Death on a Cold November Night

In November of 1962, my mother’s pregnancy miscarried. She hemorrhaged and soaked the front seat of the car in blood as my father raced through the streets to the hospital. She passed out and he assumed she was dead but there was nothing else to do except keep driving.

It was dark and cold out. The hospital was five miles away, but it seemed much farther as he could only see what was revealed by the street lights, the rest of the city shrouded in darkness.

There were two of us left behind at the house, watched by a neighbor, and he didn’t want to think about raising boys alone.

They had wanted a third child and then that was going to be it for kids because they were 34 at that point. The smell of blood mixed with earth filled his nostrils as he pulled up to the hospital. Obviously, they should have stopped at two.

He got out of the car and yelled for help. As he struggled to lift her lifeless body from the car, orderlies came to his assistance. They situated her on a gurney and rolled her inside.

Back then, hospitals were more like prisons with strict hours and clearly defined boundaries. But you could smoke in the waiting room and that’s all my father had to console himself as he waited.

The doctor joined him in a cigarette as he explained the situation. The baby, a girl, had been lost. But my mother would survive. The bleeding had stopped and they were giving her more blood and then there would be other procedures but she seemed stable. The danger, as doctors are wont to say, had passed.

When my father saw her, there was no talk of how close she’d come to her death. My mother grieved the loss of her baby girl, but they didn't wonder about why this had happened.

Released from the hospital, she resumed her role around the house, and my father resumed his. They still had two boys, and they kept my mother company during the day when my father returned to work.

Duty gave way to routine, which gave way to comfort. There were the holidays, then the seasons. The cycles of life.

A year later, they tried again. Nine months after that, I was born.

I was inspired to write that because I found a notebook in my mother's things. She's been gone for nine years but I still have boxes of her things stored in various nooks of my house.

In the notebook, she lists various transactions for their housekeeping ("Kitchen table, $79"). She also lists the specifics of our births, such as date, time, length and weight. She also made an entry for the miscarriage.

I had heard a few things about that miscarriage from my father in two rare instances when my mother seemed sad. I was too young to really understand it, but the few things he mentioned stuck with me.

I keep notebooks myself. Some are diaries from my childhood. (In one, I mention the premiere of a television show called "Dallas.") I have snippets of situations, people, or conversations I encountered over the years.

None of that stuff is interesting in itself. I always intended to do something more with those little tidbits later on.

And that's what I did with my mother's entry made, probably, 56 years ago.