Friday, August 19, 2011

Meet My Former Boss Tina

I met Tina the Program Manager when she hired me to work part-time in a transitional housing ministry for destitute HIV-positive addicts in recovery.  Tina was a licensed additions counselor and herself a recovering addict and alcoholic.  Her mother had been an alcoholic diabetic; she died when Tina was three years old.  Tina was raised by some relatives; I don't know what became of her father.  It could not have been a happy childhood for the young Tina to have resorted to alcohol and cocaine to numb her pain.

Tina was also married and had two daughters.  She was determined to give her daughters the loving home she had never had.  Her husband was one of those very rare men who had stuck with his wife through thick and thin.  Both spouses did whatever it took to build a home and a family for their children.  They were lay Catholics who lived their faith in a way that put the clerics to shame.

Tina taught me how to toss a room to look for drugs and how to confront addicts with quiet yet blunt resolve.  My prior experience with HIV had been as a laboratory technician in clinical and research immunology laboratories.  Western blots, Northern blots, and ELISA screening tests I knew about.  Coping with addicts was a whole new ball game for me.  I quickly learned that drug addicts and politicians share an incredible capacity for deceit and readiness to sacrifice everything and everyone just to feed their narcissism.  The only effective way to handle either is up front and immediately.  Never, ever let a lie or a deceit slide until another time, or it will become a sacrosanct precedent in the twisted mind of the addict or the politician (You let it slide once, so you owe it to me now.)

But if Tina was a determined program manager ready to storm the gates of hell to bring an addict off the street and into recovery, she was also just another woman in a ministry run by her church.  Our particular house had been founded by a man who specifically recruited Tina to take over for him when he was transferred to set up another house in another city.  Tina did an admirable job, but the bigshots from Chicago would come through and talk down to her.  I do not recall ever hearing them listen to Tina.  Oh, the boys in the dog collars would show up to raise money for the building and to schmooze with donors alright, but I do not think that they ever truly grasped the sometimes gutwrenching work Tina did in that ministry.  Even if they had grasped the stress of Tina's work intellectually, they would not have respected, much less honored, it (cf.

The time and the pressure came to expand the ministry to increase through-put and reduce unit costs.  In other words, we were supposed to take on more addicts; cycle them through their treatment regimens faster regardless of outcome (multiple relapses are expected in recovery); and reduce the cost of housing and managing each addict -- at least on paper. Yes, my dears, addiction recovery is not merely a Christian mission, it is an American industry.

The boys in the dog collars hired a bloodless banker to do the job, and he in turn did a number on Tina.  He gave her one month to raise a million dollars in grants for the ministry or lose her job.  She raised the money.  He wanted to get rid of the volunteer activities coordinator, but Tina fought to save that woman's job.  The woman turned on Tina and played into the hands of the banker.  The banker fired Tina and named the former volunteer coordinator the acting program manager even though that woman had no qualifications as an addictions counselor whatsoever.

The last time I spoke with Tina over the phone, she was fighting kidney cancer and terrified of leaving her daughters orphaned as she had been orphaned.  Even before the cancer struck, she had been suffering autoimmune flare-ups that crippled her.  The doctors had warned Tina that she would spend her later years in a wheelchair.  How much of those autoimmune problems was rooted in the family history of diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis and how much in the damage caused by the alcohol and the drugs, I do not know.  But the boys in the dog collars did unload Tina from their payroll within one year of her first crippling flare-up.

I left that ministry shortly after Tina was let go in a "right to work" state.  I will not work for any management that I can not trust.  I can no longer work with or for Tina's church in any capacity.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Berlin Wall And Checkpoint Charlie

I had two opportunities to pass through Checkpoint Charlie and visit both East and West Berlin between 1982 and 1987:

The first time I visited Berlin, I traveled by train to be on my own for a few days with one of those days spent in East Berlin.  After answering artful questions by the East German guards at Checkpoint Charlie (My fellow Americans couldn't have cared less what I was doing), I spent the morning wandering around East Berlin just to get myself oriented.

