In October of that year, because I was 37 years old, I had an amniocentesis performed to see if the baby was developing correctly. The “amnio” revealed a perfectly healthy baby boy. While I was undergoing the “amnio,” my father-in-law was undergoing operations and treatments for his pancreatic cancer. In the beginning, I hoped he would be cured. I hoped that he wouldn’t be taken away from my daughter who loved him so very much. I hoped that he would be there to take his grandson to a baseball game someday. But that Christmas, among all the multitude of presents that were there for my daughter, there was one for my unborn son. My father-in-law handed me this gift, wrapped in brightly colored Christmas wrapping paper and said, “This is for the baby. I bought it, myself.” He was very proud of this fact.
When I took off the wrapping paper, I saw that it was the “1995 Hess Truck.” I had bought many Hess Trucks for my nephews in the past and I was very excited to receive this first one for my own son. But as I looked into my father-in-law’s eyes . . . I knew. I knew he didn’t think he would be here to give one to my son next year. I knew that he knew that the cancer was spreading, that it had not been cured as we were all hoping. In that room full of toys and presents, Christmas lights and family, I knew this was his last Christmas. I kissed him on the cheek and thanked him.
Over the final weeks, my daughter kept asking me when this baby was going to be born. I told her that he was going to be her birthday present, since I was scheduled to have a c-section ten days after her fifth birthday. She was a little disappointed with this news, since if it was indeed her birthday present, she would have preferred a sister. The day of the c-section finally arrived and although we got to the hospital early, later that day a terrible snowstorm blew in. Our son was born in late morning. As he was being born I could tell that the doctor was worried. He was working fast at something. When all was okay and he handed the baby to the nurse he said to me, “It’s a good thing you chose the c-section. He was breech and the cord was wrapped around his neck.”
My father-in-law wasn’t feeling strong enough to come to the hospital. I remember at some point during the next few days, my mother-in-law saying that he was at home watching our daughter. I wasn’t very comfortable about that idea. During the previous months, when I had left my daughter with him, I would often come home to find him asleep and my daughter watching him. Somehow, my mother-in-law didn’t know how sick her husband was.
I only have one picture of my father-in-law holding my son in his arms.
A few weeks after he was born, my father-in-law went into the hospital. The same hospital that my children had been born in. He never regained his strength. He passed away in early April, six weeks after my son’s birth.
The next Christmas there were plenty of gifts for my son, including the 1996 Hess Truck that my mother-in-law had bought him. But there was no gift that meant more to me than the 1995 Hess Truck that also sat beneath the Christmas tree.
That February, my daughter turned six and my son turned one. On my daughter’s birthday, she made a silent wish as she blew out her candles. When I put her to bed that night, I asked her what she had wished for. She said she had wished that grandpa could come back. I traced my child’s face with my fingertips and told her that her grandpa couldn’t come back. That he was in heaven watching over her. But that answer wasn’t enough for her to give up on her wish. There were many other birthday wishes and wishes made over blowing fuzzy dandelions into the wind, when her wish remained the same. But finally, one day, she said to me, “I’m not going to wish for grandpa to come back anymore. I know that he can’t.”
Years later, when my daughter was seventeen years old, she and I went to a benefit at the local volunteer fire house. A woman named, Josephine Ghiringhelli was going to be there to help people connect with their loved ones who had passed over. That night her grandpa came back to her and my daughter’s wish finally came true. (To be continued.)
http://www.theresadodaro.com Author of The Tin Box Trilogy