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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Death, again

For as long as I have known her my mom 's favorite page of the newspaper has been the Obituaries page. This was even before she worked at the bank and got to know so many people in the area through her work. "I want to see who is no longer with us," she would say whenever we would point out the morbidness of this fascination.

My mom is on vacation right now, visiting with my sister. Same as she was last year when my father had the fall that would lead directly to his death. (Well, not quite; they were in Florida last year.) Same as she was when my grandmother died.

Every morning she calls and asks me to read through the names in the obituaries. Every morning I read them off with the deliberateness of a University President at a Commencement.

This morning was no different. I got about halfway through the first page and she stopped me.

"That's the baby," she said.

One of the conditions for purchasing my grandmother's house was that I did not want to have to deal with tenants - noisy, car-owning, chain-smoking tenants. The impetus to the sale came about when the tenants announced they were moving. My aunt did not want to be stuck with an empty house, and I would be able to have the house without the hassle of tenants.

After a few false starts, the tenants finally moved out in April or May. I bought the house at the end of May.

In the middle of July, their 17-year old daughter had a baby girl.

I never saw the baby. Not much reason that I would, except that the father is part of the family that rents from my next-door neighbors. I did see them trundle the baby (shielded from view in her carrier) into their house a few weeks ago while I was doing yard work in my new yard. While running my wheedwhacker along the fence near their side door I discovered that they, too, were a family of heavy smokers. I hope they're not exposing the baby to all that smoke, I thought.

The baby died on Saturday.

So what killed a month-old little girl? I have no idea. Maybe we'll learn more as time goes by. I feel unbelievably bad for the young mother, who starts her Senior year in High School next week. To have had and lost a baby, all before her 18th birthday - that is a bit much to take.

We'll see what tomorrow's Obituaries page brings.

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