by Judith Arcana
You know, your mother had an abortion, it was before you and your brothers were born, in the thirties, about a year after we got married, so we must have been twenty one, both of us. She went, Annie went, to our family doctor, it was Jack Kornofsky, your mother’s cousin – well, he married your mother’s cousin Dorothy – he was the one we went to whenever anything was wrong, he would come out to the house when you kids got sick, do you remember him at all? He wore glasses, had a big smile. He would come when you had a fever, and he would always bring a Hershey bar in his bag for you kids – imagine a doctor doing that! Well, he knew you all loved Hershey bars. He and Dorothy were at our wedding. So anyway, he told her she was pregnant. When Annie came home and told me, we went back to him together, you know, and asked him what we should do. We didn’t think about it the way you do, the way everybody does now, we didn’t talk about it, we just knew it wouldn’t be good if we had a baby then, so young, just starting out. This was the Depression, we were still living with your grandparents in the old house on Saywell. So we asked him, Kornofsky, what to do. He sent us to this other doctor, oh listen, all of a sudden I remember his name, it was Ryan, his name was Ryan, can you beat that? All these years never thinking about it, why should I suddenly remember his name? So Kornofsky gave us the address and phone number of this other doctor, Ryan, who would do abortions. But no, no, if he hadn’t told us what to do, who to see, hadn’t given us the address, I guess she would have had the baby, we wouldn’t have known what else to do, I don’t know what else there would have been to do. Maybe your mother would have had some other ideas, maybe the women knew something, like you do, now, but you know, I don’t think so – as I remember it, she didn’t know any more than I did.
c Judith Arcana. Do not use/reproduce without permission. First published in Hurricane Alice, Vol.13, #s 2&3, 1998.
Judith Arcana is a writer, currently writing fiction about tattoos and poems about abortion (supported by a Poetry Award from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, a Poetry Fellowship from Oregon Literary Arts, and grants from the Rockefeller Archive Center and the Union Institute Graduate College). Her poems and short prose pieces appear in anthologies, newspapers, and literary magazines including ZYZZYVA, Nimrod, Fireweed, CALYX and Prairie Schooner. A longtime teacher of writing, literature and women’s studies, Judith’s nonfiction books are Our Mothers’ Daughters, Every Mother’s Son and Grace Paley’s Life Stories: A Literary Biography. Fifty years resident in the Great Lakes region, she moved to the Pacific Northwest in 1995. Judith is a member of the Graduate Faculty of The Union Institute.