“This baby is blind.” In five minutes, my dad had discovered what caretakers had missed for the first five months of Tommy’s life.
As foster parents, my folks had cared for several babies, but never a blind one.
“We need to place a 5-month-old deaf baby.” The request had come as so many had in the past. Deaf, but no mention of blindness.
They were already caring for Eddie, a chubby, bubbly 3-month-old.
They rationalized that Eddie would be leaving soon to be reunited with his parents. And after all, how much more work could one more baby be? How could they refuse?
So Tommy came … alabaster skin, deep blue eyes and that black curly hair. I had never seen such a beautiful baby. But then my dad’s startling announcement. Deaf AND blind. As those first few days passed, it became evident that Tommy had many more handicaps, not the least of which were the “spasms.” This seemed to be a thinly veiled term for epilepsy.
Days turned to weeks, and while Tommy grew, he never developed the skills of a normal baby. He didn’t stand, or sit or even roll over. He was totally helpless. But so beautiful!
Every morning my mother bathed and dressed him, fed him and spooned the sweet red liquid into his mouth. I learned that this medicine would help to control the scary seizures.
Then she lovingly combed that mass of black hair into a curl all along the top of his head. She coated it with sugar water to make it stiff enough to stay. Curly hair! In our family, all three of us girls had poker-straight hair, so Tommy’s curl was a fascination to me.
Time passed, and Tommy had a birthday. But no babbling smiles, no little hands exploring the icing on the cake. Just a helpless little boy.
But then Tommy got sick — really sick. He went to the hospital and I didn’t understand what that meant. I kept asking when Tommy would come home, but the answer was never clear. Then one day my mom explained that Tommy wouldn’t be coming home. He had died.
I didn’t understand. I didn’t think babies died. There was to be a funeral, but I was too young to go. I didn’t know what that was, but I knew that Tommy would be there and I demanded to be taken along. They hesitantly agreed.
Tommy’s little body was dressed in a white suit and he was lying in a white box with white satin all around. When I saw him, I began to sob and could not be consoled.
They didn’t understand. It wasn’t the white box or the white suit or the white satin. No, it was his hair. The undertaker had parted it on the side and combed it as a little boy’s hair would be. But the black, sugar-coated curl was gone! This was not the Tommy I knew.
All these many years later I still have a vivid memory of that horrible day and the missing black curl.
The author lives in Willow Street.
If you know an interesting story, please write it in 600 words or less and send it to Mary Ellen Wright, LNP editorial department, P.O. Box 1328, Lancaster, PA 17608-1328, or email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your phone number and the name of the town you live in.