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Dad has just asked Mom about the latest doctor visit for nine-month old Krista.
NOT good news.
“The man was so negative about Krista’s prospects for a decent life, he actually talked about stuffing her into some institution! He told me to concentrate on the three children I had and to let the state care for the fourth one who will most certainly regress.”
“What’s regress?” I ask as I slip back into my chair. Sending Krista away would be horrible. Is “regress” something worse?
The grim expression on Daddy’s face doesn’t change as he explains. “It means to go backwards. So he’s saying Krista will only grow so much, then she will act more and more like a baby. She’ll never grow up.”
It takes me a moment to understand. Phil is quicker and spits out the response I’m still trying to put into words. “So because she may always stay a baby, we should put her in a place where no one loves her, and we forget she ever existed? That would be worse than when she was in the hospital! What kind of doctor is this?”
“Not one I’m impressed with.” Daddy’s eyes never leave Mom’s across the table. “What else did the man have to say?”
“He told us to expect epileptic seizures and diabetes along with the mental retardation.” Mom sets down her spoon. She hasn’t had a drop of soup anyway.
Heavy silence reigns over the table. Back in Syracuse, one of my mom’s friends was epileptic. It was scary to never know if she would pass out and drop to the floor or end up lying on the ground stiff as a board and moaning.
Would such a horrible thing happen to Krista? And if it did, was that a good enough reason to send her away forever to rot in some lonely gray room until she eventually shriveled up and died?
Mom strokes the top of Krista’s head. The baby, who’s been using one finger to shove drops of mashed potato into a variety of designs across the high chair tray, looks up and offers her a two-toothed smile of pure joy.
Mom answers my unspoken questions. “This little one isn’t going anywhere without the rest of us.”
The boys and I look Daddy’s way. His face has softened, and he wears a wistful smile. “Of course not. She goes where we go.”