I got lost in some dead-end alley.  There was a bit of lawn and a dull grey wall beyond it with little stamped metal signs on it.  The stamped metal signs were about six inches tall by about nine inches wide with a dark blue enamel background and white lettering.  I am extremely nearsighted and thought that the signs would bear the name of the street -- so I could get myself oriented again.  But there were signs on the lawn not to step on it, and I was a guest in somebody else's house.  So I leaned over the grass to read the signs.  It was the East German side of the Berlin Wall sans graffiti.  I had wandered into a restricted zone.  Then I noticed out of the corner of my eye that two young men in uniforms with rifles were watching me closely.  I backed up carefully and went back the way I came to get myself reoriented elsewhere.

Then I went to an East Berlin bookstore to check out their selection and then wandered around the old university campus.  I thought that I would check out their university library, but I did not even make it up the steps to the door of the library.  Party-faithful students were stationed outside on the steps, and everybody going into the library had to show their university ID to get past them to the door.  They were polite but firm; my student ID from Tuebingen did not pass muster.  That was the first time I had ever been denied access to a library in my life.*

From there I took a lunch break at a restaurant open to foreigners where they wanted my Western currency.  I met two young ladies having lunch on a winter day while they left their babies wrapped up in their prams outside for the fresh air.  They were new mothers and on their state-paid six-month maternity leave.  They were curious about how American mothers juggled work and home, so I told them what I knew from my coworkers' experiences. They were aghast that rich America would deny newborns and mothers adequate maternity leave to get the child off to a good start.

That afternoon, I went to a museum.  The teacher of a class of nine or ten-year-olds (or was it eleven or twelve-year-olds?) caught my ironic look when she was explaining to her pupils that a certain painting was painted in New Time year of WXYZ.  There was no BC:AD::BCE:CE in East Germany.  It was New Time or Old Time.  The teacher never mentioned that the painting illustrated a Bible story from the Old Testament.

That evening I went to a theater known as the old stomping grounds of Bertold Brecht.  They staged a satire by Dario Fo with some very good special effects.  Up in a box (the only time I have ever been in a theater box), I met two young construction workers from Dresden.  They had been detailed to Berlin to rehab some buildings.  According to them, Dresden was even more rundown and shoddy than East Berlin.  They told me one or two East German jokes during the intermission, but I didn't want them to get into any trouble on my account.  I forget what jokes I told them (probably something about the Chicago political patronage machine or Tricky Dick Nixon).

Leaving the theater, I walked to Checkpoint Charlie and made my way back to the hostel in West Berlin.  Nobody bothered me or approached me on the east side of the wall.  I was completely alone on the street in a world city.

The rest of my first stay in Berlin, I went to the zoo, the symphony, and assorted museums in West Berlin.  The train ride back through East Germany was just as dull as the train ride to Berlin.  With embankments along both sides of the railroad tracks, you couldn't see anything anyway.  The East German conductors came through and ordered the window shades pulled down.  So, all the women either read books and magazines or busied themselves with needlework.  Nobody engaged in audible conversation.  Nobody made eye contact.

My second visit to Berlin was sponsored by the exchange student office in Tuebingen for a weekend excursion.  It was a bus tour with other foreign students and a bit more comfortable in a small private hotel.  The tour bus drove past that old university library in East Berlin, and at one point I recognized a square from old news clips of Nazis burning books.  It made me shudder.  At no point did we meet or speak to any East Berliners.

In West Berlin we went to the theater for a production of Zuckmayer's Der Hauptmann von Koepenick one evening.  Another evening we went to a drama about the Warsaw Ghetto.  After the show a curtain bearing portaits of Ronald Reagan and Helmut Kohl came down to gasps in the audience.  Reagan's trip to the Bitburg cemetery that also contained the graves of SS men was still a raw topic.  The third evening we went to a jazz club in a smoky cellar (To my knowledge there have been no more jazz clubs along 55th Street in Chicago for decades now; Americans have to travel to Berlin to hear the good stuff in smoky cellars for an affordable price.)

