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Once Upon a Time

The soldier was just beginning to sleep through the night again, although he had been home from the war for almost a year.  The horrors he had seen no longer occupied his thoughts during his waking hours, but the images often returned with a vengeance while he slept, the sound of his own voice yelling into the darkness waking him before dawn. 

The soldier’s wife lay next to him each night, her stomach swollen with the weight of their third child.  Her husband’s night terrors no longer frightened her and she had learned how to calm him quickly so that their sleeping children would not wake up afraid.  The child she was carrying, however, sensed the sudden surge of adrenaline in its mother’s veins and heard the muffled sound of its father’s anguish.  How many millions of people began their existence like this unborn child, unlikely witnesses to the consequences of war?

Her husband did not have to go to war.  He was almost 28 years old when he and a group of his friends enlisted.  She was four months pregnant with their second child, their daughter was just two years old. She understood his desire to defend his country, and she could only imagine what he went through overseas, but she had also suffered, the two years he was away were the most difficult years of the young mother’s life.

On a crisp September morning shortly after midnight, their third child, a daughter, came into the world in the last delivery room on the right, on the second floor of a beautiful, Federal style building that housed the Leonard Hospital in the Lansingburgh section of Troy, New York.  Mom and daughter spent ten days in the hospital before coming home, which was the custom at that time.  During those ten days, they shared a large open room on the second floor, just down the hall from where the child was born, with eight other mothers and their newborns

The soldier’s daughter lived a happy life.  A few years after she was born, her family moved away from Lansingburgh to the eastside of Troy.  She returned to Lansingburgh most Saturdays during her childhood to visit her maternal grandmother.  When she was a teenager, she traveled by bus to the Catholic high school in Lansingburgh which was a few short blocks from the hospital where she was born.

After high school, the soldier’s daughter took a job away from her hometown, married and began a family of her own.  During the next 65 years she raised her two children, said goodbye to the soldier and his wife, sent her children off to college, watched them marry and have children of their own, said goodbye to her husband of 60 years and met her grandchildren’s children.  When she was 84 her son, who had moved to Lansingburgh after a number of job promotions and transfers, found her an apartment in a newly renovated building dedicated to senior housing. 

It was a small, but sunny apartment on the second floor of the lovely old building.  Her great grandchildren were in high school at her old alma mater which was only a few short blocks away from her apartment and they would often stop by to say hello on their way home from school.  She enjoyed spending time with her neighbors and felt particularly at home in the large community room a few doors down the hall from her apartment.  She lived three happy years in that apartment until the morning of her 87th birthday when she simply did not wake up.

It was not until a year after the solder’s daughter passed away, that her son discovered that the beautiful building that housed the senior apartments where his mother spent the last three years of her life was originally the Leonard Hospital.  He never found out that the bedroom where his mom passed away had been the last delivery room on the right, the room where she was born.

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