I have spent so many hours, days, weeks and months….thinking about the loss of my children and I have my regular pity parties, thinking about how things have turned out.
I think about my mama and how she lost her only two boys. One was dead and the other never had a chance to really live…by any true definition of the word.
In the midst of one of my selfish episodes, I remembered a girl I knew in the late seventies.
Her story has very graphic details, so be warned.
We had just returned to ***** ******** from ****** and I had gone to work for a large insurance company. I worked in the Assigned Risk department. That’s where I met and worked with Mary, Carmen and Carol.
This story is about Carol.
Carol was a slight, medium-height girl with long black hair and dark eyes. She was surprisingly intelligent. She and her husband of not more than two years lived modestly, even though Carols’ family had money.
She was pregnant with their first child. She just glowed when she talked about her baby and would giggle and say “Oh, y’all. I just can’t wait.”
We had formed a bond from the very first day I walked in. She was constantly begging me to start a business…and always followed it with “you have to get incorporated.”
We all knew that Carol was going to have to have a cesarean section because she had Herpes. I was clueless about that….then. Carol didn’t seem to mind that we all knew. I didn’t know the particulars nor did I ever ask.
Carols’ husband, Paul was a blue-collar worker and his brother, Pete was in training to join the police force. They were a close family and Pete was at their house all the time. Sometimes, they would both come to the office to see Carol. Pete would wear his uniform and we would all swoon because he was very easy on the eyes.
When the time came, Carol had a little girl. She had secretly wanted and hoped for a little girl all along. We all sent congratulations and gifts and couldn’t wait for her to bring the baby to the office.
Until she returned to work, we would call her at home almost daily to chat and catch up. The excitement in her voice said it all. We were so happy for her.
I knew how precious little girls were. I had two of my own.
When the baby was a week old, she brought her to see us. We all took turns holding this beautiful little girl with a head of dark hair and Carols’ dark eyes.
One week later, Loser and I…as usual…had to spend our entire week-end off at his fucking mama and daddys’ house. When we got back home late Sunday night, I was walking into the house and the phone was ringing. It was my friend, Lynn.
She said “have you heard about Carol?” I was confused for a minute and said “what do you mean?” All I remember Lynn saying was “her baby’s dead.”
I went to work the next day and the mood was solemn. We had a meeting and the general consensus was that, should Carol return to work, we would just “be there for her.” If she wanted to talk, we would listen but if she didn’t, we would leave her alone.
Mary and Carmen were crying and could hardly do their jobs. A young man who worked in a different department (who, for some reason, always found an excuse to come talk to me) wandered over. He said he was surprised that I wasn’t crying. He said “I figured you would be falling apart.” I found his statement curious.
Nobody really had any information. We just knew that Carols’ baby was dead at two weeks old.
An older woman we called “mama Bert” came over and talked to us. We all adored her. She was our “mother figure” which is why we all called her mama. We talked for a minute when she popped into my office. I will never forget her words. She said “you never know. Something terrible might have been waiting for that little girl down the line and God just decided to take her now.” She nor I had a clue what happened. I think maybe silently, we were all thinking SIDS.
Several days later, we found out. Pete had completed his training and was officially a member of the police department. He had come over to show off his newly issued 44 Magnum. He had it out, loading and unloading it. While he was flaunting his newly acquired expertise, the gun went off.
The rest of the story was told to me by Carol.
She had just fed the baby and was putting her in her crib. She said, suddenly she felt all this “debris” flying around all over the place. She looked down and half of her babys’ head was missing. She said she remembered screaming and Pete came into the room, grabbed a blanket and wrapped it around her little head.
Pieces of her babys’ skull and tissue were all over Carols’ face and the walls. Carol said “why do I remember that? Why do I remember that the walls were covered with blood?”
The bullet had gone all the way through a wall, bounced off the window sill and into the crib. It barely missed Carol.
They took the baby to the hospital but there was nothing they could do. We all went to the funeral and like before, Mary and Carmen were almost inconsolable. Carol never cried.
Just the two of us were talking after and she said “you know, I think I could deal with this if I hadn’t seen it but I don’t think I will ever get that image out of my head.”
Within months, Carol and Paul split up and were getting divorced. Paul stopped talking to his brother. I’m sure there were accusations of blame, whether spoken or not.
Carol moved in with her parents and never returned to work.
I don’t know if Pete was ever formally charged with anything or if it was considered just a tragic accident.
Before I found out, I had been called into the main office and asked the question “does your husband work for the newspaper?”
Now and then, when I’m mentally wallowing on the floor, I try to just stop and think. I try to be grateful that my children are still here.
I try to remember Carol, whose life at such a young and tender age…in a split second…was changed forever.