All I could hear was a baby crying; I just wanted it to stop so I could think. Where was I? What was I
doing here? And why am I here? I looked at my surroundings, but couldn’t really make anything out.
Everything was sort of fuzzy, like I had a hazy substance on my eyes. I was hungry, I knew that. I
needed to eat something, but that didn’t matter any longer because I suddenly became sleepy and
When I woke, the eye mask had been removed and I could see. It looked like I was lying in a crib in a
brightly painted nursery. All I could really see was the ceiling. It was done in blue with these white, puffy
clouds. It was cute, I suppose. I’m very confused, though. This isn’t right, I remembered thinking. What
happened to my wife Flora? What about my son Brad and my daughter Jacqueline? Did I just dream I
had a family?
I remembered just a short time ago that I was in a hospital and some man in a white coat slapped me
and I started screaming. Nurses and doctors came in at all hours of the night, bringing me to my mom
and putting me in her arms. She made me drink some stuff from her breast. At least I wasn’t hungry
Again, I ask myself, what happened? Wasn’t I just lying in the bed as an old man? I can still see my son
and daughter standing huddled together in the corner talking. I heard what they said, even though they
didn’t realize it. Brad had been telling Jacqueline that he didn’t think I was going to make it and that they
should take me off of life support because I’ve already lived a full life.
What is going on? I know what I saw and heard. So, why am I now laying in a baby’s room? Then I
I was made a man of eighty-five years old named Ralph Follsberg. I can’t really say I was born, even
though I guess I was. At that age I was a pretty good looking fellow. My hair was all gray and I had many
wrinkles. But Flora said that I was sharp looking, particularly when I dressed in my turtle neck sweater
and a blazer with corduroy patches at the elbows. It was how I always dressed when I was in the
classroom teaching a bunch of ungrateful college students, who thought the word for good was ‘bad.’ I
guess I never got out of the habit when I retired.
By this time, Flora and I have been married for sixty-five years. To say the entire time was blissful would
be a lie. Just like any couple, we had our ups and downs. Mostly though, we were happy. She was a
beautiful woman who doted on me; why, I’m not sure. She would say what a great husband I was. I didn’
t see it and frankly, it embarrassed me whenever she said it. I was just doing what all husbands were
supposed to do, taking care of their families. I wasn’t ‘all that’ as my students would say.
When I reached the age of sixty my hair began to turn gray. I told Flora it was because of the students I
taught every day; they finally made me old. Well, not old really; more youthful because I was already old
in ways that my students and my own children could never understand.
Brad got married when he was thirty years old. He said he wanted to wait until he got established in life
before he had a family. I’m not sure his getting ‘established’ first did anything for him or his marriage.
They divorced within five years, but did have two beautiful children. So, here I am with two grandchildren,
who happen to be twin girls and a daughter who will never leave home, let alone get married. I don’t
know where the onset of twins came from; supposedly it didn’t run on his ex-wife’s side and certainly
neither Flora nor I have them on our side of the family.
Anyway, I wanted Jacqueline to get out and live her own life (or just get out), far away from mine and
Flora’s; but I don’t see it happening until I’m dead and buried.
Forty was a good age for me. They say the forties are prime time, so to speak. Flora and I took many
vacations together then; cruises, weekend get-aways, anything that would take us away from the rat
race of our so-called existence. Brad and Jacqueline were fifteen and twelve years old, respectively.
Sometimes we took them with us on our trips, other times we left them with Flora’s sister Mabel, who—
the kids always groaned about—made them eat all their vegetables, keep their elbows off the table and
kept them inside after dark. The three things we could never make them do.
It was fun for us as a couple. We bought a vacation home in California on the beach; we flew there every
chance we got. Living in New York was hard at times, especially during the winters; all the same, we
enjoyed life and each other.
Jacqueline was born when I was twenty-eight. She was a beautiful baby. She hardly any hair and the little
she did have was blonde like her mother’s. She was fat though; she weighed almost eleven pounds when
she was born. We were told it was just baby fat and that she would grow out of it. I hoped so because
back then when you bought diapers it wasn’t zero to six pounds, six to nine pounds and nine to twelve
pounds; it was one-size-fits-all, fabric, washable diapers. It barely covered her. Everyone was right; she
did grow out of it and grew up to be a slender woman.
