Karen met and held Zachary right after he was born at six o’clock p.m. I have often wondered if that is why he and Karen have such a strong bond. After the recovery room, I was moved into a new room on the maternity ward, and slept until eleven o’clock p.m. When the nurses saw that I was awake, they brought Zachary in to meet his mother. I didn’t see my son until he was five hours old. Finally I did meet him.
I had calculated the conception date to the first night with Rob, and had told the doctor that the baby was due in the beginning of April. When that date came and went, I told the doctor that the baby was late, but he told me that everything was proceeding normally. As I held this child, I was a little shocked by how wrinkly and scabby his tiny body was, and then I knew my calculations had been correct, which the doctor concurred with the next day. I examined every inch of Zach’s tiny little body as I lay there, amazed by this little life that had now joined mine. I couldn’t get over the remarkable resemblance to Rob, even as a five-hour old. His hands and feet looked like tiny replicas of Rob’s. It was almost eerie.
I called Rob’s friend from the hospital, but he said he didn’t know where Rob was. “Please tell him he has another son”, I said, and gave him the telephone number to my room. Of course, he would tell Rob, “congratulations”, said he. I still believed Rob and Zach and I were a family; that we would both straighten up, and raise our child in a wonderful atmosphere, and everything would be fantastic.
We stayed in the hospital for five days. It wasn’t Zach’s progression, but mine that kept us there. We were there for Easter, and the nurses brought the baby in with little paper bunny ears attached to his head. It was a cruel thing for the nurses to do to me; I had metal staples in my stomach from the C-Section, and the pain from laughing hysterically was excruciating. I grew to love my baby so much in there, but I worried because deep in my psyche, I think I already knew that Rob was not looking forward to a new baby and family life. That didn’t stop me though. I continued to blindly believe that I would find him; he would see Zach and fall in love, all would be resolved, and we would have the happy family life that I fantasized about.
After five days, I was better and allowed to go home. Karen came and picked us up, and took us back to my father’s house. Now, our family consisted of Karen, her boyfriend, my brother Kevin, Zachary and I, and my father. I was nervous to enter Daddy’s house with my new son. My father was very old-fashioned, and even though he had welcomed me back and treated me well as an unwed pregnant daughter, I was not too sure how he would react to his bastard grandson. I walked in, and saw Daddy sitting where he always was; in the living room to the right of the hallway, sitting on ‘his’ couch, holding a mystery novel. He looked up and smiled at me. He asked me to bring the baby over.
Daddy had not been able to come to the hospital to see his new grandson, due to age and infirmity (he was a slow-moving dude) and I suppose subconsciously I took that as a sign he that he disapproved. Maybe he did disapprove of Zach’s conception, but my father did not disapprove of Zach. He reached for Zachary, and carefully cradled him. My father was smiling, so proud of this new Grandson. He fell instantly in love with my child. They had a love I never knew, never having had grandparents. It was beautiful to see how much they loved each other.
Daddy handed me the baby, and turned back to his book. I took Zach into the kitchen, and put him on the table in his carrier, and just stood there, staring at him. He was five-days old, and I still could not believe that he really existed. He was real, he was my son, in my father’s kitchen, and he was the most beautiful and scariest thing I had ever seen. I was scared because I was not sure where his father was. Did Rob still want this baby? Did he still want me? Why didn’t he call?
I spent the next six weeks taking care of the baby, trying to get in touch with Rob, and feeling uncertain about the future. The baby never wanted to sleep at night, and when he would wake up crying, I just could not get him to back to sleep. I would carry him all over the house, singing quietly and whispering ‘hush’, but he never would hush. He would just wail, and then I would begin to cry, too. I would reach a point where I would knock on Karen’s door and wake her up and ask her to take the baby so I could get at least a few hours sleep. She had to work in the morning, but she always took Zachary, and usually she could get him to sleep eventually.
I wanted to return to Reno and look for Rob. Zachary’s doctor gave the okay to travel when he was six-weeks old. Once again, my father gave me the money for the airplane ticket. I called an old co-worker from the casino to pick me up at the Reno airport, and she said I could stay at her home. That was a desperate move on my part, because when I moved out of the trailer in Sunnyvale, I had asked her to keep my cats for two weeks while Rob and I looked for a place to live, and within a few days her husband had driven them to the country and dropped them off, without asking me or informing me. By the time I found out, my cats were long gone and I was heartbroken. I was pretty sure they couldn’t survive, as Kevin and I had spoiled them from the time they were tiny kittens. It was traumatic for me.
Now I called her, and didn’t mention the cats. I just asked if I could stay with her. She came to the Reno Airport to get me, the baby and our luggage, and back to her house we went. She gave us the guest room, and borrowed a playpen from one of her friends. That only lasted for two days, and then she kicked me out. It turned out her husband didn’t want anything or anyone taking her attention away from him. If he could have driven us to the country and dumped us, he probably would have. So, I found a cheap motel, and moved in. I was determined to make things work in Reno, and I had to find Rob, for Zach’s sake, and for mine. I felt that once I found him, he would see his son and fall in love, and we would be the family I had planned.
