“I have good news and bad news. Which do you want first?”
A choice? Choices were usually for other people. Destiny didn’t choose to feel run down or to be limited to medical care at the free clinic. She didn’t choose to wait three hours just to be seen by whichever doctor was next in line, but at least she had this choice.
“What’s the bad news?”
Experience had taught Destiny that the bad news was typically far worse than the good news was good. Her choice, therefore, was determined by a primal need for self-preservation.
"The good news,” the doctor began, ignoring her, “is you’re not sick. In fact, you’re as healthy as a horse.”
“Then why do I feel like I just ran six furlongs?”
“Huh?” The doctor asked, looking up from his notes.
“It was a joke. You said a horse. Furlong? Oh never mind, what’s the bad news, doctor? Don’t leave me hanging.”
“You’re pregnant, dear. I’m guessing about two months along.”
“I’m gonna have a baby!” Destiny blurted out. It would be later in the day before she realized the doctor implied her being pregnant was bad news.
“Yes, I'm afraid so. I’ve arranged for you to meet with a family counselor. You do have options.”
“Options?” Destiny raised one eyebrow. “What the heck do you mean by that?”
“If you don’t want the…” the doctor paused mid-sentence.
“I want the ‘the’,” Destiny interrupted. “I want my baby with all my heart.”
The rest of the appointment was a blur. Destiny had so much adrenaline running through her veins that she couldn’t concentrate on what the doctor was saying. When he had finally given her the literature and prescriptions for prenatal vitamins, Destiny sprinted out of the office to the closest bus stop. She had some shopping to do.
Walking up and down the aisles of the baby boutique, Destiny quickly realized how expensive children were, a fact crystalized when she overheard a salesclerk completing another customer's transaction.
“That will be $798.15.”
The customer, a well dressed young woman with perfect hair and nails, pulled out a Visa from her purse and inserted it into the credit card chip reader. The clerk and the customer chit-chatted about strollers and cribs and bassinets, neither phased by the large total on the sales slip. Destiny paused and opened up her wallet which had just a SNAP card, a stick of gum, and four one-dollar bills. How could she provide for the baby to come when she could barely afford to take care of herself? Dejected, Destiny turned to leave the store. On the way out, however, she spotted the clearance rack.
The mishmosh of garments was not inspiring to say the least. There were odd colored outfits and mismatched shoes, almost nothing worthy of a second look. Desperate yet determined Destiny discovered a lone light blue onesie with the word “LOVE” lettered in red on the front. It had been hidden behind a hooded parka with a ripped sleeve. Love, Destiny thought to herself. I can’t give you much, but I can give you love.
The little outfit had been originally priced at $20.00, but had been reduced twice to $5.00. Destiny, commited to purchasing the adorable find, opened the change compartment in her wallet and poured out a handful of mostly bronze coins. As she started to count, she found a single quarter, four dimes, and three nickels. Without even counting the pennies, she grabbed the onesie and marched up to the counter.
“$5.25, please,” the cashier announced, as she folded the outfit and placed it into a bag.
“I only have $4.92,” Destiny answered, as she quickly counted out the pennies. “I just found out today that I’m pregnant.”
“It’s ok, ma’am,” the cashier said with a wink. “I forgot the friends and family discount, so that will be $4.92 exactly.”
In her life, Destiny had never been so grateful. For thirty-three cents, the cashier had bought Destiny dignity and the new mother-to-be would never forget the kindness.
* * * * * * * * * *
“I have good news and bad news.”
“Listen very carefully, Eli. I’m pregnant, perturbed, and I have to pee. Again! Are you sure you want to mess with me right now?”
“I’m sorry, baby doll, you know me. I joke. It’s my way.”
“Fine. What’s the bad news?”
“My mom just called—she’s on her way over.”
“Destiny is coming? How is that bad news? I love your mother.”
“You know how I feel. She’s always wearing that awful uniform. Can’t she take five minutes to change before she barges in?”
“That uniform? Are you ashamed of your mother?”
“That woman is a saint. She worked her ass off to put food on your table.”
“I know—but the uniform…”
“You should love that uniform. She paid for your college—as a waitress.”
“But nothing—your mom is on her way over. That’s the good news. Now go make some herbal tea.”
It didn’t take long for Eli to make the tea or for his mother to make it to the house.
