And so they tell their family and friends; there is joy for them and good wishes. Those with screaming brats welcome the soon to be members of their perpetually exhausted club. Her parents look forward to another grandchild; her older sister and brother already have kids.
For his widowed father it would be the first.
They invite his father to spend Christmas in their new home. It’s a house much too grand for the two of them, but he rationalizes it as a good investment. His dad is amazed, and proud the kids are doing so well. The news of the coming baby, announced over Christmas dinner, makes it his happiest holiday in decades.
Their world grows darker at 2 o’clock on a January morning, when their phone rings. Poppa is dead, says his brother, Nick. His father is gone, at 56 years old.
So he and his two brothers bury their father in St. John’s cemetery in Queens next to their mother, who passed away in ‘66. He takes some comfort in remembering how happy his dad had been, just weeks before.
Not long after the funeral they begin preparing the bedroom next to theirs as a nursery. They don’t know if they’re having a boy or a girl — they don’t want to know; the nursery is done in sunny yellow. Shower gifts from friends furnish it.
Her girlfriends from high school visit, some with kids and some still single. They marvel that these two seem to have it all. With the visits come the usual how-did-that-happen jokes about her increasing baby bump. Coffee, drinks for all except the expectant mother, cake, good times. They kick around names. She says, if it’s a boy, I am not naming him Domenico, his late father’s name. His response is that Carmine, her father’s name, is no better. Daniel seems okay. It was what everyone had called his father anyway.
Daniel Jason. She likes it.
Both of their mothers are named Mary, so Marie seems like an easy choice for a girl. Besides, it goes well with their ethnic surname.
And so they wait….and start cutting back on expenditures. After all, they’d be living on his salary soon. He sells his beloved Camaro and buys a used Ford. They still have their ‘68 Saab, but she can’t drive a standard shift…it’s now his station car.
She wants to be a stay-at-home mom, at least for a while. Her mother had been one, as had his. She’s been working for ten years. She gives her notice to her employer. You can come back anytime you want.
The baby is due in late May. A perfect springtime baby.
May comes and goes. On Saturday, June 2, she gets her first twinge while sitting on a couch in the family room. As always with first timers, they go to the hospital too early…he is exiled from the labor room; it is making him sick to see her in so much pain. Eventually she goes to delivery. He isn’t allowed in there either — he sits with the guys in the lounge.
Seventeen hours later. You have a son.
It is Sunday morning, June 3, 1973. It’s also her birthday. She is 28 years old.
Family rushes down from Staten Island that afternoon. Congratulations all around. He spends the evening with her and Daniel, immensely happy. He brings his camera to take a picture but Daniel is sleeping. Don’t take his picture now, she says. The flash might wake him up. You’ll have plenty of time.
He goes home, walks the dog, hits the bed still in a daze. The next day he goes to the office, because she’s going to be in hospital until Wednesday or Thursday. He gives out cigars with blue bands…It’s a Boy! Immortality.
Then the phone rings – she is sobbing so hard she can barely speak. Something’s wrong with Daniel. They moved him to Monmouth Hospital to the newborn intensive care unit.
He catches the train to Newark and grabs a cab to Red Bank. She has been moved to another room with a woman whose baby is also in serious trouble. The two women have been segregated from the other happy mothers, in case their frantic worry is communicable.
Daniel was born with a perforated intestine and has sepsis; within hours of taking his first nourishment from a bottle he is gravely ill.
He rushes to Monmouth Hospital to stand watch over his son, and rushes back to give her the latest news. Surgery. She insists on going home. She has no baby to hold and isn’t going to lay in a maternity ward without her son. Two days later he takes her to visit Daniel. She can’t touch him in the incubator; she can only look, and cry.
Nine days after his birth, on June 12, Daniel Jason is gone. Your son has passed away, says the voice on the phone. They hold each other in the darkness and they know their life, the world they live in, is inconceivably changed.
He never took Daniel’s picture.
He takes care of the arrangements. No services. A tiny white casket and a place in the row of newborn babies in Mt. Olivet Cemetery, under a giant oak. Just a short pass from Vince Lombardi.
A headstone: Beloved Son.