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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

Bodark Creek - 35. Chapter 35

Just before his twenty-eighth birthday, Albie got married. It was a surprise to everyone, though Dock said, “Why? A man should be married.” The problem was that none of us really thought of Albie as a man.

Maybe we were being foolish. He was a good-looking man, almost handsome. His blonde hair had turned darker as he’d grown up, but when he was around sixteen, he suddenly started getting taller and almost reached Neal’s height. That wasn’t as big as six-foot-three Del, but it never hurt Neal any. And Albie was always active, riding his bike all over town because Dock and Rosalind still didn’t have a car.

“How can they not have a car after all these years?” Dougie would ask.

“It’s not for the money,” Sonny answered. “I’ve offered them any number of my old cars, any number of times.”

“Maybe they don’t want an old car,” Dougie said. “Or maybe they don’t want to pay the insurance,” he added, laughing.

Sonny and Dougie always joked about Dock’s being cheap, and sometimes even Walter joined in. I was never sure how I felt. I knew that Rosalind worked very hard at the mill, but she would have worked just as hard if Dock had a job. And I had to admit that he certainly knew how to make a dollar go far. He taught that to Albie, too, and I never saw the boy spend a nickel on candy or cigarettes when it could be put to better use.

“He’s not stupid,” I told Martin, about Albie.

“No, he’s not,” Martin admitted. “You just never know when he’s really with you.”

The few times Albie came out to the farm, to work while he was growing up, he couldn’t keep up with either Del or Neal. But not a lot of the boys could. And you couldn’t leave Albie alone for more than ten minutes, or he’d lose interest and wander off.

Wandering was pretty much what Dock and Albie did on Albie’s days off. Almost any time they were free, you’d see the two of them walking around town. They never really had a destination. Once a week, they’d get their hair cut. A couple of days, they’d be out buying groceries, because Dock pretty well ran the house for Rosalind. Every so often, they’d go to a movie.

“What were you two doing under the railroad bridge?” Sonny would ask on a Sunday.

“Poking around,” Dock would say.

“Looking for names,” Albie would explain further. He talked well enough, though a bit slowly, but not any slower than a lot of other men. “Sometimes the men who built the bridges wrote their names in the concrete,” he’d go on. “We were just looking to see.”

Albie could also beat almost anyone at cribbage, and he and Dock would play for hours every night. That didn’t end when Albie got married. Lyn just moved right in with him. She was only twenty, and Rosalind said it was like finally having a daughter.

“Of course, I’m at work most of the time, but so is she. Though when we get home, Dock always has something ready for supper. Then he and Albie play cards, and Lynnie and I talk.”

And Lyn could talk. She came from a quiet family with only two children, and she was the second child. So our Sunday gatherings were a complete surprise to her.

“You do this all the time?” she asked.

“Just about,” Sonny told her. “I can’t remember when we haven’t.”

“My family only gets together on Christmas and Easter,” she said. “And maybe for someone’s special birthday.”

“We just like seeing each other,” Dougie assured her. “We’ve always been close.”

And Lyn fit right in. Though there were fewer of us each week than anyone would have liked.

“They’re still moving away,” Dougie said. And his daughter Jessica and her husband were the latest ones to leave. Though Albie and Lyn were staying in town.

“They’re sweet,” I heard Valerie tell Neal once, and I often thought the same thing. For over two years, they lived like a couple of newlyweds with Rosalind and Dock. Still, no one was ready for them to have a baby.

“Damn,” was all Dock said when he heard. I was the first person Rosalind called. Again, I didn’t know how to feel. And that was Dock and Rosalind’s problem, too.

“If we just knew the baby would be all right,” my sister kept saying.

“There’s a pretty good chance it will be,” Dock insisted.

“But not a perfect one.”

“There never is.”

“But with other people, you never have to worry about this. You’re just happy for them.”

“Has Lyn been to the doctor?” I asked.

“Of course,” Rosalind said. “First thing. And he says everything’s fine. At least, from what he can tell.”

“And that’s the trouble,” Dock added. “He can’t tell. He’s just waiting to see like the rest of us.”

“What’s the worst thing that could happen?” I asked.

“We’ll end up raising the baby with them,” Rosalind said. “Albie and Lyn will live with us the rest of their lives.”

I thought that was going to happen anyway, so I didn’t see a difference. But I also didn’t tell her so.

“And I’ll make sure they don’t have another child,” Dock assured me. “I probably should have done that before, but I didn’t have the heart.”

I had to laugh. It wasn’t funny, but I just couldn’t imagine having the same conversation with Martin.

And all the time Lyn was carrying the baby, she was fine. She was a small girl, kind of thin, and carrying a baby certainly filled her out. She kept working, but that wasn’t out of the ordinary, and her job was a lot easier than mine. Lyn worked in a beauty parlor, and she liked fussing over all the women. So they were perfectly happy to be fussing over her. When she finally left, in her eighth month, she still went into the shop a few times a week.

