BEST AND WORST
The big day was finally here. The baby was due a week before and my wife, scared as she was, wanted it out, now! She’d never been one for needles and doctors and such. I recall taking her for blood work once, her veins are deep and they roll (at least that’s what the technicians who couldn’t hit them would always say) and she hated going for blood work. She’s the strongest woman I’ve ever known, a tough Puerto Rican chick from Bushwick Brooklyn, certainly no wallflower. Like Superman, she has her Kryptonite. It’s the bloodletting leaches in white coats. During that blood work session she screamed and carried on so much that the children in the waiting room were openly weeping at the prospect of facing the doctors. She didn’t make it any better when she passed them on the way out and, rather than offering a comforting “I’m sorry, it isn’t so bad” she looked one sniffling little boy in the eye and told him “it’s going to hurt like hell, don’t let them near you.”
When it came to the baby, her pregnancy went relatively well. She hadn’t really suffered much morning sickness, though she found the smell of mustard repugnant, and she didn’t gain a great deal of weight, though I did. No, it was a pretty peaceful pregnancy as they go. We would go for daily walks through the neighborhood, just as we had done before, it was a really peaceful time. It came to a crashing halt one day when she was about seven and a half months pregnant. I don’t really know where it came from, we were walking along smiling, quiet, it was a beautiful September day, and she stopped dead in her tracks turned white as a sheet, her hands got clammy and she looked at me, unable to speak, only a horrified expression on her face. She stared out to the sky as though nothing existed around her. I was alarmed, to say the least. This beautiful mother of my child was experiencing something awful. I needed to help her. “What is it? What’s the matter?” I was becoming frantic.
Her eyes got puffy as tears began to stream down her face, but her voice remained calm as she explained, “this fucking thing is going to have to come out of me one way or another. No matter how it happens, it’s going to fucking hurt. What the fuck did you do to me?”
Aha, there she was, my Princess was back. I was wondering where she’d gone too. I did my best not to laugh, as I knew what would only stir the “off with their heads” aspect of her personality. This was very real to her. I really had been wondering what was taking her so long to get around to panicking about it. Dannette, that’s her name, isn’t only tough as nails she’s one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever known. What the hell took her so long to figure out that this wasn’t going to be some walk in the park is beyond me. I tried to pacify her “I’ll be right there with you, Hon”. No dice.
Dannette had always been my Princess. She’s always had a reputation among her friends and family as being a person who, how shall I say this, ahmm, she’s accustomed to getting her way. She’s smart, beautiful, opinionated and strong willed. She has a strong sense of self. Ok, that says it. Well, she can be a bit of a bitch and selfish at times, that probably says it better. When we told friends and family she was pregnant nearly to a person they said, “Dannette is going to be a mom? Are you sure you want to do that? Children require a lot of, well, selflessness.”
I was sure. All those things were true about Dannette, all of them. We all have qualities or traits that make us difficult to handle sometimes. With any luck they’ll be balanced out by traits that will make us tolerable or even desirable to others, despite the negatives. I never doubted for a second that Dannette would be a great mother to my child. When we had discussed having a child we were both pretty candid about the whole thing. We both came from backgrounds that afforded us the understanding that relationships between two people don’t always last. We both knew that regardless of what happened between us, we should never lose sight of the fact that our child should always come first. We were each entering into parenthood with a person we felt would never, under any circumstance, abandon their child. You see for all of Dannette’s Princessness and demanding ways, she is the most steadfastly loyal and devoted person I’ve ever known. She doesn’t make friends easily, but when she does, you are a friend for life. I knew this baby would be the most important person in her life, that she would dedicate herself to its wellbeing and success to her death.
When she was pregnant she once asked me, “are you going to love this baby more than me? After all, I was here first.” It was a question of genuine concern for her.
“Yes I am. And you’ll love this baby a million times more than you could ever love me.”
“No way. I’m loyal.”
“I know that’s what I’m counting on.”
