, passed all of the tests they give them in the hospital, and I breathed a sigh of relief about that. The other thing I have somehow failed to mention is that he may be part black. We never really addressed that issue or had him tested in any way, we went on about our business like he was a white child and raised him as such. He has ethnic hair and a darker skin tone, more olive really than anything, he is a gifted musician and highly intelligent thinker. He and his brothers actually make jokes about the things that make him different, yet he never pushed the issue or looked into learning about African American culture, he just is what he is and deals with it. Other than buying certain products for his hair care, he acts no different than his brothers and they treat him as such. (other than teasing him about being a spoiled only child) since that was how he was raised.  I figure if he really cared, he would have found a way to be tested, maybe some day he will, but at this point, does it really matter? He has enough other issues to deal with, demons to conquer and lessons to learn, I really don’t think the color of his skin should become an issue at this point in his life. What he really needs to address is why he feels the need to self medicate and what is at the root of that.

He may walk to the beat of his own drum, but he is my son and I love him, even if our relationship is still a work in progress. We sign off every conversation with our trademark “Love you, bye” something he started years ago when he lived in Austin. I hope that someday we can mend the broken parts of our relationship and grow a stronger bond. Now that he is a grown man, trying to find his own way in this world, I don’t know how long that will take, but we’re working on it.

Day 179-Flash Fiction Friday- In An Instant

img_0745It was a sunny afternoon, the rare winter day in Texas when the air was cold, yet the sunshine had a way of making you feel warm in spite of the chill. Ella had gotten off work a little early and was on her way home to check in with the family before making a trip to the hobby shop. She’d been sneaking a taste from a bag of gummy bears when one fell in her lap, and in the space of two seconds, her life changed forever.

Driving was a thrill for Ella, always had been, and she sort of took her skills for granted, knowing she followed the rules, and she had become quite cavalier in her attitude when behind the wheel. Most of the time she paid attention to the road, kept a sharp eye out for children and animals, yet sometimes had experienced a close call or two. Like one time while driving through the neighborhood, a cat had run smack into her tire, Ella glanced in the rearview mirror, thinking she ran over a stick and, to her horror, saw the kitty go tumbling in the street behind her. Thing was, she never even saw it! Had it been her mistake, or just bad timing?

Luckily, the kitty made it, yet Ella was certainly traumatized and never went down that street again. On a separate occasion, she had been humming along to the radio, very much in her own world, when out of nowhere, a child’s soccer ball rolled out in the street in front of her. Her quick reflexes caused her to see it and break in time, but now she avoided school zones like the plague. She was careful not to text and drive, loving the fact that she could receive phone calls through the car’s audio system, and frowned at driver’s who always seemed to be on the phone.

While what happened to Ella while driving that day could happen to anyone, in that moment, she had the incredulous feeling that this could not be real. She was in shock, and barely could bring herself to face the nightmare waiting outside her car. In that two seconds she had glanced down at her shirt to find the fallen candy, a young boy had chosen that precise moment to step out from behind a truck, and Ella had struck him. Finally gathering her wits, she flung open the car door and rushed to his aid. He was bleeding, oh God, he was bleeding so badly! She screamed for help and ran back to her car to grab her phone. Hurrying, she rushed back to the boy’s side, calling 911 in the process. It was all she could do not to get sick herself, mustering the strength to murmur “I’m sorry” over and over in his ear, trying to comfort him as best she could.

Evidently, someone had called the EMS before she had, the glorious sound of the siren’s wail could be heard and Ella pleaded with the boy to just hang on, help was coming. “I’m here, I’m right here with you. Please, hang on”, tears streaming down her face. By now, there were other neighbors running to join them, the boy’s mother among them. “What did you do???” she screamed when she saw Ella, leaning over her son. “I just looked down for a second, I swear! He came out of nowhere! I’m so sorry!” The mother was inconsolable, as was Ella. The police and ambulance arrived simultaneously, while the paramedics attended to the boy, the police questioned Ella, once she had calmed down enough to give them her statement.

This was no cat, or squirrel and Ella would never be able to recover, she thought. After a long night first at the police station and then the hospital, after she was charged and released, Ella went home with her family, they had joined her at the hospital. By the grace of God, the boy had only minor injuries, all the blood had come from a laceration on his head when Ella’s car just grazed the side of him. As for Ella, there would no longer be joy in driving again. In fact, she could not bring herself to drive at all.  Months went by during which she got therapy to deal with her feelings of guilt. The boy’s mother had forgiven her, but she would never be able to forgive herself. Through her church she found a sense of peace, after a time, and her family was supportive, though she secretly wondered if they were just placating her-scared she might harm herself.

Some months later, she joined a support group, and with their help, she gained some strength and got back her confidence. She found solace in helping others, and soon sought out a job at a crisis center, where she could give back to her community. It didn’t totally erase her guilt and shame, yet one day she thought, through her actions a life might be saved, and that was a comfort she felt she could live with.