But the incident I recall most clearly about the Berlin Wall and all that it signified happened in Tuebingen.  I was working as an "undergraduate scientific aide" -- basically the German version of a work-study student -- in a leukemia and immunogenetics research laboratory.  The lab also did clinical tissue crossmatches for bone marrow transplantation.  We had one patient who had fled East Germany twenty-some years before.  He needed a living-related bone marrow transplant, if possible, but his only sibling still lived in East Germany.  The East German authorities refused to let his sister leave East Germany to come to Tuebingen for the tissue crossmatch, much less the bone marrow transplant if she turned out to be compatible with her brother.  They said that she knew "state secrets".  The woman had worked all her life as a waitress in a cafe.

So much for the German Democratic Republic of Workers and Farmers...

*The second time I was denied access to a university library happened at the medical school library of Northwestern University on North Michigan Avenue in Chicago circa 1990/1.  My employer had sent me to photocopy a scientific article about extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy in a professional journal likely to be in their collection.  Honest fool that I was, I asked the librarian whether I needed to pay a fee.  The bitch stood up and announced in a loud obnoxious voice that she didn't know where all these outsiders from off the street got the idea that they had any business in a private university's medical library.  I was thinking that it had something to do with the tax dollars all of us paid to subsidize that medical school and its library, but I kept my cool.  Instead the librarians at the Library of Science and Technology at the University of Illinois at Chicago -- a land grant university -- were very gracious and helpful.

From that day on, I swore to confine my studies -- if I ever could afford to go back to them -- to land grant universities.  It never perplexed me at all that Communist Mikhail Gorbachev and Methodist Margaret Thatcher hit it off so well.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

OK, Now I'm Ticked Off

The following is the edited text of an email I sent to Ann Fisher on the "All Sides" radio program at WOSU-AM, FM, Columbus, Ohio, on August 10, 2011:

Dear Ann,

To my mind today's segment typifies how Columbus/Ohio/American social service, law enforcement, and education services need to coordinate their efforts BUT DON'T.  If you can correlate how a mother interacts with her 18-month-old with the likelihood of that child dropping out of school and job training, then you need to begin intervention right then and there.  Do NOT wait 14.5 years to bemoan the outcome that the kid is hanging out on the corner at East Whittier Street and South Champion Avenue in my neighborhood, learning the fine art of becoming a social predator and career criminal.

REALITY CHECK:  WHY?  Because I will shoot the little bastard when the teenage/adult creep crawls into my window to terrorize me in my own home!

Get that baby into a professional creche with qualified and dedicated personnel paid a living wage while you get his mother into job training to put her on notice that Section 8, food stamps, and Medicaid are NOT career choices.  They are only a fallback to tide her over until she lands a REAL job.  Then you move that child to a Head Start/day care program while Mom is at work.  In addition, you run after-school enrichment programs to keep the child CONSTRUCTIVELY occupied, not hanging out on the corner in my neighborhood

You expressed a concern that not every kid is made to concentrate on science and math.  That's OK.  I hear tell that big bad Venezuela has developed a music program for poor kids that has garnered international acclaim.  A certain symphony conductor alumnus of that program is supposed to hang out in Los Angeles, California, these days.  He has some expertise at putting children to work learning to play musical instruments.  Stop farting around and get him to help you do it!

IF you are willing to face the fact that Section 8, Medicaid, and food stamps were never intended to be career choices but are in fact being abused as career choices, then you need to get serious about telling that transfer payment employee on my taxpayer trillion (forget dime) that she is on my clock and needs to get her fanny to work like the rest of us.

IN ADDITION, children need real fathers, not "baby daddies".  If he wants to be a "baby daddy", let him do it on his time and his dime, not mine.  That means:  Get serious about collecting some real child support from these bozos.  Put some positive male role models into the children's lives to displace "baby daddy".  You know what I mean:  Men that wear their pants around their waists and not hanging from that peg in their crotches.  Men whose resumes list their gainful legal employment, not their criminal RAP sheets.

