was the day i was born. To Edith Mary and John Aimer, in the Regina General Hospital in Saskatchewan. It was operated at the time by the Grey Nuns. I arrived really early in the morning. I was born, snipped, shown to Mom, (i don’t know when i met Dad, but i’m sure it wasn’t right then, men were not allowed into those mysterious chambers, not even when women were breastfeeding–certainly not when they were birthing babies!), and whisked off to the nursery. Mom didn’t see me for three days.
She was frantic.
In August of 1961, Edith and John’s first born, John Scott, (who went by Scott), died in Regina General. He was 14 months old. My dad wrote a letter to … someone, I don’t know who, i found it when I was home for a visit about a year ago … He didn’t begin the letter with “Dear___” He just started, “Our little boy is gravely ill again.” He described the chronology, the pneumonia, the hospital, the infection, the name of the bug he had, what the doctors tried to do, how cheerful and brave Scott was, how much the nurses loved him, and how Edith wasn’t sleeping or eating very much. He said the chaplain had been by to visit, he told the anonymous reader (me, in that moment, 48 years after the letter was penned) that he had a breakdown, but he felt much better after the chaplain talked to them a while.
My dad died in 2005, and we buried his ashes in the same plot as his first born. Out there at the edge of Regina, near a shade tree, I think. Mom and I went to see their graves in the summer of 2008. We had trouble finding them. That’s the thing about settlers–we don’t, really. Our people moved, from the windy isles of Scotland, Ireland, Wales–all across the Atlantic, all the way to the wide Prairie, and some of us further west, too. We bury our loved ones in the land that is not ours, and upon which we cannot rest. I don’t know when i will ever go see my Dad’s grave again. I guess when we bury Mom there. Then the only place I will see them, either of them, will be photographs and in the mirror.
Mom did not want to have any more children after that, sure she was of passing on the illnesses that afflicted Scott. They were about to adopt, to begin the process of finding a child to raise, but then they learned Edith was pregnant. So.
While i was gestating, my Great-Grandmother died. Mom loved her Grandma Craigen, and I love her too, though i never met her. I asked Mom once, I said, “Did she know you were expecting me?” and Mom looked at me, and said, “Well, she knew we were expecting a baby.” and then she laughed and laughed.
In the midst of deep grief, I was conceived. Love and sorrow and hope and fear mingled during a spring night in Saskatchewan with the tenderness of the lovers who were to become my parents. They had been parents, and then they weren’t and there was a hole there now. The trees were barely budding, the green of the leaves barely a hint above their heads.
The nuns swept me off, after Mom had seen me once, and wouldn’t let her see me for three days. “What’s wrong with her? Why are you keeping her from me?” She didn’t believe them when they told her I was fine, “She just has a lot of mucous, we have to watch her,” they told her. I’m still pretty snotty, to be truthful. If they’d waited until all the mucous had cleared, I’d still be there. Although, the nuns are not…
Finally Mom made such a fuss that the nurse brought me in to her. She gently unwrapped the swaddling from me and gazed through her tears at her daughter. “Don’t tell them I brought her, I’ll get in trouble,” and of course Mom kept the secret. those were three long days for my mama.
She is loyal to the nuns, though. “They sure gave good care in there,” she said, “Better than you get just about anywhere now.”
It’s been 48 years now, and my Mom loves me with the same ferocious tenderness as the day I was born.
Lucky Woman, me.