On Choice


Well Choice is under attack again; there must be Republican primary elections coming soon.

The odious Mike Huckabee is in the news; he vows he would use Federal troops to stop abortions.  Unfortunately he is not for pre-natal medical care, affordable child care, school lunches, job training or free contraception.  He is pro-birth; not pro-life.

Cecil the lion brought out yelps from the right; how could we be so concerned about a dead lion and not about Planned Parenthood?  Lefties are just so blind.

Pat answers come so easily –  especially when those advocating them don’t personally have to face the issue.

I firmly believe that each of us, if faced with the issue,  must make such a decision for ourselves.

I am for choice.

And I speak from experience – not as an outsider looking in, judging others without having walked in their shoes.

My wife and I were married three days after Christmas in 1963 – just six months after the high school prom. Both sets of parents were frantic to stop us but we were of age and would have none of it.

Everyone who knew us, family and friends assumed she was pregnant. She was not. We laughed and went about our lives.

In four years we bought out first home together, got four years of Army active duty service out of the way, got good jobs and were doing just fine. I began a successful career in banking and finance; she worked for a steamship company, chartering vessels. I finished college and we sold our first house after 5 years and bought a sprawling ranch home in N.J.

We were the envy of all our friends who were struggling in small apartments with screaming little bundles of joy, constantly clamoring and in need. Children were just something we never thought about as we took to bed on rainy Sunday afternoons. Nine years had gone by without children. We were never big on birth control. Didn’t seem to be any need. Nothing ever happened. As the years rolled by we came to believe that nothing ever would. And we were okay with that. Even happy.

Suddenly, after nine years, out of no where she was pregnant.

Daniel was born on her birthday; he lived only 9 days and died from serious birth defects.

We tried to go back to our lives. After a time she wanted to try again. The doctors gave us the ok.  Two years later Michael was born.

Michael was profoundly disabled. We could only wish he had Downs.

Doctor’s suspected Krabbe’s Disease but the tests at the time were inconclusive. Neurologists at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in NYC told us Michael was not going to develop and had a life expectancy of maybe two years. They recommended institutionalization. We rejected that and took him home.

The doctors were right.

Every meal he ever ate we fed him. Luckily he had a good swallow reflex. He would sit strapped in a special chair and we would simply touch his lips with a spoon and he would open his mouth reflexively. He never ate anything but baby food as he never learned to chew.

He would always wear diapers and could not move, crawl, turn over or sit up; we carried him from his bed in the morning and back to his bed at night. She fed him breakfast and lunch while I fed him dinner and sat with him on my lap in a rocker while watching TV.  He never looked at us.

She gave up any idea of ever returning to work or a career. She was her son’s mother. He was always clean, well dressed, hair combed and well fed. She would sit outside with him in his special wheelchair on glorious Spring and Summer days wondering what was going to become of him.

She cared for him well and Michael didn’t die.

He never spoke a word. Never said “mommy”. He never looked at us. He never moved on his own from wherever he was placed. He was carried everywhere. He might have been deaf and cortically blind.

He was included in all of the family adventures and his aunts and uncles loved him, accepted him as he was and forgot about the prognosis although there was nothing but worry as to what was going to happen to him when we were gone.

And one beautiful morning in February 1985 when we least expected it, he simply woke up and died in my arms. He was almost ten years old.

It was the first time Michael ever smiled at me.

We had two daughters after Michael was born; each pregnancy was an agony of worry and tests. Every test which could be done was done. We were told not to worry; everything seemed fine and she was carrying a girl. But we worried.  After all, we were two time losers when it came to having healthy children.

And we had choice. And we thought about it.  Struggled with it.

It was her decision. It always was hers. I loved her and would stay with her no matter what she decided or what the future held.

She chose – and had two healthy girls. They are the joys of my life.

But she had a choice.

My wife, the girl I married out of high school, cared for Michael for ten years. I had wanted nothing but happiness for her. She didn’t get it. She cried an ocean of tears.

After his funeral we gave away his clothes and wheelchair anonymously through his school to a single mother in a similar situation. I still have her note which the school passed to us.

My wife and I loved our son Michael and we cried many a tear when he died. I know that everyone who came to his funeral thought that his passing was a blessing – both for him and for us, although we did not think so at the time.

