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DECISION by Maureen Stirsman

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I sat in this rocking chair; the very one I sit in now.  Mother had left

her Bible open to James 1:17, 'Every good gift and every perfect gift

is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is

no variableness, neither shadow of turning.' I was reading the words

when the shrilling doorbell sent the lighting flash through my body.

 I walked to the front door holding my breath, my hand on my stomach.

Through the sheer curtains, past the blue star in the window, I saw the

silhouette of the Western Union boy.  The burgundy flowered carpet

slammed into my body.  Mother's blurry face hovered just out of my

vision.  The boy stood behind her with the yellow envelope still in his


 It had only been two months since my husband, Martin's, furlough.  I

remembered trying not to cry, and not succeeding in the least.  I

remembered--“We will get the diamond after the war, to go with this

wedding band,” he said.  “We will build a house in the country,” he

said. “We will have lots of babies.”

 Every night I dreamed of the time he would be home and of the children

we would have.

 The morning after the caboose disappeared from sight I went to work at

the airplane factory, playing my own version of Rosie the riveter.  I

worked the day shift and took care of the house and the five cows, all

that was left of a once successful dairy farm that died the day daddy

died.   Two months after that auction sale, on Thanksgiving Day, mother

dropped the hot turkey.  Polio!  A new wheel chair became the second

part of her being.  Not only was she crippled, but very fearful.  She

fell to relying on me for almost everything.  With the loss of Martin's

income, mother's medical bills, and the needed repairs to the

farmhouse, I had no choice but to go to work.  Mother was old before

her time, and many times depressed, but she was always my biggest

fan—my emotional support.

 I lay on the carpet in my mother's arms. The dream was over and the

nightmare beginning.  I was in bed for four days.  Night was day and

day could have been summer or frost.  It made no difference.  My head

reeled and my stomach churned.  Mother called the doctor.

 After he examined me he sat at the kitchen table with Mother and waited.

When I came down Mother said, “I will be in the garden, honey,” and

rolled her chair through the French doors.

 There were no surprises.  “You are pregnant,” he said.  Again the tears

ran down my face. He talked comforting meaningless words, “You can do

it.  This baby can be a joy to you.”

 “Yes, yes, Doctor,” I said. “Did you tell Mother?”

 “No, that is for you to tell.”  Then after I poured myself a cup of tea

I went out to see Mother.  I was faced with the greatest decision of my

life and I knew I would not tell her.

 That night I lay under the ‘double wedding ring' quilt that mother and

her friends had made for our wedding present.  I tossed—nauseated,

worrying about the sin I was planning.  I was up against the wall. I

thought of mother's needs against the life growing within me; the house

needing a new roof and the insurance benefits that would only last so

long.  Then softly, like an echo in my mind, I could almost hear the

tiny cries and smell the wee, pink body.  It was like a life in

review—but of a life not lived.  It was a wretched night but with the

rising sun I had reached my decision.  I knew what I had to do.  With a

heavy heart I headed toward the barn. God would have to forgive me. ...

Then next morning when mother took her bath I called an old high school

acquaintance who was in her last year of nurses training.

 By 11:30 I waited nervously in a booth at the back of the coffee shop.

Mother was pleased that I wanted to go out.  I read the menu—not seeing

the words.  When I heard the click of high heels I looked up and there

was Marjorie, wild, red hair curled tightly around her freckled face,

nails brightly polished.  “I'm so sorry to hear about Martin, Della. It

must be awful.”

 “It is awful—unbearable, and no one knows the worst of it.  That's why I

needed to see you, Marjorie.  I'm pregnant.”

 “Della, how wonderful!”  Marjorie smiled warmly.  “You will always have

a part of Martin with you in his little baby.”

 “No, Marj, you don't understand.  It's not wonderful.  I can't raise a

baby on my own.  I want an abortion.”

 Marjorie looked in both directions and leaned closer over the table.

“Hush, Della, don't say that word.  Abortions are illegal.  I could get

into trouble just talking to you about it.”

 “Please help me.  You are the only one I know who might know someone who

would do it.”

 “No, I could get in so much trouble I would never get my RN and I need


 “Please, no one will know.” I pleaded trying to keep the desperation out

of my voice.

 Marjorie protested but finally agreed.  She had heard of a man who did

these things in the basement of his home.  He had been a medical

student and for some reason or other he didn't stay in medicine.  His

place was clean and his wife assisted him.

 I told Mother that Marjorie and I were going on an overnight shopping

trip.  Mother was encouraged.  Marjorie was going to do some shopping

in order to have things to take back.

 She said, “He insists on being called Doctor Hope.”  I really didn't

care what he wanted to be called.  I just wanted this to be over. As we

rode we talked. The conversation was as light as possible under the

heavy circumstances. Then she told me; I was young.  I would marry

again and I said I never would.  I knew it that day and I never have.

Marjorie crunched one of the apples we had brought and we rode the next

few miles in silence.  Then she looked at me.  She wore white side

combs in her red hair, red beads and earrings and a red bracelet that

she pushed up and down her arm when she was nervous.  She pushed it up

and down now. “Della, is this really what you want to do?” she asked.

 “Yes, I have to.”  She bit her lip but said nothing more.

 When we saw the sign saying, 'Piano Lessons' Marjorie parked the coupe

in the driveway and I followed her to the side door with my bag in my

hand.  A middle-aged, motherly looking woman greeted us and led the way

down stairs. I glanced in the other direction into her kitchen and

smelled coffee perking.  The smell nauseated me.  She opened the door

to an office and smiling said, “This is Doctor Hope.”  His professional

demeanor gave me some reassurance.  I was glad to sit down in the chair

he provided.  The coffee smell was almost overwhelming.

 Marjorie asked, “Do you want me to stay?”

 Dr. Hope answered for me.  “No, you can leave, dear.  Come back in four


 I heard the engine start and Dr. Hope began to talk.  “You know these

procedures are illegal and I could get into a lot of trouble if anyone

talked about it.  Women should have the right to make decisions about

their own bodies. Don't you think so?”

 I was beyond thinking.  Mrs. Hope took me to another room that appeared

to be a young boy's bedroom.  It had two beds.  One was covered with a

bedspread decorated with cowboys and horses.  The other was raised

about twelve inches and made up with a white bed linen under a rubber

hospital sheet.  Mrs. Hope unlocked the dresser drawer and took out a

tray.  I could see the outline of medical instruments under the cover

of a tea towel.  Mrs. Hope smiled and said she would be back shortly.

In a few minutes she returned and handed me a white hospital gown and

said, “Are you ready, dear?”

 Now forty years later, I sit here in mother's rocking chair in this day

of modern progressive thinking and consider, “A woman's body is her

own.”  Dr. Hope said so.  That was long ago.  Only Marjorie knows about

that day, and only once did she say, “Are you sure you made the right


 I glance through a gardening magazine and the gentle buzz of my cordless

telephone brings me back.  “Hello?”

 “Hi, Gran, it's Marty, guess what?  I'm pregnant!”

 Did I make the right decision all those years ago?  YES!

 'Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down

from the Father of lights with whom is no variableness, neither shadow

of turning.' Isn't God good?


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