DINNER WITH THE FRIEDMANNS
(Disclaimer: I have no business connection with JOAN. My only purpose in writing this story is to have fun and maybe share it)
(Author's Note: This story is part of a series set after the ending of the show. It is currently Christmas season, 18 months after the final episode.
I entered the family house, for one of the last times during the Christmas holidays. I had just seen Joan and Adam go off back to their college, Baconia University. Tomorrow I was going back to Harvard, and though I would miss home, I was anxious to get back to my studies. Not only were there classes, but I was also doing a research project, into something I called Grace's Nucleic Acid. I had named it after my girlfriend, though she wasn't entirely pleased to have an acid named after her.
Kevin and his wife were seated on the living room sofa, their backs to the front door. Since Lily had once been a nun, and was now our sister-in-law, Joan and I called her "Sister Lily".
"Hi," I said.
Sister Lily got up and turned to me. At the moment she looked very un-nunlike, not only because she was in jeans, but because she was nearly seven months pregnant.
"Hi, Luke. Sorry, we didn't hear you come in."
"Yeah, you guys look really pre-occupied."
Lily held up a brochure. "We've got a key decision to make, whether I'll go natural childbirth or use anesthesia. If I decide on natural, I need to start classes."
"It's not 'we', it's Lily's decision to make," said Kevin. "I'm just helping argue pros and cons." He was staying seated, because although his legs seemed to be recovering from their accident of several years ago, standing was still awkward.
"If it was up to me, I'd use anesthesia," I said, adjusting my glasses. "After all, natural childbirth is supposed to be painful, and as Linus once said in PEANUTS, 'Pain hurts' ".
Sister Lily laughed. "Ask a Harvard genius a question, and you get the revelation that 'pain hurts'. Yes, Luke, but you're not a girl. Lots of women say they want to stay conscious and alert during one of the major events of their lives."
"I wonder if God has an opinion," said Kevin. He had only been let into the secret earlier this month, and was still awed and confused about how God worked.
Lily sobered. "According to Joan, He rarely intrudes on a really private choice, unless one particularly choice has much better ripples. And even then He allows freedom of the will."
"Have you talked to your girl friends about it?" I asked.
"Most of my girl friends are still nuns. Not exactly experts on having a baby."
"Um, I have an idea. I'm meeting my friends Glynis and Friedmann tonight, before we all go off to college. Glynis had a baby last spring, and she went the anesthesia route. Would you like to talk to her?"
Lily looked thoughtful. "I wouldn't want to intrude—"
"I'll call them, but I think they'll be cool with an extra guest. It's a bring-your-own-food thing, so you won't be imposing. I probably can't bring two guests, though," I added, looking at Kevin apologetically.
"It's OK," said Kevin. "I've got rehab tonight."
I called Glynis a few minutes later and got her permission to bring my sister-in-law.
"I think I remember meeting Glynis," Lily remarked as I switched off. "Your birthday a year ago. One of her classmates had knocked her up, and he finally promised to marry her, during the party. Joan had sort of leaned into him."
I remembered that day vividly, but for a different reason: I lost my virginity that night. It was Grace, of course, and she had joked about it being my ultimate birthday present. I didn't want to get into that now, and I thought of something else to warn her about. "It's true about Friedmann, he admits that he was a jerk then, and is ashamed of it. Please don't mention it to him now."
Lily shook her head. "I won't."
A few hours later, I parked in front of the Friedmanns' house; the couple were living with parents at the moment. As I helped Sister Lily out of the car, I wondered whether passersby, seeing me with a large pregnant woman, might think that she was my wife. Close up they weren't likely to make the mistake; though I wasn't sure of Lily's exact age, she was several years older than Kevin, let alone me.
