Archive for the ‘fatherless children’ Category

Fifteen years ago today, your grandmother died, after a long battle with colon cancer.  My sweet mom.  OMG, how she would have loved you and your sisters!  She was only 72 years old, a true beauty who tragically lost her dashing husband, my pops, after only 13 years of marriage.   Your grandpa was an officer and a gentleman, a career Navy man who started out as a gunner’s mate sometime around 1935, served in the Pacific during WWII and Korea, was an exemplary sailor and was the Executive Officer of an aircraft carrier when he was killed in a helicopter crash in February of 1960.  February 8th, to be exact.  Which is why, when it was getting late into the night of February 7th all those years later and I was doing my best to pop you out like a watermelon through a buttonhole, I got a little crazy towards the end, determined to get you out before midnight.  And I did, thanks to the doctor and the nurse who helped me by grabbing you with a forceps and pushing down on my big belly, once for your head and then again for your shoulders.  I did not want you to come into this world on a day, February 8th, that has always held such sad memories for everyone in our family. 
I don’t remember anything about that 8th day of February in 1960.  I was only 16 months old.  My oldest sister was 10.  Our middle sister was 5.  Grandma was 34.
The very next day, though, when the Navy chaplain showed up at the door to give my mom the bad news, well that day resonates for me in a strange and hazy, emotional and fluid way.  I don’t have real memories of what happened, I have… feelings.  Of shock, of terror, of absolute chaos and despair.  Of a darkness so deep and alien to our happy little family of five, it easily took up a residence in our souls that even years of therapy would only partly undo.  My aunt and uncle happened to be visiting from Brooklyn at the time when, at our house near the Norfolk, VA Navy base, the bell rang and all hell broke loose.
I know I was napping in my crib.  And then I wasn’t.  one moment I was perfectly safe and content and the next moment I was uncertain and fearful.  I don’t know exactly what capacity for language I had at that point in my young life but I do know that I could sense the wrongness of the emotions just outside my bedroom door.  The feelings hit me like a tsunami of dread and hysteria.  The adults and older children in the house were beside themselves with grief.  My poor aunt, I’m sure, did her best to silence her own sadness, having lost a wonderful brother-in-law, so she could comfort her sister and my sisters.  My uncle, I bet, helped himself to a healthy dose of scotch before getting on the phone to let the rest of the big, extended, Brooklyn-Italian family know.  And in their grief and sadness they all forgot about the baby in the crib because, well, what would a (supposedly sleeping) baby understand about the situation?  What would it mean to a toddler that she was never going to see her dad again?  What could she possibly comprehend about the information that had just been so somberly and delicately delivered?  Nothing, right?
Wrong.  If, all these 53 years later, I still have an emotional memory of that wave of terror, that dark cloud of despair that shocked me out of my nap in my little crib, with my little blanket, then something must have happened to me, not nothing.  Only, no one realized for a very long time that “the baby” was freaked out and needed to be comforted.  I was 16 months old.  Who could possibly have imagined that I realized the happy life we all once knew and took for granted was gone forever?ImageImage