by Elaine Miller
When I got home from the hospital the evening Mary had Sean, I called Marie to tell her about Sean and that Mary was doing well. Marie had been married several months now and had been trying to get pregnant. I was so frustrated that Marie lived out of state and couldnít be here to share our happiness and see the new baby. Marie started crying and said she wanted a baby so badly. I told her she hadnít been trying all that long. I assured her all the women in our family were very fertile. Little did she know that already she was about a month pregnant herself.
Now I had two grandsons. My other grandson Andy was five years old. He came over a lot and followed Don around. He refused to sleep in the other spare bedroom downstairs and would sleep on a pallet on the floor next to our bed on Donís side. We had him one week-end when he was real sick with tonsillitis and both of his parents were sick with the flu, and Don got up with me every couple hours to check him and give him medicine to lower his fever.
All children are drawn to Don. He even loves holding babies and talking to them. He really loves little children. He just lavishes love on them. He would take Andy out into the garden and let him plant with him. Both Andy and Sean, when he was old enough traipsed after him in the garden. When Sean was old enough he followed Don around everywhere. Andy cried when Sean was born as he said now we would love Sean more than him. We told him we could love more than one grandson at a time.
We brought Mary and Sean home from the hospital. Mary was real good at taking care of her baby. She would change him, nurse him and get up in the night to take care of him. She had talked to him the whole time she was pregnant. Now she talked to him all day long when he was awake. I bathed him the first time. I supervised her bathing him until she felt comfortable with it and until I thought she could handle bathing him alone. She stayed with us for a month and then went home to her own apartment.
Sean was a pretty good baby. I noticed that he certainly had a temper. He would turn beet red in the face, ball up his fists and shriek as loud as he could and he would keep it up a long time if he was really mad. Sometimes Mary didnít know how to calm him down. I would take him, hold him close and softly sing in his ear until he would stop. I would rock him and sing to him. Mary was bright and she followed suit. She was trying her best to be a good little mother.
Mary and the baby came over every day. I bought a porta crib to use as a playpen in the living room. Mary spent almost as much time here as she did at home. I didnít mind because I loved the baby and I wanted to help her as much as I could and supervise his care. Soon he was sleeping through the night. We did have to start him on a little cereal early to satisfy his demands to eat. She got milk and cereal through a program at the health department. She had to take the baby every month to be weighed and his progress evaluated. He gained from the beginning and did very well. When he was six months old he refused to nurse. She had been supplementing the bottle and he found it less work to suck the bottle. He also liked a pacifier. I would not let her give him a bottle to take to bed when he was older, but he sucked his pacifier instead.
When he was eight months old he would sit in the playpen watching me in the next room when I fixed supper. He would take his pacifier in and out of his mouth with first one hand and then the other. He would put other things in his mouth the same way, using first one hand and then the other. He was ambidextrous. He finally settled with doing things mostly with his right hand. My ex had a lot of left-handed people in his family, his father and his brother. I could do many things with my left hand that other people could not do. I had ambidextrous tendencies too.
That baby already knew how to get attention. He would sit there and if I would look at him he would give a little false whining cry for me to come get him and put his arms up for me. He used to sit on Donís chest when we were lying on the bed watching TV and take his pens out of his pocket and grab a fist full of beard. He was so cute.
She would leave him with us and go out in the evening. She would generally come get him and take him home to bed. Sometimes she would entertain friends at her house. She had several girlfriends who came over. We would take care of him a lot. When he was really young and in a carrier, she would take him with her to appointments and counseling. She was doing well with him. Some of her friends baby-sat him too.
When Sean was a month old, Marie called and had been to the doctor and was pregnant. They sent her for a sonogram and she was going to have twins. Twins ran in my family. Daddyís Mom had had two sets of boy and girl twins. I told Marie they were boy and girl twins. I was thrilled beyond words. I had hoped for twins, but I never had them.
Marieís pregnancy went along normally until close to the end. She called me more often than she normally did. The last month or so she had to stay mostly in bed as her blood pressure had gone up and she was swelling in her hands and feet. I had had problems with the same thing when I was pregnant. I was so frustrated that she was not here close to me.
Donís sister Marilyn was terminally ill. Her daughter was thirteen and a half, almost fourteen and was a terror. Marilynís son was twelve. Her ex husband could care for the boy, but he could not care for his daughter, Connie. She didnít want him to care for her anyway, as she was furious that he had walked out on her mother. She and her brother also had a half-brother.
Marilyn had pancreatic cancer. She was unable to care for either of her children any longer. We went for a family conference. It was decided to sell Marilynís house, move her in with her parents who wanted to care for her for the rest of her life. Connieís brother was moving into his fatherís home with his half-brother and the family. What to do with Connie?
We had gone down to see Donís Aunt Mary and Uncle Ray a week before. I had been thinking of all these problems. We were on the highway driving back and I decided to talk to Don about her. There was a compulsion that I had to take Connie. I argued with myself. Havenít you had enough? You know you find teenagers a pain? You really donít even like them very much. I would decide no. Donís other sister said she could not even try it. Sheíd never had any children and her fear was great. His sister Linda couldnít take any more. She had two teenagers of her own. Every time I would tell myself no, it would seem that my guardian angel would say "yes!" I fought with myself for a week. Don and I were living alone and it was so peaceful.
Marilyn had come to visit with her children the summer before she had gotten sick. I had had a chance to get to know the kids better. Connie was bright, quick moving, quick thinking and I understood her. She reminded me a lot of myself. She was attention deficit too, a legacy from her fatherís side of the family. I had met him and could see his family traits in her. I liked him and could see he didnít know what to do.
She was a beautiful girl with a mind of her own. She was very bored with school. She had just finished eighth grade the summer that her mother was sick with cancer. Connie had a real creative bent and was interested in sewing and crafts. The summer they were here, we had taken them to the fair and played around in the art room painting on tee shirts. I was big into painting on clothes too.
I told Don I had a compulsion to take his niece. He was astounded. He wanted to know if I knew what we were getting ourselves into. I told him I couldnít help it. His family was so different and this child was not understood by a single soul. I understood her and had to try to help her and keep her in school. His family was slower paced than I was, and they did not remotely understand people like Connie and me. One of Donís sisters told me several years later that they were afraid of me, because I was so different. It hurt me terribly when she said that. I had tried so hard to get them to like me. I wanted them to like me. I think that it was at that point that I gave up consciously trying to get them to like me.
We announced it to his family, packed Connie up and brought her home with us. She was a very angry child. She was just filled with unresolved rage. We had a real time of it. I hooked her up with counselors here. We hired an attorney, and became her official guardians.
It was nip and tuck to keep her out of trouble and in school. Even though she spent very little time in eighth grade the year before, she had managed to take all the tests and pass to high school. We had a lot of stormy times. She was belligerent and rebellious.
Marie was in her twenties and helped me some with her before she moved to Kansas.
Connie got in trouble with the teachers at school right off and was suspended for a week because of her language and disrespect. It was a full time job for me. I didnít have time for nursing any more. It was a good thing I was in one of my phases where I wasnít working in nursing at the moment, anyway. I had my Al-Anon group and my best friends to give me advice and to help me. Marie would talk to Connie and try to smooth things over. I kept Connie in school two more years. It was during this latter time that Marie was pregnant.