Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Saga of Baby Toby: The Conclusion

----->Click here to start at the beginning.

Start here today at Tales From the Womb.

6 Months Later

“Well, today’s the day they should get their subpoenas,” Tom said to me on the phone. “I can’t wait…those bastards, doing what they did to Toby.” I knew better than to say anything more to Tom, since I didn’t want to incense him in any way. We hadn’t agreed on the lawsuit. I felt it was a simple error and well, let’s just say, Tom didn’t. I just wanted it to be over. My life hadn’t been the same since Toby arrived and Tom and I did nothing but fight since his birth. I was sure it wasn’t good for Toby and it certainly hadn’t been good for me. We had just celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary last week, but somehow, things just weren’t the same. Tom and I talked some more and suddenly, the doorbell rang. I told Tom I had to go. “Tom, you have a good trip now, O.K.” “And a safe flight home.” I always worried about Tom and his business trips. I was always relieved when he walked through that door; and maybe even more now, after I had quit my job to stay at home with Toby. It just gave me more time to worry.

I opened the door and it was Brent. “Hi!” “How’s Toby’s beautiful mother today?” he said. “I am just fine.” Brent was cute like that, always looking out for me, especially when Tom was gone. I think Tom put him up to it really, but it didn’t matter, since he was always welcome. “I was just wondering if you might be up to some lunch?” “Well, Toby’s sleeping, I am not sure it’s a good idea.” “Come on.” “I’m really hungry and I thought you might want to share some dessert with me,” he said with a huge grin. Brent and I always shared dessert when we went out since Tom and Brent’s wife didn’t really care for them. “I guess I could use a break today,” I said. With that, my voice cracked just a bit and Brent picked up on it. He wanted to know what was wrong. I didn’t want to say anything. He knew that Tom and I had it rough these last few months and he felt a little guilty since he was caught in the middle. It was nothing he did actually, but rather, just the fact that I wanted to use a different doctor. Brent understood; it was Tom who wasn’t so keen on the idea.

I finished getting Toby ready and we got in the car. “So, are you going to tell Dr. Brent what is wrong today?” “Us doctors are pretty good listeners you know,” he said with a smile. “Well, I really shouldn’t. It’s just that today’s the day the doctors will get the subpoenas, or so we think.” “I don’t know why we had to sue…it was a mistake…and they were sorry…and Toby’s doing o.k.” With that, I began to cry. Brent put his arm around me to console me. Toby was quiet which was unusual for him lately. He had been so irritable lately that nothing seems to quiet him down. Maybe it was the car ride or maybe, it was the fact that no one was arguing, as Tom and I did frequently now.

“I think it’s time you knew the whole story,” he said. “Story?” “What story?” I said. “About Tom,” he said. I looked up and was very surprised. After all, there wasn’t anything I didn’t know about Tom. We had a long courtship and he was my soul mate. “I am going to tell you this story and I need you to never repeat it to Tom. If he knew I told you, I think he’d kill me,” he said. “O.K.” I said. “Let’s hear it.” I cringed as I said it, not knowing what to expect. I didn’t have a great feeling about this.

“As you know, Tom and I go all the way back to the first grade, that’s when we met. What you don’t know, is that Tom had an identical twin. His twin brother meant everything to him. Tom’s brother was severely disabled at birth, due to oxygen deprivation, and had cerebral palsy due to a physician error. Tom, on the other hand, was the picture of health; good looking, athletic, etc. His brother, who looked exactly like him, would spend his life in a wheelchair. While Tom could run and play sports, his brother could do nothing but lie down all the time. He couldn’t speak, he couldn’t stand, he couldn’t do much of anything. His father, not wanting any part of this, put him in an institution and never told Tom about his twin.”

“When we were in the first grade, Tom got a call at school and his parents came to pick him up. They had to go to the hospital to make arrangements for his twin brother. He had died of aspiration pneumonia. It was the first time that Tom learned that he had a brother. When they got home, he asked his father about his brother and why he never told him. His father said that they were poor and they couldn’t afford to take care of Tom and him too, especially with his disabilities. So they gave him up. Tom was shocked. He asked to see some pictures of his brother and his parents showed him “one”. It was the only one he had, the one that they took at birth. Tom never forgot about his brother and would ask his father questions about his brother, but his father refused to talk about it. Tom was very angry and never understood how his father could do this to his brother.”

“When Tom was in high school, he did some research and found the institution where he brother was raised. He went back and talked to them. One of the people that cared for his brother was still there. She remembered his brother and told Tom all of the stories about him. He asked for pictures and she showed him pictures of his twin brother. As his twin, he looked just like Tom, except that he was much thinner, in a wheelchair and had a buzz cut for a hair cut. He asked her lots of questions and learned that his brother was never able to walk, couldn’t talk and could never stand. Tom was terribly upset and shaken by this and never could forgive his father for giving him up. He also never forgot about it. He went home and asked his mother about his brother one day and why they didn’t sue the hospital for the error. She explained that they were very poor and at that time, couldn’t afford an attorney. Tom never forgave him for that. It was then that Tom really focused at school. He was determined to never be poor again, since he paid a high price for his father being poor. That’s why Tom never misses a sales quota. He never wanted to be in a position like that.”

“Now then, when you delivered Toby, Tom wanted to be there, but his flight was cancelled. He paged me and I assured him that things were going to be o.k. When he found out there were some problems with Toby, he was determined to get to the bottom of it. After the doctors told you two what happened, Tom went ballistic. It brought back all of those memories, of his twin brother, of his father, of the care taker and those pictures of his brother in a wheelchair, the brother he never knew.”