“There’s not a lot to do at home,” she admitted. “When Albie’s gone, Dock mainly reads. And in the shop, I can always help out.”

The problems started when Lyn went into the hospital. Rosalind called me as soon as that happened, but only to say she was about to be a grandmother. “Of course, in some ways, the waiting’s only starting,” she added. “You remember how it was with Albie. Everything seemed fine for the longest time.”

I wasn’t sure that we were remembering the same way. As I recalled, old Mrs. Seiler had her doubts from the very beginning. But Rosalind and I weren’t looking for anything wrong then, and we were very young. And there were other things on our minds.

With Lyn, the first thing that happened was the baby didn’t seem really interested in being born. After twenty-four hours, Lyn was still in the hospital.

“Is she all right?” I asked Rosalind.

“According to the doctor. She’s having pains, but that’s about the only thing.”

“Are they giving her medicine?” I asked. I hoped so. I remembered when Del was born, and I was in labor for most of the night.

“I haven’t seen her,” Rosalind went on. “The most they’ll let us do is sit in the waiting room.”

“Is her family there?”

“Of course. We’re all sitting together. The nurses told us to go on home, saying nothing was going to happen. But one of them is Muriel Rettig’s daughter. You remember, the middle one? She understands why we’re staying.”

“I’m sure everything will be fine,” I told Rosalind, though I knew I shouldn’t be promising that. Then I called Pat, to ask if she’d heard anything from her friends at work. She hadn’t, so all we could do was wait.

On the second day, the doctor decided to take the baby. “It’s the best thing,” Rosalind said. “He said the baby could be injuring Lynnie’s health and its own,”

“What does that mean?” I asked. “Is the baby all right?”

“Well, the doctor said he can still hear a regular heartbeat. And he feels that’s encouraging. But that’s about all he can say.”

“And they don’t think they should just wait? Sometimes that fixes everything.”

Rosalind probably didn’t know what I was talking about. But I’d been watching animals being born for almost thirty years. And sometimes you just needed to stay out of it.

“We have to listen to the doctor,” Rosalind said. “And pray.”

We were all doing that already. But maybe we were looking at things the wrong side around, because Jesus had other ideas. By the time the baby was delivered, she was already stillborn. And then Lyn couldn’t stop bleeding.

“She doesn’t even know she’s lost the baby,” Rosalind told me. “She’s almost too weak to sleep. The doctor’s doing everything he can. The nurses, too. But nothing seems to matter.”

“How terrible,” I said, and I told Martin I was going to the hospital. He drove me there, and we waited with Rosalind and Dock. Albie was with Lyn’s mama and daddy and her brother. The brother was two years older than Lyn, and he and his wife already had a young son.

“There’s just never been anything like this in our family,” he kept saying, over and over. I’m sure he didn’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings. But you could see Dock taking it badly.

“He thinks he should have been more careful,” Rosalind confided. “He should have taught Albie more than he did.”

Again, I couldn’t help thinking about Martin and Del and Neal. The good thing about growing up on a farm was Martin never had to explain much.

When Lyn died, Albie pretty well all fell to pieces. It was sudden, from what little we knew. For hours, we’d be waiting, and the nurses kept saying, “She’s doing fine. She’s getting stronger. She’ll be all right.” Then the doctor came into the waiting room and took Albie into a side office. None of us were expecting anything. We were all pretty sad about losing the baby, but Lyn was young and no one thought anything bad could happen to her.

When the doctor came back, he went straight to Dock and Rosalind. “You need to take care of him,” he said. Then he went to Lyn’s mama and daddy.

In the office, Albie was just sitting in a chair, sobbing. His hands were covering his face, his face was down against his knees, and he couldn’t stop crying.

“This is all my fault,” he said. “I never should’ve gotten married. We never should’ve had a baby. I never should have wanted one. I love Lyn so much I wish I could just die instead of her.”

Dock held Albie, and Rosalind held Dock, and Martin and I just stood to the side. I knew it would be best if we left them alone. But I just couldn’t move.

The funeral was quiet. Lyn was buried with the baby in her arms, out in the cemetery near Mama and Daddy. She wasn’t exactly with them, because her family wanted her with them. But she was close enough by.

“I’ll have to be with her someday,” Albie told Dock at one point. “I hope that’s all right.”

“It’s fine,” Rosalind told him. “It’s just fine.”

2021 by Richard Eisbrouch
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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It is many years after this setting that there became an understanding of the Autism spectrum.  Albie certainly has those characteristics.  You have given him humanity in your depiction.  Well done!  Still loving this story!

Tony

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Yep, Albie would definitely have been on the Autism spectrum had it existed.  I'm not sure the word Autism had even been developed.  But he couldn't have gotten any more support then as the kids do now.  He simply had very understanding parents.

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