So there we were, the day after Thanksgiving, November 27, 1998. As previously stated, the baby was a week past due and, pain be damned, she wanted It out. To her It was still It. It had yet to become Luke Robert Gillespie. They gave her some Pitocin to induce labor hooked up the very expensive machine that goes beep (thank you Monty Python) and we waited. It was quickly deduced that something was wrong and an emergency cesarean section was warranted. I accompanied Dannette into the operating room. She was so scared. She squeezed my hand and forced me to recite the “Hail Mary” prayer with her. Now, I’m not Catholic and I wasn’t familiar with the prayer, but I felt that it would have been crass to begin debating the merits or detractions of Catholicism or the effectiveness of prayer demanding the intersession of God in such personal matters, so I went ahead and repeated after her. “Hail Mary, full of grace. Our Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen”. It seemed that reciting a prayer that mentions death at a time like this is a bit morbid but, ok, if that helps her, so be it. We probably said it two hundred times or so before the ordeal was over. And then, there he was, It became Luke. He was purple, then pink. He didn’t really cry. It wasn’t like in the movies at all, at least not for us. The doctor told us he was healthy and no worse for the wear and tear. They gave Dannette a sedative after it was done, and I left the room. Out in the hall they wheeled my boy past me and I got to hold him for the first time. All I could see was his face surrounded by the swaddling blanket. He was a little peanut. His eyes were shut. His skin was pink and scaly, dry. I held him for the first time, and I had never in my life felt such love for anything. I moved the blanket a bit to reveal his forehead and I pressed my lips gently to it and kissed him for the first time. He was perfect. My God, I was overcome with emotion. I promised my son then and there that I would do all I could to make his life as peaceful and comfortable as possible. I promised him I would always look out for him and see to his needs. He would be my priority from that day forward.
The nurses took him to the nursery from there. I went out to tell the friends and family in the waiting room that mother and son were doing fine. By this time it was in the wee hours of November 28th, Luke’s birthday.
After speaking with those gathered I made my way to the recovery room to check on my Princess. I made a quick detour to the nursery to catch another glimpse of my Prince first. I entered the recovery room and there was Dannette, now a mother. “What are you doing here?” she asked.
“I came to see how you’re doing. How do you feel?”
“I’m fine. Don’t worry about me, I can take care of myself”. This is where it happened. This is where Dannette went from Princess to Mommy, just as I knew she would. “Go be with the baby, he’s all alone, he needs to hear a familiar voice.” And with that, it was done. Luke was born. From that moment forward Luke would be her priority. Her love for that boy was like nothing anyone, but I, could have imagined. Even she didn’t see it coming.
It was November 1st 2005, a beautiful autumn day. We had been trying for about 2 years to have another child. Dannette wanted Luke to have a sibling so that, in the event we died, he wouldn’t be alone. So you see how all that went. We struck pay dirt. Dannette was pregnant. It was a Tuesday morning. Luke would be seven in just three weeks. He attended Catholic school and they were closed, it was All Saints Day. Dannette had to go for a sonogram for the baby. It was about three miles away. We didn’t like leaving Luke home alone, especially because you never know how long these things are going to take. So we put him in the booster seat strapped him in and off we went.
We were driving on a route we had driven on thousands of times. Dannette’s mother lived along the way, as a matter of fact. We were playing the Jungle Book CD and singing along. It was Colonel Hathi’s March. I would imitate the Colonel’s voice and Luke would crack up. A brown car passed us on the right as we approached a slight bend in the road. There was a loud bang from underneath the car and I could feel the steering wheel move. I couldn’t control the car. I hit the break, but the car kept going. We hit a tree and the car began to roll down an embankment, I would later learn that it was a thirty-two foot drop. The car rolled twice until it came to a stop right side up on the roadway below. I was stunned for a second, but I got to Luke right away. I was in the military and had some basic first aid training. I lifted his shirt to check for bruising, I didn’t see anything. I checked his ears, nose and mouth for blood, again nothing. I took a blanket from the back of the car and wrapped it tightly around him to prevent shock. I asked him how he was. “My belly hurts, I’m scared, I want to go home.” I told him to be a good boy that we would have to go the hospital just to make sure everything was okay. I told him I loved him and I had to see about mommy. I gave him a gentile kiss on the forehead.
I turned to see Dannette, who had kicked her door open and dragged herself around the car to get to her son, was crawling toward me. He foot was dangling behind her. I knew she was badly hurt. I assured her that Luke was fine and that she shouldn’t move. We would later find out that, not only was her foot crushed, she had also broken her back. That didn’t stop her from trying to get to her baby; she’s the toughest fucking person I know, let me tell you.