I had nowhere for the baby to sleep now. I found Kevin through an old number for his mother, and he came to the motel, and met my son. It was an awkward moment, but Kevin handled it all really well. He offered to take me to buy a playpen for Zach to sleep in, and even paid for it. Then we went back to his house and hung out for a while. Nothing romantic happened between us, and I didn’t think that Kevin could solve everything by coming back into my life. It would have been an answer, but I was in love with Rob, and besides, Kevin didn’t really like children, and certainly didn’t like commitment. I did forgive Kevin completely for abandoning me; after all, we loved each other, but we were never ‘in love’. It was easy to forgive him now, too, because that was past drama. I had a whole new set of crises on my hands.
Kevin and I were now in a completely platonic relationship, and I was thankful he was there. There was some relief in having a known entity in my life. I was living in the motel, and everyone around me was a stranger. I still had not found Rob. I didn’t know where to look. I went to the motel rooms where his friends had stayed, but they had all moved on in the months that I was in New Jersey. I finally put the baby in his stroller, and we went for a walk. We walked a mile to downtown, then past the casinos and another half mile. We finally came to the house that Rob and I had stayed in with his friends; the one he was living in when I met him, and I broke into the window and declared that I lived there.
The house was nicknamed “The Cat House” because it was an old, rundown shack with constantly open doors through which the many strays of the neighborhood ran. There was a big cat that lived there named Snowball or Furball or Someball, and for some reason the house cat and the strays just stayed out of each other’s way. They never fought. No cats ever fought in The Cat House.
I knocked on The Cat House’s front door, which was silly since it was always open, and yelled, “Hello!” then proceeded to walk right into the living room. It was just that kind of place. They were the most trusting drunk drug addicts in the world. A cop could walk in and it wouldn’t faze them, they were so laid back. The roommates who still lived in the house were Doc and Mark, and Mark’s best friend Jeff. Jeff didn’t actually live there, but he spent almost every waking moment there, so he might as well have.
Jeff came from the kitchen to the living to greet me. He and I talked about Rob, and he knew where he was; in a rooming house halfway between The Cat House and my motel. I thanked him and left, but I didn’t go straight to the rooming house. I was scared to go by myself, to find out what Rob would think of his little son, and what he would think of me. I was terrified that I would find out what I suspected was true: that he didn’t want either of us.
I went back to the motel, and knocked on the door of a woman whom I had met a few nights before. She was a Debbie too, just like my foster-sister. Debbie was a pretty but worn mid-forties woman who lived on her own, but had an abusive boyfriend who liked to visit and dominate her. She was nice to talk to when she was on her own though, and I really needed a friend. I also needed an ally to accompany me to Rob’s rooming house. Zach and I had already done our share of walking for the day, so Debbie and I made plans to go out the next day.
We reached the beginning of Rob’s block about three o’clock the next afternoon. I was shaking and my heart was pounding, but Debbie said, “I’m here” and that really did help, so I kept pushing the stroller towards the rooming house. Rob was standing on the porch. It was almost as if he was expecting us, except that he was standing with a woman with whom you could just tell he was intimate, even though they weren’t touching. My pounding heart came to a dead stop, and I thought if it weren’t for Zach, I would just die right there. I did have Zach though, and I owed it to him to try to get his father to understand that he had a son that needed him.
The woman saw us, turned and disappeared inside. She must have known who I was, who Zach was. Maybe Rob had seen us walking up the block. Rob came off of the porch and said how good it was to see me. He had grown a full beard, and gained a lot of weight, but he was still amazingly handsome. I took the baby out of the stroller and handed him to Rob, who held him up to the sky, then cradled him to his chest. I pointed out how much the baby looked like him, and how well he ate, and Rob said he was one of the clan. We walked down the street together, with Rob holding the baby.
Rob said that he was shooting heroin now, and the woman whom I had seen was his ‘heroin buddy’ and they lived together. He said he just couldn’t write that to me, but he wanted me to know that he loved his son, he was part of the clan, and he would do what he could to help me support him, “buy him diapers and such” and he wanted to spend as much time with Zach as possible. Then we turned around and walked back to the rooming house, where Rob said good-bye and walked inside.
I left that day with such high hopes for our future. I was devastated that Rob was using heroin again. He had told me he used it in the past, but he didn’t use it when were together. I imagined he must have started shooting up because he was so sad when I left. I was convinced he needed me, and that it would just take time, but we would have our family as I had envisioned. In the meantime I was content to know that we would be spending time together with our child.
NEXT WEEK: The Dream Dissipates