I was so involved in listening to Brent’s story, that I hadn’t paid attention to where we were. Here we were, smack dab, in the middle of a cemetery. “I think it’s time you see this,” he said. We walked over to the tombstone and there was his brother’s name, “Toby A. Riddleton.” I looked at the tombstone and then looked at Brent and I started to cry. Suddenly, it all made sense.


wolfbaby said...

how very sad... beatifully written. Ya'll did an amazing job.

Shawnee said...

What a fantastic story. Well written! You two should publish this as a short story.

Sarabeth said...

I'm so glad that Ex Utero didn't share the story with me while ya'll were writing it. What a shocker!

I want more. I want to know what happens with the lawsuit. I want to know how Toby is doing later.

Oh, bravo, Dream Mom. Bravo

Awesome Mom said...

A lovely story! I had me wanting to read more after each installment. You guys make a great writing team! Great job!

abby said...

This was an amazing story from start to finish, but the ending was really, really surprising. I also want to know what happens to Toby later on. Might you and Ex Utero consider a sequel?

Cathy said...

I agree with SaraBeth..BRAVO!

Anonymous said...

Very good! I enjoyed reading this. Thank you!

Chris and Vic said...

I have some questions:

How/why did the focus shift from Toby to Tom? You developed, especially with your O'Henry ending, a great deal of sympathy for Tom.

There is a cultural attitude about litigation---that it will make up for insult in the case of a medical mistake---that you have reinforced with your story. At least that is my interpretation--that litigiousness is okay and rightful. Did you intend that? Are you trying to "illustrate" that societal attitude with your story?
You certainly weren't trying to correct or counter that attitude . . .

Is the "strong mom" a stereotype that you were trying to avoid? You say so little about the mom---she does not seem to have much of a voice, even to the end . . . I would wish that you would have filled out her character more than you did. You turned her into an understanding and long-suffering person at the end. I take it this was your intention . . .

Realistically, can the lawsuit go forward if Toby has no identifiable issues/disabilities? You say he is an irritable child--is he still on seizure meds? Is he in EI? Does his hand work? Is he getting therapy?

Just wondering . . .
Chris and Vic

Anonymous said...

I'm just guessing here, but I bet that the focus shifted to the husband because Toby is doing fine.

Chris and Vic--I think you should write your own story. Sounds like you could also write an interesting one.

Dream Mom, I would challenge you to write a pretend journal (or blog) of Toby's progress from the time he left the hospital until his six month mark. That way if you and Ex Utero do publish this in a longer form, the reader will get more of the Mom's feelings about Toby, why the pair fight, and why she stays with a man who is so controlling.

kate said...

Wow, awesome story!

Cathy said...

Nicely done!

Dianne said...

I loved this story, both your side and ex-utero's. But, unlike, apparently, most readers, I can't find it in me to be sympathetic to Tom. You've made him too much of a bully for me to have any sympathy even knowing the background trauma.

I can't believe that a man who was even vaguely interested in his son's birth would go out of town when his wife was two weeks past due. It seems like he was hoping that he'd miss the trauma--leaving his wife to face it alone, of course. Then there's the whole bit about her being afraid of his anger and "wanting to be on his side". Did you mean to imply that he was an abuser? It certainly sounds like he is one. And it seems that Tom is too focused on his personal trauma and his history to even care about baby Toby. For example, there's no hint in the story that Tom ever took care of Toby.

And if I'm being overly critical of a fictional character's behavior, it's your and ex-utero's fault for making the characters so real and alive. If you hadn't been such good writers I'd never have gotten so interested in the characters.

Anonymous said...

This is a classic story of a woman being emotionally abused and the coping mechanisms involved.

Everyone has sorrow, pain and secrets. I hope that sooner rather than later the mother realizes that there is no excuse for how Tom treats her.


buddhistmama said...

This was a wonderful story. I think the ending was very moving and surprising as well. Yeah, I've always liked O'Henry although sometimes it all ties up rather tooo neatly in the end.

This definitely has short story appeal, I think a few more of these could be bound and published. But I'd like a bit more on the characters as well, the mother could be fleshed out a bit more, as could the deteriorating relationship with Tom.

Those of us who have had kids in teh NICU, for long or short periods, know how stressful it is on the relationship. Nice to read about how a fictive couple handle that stress, because the preemie memoirs too often focus on the preemie (as they should) rather than the parents.

Ami said...

I agree with anonymous just before me. The 'soulmate' stuff that the mom emphasizes over and over again does not convince me. If she had been confused at Tom's suddenly changed behavior, I might believe it. But Tom not telling her this story does not ring true for a marriage between two people who love each other without bounds and are committed for life. He would tell it to her probably from the beginning, at least when he insisted on the name Toby, so she could understand his reactions more and help him deal with the memories as they experience things which open them up anew.

In a lot of ways, that would have been a more interesting story, and you could still have gotten a lawsuit out of it, and the doctors hating Tom. But then it wouldn't seem nearly as much like the abusive relationship we saw. It could have given us perhaps a better picture about how lawsuits cannot heal the past.

I suspect that the mom here will end up taking care of Toby alone, whether she leaves him or not.

All that said, it was well written and interesting. If you do polish it up for publication, I hope you consider making Tom's big past not a surprise ending, but a source of tension througout the piece.

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