The first Monday after the holidays was so cold and snowy –even for January. I thought they may have to stop the public transportation, but they didn’t. They were just very, very slow. Ever since that mass, I stayed quiet around Sylvia. I don’t think she really noticed, but I didn’t want to give her any more stories to spread around then she already had or was willing to make up. Mostly, I just hummed to myself to keep from even hearing her. There was a new night guard to let us in that night. “Jimmy’s wife is having a baby. Can you believe it? In this weather?” He told us as he unlocked the door. I must have looked at him like he was crazy., because he became serious again.
After work, when we got off of the bus, I saw the police cars in front of my house. Oh, no, what did he do know? If he gets arrested and thrown into jail, that’s one thing, but to make such a spectacle in front of the neighbors?
“Mama, mama!” Little Annie came running to me. Marjorie wasn’t far behind.
“Where’s Rudy?” I asked immediately. They knew that no matter what, they should always be together.
“We were playing mass, “ Annie started, but I wasn’t looking at her, my eyes were darting all around looking for my own answers.
“And the candle made a fire,” Marjorie added.
“On Rudy’s clothes!” Annie cried. She could barely hold herself up.
“What? Where’s your father? Where’s Rudy?” I asked again. Where’s my little boy? Oh my God, my little boy!
The girls were crying. They didn’t know or they would have told me right away. I went up to one of the officers. I was usually a bit shy about speaking English in front of strangers, but I had to know where my boy was. I had to know what happened.
“Ma’am,” the officer started. “Your son is at
I understood “
“Sir,” I asked, making my words deliberate. “Can you take me there?”
“Yes, yes, of course.” He said. I took the girls hands and we got into the back of the police car. I had never been in an automobile before, but I wished it were different circumstances. Where was John? And why wasn’t he there?
Poor Little Rudy looked worse than I expected. His skin was black like burnt chicken. I was afraid to touch him, but I wanted to cradle him so desperately in my arms. To comfort him, because I could feel his very pain. Oh, God, please take his pain away. Please help him to recover. I will be the most devote Catholic, just save my boy.
“Mama,” Marjorie whispered. “The nurses here, well, they say he’s going to die.” She started to cry.
“Shhh dear. Don’t talk like that. Rudy needs our strength and our smiles.” I said to her.
Then I leaned over close to Rudy’s face. I wanted to put my cheek next to his, but it would only hurt him. “Rudy? Do you remember how on Christmas you got all of that candy and toys? It was grand, wasn’t it? And you wanted to make a snowman, but there wasn’t enough snow. There is a lot of snow now, though, and if you get better, and open your eyes, we can go outside and build a snow man,”
But he didn’t get better or open his eyes. The nurses were right. He died that Thursday morning.
The girls were at Stephan and Mary’s house. It was just John and me in the deafening silence. I wanted to hit him, throw things at him, yell, but I was drained. I hated him at that moment more than I hated the Hungarians for burning down our village.
“You are going to get a coffin for our little boy and some decent clothes for him to be buried in. You will find black dresses for the girls, because I will NOT be dying their Christmas dresses for their poor brother’s funeral. You will buy ham and bread and other things for people to eat when they come here after the burial, and I will be sitting here crying and praying for our son. And know this, his death was your fault and I will never forgive you for leaving them alone.”
I wanted him to hit me, kill me, anything to deaden the pain, but he walked out of the door humbled and did as I told him. How I wished I could find comfort in a bottle the way he did. Comfort in anything really. All I had were my children, and now my little boy was gone.
The funeral was somber and cold. There is story-sharing when a child dies. No laughs about the silly times. It’s just sad. Sad and unfair. Why was I being punished like this? My mother came up to me and said, “I know you feel sad dear, but at least you have another little one growing in your belly.” It was all I could do to keep from punching her. And that is when the bleeding started. My mother saw it on the floor first.
“Hurry, John!” She said. “Get her up to bed! Stephan! Run over to Mary Gharni’s house over on E. 93rd. She is the closest midwife and she should be home.”
I did not want to be the focus of this moment. I did not want everyone to see me like this. This was about little Rudy. Maybe if I lie down for a moment, this will stop, I’m sure it’s nothing.
I lost two babies that week. Both were boys.