Marie Elizabeth – 1980
There are days in life that seem to come as milestones.
We all know the obvious ones; those days we remember as we grew up, matured, accomplished, grew old. The graduations, the weddings, the birth of children, the passing of parents.
One has come to me today as a complete surprise; unexpected and out of the blue.
Tomorrow my oldest child will turn forty.
Forty years ago January 13, 1977 (or day before yesterday) it was a Thursday. I was 34 years old, a young Assistant Vice President at the First Union National Bank of North Carolina, working in uptown Charlotte. My wife of 13 years and I had a lovely house we had just moved into; she was at home caring for our profoundly disabled son. We had already lost a son in 1973. We were two time losers when it came to having a healthy child. The previous 4th of July, the 1976 Bi-Centennial, she told me she was pregnant with our 3rd child.
She was worried sick as I was. We made an appointment with an obstetrician who came highly recommended.
He was a thoroughly Southern man, a caring gentle man, the son of a doctor, born and raised in Charlotte. He listened carefully to our history while patients backed up in his office. He didn’t care. He gave us all the time and attention he knew we needed.
“We will do all of the tests available. I promise you if there is anything even slightly wrong I will tell you honestly. And if everything is OK I will tell you that as well. I promise you my best efforts.” One doesn’t hear those words from doctors anymore.
The follow-up appointments included a battery of tests and evaluations.
“You are carrying a girl. She seems perfectly healthy”.
And so we waited, my wife and I for the coming of a daughter, hoping that this time things would be different; joyful. We found a service that would care for Michael each morning, picking him up in the morning and returning him to us after lunch.
and we waited.
Next morning it was Friday, January 14, 1977. Geez it was cold.
I got up, kissed wife and child good by and was off to work.
Twenty minutes after I arrived I got the call.
I quickly drove out to southeast Charlotte; my wife had her first indications today was the day while walking our chocolate poodle Maurice. She quickly came in and put on her make-up.
I called the service Michael usually attended and explained the situation. “Drop him off with us on the way to the hospital! And don’t worry! He’ll be fine!”
And so we put on our coats, made our way outside to the car and headed for the future.
As we swung into the parking lot of Michael’s care service, there was a mob outside to greet us, cheering us on. We couldn’t believe it. Everyone knew our story and everyone was rooting for us and our new daughter to come. “Good luck! God bless! You go girl!!” A line of well wishers as we turned toward the gates, applause in our ears.
Upon arrival at Presbyterian Hospital I was sent to the lounge for expectant fathers; dads were not allowed in delivery and many hospitals didn’t permit them in labor rooms either. We would be called when needed.
It wasn’t that long before the speaker in the lounge crackled to life; “Mr. Toritto! You are the father of a lovely daughter!”
Marie was born on the coldest night in decades in Charlotte and because of our history was immediately rushed to the neo-natal intensive care unit for a complete check-up.
She was fine. And we finally saw our new daughter Marie Elizabeth.
Her birth was a joy for two people who didn’t know how other people had healthy children. As a baby I would dance her around in my arms to the tune of “You’re a Rich Girl!” by Hall and Oates. Of course she wasn’t but it made no difference to giggling baby girl.
She and her little sister yet to come grew up well, their mother imparting to them the important lessons of life. There was never a nastiness in our home, slamming of doors, disrespect. There was never the problems we read about in the news; unwanted pregnancy, drugs, alcohol. There was never any “drama.”
They were taught that they needed to be able to support themselves – to have self respect and to treat others the way you expected to be treated. Having a profoundly disabled brother gave them a compassion rare among teens today.
The birthday girl graduated from Rutgers College and after several years in the corporate arena decided to return to law school after her mother passed in 2004. She and her sister came with Dad to Florida to be nearer to aunts, uncles and cousins.
Graduation from law school – 2008
She left home for good for law school and graduated with honors in 2008; passed the Florida bar exam first shot.
While in law school she met her future husband; she married him when she was 33 years old. I have no doubt in my mind he would take a bullet for her. I liked him from the start and now love him like a son. He is a young man with an old soul who has made my daughter very happy.
The Wedding – 2010
When you are proud of your children and their choices (and have good reason to be) it gives a meaning to your life it might not otherwise have. It makes me feel that my wife and I did a good job with our most important task.
I have always been immensely proud of my daughter and her accomplishments. Today she is Assistant States Attorney in the county in which she lives. And she has a character, a compassion and a sense of what is just that I find unsurpassed.
She topped her life and accomplishments thusfar by giving me a grandson on the very night Donald Trump won the Presidency, changing a night of misery (for me at least) into a night of joy. Much Dewars was consumed moaning for the Republic and praising the coming of Clark boy!
Unfortunately due to My Left Foot I will not be able to be with Marie on her birthday. I have no doubt Joe will take good care of her!
Know Sweetie that I have ALWAYS been immensely proud of you, of your character and accomplishments. You will always have my unconditional love and support.
Happy 40th birthday to my favorite big girl in the whole world.
When I danced with my Daughter at her wedding