“I’ll get it,” Eli shouted when the doorbell broke the silence.
“Be nice,” Melody yelled back, causing Eli to laugh out loud just as he opened the door.
“Hello, Elijah,” Destiny said, wrapping her arms around her son’s neck. In his whole life, Eli couldn’t remember a single time that his mother failed to hug him the first time she saw him. He loved the attention as a boy, but, like most teenagers, he resisted it as he got older. On this day, however, he welcomed the display of affection. His wife had reminded him just how lucky he was, and he wanted his mom to know as well.
“Hi mom,” he said as he stepped to the side, motioning her in. “It’s really nice to see you.”
“Are you sure?” Destiny responded with a wink. “Should I have changed before I came over?”
“No, mom,” Eli answered, feeling a bit guilty, giving his mother an unexpected second hug.
“How is Melody? You aren’t annoying her, are you?”
“That’s what I thought. You be nice to that girl. She's been good for you and to you.”
“She’s upstairs in bed, Mom, but I know she’d love to see you.”
“In a minute. First, I brought something I wanted you to have.” Eli looked down and saw a perfectly wrapped gift in his mother’s hands.
“Mom, you shouldn’t have. I told you we have all we need.”
“You don’t have this, and I’ve been waiting so long to give it to you.” Destiny said, handing Eli the package.
“Should I open it now?”
“You’d better,” she answered with a smile.
Eli found the seam and carefully tore off the blue bunny-covered wrapping paper. Inside was a plain white box, taped on all four sides. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small pen knife which he promptly used to cut the tape. Finally able to open the box, he pulled off the top, allowing him to see a small faded light blue onesie with the word “LOVE” printed in red on the front.
“Mom, I can’t take this. It’s important to you.”
The story of the onesie, the clerk, and the thirty-three cents was cherished family history and the outfit was Destiny’s most prized possession.
“When I was young,” Destiny explained, “this was my way of showing you I loved you. I bought it myself, and I gave it to you. It’s time to give it to you again so you will always remember the only thing that is truly necessary to give your child is love. Please give it to your son. Will you do that for me?”
“Of course I will,” Eli answered, “Let’s go show Melody.”
* * * * * * * * * *
“I have good news, dad.”
“What’s that, kiddo?” Eli asked, looking down at his son.
“Grandma isn’t really dead. Wanna know how I know?”
“I do, Ben,” Eli responded, genuinely interested in what his five-year-old son was about to say.
“Well, my teacher, Mrs. Conroy, she told me that as long as we keep loving people, they never die. That’s true, isn’t it dad?
“It sure is, champ. Mrs. Conroy knows what she’s talking about.”
“Then I want to do something for grandma. Is that alright?”
“Well that depends, kiddo. What do you want to do?”
“Wait, I’ll show you.” The little boy answered, charging out of the room, only to return a moment later.
“I want to give her this,” Ben said, holding up a little light blue outfit for Eli to see. “L. O. V. E. That spells love. Grandma taught me the letters. Can I give it to her so she knows we love her then she won't really be dead?”
“Ben, where did you get that?”
“I found it in my closet. Grandma told me all about it.”
“Of course, you can give it to her,” Eli said, holding back tears. “I think she’d like that very much.”
There wasn’t much talk on the way to the funeral home or during the service. Ben made sure to keep very quiet, waiting for the opportunity to give his grandmother her gift. When most of the crowd had left, Eli found Ben.
“Are you ready?”
“Great, let’s go.”
Taking his hand, Eli walked with Ben up to the casket where Destiny lay.
“She looks like she’s sleeping.” Ben observed, looking up at his father then back down at Destiny. “I think she is smiling,”
“I think so, too.”
“I love you, Grandma,” Ben said as he laid the small light blue onesie near Destiny’s heart. He then reached into his pocket and pulled out a quarter, a dime, and three pennies, laying the coins under his grandmother’s hand. He whispered something Eli could not hear. Then the two turned around and walked out of the chapel.
“What did you tell Grandma?” Eli asked.
“It’s a secret,” Ben answered, with a serious look on his round little face.
“It’s okay, I promise I won’t tell a soul.”
“I told Grandma I was giving her thirty-three cents.”
“Yes, Dad. Just in case they don’t have the friends and family discount in heaven.”