The family complete

alone

The summer of 1968 was the year that Mom, Aunt Helen (Josephine’s sister) and myself attended ‘Man and his World’ in Montreal. ‘Man and his World’ was the continuation of the World Fair celebrating Montreal’s Centennial in 1967, formerly called Expo ’67. Photos taken at that time revealed a very pregnant, glowing, and healthy Anne. In remembrance of that trip Mom had a photo button taken of me, to this day it is displayed on my fireplace mantel.

Mom and I arrived back home to await the birth of a new baby brother or sister. I was so excited, although Mom was beginning to tire easily once again. Baba would visit frequently to help care for me, as Mom rested. The beginning of September 1968, Mom was feeling that something was ‘not right’ with her pregnancy. She was immediately admitted into the hospital. Tests determined she had an infection; labour would have to be induced.

It was September 11th and Mom was back in the delivery room feeling very frightened as the memories of my birth came rushing back. As with my birth, both dad and Baba waited patiently, but nervously. That morning she delivered a baby boy.

The Doctor rushed to give the news to Dad and Baba, but the news would not be good, once again. The infection had spread to the baby and he was clinging to life. He would be rushed to Sick Children’s Hospital downtown Toronto. Mom was placed on antibiotics intravenously to clear the infection; the baby would be another story.

Dad was beside himself. He was told that this infection had a high mortality rate for infants and the Doctor said he should prepare himself for the worse. Subsequent to notifying his parents, Dad called a Priest. If anything were to occur, it was imperative that his baby boy be baptized. ‘Stephen’ was the name decided by both Mom and Dad if they had a son.

Meanwhile I was staying at Baba’s, as Dad would rush from St. Joseph’s Hospital where Mom was, to Sick Kids in downtown Toronto, a few times a day. My recollection of that time was ‘confusion’. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t allowed to see my new brother, or ‘Mommy’, for that matter. Needless to say, my temper tantrums increased during this crisis.

Specifically, I recollect one day being cared for both Nana and Baba when Dad returned to give news on the health of Stephen, he was recovering and would pull through this ordeal. I now wanted to go visit him. Dad said no I couldn’t, as children were not allowed in the hospital. Well now, No was a word I didn’t like being said to me, in fact, I was the one to always say ‘No’. I ran out the front door to the first step on the porch, found a caterpillar, stomped my foot and squished it to smithereens! Dad was not too far behind me and when he saw what I had done, grabbed my arm and gave me a slap on the rear end. Needless to say I let out a big scream (as kids are known to do), and began crying.

Dad bent down to me and said, ‘that wasn’t very nice, you killed a living thing, and what do you say to that?’

Through the tears and sniffles I said quietly ‘sorry?’

‘All right, now go back inside and be a good girl’.

During this little frenzy of mine, both my Grandmothers watched from the front window, and listened.

Nana said out loud to Baba ‘She needed that slap, it will do her good’.

Baba never answered, but deep down inside did not believe in ‘discipline by spanking’ as she would say later in life.

Mom arrived home first and the reunion between mother and daughter was tremendous. I was so happy to see my Mom as she bent down, enveloped me with her arms, kissed, and whispered in my ear ‘We will be bringing your baby brother home soon’. My world was back to normal or so I thought!

A week later while I stayed with Baba, Mom and Dad went to pick up Stephen. That morning Mom dressed me in a cute little dress, brushed my hair and as Baba would say; I looked ‘wunnerful, wunnerful’!

I played with ‘fluffy’ while I waited patiently for my new baby brother to arrive. Grandpa George decided to take me outside to keep him company while Baba dressed. I would watch and mimic Grandpa George (as I always referred to him) as he would take each step down the stairs; right foot down, left foot follow, right foot down, left foot follow. I would be told years later that it took my parents awhile to shake me of this process of descending and ascending stairs. Mom and Dad would each look at one another and would say ‘did you teach her that?’

Carried by Mom, Stephen arrived that afternoon, skinny and sporting an interesting hairdo. Dad told me that the nurses had to shave his head to put in some sort of wires; he looked emancipated, but when he smiled, he lit up the room. I was so proud to have my baby brother home and even happier when Mom let me hold him. I told him I was going to teach him how to talk, how to walk, and would always be there to play with him. He was my baby brother and somehow I knew I had to protect and be there for him, the rest of his life.

 

© 2014 Paula Bilz. All Rights Reserved.

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