The gathering started with talk about school. Up to now the Friedmann couple had been working at jobs around Arcadia and getting used to parenthood, but now they had found a college in New York City that would take them in the middle of the school year, based on their brilliant high school records. They asked me what Harvard was like, both academically and socially. Socially was a little awkward to explain. God had arranged it so that Grace, who was doing agricultural work in the poorer countries, could get together with me in dreams, even having the illusion of sleeping together. But nobody outside the Girardi family could know that, and a lot of people would be mystified if I did not have a girlfriend at Harvard. So I had a cover story about a shy girl named Kelly who preferred not to publicize our affair ( Grace/Kelly, get it?) and Lily, who knew I was lying, gave me an odd look.
I was relieved when the focus got on academics. "I thought that you were particularly interested in physics," said Friedmann. "How did you get into biology and Grace's Nucleic Acid?"
The true answer was that God had convinced me that biology was a more important path, but that was another thing I couldn't say. So I came up with a half-true answer, that Grace and I had gotten interested in plants when visiting a farm two summers ago. "But I'll leave the advanced physics to you guys, OK?"
Finally the talk got onto babies. "You know, the English vocabulary is so weird when comes to childbirth," observed Glynis. "Giving birth is about the most strenuous thing a human can do, but what do they call it? 'Having' a baby, the blandest possible verb. Or 'bearing a child', like a burden, which actually you've carried it for months."
"Or 'delivering a baby', as if you're a messenger girl bringing it by," added Lily, and everybody laughed.
Then the talk got onto more medical matters. "I used anesthesia, and the results were rather weird," said Glynis. "I had an odd dream about my life passing by. And when I woke up, I was so disoriented that I couldn't remember for a moment that I was now a mother. If I have anoth – oops, "give birth" again, I may go natural the second time, so I can't give good advice."
Lily pressed her for details on late pregnancy and childbirth, and it was a bit odd, watching an 18-year-old girl teaching a 30-something woman. A teen mom and a woman who had kept a vow of chastity for years. I myself was on the outs in this conversation, but hoped that Lily was getting the information she wanted.
Right on cue, we heard the baby crying in the other room. "That's something you're going to get used to," remarked Glynis as she went off. The cries died down after a few minutes, and Glynis brought the infant back to the group. "Would you like to hold the baby for a while?" she asked Lily.
"I might scare it into crying again."
"The darling's asleep. We can risk it."
Sister Lily took the baby, and held it for a moment against her own chest. Then she gasped. "Take it back. Please!"
"W-what?" stammered Friedmann. Glynis simply took the child back without asking questions.
"Lily, is something wrong?" I asked. "Your own baby?"
"I – I – yes," said Lily, looking distracted.
I looked back at the Friedmanns. "I'm sorry to break this up, but –"
"We understand," said Glynis, concerned. "Go on, you don't have to apologize."
I guided Lily out of the front door. "Lily, do you want me to drive you home? Or to an emergency clinic?"
She looked back to make sure that the Friedmanns could no longer hear. "Home, Luke. This isn't physical."
"I had a vision – but there was no way to explain that to your friends."
Joan and Mom had told me about an odd vision Lily had had a few months ago. Joan's theory was that Lily's unborn child already had a special link with God, and that its special abilities were currently expressing themselves through the mother.
"It's years in the future," Sister Lily said, "but that kid is going to discover something great. Nobel Prize. I can't understand just what the baby is going to find out – something about strings?"
"String theory is a big physics mystery nowadays. If the new Friedmann is going to solve that mystery – wow! That's on a level with Einstein, or Hawkings."
Sister Lily looked back again, with a different expression. "Do you think I should tell them? How can I explain having had a vision about their baby? Don't they deserve to know?"
We continued the walk to the car. "No, let them be overjoyed when it actually happens. After all, all parents think their child is going to be special. It's just that, the Friedmanns are going to be right."
(AUTHOR'S NOTE: Luke's eventful 17th birthday was described in an earlier story called AUTUMN RITUALS)
(AUTHOR'S NOTE: Glynis' dream during childbirth was described in an earlier story called MIND AND BODY)