Was he a “blessing” to us? Was his passing a “blessing?” Its much easier to say yes if you are not the parents. In a sense that he changed our lives and made us more human and humane, then the answer is yes. He certainly made my daughters much more sensitive to the needs of others.  They never forgot when we were asked to leave a family restaurant because Michael was “disturbing” the other patrons.  For my wife and I it was a lifetime of heartache.

My wife gave up any dreams she might have had caring for a child which couldn’t reward her with just a simple glance, a smile, a “mommy”.

We got no help from the state or the Feds – I made too much money. What a joke that was. Luckily we were able to find a facility which took him during school hours which gave my wife time to be with her girls and to get out of the house.

Michael was in hospital at least once a year, twice as he got older.  He saw neurologists regularly.  Expensive drugs kept his seizures down to “only” a couple or three a day. Luckily I had great medical insurance through my employer.

We hadn’t thought about testing during her pregnancies with Daniel or Michael. Today extensive testing is available.

So let me ask you.

If you were a 32 and 29 year old couple, happy and doing well and found out a Michael was coming your way, what would you do?

You can blow off the question if you’ve walked ten years in her shoes.

Make your choice and answer to your own god yourself.





About toritto

I was born during year four of the reign of Emperor Tiberius Claudius on the outskirts of the empire in Brooklyn. I married my high school sweetheart, the girl I took to the prom and we were together for forty years until her passing in 2004. We had four kids together and buried two together. I had a successful career in Corporate America (never got rich but made a living) and traveled the world. I am currently retired in the Tampa Bay metro area and live alone. One of my daughters is close by and one within a morning’s drive. They call their pops everyday. I try to write poetry (not very well), and about family. Occasionally I will try a historical piece relating to politics. :-)
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12 Responses to On Choice

  1. DesertAbba says:

    A very insightful and humbling post. Thank you!


  2. cindy knoke says:

    Oh so very sorry. Thank you for this post.


  3. Norman Pilon says:

    I, too, am for a woman’s right to choose.

    And you are quite right to characterize the many in the ‘pro-life’ lobby as being ‘pro-birth’ and little else.

    They want the unwed and single mothers, or parents facing serious birth defects, to have their children while at the same time decrying welfare of any kind for anyone even if that means a person, a mother, a family or a child must end up living in abject destitution or even homelessness.

    According to that mindset, unwanted pregnancies are “always” the result of a personal choice for which one must and should bear the consequences, as brutal and brutalizing or tragic as those consequences may ultimately be.

    Just a few examples of the kinds of consequences resulting from ‘apparently’ bad choices that some misguided Americans have made: http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/10/14/10-facts-about-being-homeless-in-the-usa/

    And yes, I also agree, in connection with Cecil, it is interesting to note the groundswell of indignation his death generated in the mainstream in contrast to the virtual blackout there on the world wide murders of hundreds of children almost daily by the military-industrial complex of the most powerful Nation on earth.

    It’s mass psychosis. How else to describe it?


  4. jfwknifton says:

    Rest in peace, Michael.


  5. beetleypete says:

    Luckily, I live in England, where life seems to be more enlightened. Choice is paramount, and always supported. Your very personal tale was tragic and heartbreaking Frank. Yet I sense a joy underneath it all. They were yours, and you were theirs. And that was enough.
    Love and respect from England. Pete.


  6. weggieboy says:

    A moving examination of a difficult subject. RIP Michael.


  7. archecotech says:

    I’ve got to tell you this was a very hard read for me. Like yourself my first wife and I had a daughter who was born with sever disabilities. I watched in agony how it affected my wife and my family. I felt helpless, alone, and heartbroken. She had a beautiful smile and had a wonderful spirit. I cherish the time we had with her. Because of it my wife decided to become a nurse. Two years ago I lost my son after he battled cancer for several years. We never know how long we will have our loved ones around us. Life is precious no matter how short or how long they live. Pro-Choice doesn’t have to mean taking a life but preserving a life to be lived. In the end we must all pass from this place we call Earth to a place we call Home. We must all live with our choices, hopefully they are good ones. We don’t need a government that dictates how we respond – We should have hearts that know that life is isn’t something we choose or not. It’s something that is given us to hold dear, pain, sorrow, and all that comes with it are a part of life. Let us not forget that. If we believe in God, then he chooses the time and we are free from bearing the guilt of taking what he so much wants us to have. Thanks for your post, it helped me remember my most precious gifts.


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