Dear Martin: From the beginning

Dear Martin,

Sometime in October, 1969, I thought I’d developed a nagging stomach virus. For several days, I’d been nauseous throughout my days at work and into the evening. I never vomited, but just felt sick all the time. And boy, was I tired! I craved naps and usually took one as soon as I got home. After about a week of this, I made an appointment with my doctor.

Dr. Bruce Julien had been my gynecologist for about a year. His offices were on Miami Beach, which made him easily accessible from my job at Jordan Marsh, which was then located across the street from Trinity Cathedral – just a quick drive across Biscayne Bay. Before examining me, he asked me a bunch of questions about my symptoms, then looked at me and said, “Could you be pregnant?”

I was stunned by the question, so stumbled for a bit before saying, “Well, yes, I suppose I could be. But I don’t think I am.” Your dad and I had been married for eight months by now, and I really wanted to get pregnant. My disappointment each month when my period started was immense. And, I had just had a period – although, as I told Dr. Julien, it was much shorter than usual. At this point, he directed me to get undressed, cover myself with a sheet, and he’d be right back. I did as I was told, and he soon returned with his nurse. As he examined me, poking and prodding, all I could think of was how embarrassing it is to be a woman. Within a few minutes, he looked up over my knees (vaginal exams put women in an awkward position), and said, “You are.” “I’m what?” I asked. “Pregnant,” he replied. “About eight weeks. Baby will be here sometime in late May.”

(Son, I know that if you were here, you’d be saying, “Oh, mom, I don’t need to hear all of this crap about periods and vaginas and stuff. Chill.” But it’s part of your story. Our story. And I’m telling it because I want you and the world to know how wanted you always were. Right from the start.)

After I got dressed, Dr. Julien gave me a due date – May 22, 1970 – a prescription for prenatal vitamins, and told me he’d see me in a month. Still unbelieving, I floated out to our ’69 VW, imagining how I’d tell your dad the exciting news, and how happy he’d be. I was ecstatic.

I quickly came down to earth as I encountered Miami’s rush hour traffic. I was suddenly paranoid and extremely protective of the miniscule life I carried inside me. Cars were following too closely and going too fast! I was terrified someone would crash into me or cause me to go over the side of the bridge. I was white-knuckling the steering wheel all the way home, imagining all kinds of things that could happen to cause harm to you, my baby.

Pregnant with Marty.

I finally arrived at our apartment, and hurried inside. Your dad had to work that night, and I had to wake him up, fix dinner, and then see him off to his work. But first…

I hurried up the stairs, into our apartment, and sat on the side of the bed. “Eddie,” I said, “it’s time to wake up for work.” He groaned and rolled over to look at me. “Did you see the doctor today?” “Yes,” I said. “What did he say?”

“We’re going to have a baby!”

Love,

Mom

Remembering

October 2, 2021

My dear son Martin,

Nine months ago today, you left this world and moved into another. I wish I could say that writing this on the nine-month anniversary of your death was something I had planned, but it isn’t; it was purely coincidental or serendipitous. I seldom mark the 2nd day of any month, usually realizing a day or two later that it has come and gone. But today was different. The realization of the date, and the significance of nine months came as I was preparing a cup of tea. The fact that this realization was also within 20 minutes of the time of your death also seems odd; perhaps it’s all more than a coincidence. I don’t know. And, really, it doesn’t matter.

What matters is this: For the past nine months I’ve been promising myself that i would write your story, but I’ve never known exactly how to start. I thought I might do it as a series of letters, and that might be the best, perhaps the only, way I can do it. It only matters that I do it. And maybe it only matters to me, but I have a strong determination that you be remembered. I will write your story, Martin. As l carried you in my body for nine months, as I have carried my grief for nine months, I will carry you to the world for as long as I live, and I will leave a legacy of words that tell of you – the real you, not a faultless, glorified version, but a real human being. Someone who loved and is loved, someone who could leave me exhausted and exasperated; but also someone who could make me laugh and who was never embarrassed to show love for me and for all of his family.

As I wrote that last sentence, I remembered this about you: When you and Jason were in high school, I drove you there each day. As the two of you got out of the car, you never failed to give me a kiss and say, “I love you.” At a time of life when most kids are embarrassed to even admit they have parents, you didn’t care who saw you kiss your mom as you began your day. I’ve always treasured that long-ago memory.

I will close this, my first letter to you in many years, with that precious memory. I love you, son, and I hold you in my heart.

Mom