Bill Cosby was right when he said that recipients should get their welfare checks ONLY when they can prove that their children have attended school all week and that the parent has been diligent at his/her job training program all week.   Remember that Bill Cosby is a man who grew up in the slums of Philadelphia; survived enlisting in the Navy; went to university on the GI Bill and scholarships; has a PhD in education; and therefore has some idea of what he is talking about.  Oh, and the man made some decent money doing side jobs in show business along the way.

But does anybody LISTEN?  Hell no.  The whole world came crashing down on him anyway -- except perhaps that cadre of truly adult fathers sick and tired of being taken for chumps by the deadbeats.

In conclusion, thank you, Ann.  I feel much better now, having gotten that off my chest.

P.S.  I know what it is like to live on Section 8, food stamps, and Aid to Familes with Dependent Children (AFDC).  We HAD to resort to those things when my father deserted the family when I was 13 years old back in 1966.  But my mother didn't run the streets.  She ran her home; sent her children to school unless they were truly sick; and went to work as a part-time cafeteria lady in the public schools to earn enough money to pay to move her children to Chicago.  Once there, she found work in her old home town and never looked back.  By the way, my father was a GS-10 federal civil servant that didn't pay his child support and got away with it because the system was just as full of loopholes then as it is now.

Help me, Jesus.  I don't need to watch some stupid movie Idiocracy.  I'm LIVING in an idiocracy!

Monday, August 8, 2011

News Update From Ohio

On August 8, 2011,  I heard a troubling report on WOSU-AM, FM radio in Columbus, Ohio.  It seems that the number of known drug withdrawal cases for prescription drug (especially opiate) addiction in Ohio newborns doubled between 2008 and 2010.  Not all Ohio hospitals track these cases.  There is no reporting requirement for these cases in the State of Ohio.  Not all mothers are screened for drugs during their pregnancies unless the clinician suspects that something is amiss.  So, we do not know the real extent of the problem.  Furthermore, according to that report, sending an addicted newborn home to go through withdrawal can be life threatening -- especially if the mother does not recognize the infant's withdrawal symptoms.

The report did not go into what lifelong consequences that babies born addicted to prescription drugs/opiates may suffer.

Yet another example of Ohio's "pro-life" legislators' hypocrisy about abortion.  They demand forced births in the jackbooted dominatrix state even as they reject caring for the baby in the social welfare nanny state.  Too bad for the infant that how she lives or dies once she is born is her problem.

Addendum:  See also (broadcast on August 9, 2011)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Meet My Neighbor Beverly

Born the daughter of an alcoholic mother, Beverly has learning disabilites, bipolar disorder, and three children by two fathers.  All she wants is the stable loving home she never had as a child.  It is getting there that is so damned hard -- especially when she forgets to take or can not afford to buy her medications.

Beverly works as a home health aide when her car runs well enough to get her to and from work.  She has not learned how to get around on public transit in Columbus.  I think she is frightened of losing her way, and there is the snob factor, too.

Her husband lost his job as a laborer when the financial crisis hit Ohio hard in 2008.  He has been looking for work ever since with nothing ever quite panning out for him.  Employers generally are not interested in two-time felons even in a good economy.  Finding a real training program that in fact leads to a real manufacturing job was a joke in Ohio even before the crisis.

It was no secret that my neighbors were going through a rough patch; you could hear the fights all the way down the street.  I do not know what it is about my dumpling face that makes stressed out women want to talk to me about their problems.  I have never married.  How do I know what to do about it?  I think that they just want to get things off their chest, and I am willing to make them a fresh cup of coffee while they unburden themselves.

"Ms. Charlotte, can I talk to you about something?"

"Would you like a cup of coffee?" (Oh brother, here we go.)

"I feel so betrayed, but I can't do anything about it."

"Betrayed how?  Remember that this is the worst economy since the Great Depression.  In all fairness, he is out there every day, pounding the pavement to look for work.  He does his best to help look after the kids when he's home."

"It's not about that.  It's about...", she drifts off.  (Jesus, help me, I am no marriage counselor.)

