Sunday, August 22, 2010
A TINY STRANGE AND SAD TRUE STORY
This baby is not mine, although I loved him as if he were. It is a strange story.
In the early spring of 1959 I was pregnant with our third child and was a stay-at-home mom whose then-husband Joe was working part time and attending a local junior college. We had become friendly with another couple our age – I’ll call them Mitch and Donna. Joe and Mitch had become acquainted through some classes at school. Donna was a school teacher and pregnant with her first child. We had known them for about a year before little Teddy was born.
Shortly after his birth Donna became quite ill and was hospitalized. Mitch dropped out of school to take care of the baby, but shortly realized he needed a full-time job to help pay for the medical expenses. He was hired by a large industrial company and he asked if I would babysit Teddy during the day, to which I agreed. So each morning he dropped the baby off at our apartment and picked him up after work. Since I was already washing diapers for my own two little kids, having another baby around was simply no problem. In fact, I suppose the fact that I was pregnant and set to deliver in early June simply increased all my maternal feelings, and Teddy pretty much became “my baby.” I loved that little guy.
Donna was in the hospital for several weeks. Finally Mitch told us that a diagnosis was made and it wasn’t good. Donna had a severe case of lupus erythematosus, which in 1959 had about a 50% chance of ending in death. The doctors sent her home with a treatment plan, and once she was settled in Mitch returned Teddy to Donna’s care. He told us she was feeling ok and that he would let us know if we were needed again. Teddy had been with us for a couple of months.
For a two week period I didn’t hear from either of them. One morning I called Donna at home and asked how things were going. She indicated that she was not well. I told her I’d be right over.
To make a long story short, what I found when I got to her house raised many questions in my mind as to what was going on. She was so sick she barely could care for the baby. When I got home I decided to call Mitch at work to get some answers. I learned then that although he had been hired by the company, he had never shown up for work, nor had he ever made any contact with them at all. In fact, the personnel manager said she thought perhaps he’s been killed in an auto accident or some such thing. In light of the fact that every day Mitch had walked into our apartment with a badge on his shirt to drop off the baby, I wondered what else he was lying about. I called Donna’s doctor, told her what I found at their house and what I’d learned about Mitch’s job, and that I was calling to find out if Donna was really as sick as her husband told us. The doctor said she was, that in fact what I had told her would indicate that Donna was in perilous physical condition and that if I knew how to contact her family, I should do so.
I called Joe at work and told him what I was finding out. It was a surprise to him, but he said he had not seen Mitch in a while. However, he'd heard Mitch had a girlfriend and perhaps that was where Mitch was spending his time.
I had met Donna’s folks when they came out to see Teddy after he was born. That’s when the picture above was taken. Luckily I knew where they lived in Colorado. At that point I phoned them, detailed for them what I had learned and that her doctor felt they needed to come quickly for both Donna’s and Teddy’s sake. Her mother asked if I knew whether or not there was another woman involved, that Donna had mentioned her suspicions to them. I said I did not know for sure but I had heard that he did. They arrived in California the next day, got Donna into the hospital and made arrangements to take both Donna and Teddy back home with them. Donna died shortly after they returned to Colorado.
We kept in touch with Donna’s folks for several years and they were good about sending pictures of the little guy. The last contact we had was when he started in school. Life goes on and we lose track of people and families we once knew. We never found out what happened to Mitch.
I think of Teddy occasionally, wondering how he is, how his life turned out, and wondering if he ever knew how much a part of our family he was. His time with us was short, but I’ve always been thankful that we were there for him. I do think of Donna too, what a lovely, kind, smart person she was and what a rotten deal she got. She died in June of 1959, the same month my daughter Bryn was born.