ProLife Story 45 - Ella's Story
In April of 1972, when I was twenty-three years old, I met a lovely young woman. One spring day, I had gone to lunch with two of the guys from work, and she was our waitress at a local restaurant. Frank, John, and I worked for the city and often got out of the office at midday, but I had never been attracted to anyone we had met on our jaunts. As I stole glances at our waitress, the guys kidded me about asking her out.
Petite with short brown hair and the blue eyes, she appeared to be as shy as myself. As she returned with our check, I had my last chance and kidded her a little about the paper cap bobby-pinned to her hair that she had to wear on her job. Then, trying to be casual, I simply asked her if I could call her sometime. She hesitated; then said reluctantly, Okay. I didn t have so much as a strap of paper on me, but she rescued me by writing down her name and phone number on a napkin, which in my youth I thought was very clever of her. I withstood a little more ribbing from my buddies on the way back to the office, but that evening I did work up the courage to call the young waitress, whom I will refer to as Ella. We chatted for a while and then I asked her out to a movie on Friday evening and she accepted.
At the time, I was struggling to decide what to do with my life. Two years earlier, I had graduated from a university in the Midwest and moved to a major city on the East Coast. I had accepted an administrative job with the city government and had worked there until I had settled on what I hoped would be my life s work. Just a few months earlier I had applied to graduate school in journalism and intended to move back to the Midwest in the fall. On Friday night, Ella and I went out to movie and then to a nightclub. We then returned to my apartment and she stayed the night. Thereafter, we often went out, about three or four times a week.
Ella had moved to the city from California a few months ago, and was living with her family here. Like me, she was struggling to find her way in life. She was much more of a free spirit than I, yet mentioned that she had never intended to go out with me when she had given me her phone number. But she said that I had sounded like such a country boy on the telephone that she had decided to give me a chance.
We became friends and lovers, although I would be leaving for another university in the Midwest in just a few months and she planned to return to California someday. Ella then became pregnant, and our lives suddenly became very serious.
I was shocked and told Ella that I did not want this baby. To my surprise, she wanted to have the baby. We went for counseling at two different family planning agencies, and each of the counselors advised that Ella should have an abortion. It was 1972, less than a year before Roe v. Wade, but abortions were legal in a nearby state. We scheduled an appointment and on an ironically beautiful day in May, I drove Ella there and she had an abortion. It happened so quickly in a clinical manner. It seemed to me and to Ella s family that we were being sensible, but Ella went into mourning and didn t say a word to me as we drove back to the city.
I took Ella to her mother s home in the suburbs, hung around for a while, and then, not knowing what else to do, I returned to my office. Afterwards, Ella told me that she was very angry that I had gone back to work after her traumatic experience at the clinic. Yet we continued to see each other. Over the next few months, the shared experience even bound us closer than ever and we became especially tender to each other. We spent most every evening and weekend together, and I sensed that she loved me. However, although I cared for her very deeply, I was determined to go back to school, and that August I went back to the Midwest.
Over the next couple years, Ella and I kept in touch. Although I never thought of marrying her, I soon came to deeply regret the killing of our baby more than ever, especially since I had been the one who had been so adamant that we do so. Thereafter, Ella and I lost touch until 1977. I had since moved back East, not far from the city where I had met Ella, and one summer I went there to visit friends. I had lost track of Ella, but called her brother, who was listed in the phonebook, and he gave me their mother s number. He didn t say much to me, only that Ella had become very ill and was living with their mother in a downtown apartment.
I called the number and briefly talked to Ella s mother who told me that her daughter had a debilitating illness, similar to muscular dystrophy, but with a grim prognosis. Although Ella was only in her mid-twenties, her health was rapidly failing and she had only a year or so left before she died. That afternoon, in a state of shock, I visited Ella at her mother s apartment in a charming brick building in an older neighborhood and we chatted for a while. I felt so badly for her and about everything but sitting in a wheelchair, she kept a good humor until she brought up the abortion. The nurse at the clinic told me that I had time to have plenty of babies, Ella recalled, tears filling her eyes.
She had never before mentioned this to me. It was then that Ella broke down and began to sob uncontrollably. Her mother appeared and made it clear that I should go. I so much wanted to help Ella, as if there were anything that I could do, but I was only hurting her further. After all, it was I who had already done so much harm.
For a moment, Ella and I gazed into each other s eyes and then we bid each other farewell. And I left, closing the door, taking the elevator to the ground floor, and walking out into the warm, sunny afternoon. As I realized that I would never see Ella again, I broke down as I strode down the avenue, not caring what anyone thought of the tears streaming down my cheeks. If I had not been so adamant, Ella would have had our baby. I had denied her this one chance for great joy in her life. She would have had at least a few years with her baby. I could have become a good father. Even after Ella became ill, her parents would also have eagerly helped to care for the child thereafter. Most numbingly, I had denied our baby a chance to have life.
I never saw Ella again, but not a day has gone by when I have not mourned the death of our baby and prayed for forgiveness over the years and now the decades. I became ashamed of the casual ways of my youth and knew that I had to change my life. But there was no way that I could ever bring back our baby. I eventually married and my wife and I had several children and I became a good husband and father in a traditional family. Yet I have continued to be haunted by the memories of this tragedy of my youth. Even after my children have grown up and begun to make lives of their own, I have continued to grieve for the loss of an innocent baby so many years ago.
-- submitted anonymously
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