Brad, on the other hand, was born with my dark brown hair and boy, did he have a lot of it. I couldn’t
say he was handsome or amazing looking. I suppose he was cute in his own way, especially when he
looked up at you with his big brown eyes, wide with innocence or when he smiled at you and sort of
giggled at the same time.
We love our children; although it was very trying at times, especially their teenage years. That was a time
when both Flora and I just wanted to dump them off a cruise ship with the anchor tied to them. They
were brats, but that too, they grew out of. I hoped I would never be that way when I was a teenager.
Flora agreed to become my wife when I was twenty and she nineteen. We had a beautiful ceremony and a
fun-filled reception. Everyone in my family and hers were invited. Including our friends, there must have
been close to six hundred people in attendance. That’s why I say the reception was fun. You should have
seen some of our family members. Most were just meeting each other for the first time and some have
known each other for a while. Most of my family got drunk while Flora’s relatives acted proper, a bit too
much so in my opinion.
After about an hour into the party, my cousin Eddie—who was three sheets to the wind by then—walked
up to Flora’s sister Rebecca and bowed down before her. After he straightened up (I couldn’t believe he
didn’t fall flat on his face), he took Rebecca’s hand and asked her to dance. They danced alright;
Rebecca, as it turned out, was a very flirtatious, outgoing girl. The band played rock and roll music and
they were dirty dancing on the floor, grinding their hips and butts together like they were rubbing off lint
from their clothing. Everyone stopped to watch while most of my family egged them on. It ended up
where almost all of them were either dancing the same way or taking lessons on how to.
Then it happened, the one thing I feared most when my children hit fourteen and fifteen took place. I
became an unruly, angry, depressed, obnoxious teenager. How my parents put up with my antics was
beyond my comprehension. I began partying, skipping school and coming home late. I was very good
looking and all the girls vied for my attention. I was popular in school and played on the football team; I
was ‘the man.’ The problem was I knew it.
Thankfully, those years were over soon. I was five years old and followed my mother everywhere. She
was a stay at home mother who was always there with a smile on her face and dinner ready every night
for my father. Grace; I always thought that was the prettiest name on earth. I would go around
repeating the name until my father told me it wasn’t right to call my mother by her first name. After all, I
didn’t go around saying Carl like that. Honestly, I think my father was just jealous.
I liked age five; it was fun. My parents always took me places and played with me. I loved to color and
play around out back in the kiddy pool during the summer. I started kindergarten in the fall, where it
seemed like I was always being reprimanded by my teacher and put into a ‘cubby hole’ as punishment. I
think I was still weaning off of being a teenager.
Look at me! I can walk! I walked from my mother to my father and didn’t fall. It was amazing. I managed
to stand on my own two feet and take those short steps. Now, this was life; I was going places! I
zoomed about the house every chance I got. Dad was always telling me to slow down. Slow down? Are
you kidding? I was just beginning my travels. I wanted to run, not walk.
I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life on my hands and knees. My mother always said she
should give me a rag while I was down there so I could clean the floors for her. I understood everything
and I knew what she was saying. I tried hard to tell her and dad that I was sick of crawling, but the
words didn’t come out right. They thought I was trying to say the word ‘crying’ and they’d pick me up
and hush me.
It is hard now. I can finally pick my head up without mom helping. Gosh, it was heavy. Does everyone’s
head weigh this much? My neck is killing me. Why don’t they lay me down and stop picking me up so
much? I want to eat now; I am hungry. I start to cry since I can’t get the words out to tell her. Mom
knows though; she realizes I need to eat and she picks me up and holds me to her breast.
So, yeah, I remember it all. I had a good life; eighty-five years. Some of it was hard and trying, but
mostly it was good. But now, I know I’m dying. That’s right; I’m a test baby or at least that’s what I
hear them calling me. God is experimenting. We’re going to start our lives now at an old age and end up
a baby, dying at our mothers’ breast. That’s what it should be like. God had it all wrong before; with me,
he’s starting to correct it.
Soon I know I won’t remember. I won’t remember anything; being held in my mother’s arms as I take my
dying breath and close my eyes for the very last time.
|God had it all Wrong
Starr Gardinier Reina