Soon after finalizing arrangements to bury Daniel he drove to her parent’s home on Staten Island where she could be with her mother and sister. He sensed it would be good for her to be with women. They stayed about ten days during which time he made a run back to Jersey and stripped the nursery of everything. He packed it all up and donated it to the Salvation Army.
Bassinet, toys, clothes, towels, bottle sterilizer, bottles, blankets, the little yellow wash tub, everything gathered for the baby who never came home was carted away. He put the giant case of infant pampers out for the garbage collectors. When he was finished there was only a sunny yellow room with new carpet. He was surprised that by the time he was finished he was crying.
He went back to work. The commute was a lot easier from Staten Island. He rode the ferry in the morning with his cup of coffee just like he and she used to do when they were first married, now ten years gone.
At the office he had to deal with the “I’m sorry”s but he spoke little about what had happened and buried himself in work. What bothered him most was the “She can have another one”, as if they were replacing a broken handbag. But he was gracious; after all the comment was meant to be comforting and that was how he took it. Most people, including him, never know quite what to say under these circumstances.
She came around slowly. The weeks went by and she got back her smile, even a laugh once in a while. Spending time with her family was good for her and seeing her return to a semblance of normal perked up his spirits as well. Getting back to “normal” was what he wanted although deep inside he knew life would never be quite the same as it was.
After a couple of weeks they drove home to Lincroft. They picked up the dog from the kennel and entered their quiet, empty dream house. On the door step was a basket of withered flowers sent by the neighbors; “Congratulations on the new arrival!”. The neighbors didn’t know. He threw the flowers in the trash. He would tell the neighbors.
She turned to him with sad eyes and they stood there holding each other inside their quiet dream house. He knew.
“Do you want this? Or should we move back to Staten Island nearer your family and friends? She buried her face in his shoulder. That was a yes. He closed the door of the nursery and she never went into the sunny yellow room again.
And so the house went up for sale and was sold in a weekend. They went to Staten Island and bought a new high ranch in Richmondtown, one of the island’s tonier neighborhoods. One year after moving into the dream house they moved out, hopefully to start a new chapter in their lives.
Life returned to good and she returned to outwardly happy. He enjoyed the shorter trip to work and both were in familiar surroundings. His boss sent him to Rome and Venice on a business trip. Everything was going well again. And then she said it casually over coffee.
“Honey, can we have another baby?”
“Sweetie, I don’t know. I mean, it took us ten years to have the first one! Christ knows how old we will be before a second!”
“Well”, she continued, “the doctor said it was extremely unfortunate about Danny but there seems to be no reason we can’t try again. I would like to try again.”
“This time we are going to do it scientifically!” She had a thermometer and an ovulation chart. “You darling are going to feel so very used!”.
“Are you sure sweetie? Really sure?”
She was sure. “I promise you’re going to have a great time! After all, getting there is all the fun!! My mother said if you want sons I have to feed you lots of broccoli and you have to make love with your socks on!!” Old Italian joke. She was committed.
Every morning from then on she took her temperature, plotted it on the ovulation chart and would announce every few weeks with a laugh “Don’t go too far today stud! Today is the day!!” And so they spent their time in bed trying to make a baby. Loving, teasing and lusting.
Within a year she was again “with child”. She was thrilled. He again in awe. “I always knew you had spunk!”.
She wanted to name this one after him if it was a boy. He nixed that idea. They settled on Michael Carmine, using her dad’s name as a middle name. It was still Marie if it was a girl.
The joy started up again with everyone except him. He started feeling those qualms again. They bought nothing to prepare for a coming baby. He promised he would buy everything needed while she was in hospital after delivery. He wasn’t going to celebrate until it was all over and the baby was home safely. Shopping too early was a definite jinx.
As she approached her delivery date her doctor decided on induced labor so on April 17, 1975, less than two years after Danny’s birth, she nervously checked into Richmond Hospital in Prince’s Bay. As usual he was consigned to the men’s lounge to watch TV with the other prospective dads.
A number of hours later her doctor came in. He searched his face for clues.
“You have a fine healthy son”.
Now he felt like he could celebrate. After all, lightning never strikes twice in the same place does it?
They brought Michael home,, wrapped in a baby blanket, to his new nursery. He had shopped for everything. Gifts flowed in with best wishes from family and friends. A joyous Christening two months later at the little white church in Richmondtown.
He took her with him on a business trip to Mexico City while her mother cared for Michael for a few days, staying at the city’s finest hotel. A client discovered they recently had a son and delivered a gift at the airport before the trip home.
Life was good. Except for one thing.
Michael was “slow to develop”. The pediatrician began keeping a closer eye on how he was doing. Nothing to worry about. Yet.
It was Christmas Eve that the darkness returned. They were at her parent’s house for dinner. She and her mom were with Michael in the kitchen. Suddenly he heard a scream and his name.
Michael had his first gran mal seizure.
The pediatrician recommended the two finest neurologists he knew. They practiced at Mount Sinai in Manhattan. The day after Christmas they checked Michael in for a week’s worth of evaluation.
He was worried and now she was too. The dark clouds were directly over their heads.
“There is something seriously wrong with your son. We’re not yet sure exactly what is going on. We will need to do genetic testing on you two and your son. Oh by the way, you two are not by any chance related are you?”
“Not as far as we know; we do come from the same Southern Italian genetic pool”
A few days later came the name of a disease they had never heard before.
Globoid cell leukodystrophy.
And so the radio played on in ’75