From Blessing to Blessing
Grandpa Rossa gave me his blessing the day after I was born. “You’re one fine boy,” he said emphatically as he bent over my bassinette and poked my chest with each word. “A bold one, I think.” He chuckled. “You will do great things as a servant of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Mama’s pains had grown strong the night before my birth, and in the morning Papa hurriedly flung Mama’s bag in our rusty old jalopy before the long drive to the hospital. Grandpa Rossa said he remembered Mama and Papa speeding off as if in a race, with all four wheels spitting driveway gravel.
My brother and Grandpa Rossa waved good-bye from beneath the porch’s gingerbread trim. Grandpa Rossa’s hand-carved pipe bobbed up and down from one corner his mouth as he slurred, “Arrrrrrrivederci! God-a bless-a you-a!”
At the hospital a know-it-all nurse smiled too broadly at Mama, like a politician soliciting votes. “Giovanna, I’m sending you home. This is false labor; it may be several days yet.” She winked. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Mama was skeptical. “Surely not?”
The nurse seemed too condescending, as if her medical expertise excelled over Mother’s intuitive knowledge of her body. “That baby isn’t ready. Now shoosh.” She waved with the back of both hands as if to escort the couple to the exit door, and staged another over-emphasized wink. “We’ll see you later.”
All the way home inconsolable tears gushed down Mama’s face. “Tony, that nurse is WRONG!” Papa, being a mild-mannered sort, tried to comfort her from his spot behind the steering wheel. “Giovanna.” He reached over and patted her hand. “We’ll be going back to the hospital soon, very soon. Try to rest.”
It was early afternoon when they arrived home. Grandpa Rossa hurried to the door to greet them as smoke coiled from his pipe. “Back so soon?”
“They sent me home!” Mama wailed. Grandpa and Papa looked at each other and shrugged.
Fifty minutes later Mama lay in the bathtub, pushing. “TONY!” she shrieked. “Bring towels! GRANDPA! Put this child in his crib!” Two-year-old Otto stood at the edge of the tub with wide eyes, wondering why there was no water for his mother’s bath.
“You mean the baby is really coming? You’re sure?” Papa threw back his head as if looking for God, closed his eyes, crossed himself, and then knelt beside the cold porcelain tub.
“Lord, have mercy!” Mama’s cry trailed off, evolving into a series of guttural moans.
Soon my head crowned – a perfect, round, black little ball – and with Mama’s final pushes I slipped into Papa’s waiting hands.
“He’s here!” We have a new son!” Papa’s quaking voice shattered the air. “Grandpa! Call the hospital - NOW!”
Mama and Papa jointly wrapped me in a white bath towel as Grandpa’s voice boomed from the other room, cutting through my newborn wails. “The nurse says tie the cord with string. Bring Giovanna and the baby to the hos-pee-tall as soon as possible!”
“But she hasn’t delivered the placenta yet!” Papa yelled back.
There was a pause. “She says come anyway … just COME!”
Grandpa held me close while Papa lifted Mama out of the tub and Otto yowled in the background. The cord still connected me to Mama, so the four of us had to stay close together. Mama slowly waddled outside to the car with Papa’s help and then lay down, exhausted, on the back seat with me on her chest. “Can we do it?” Papa asked as he climbed into the driver’s seat. Mama’s face was white. “The hard part is over,” she whispered with a hint of sarcasm. “Just drive the car; we’ll be fine.”
At the hospital the nurse seemed casually remorseful. “I’m so sorry! But you did so well, and have a beautiful baby boy.” She even brought Mama a bouquet of daisies to put beside her bed. The card said, “You were right!”
Back home the following night, Grandpa Rossa had the final word, as he often did. After his blessing he grinned and added, “And your nickname? It shall be … ‘Oops’.”
Now, a generation later, my own grandchildren call me Papa-Oops. I often tell them the truth: “Even hard things turn out right when we trust Jesus.” Recently it was my turn to bless my most recently born grandson. “You will follow the Lord of Life … in the tradition of Grandpa Rossa. Amen and amen.”
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