We made it to the hospital and I fully expected that Luke would come running up to us. I really thought he was all right, he was belted in, secured, the damage didn’t reach him. Nonetheless, there I was with this doctor explaining to me that Luke was dying. He had tears in his eyes as he explained that my beautiful little boy had less than a five percent chance of survival. I felt like I was under water. Everything was garbled and hard to understand. I couldn’t for the life of me grasp or comprehend what he was telling me. I watched his face and I remember feeling sorry for him. I told him so, and he didn’t understand how I could feel sorry for him. “You have to do this every day. You’re delivering the worst possible news a parent can here. I would think your job is just awful. I’d rather shovel shit in the circus.” I was still removed from it. It was all so surreal.
I prayed and prayed that day and there seemed to be no heavenly intersession on my behalf. Luke, my dear sweet son, the light of my life, and my single greatest accomplishment, passed from this life at 12:11 on November 2, 2005. It was All Souls Day, how fitting. It would prove to be the second worst day of my life.
Dannette had broken her back and crushed her foot in the accident. By some miracle, the baby was ok. Dannette would undergo an emergency operation just to stabilize her enough to attend her son’s funeral. It would be ten days before the doctors would allow her to leave the hospital, and that was only for the funeral. My boy had been gone ten days. I had gone with my sister and brother in law to make the arrangements for Luke’s funeral. He was so small. The casket was so tiny. It didn’t seem right that there should be such small caskets, there shouldn’t be such a need in life. A parent should never have to bury their child. Yet, there I was.
The funeral director advised me to have a closed casket, as Luke had been deceased ten days now and there may be an odor. I agreed with him, in principal, but I knew the final decision would not be mine to make. That would belong to his mother. As devastated as I was, this woman carried him. I told you how she was, devoted, loyal, loving mother. The second It became Luke, Luke was her world. As the Irish say, the sun shone out of the boys arse, as far as his mother was concerned.
She agreed to have two days of viewings. The first would be friends and family and it would be an open casket. The second would be closed for his classmates, so they wouldn’t have to see their young friend like that. I purchase two cans of air deodorizer to spray between viewings. I didn’t want people to think my boy stank. As it wound up, Dannette just couldn’t close the lid on her baby, both days were open.
Now, I prayed and prayed for the baby to be well. I knew that Dannette was done. That old magic that endeared her to Luke upon his birth wouldn’t be there for this baby. As a matter of fact Dannette let it be known that she already hated this child. She blamed It for Luke’s death and nothing would ever take that away. As a consequence my entire reason for being now rested with this baby. I knew she (I was certain it was a girl) would need me, that Dannette would be unavailable. I prayed and prayed to the thin air for this child to be healthy. I needed this. Without Luke, my life had no purpose, no meaning. I needed this baby.
On December 14th Dannette woke up from the hospital bed that we had set up in the dining room for her and told me that something was wrong with the baby. “I don’t feel it anymore”. We went for a sonogram, and it was horrifying. On December 15th, 2005 my dreams died, the baby was gone. Her name would have been Gabriel Marie Gillespie. Dannette apologized, though I don’t know why. She knew how much the baby meant to me, even if she didn’t want it. That’s Dannette, she would have continued to go through with it, if only for me.
I lost my mind that day. It was the worst day of my life. I had been in recovery from addiction for several years. I had begun to use drugs again. On that day I went to my garage and threw an extension cord over the rafters and tied it in a slipknot around my neck. I got up on a milk crate and started listening to the myriad voices screaming at me in my head. I was going mad. I stood there for what seemed like an eternity, the inside of my head screaming “do it, do it, get it over with,” then I heard a voice from behind me. I don’t know who or what it was, it was probably just my mind taking over and protecting me, but that voice was louder than all the rest and it screamed at me, in a very real and very loud voice, and it said “no, don’t make it that easy for him. Fuck him, you can get through this. People need you; they’re counting on you. Don’t make it this easy for him”. I don’t know to whom the voice was referring or where it was coming from, but I listened.
I undid the cord and got down from the milk crate. I cried so hard, I just couldn’t cry anymore. The emotional pain was so intense that my body ached. I was curled up in a fetal position on my garage floor writhing. I couldn’t imagine ever feeling good again. How the fuck would I deal with this pain everyday for the rest of my life? It was so immense it enveloped my entire being. There was no meaning or purpose left to my life, or so I thought.
My journey deep into the darkness and back into the light was long and tumultuous. I will say it has required a change in perspective and understanding I never thought possible. I became mired in a heroin addiction that brought me to the depths of despair. I have survived all of this to bring my story to you. If you’d like to read more please indicate by liking this and recommending it. You can also email me at Lukesdad1998@gmail.com
Thank you for reading my work.