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   The monitors beeped and whirred while Bob and Cindy stared at this unknown doctor. Unlike them, her appearance was starched and perfect. Which only made the words coming out of her mouth more horrifying. They, on the other hand, were living inside a tornado. Understanding where to look for solid ground took a supreme effort. Nothing was happening the way they dreamed for the last months.

    Bob recovered first. “What are you talking about? If it is one in a million odds, how can Serena be that one?” He waved his left hand toward the neonatal crib while pulling his wife closer to his side. Cindy wobbled in her best bathrobe, her patient band still encircled her wrist.

    “There will have to be further tests, but I feel we have a preliminary diagnosis. The syndrome is rare. It is a recessive gene disease which means you are both carriers. You will need to undergo genetic testing.” Dr Thurlow-Kim looked down at her clipboard. “Also, you should wait to consider having any more children.”

    Cindy started sobbing and collapsed into Bob’s arms. He looked across her to the doctor. “We need to see Dr. Hill before you say another word.” He guided Cindy to one of the chairs near the crib.

    Shrugging, the doctor left the room with a swish of air.

    “Honey, it is going to be alright. God wouldn’t give us anything we can’t handle.” Bob knelt beside the chair hugging her. He patted her shoulders and back trying to give comfort. He knew what she was feeling. The hopes and dreams they each nurtured during the pregnancy were so vivid and fresh in his mind. From teaching cool stuff to his little one to walking her down the aisle, there were mini-movies burned into his brain which he was waiting to live with his newborn daughter. Now, they might only be dreams.

    Pipe dreams.

    The envelopes came on the same day. Bob and Cindy decided to go all out since they were doing the official genetic testing. They also sent for the less official family ancestry test. The results were mostly what they expected. Northern European stock with some other mixed in. Bob showed a substantial Native American level but that was from his great grandmother.

    Cindy reached the paragraph first and shrieked. As she started hyperventilating, “What does this mean?” she said pointing to the end of the second page. Bob fumbled to find the spot.

    Smoothing out the paper on the kitchen table, they both read. ‘…based on the information we have in the database, it appears that you share a common grandparent…’

    Looking at each other, they said, “It must be a mistake.”

    Swallowing his pride, Bob called and made another appointment with the impossibly snotty and perfect, Dr. Thurlow-Kim. He tried to explain on the phone why they wanted to meet but upon being ushered into her presence, it was clear the message had not been transferred.

    “I already told you. As recessive carriers, you each contributed to the infant developing this genetic syndrome.” She carefully aligned papers on her desk while she spoke. Then she looked up at them each facing her from a generic hospital issue chair. “I don’t know what else I can tell you.”

    “Yes, you said that and told us to wait to have anymore kids.” Cindy sniffled and pulled a tissue out of her pocket to wipe her nose. “Our questions have to do with what else we found.” She motioned to her husband to hand over the papers while she rocked the baby’s carrier with her foot.

    The doctor took them and glanced down through them. “I assure you, Mr. and Mrs. Yeakle, these family ancestry DNA sites are not the best science. You should rely on the test results we had done after the infant’s birth.”

    Bob cleared his throat. “We have. We listened to you and we are still trying to wrap our heads around how this happened to us and our daughter. And the fact that we couldn’t have prevented it.” He gestured to the papers she was holding. “That document says we share a grandfather. I want to know how that is possible. We have called the company and they say based on other samples in their database, they feel it is accurate.”

    Dr. Thurlow-Kim continued to read one letter and then the other. Then she rose and walked around the desk to a white board hanging on the wall. Taking a marker off the ledge, she began to draw a family tree, using Serena as the nexus point. Then she added several numbers on the side. “Is your grandfather still alive?”

    Staring at the doctor, Cindy said, “He died years ago. As near as we can figure, if this is right, he would be at least eighty-five.”

    “It is still possible, that is why I asked.” She waved the marker at the information on the board then walked back around the desk and returned the letters to Bob. “Obviously, it is possible though highly unlikely. If you want to know more, you will need to do research in the family.”

    The new parents wrestled with the challenges of a baby, the possibility of a short life and how their faith could have allowed this to happen. They also asked questions of their older family members. They struck it rich with Cindy’s grandma. She remembered an old trunk in the attic.

    The old trunk turned out to be a military foot-locker from the grandfather’s time in the Army. Before he got married.

    Assuming they wouldn’t find anything helpful, the pair still went through it with a fine-tooth comb. In a side pocket, they found a tattered letter. The return address was the hometown where her grandfather had grown up.

    Carefully unfolding it, Bob placed the high-powered flashlight closer so they could read it. It was steamy, talking about their final night together by the pond. The author explained her parents were moving the family, but she would write again. Her final line made them both blink.

    ‘My love, you cannot imagine how much I miss you. Please know that I carry a piece of you with me always.’

    Bob and Cindy looked at each other and said at the same time, “She was pregnant.” Shutting off the flashlight, they returned the secret letter to its hiding spot after photographing the letter and the envelope.

    Fighting their way back through the cobwebs, they returned downstairs and thanked Cindy’s grandmother. She was rocking while she crocheted, watching the baby Serena sleep in her carrier.

    “Did you find what you were looking for?” she asked. The rhythmic sound of the chair on the floor punctuated her words.

    “I don’t know Grandma, maybe.” Cindy bent over the carrier and adjusted the blanket on Serena. It was a pink and white afghan from grandma for this baby.

    “Good, good. Happy to have you young folks stop by,” she said as her foot kept up the motion. “She’s a real sweetie.”

    Later that night as they stared at the photographs Bob printed out, and they tried to continue to process all they knew and how it could even come about. “It doesn’t matter now,” Cindy said. “It happened. Serena is here and now we know.”

    “We should probably let others in the family know. Just so they get tested for the gene.” Bob sighed as he said it. He only felt an echo of his original rage. “I can’t believe he came home from the service and never tried to find her,” Bob sputtered. “He knew. He had to know. I’m mad he left us this mess.”

    “Maybe he did know but that doesn’t mean he could find her or that he did something wrong.” Cindy thought about the choices and realities of that time so many years ago. “You know, her parents may have married her off to someone so that the baby wouldn’t be born out of wedlock.”

    “Or she gave it up for adoption and that is why this snafu could happen.”

    “Please don’t refer to my daughter as a snafu. She is a gift and we are going to be grateful for her.” Cindy picked Serena up, cuddled her, and gave her a comforting squeeze. “Aren’t you, sugar? A gift from God.”

    “But honey,” Bob said. “We want to have more kids and we can’t risk this again. You heard that doctor a three out of four chance. Serena is going to require tons of care and probably another surgery….”

    “I know,” she said softly rocking the baby in her arms. “We’ll adopt.”

August 21, 2020 22:40

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1 comment

Katie Moyes
00:55 Aug 31, 2020

Interesting premise. I got lost on what the main conflict of the story was: Was it how the new parents are going to deal with the emotional toll of having a special needs child or dealing with the repercussions of the grandfather? Based on the prompt, I'm going with the grandfather having unofficial children. With that in mind, I think that the story would have had a bigger punch if it showed them talking to their parents. If it was a common grandfather they shared, one of their parents should have known they were adopted, never knew their f...


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