"Well.  I was six months pregnant with this new baby when I found out that ... well.  There was this woman who came to our house with his mother one or two times.  I thought she was his cousin or something, you know.  But she's his first wife.  And they're not divorced.  Ms. Charlotte, he swore before the judge that he was forsaking all others when we got married. Now what am I supposed to do?  I married him because I thought that we were going to build a family.  And he's still having, you know, relations with her."

"Does she work?  Are there other children?"

"She's on some kind of disability.  They have no kids." (Aha, a built-in stepmother.  Don't even go there, Charlotte.)

"How did the county clerk's office miss this?  Don't they do a name check in their records?"

"He married her in Franklin County and me in my county.  I guess one county doesn't know what the other one is doing."

"That's Ohio for you."

"Yeah.  I don't know what to do." (Especially since turning him in likely would mean hard time for the third strike.  What about the children without even half a father in the house?)

"I don't know what to tell you, Beverly.  Maybe you need to speak with a bona fide counselor in confidence -- like a pastor or somebody who could help you work through this." (Don't mention lawyers, yet.  Get her to her pastor first; the pastor is certain to have more connections in the community than I do.)

"I can't talk to my caseworker without her having to report him."

"What about your pastor?  What you tell her is strictly private."

"My church is back home.  I don't know anybody here in the city."

"Make an appointment with your pastor back home the next time you go down there to visit.  You need to sort out for yourself what you need to do or not do in what order to protect yourself and the children.  Would you like more coffee?"

"No thanks.  I have to get back to the kids."

"How are you fixed for laundry detergent?"

"Ms. Charlotte, you shouldn't.  You don't have that much money, either."

"It was one of those buy-one-get-one specials.  You can't let a man leave the house in dirty clothes when he's looking for work."

Leave it to unprincipled peters practising the Peter principle in the Ohio General Assembly to tell qualified doctors how to practise medicine when those same legislators can not, or will not, find a way to consolidate marriage and divorce records across Ohio.

Meet My Coworker Ann

Ann and I worked at the same small family firm in Red Bank, New Jersey, back in 1971/2.  I was a kid still fresh out of high school.  Ann from Perth Amboy, New Jersey, was a working mother in her mid-to-late twenties with three sons .  She had left school to marry too young.

Ann had to work outside the home because her husband had deserted the family when he decided that he did not want to be married to her anymore.  He had no trouble with driving by to show the boys a good time with fun and games.  It was those boring things like the rent, food, the utility bills, and medical care that he could not be bothered with anymore.

Boys will be boys, and Ann had her hands full with her three.  They ranged in age from about ten years old down to about four years old.  I think it was the six-year-old that had lost an eye because he had been playing with a pen knife when he shouldn't have.  It was the game where the boy throws the knife into the ground, and the knife is supposed to land with the blade in the soil.  In his case, the boy missed completely, and the knife handle bounced back up from the concrete sidewalk.  The blade landed in the child's eye.

Ann seemed to feel that the accident somehow made her an unfit mother.  Her estranged husband and his attorney did everything they could to rub salt into that wound to drive Ann over the edge. Yet Ann was the one who was pulling the load for two parents to the point of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion.

You could see that Ann was under so such stress that she was about to break completely.  Sometimes she trembled.  At one point she had to choose between gasoline to drive that old wreck of hers to work or food in the house.

One morning Ann approached me quietly when the others were not around during break to ask if I could lend her some money until payday.  You could see that it pained her to have to ask a relative stranger for anything.  I pulled the twenty-dollar bill I had out of my pocket.  I had been trying not to break it until closer to payday, but I also had my basic necessities covered until payday.

"Here take it."

"I'll get it back to you on payday."

"Don't worry about it.  You have enough on your plate to worry about.  There's no rush.  My father deserted the family, too.  I know what it's like."

"But you're going to a new job after next week.  I'm no deadbeat.  How will I find you?"

"Like I said, don't worry about it.  Someday if you have the money to spare, just pass it on to some other woman who needs it or put it in the plate at church.  Whatever works."

A few years later, we bumped into eachother when I was visiting Red Bank.

"I still owe you that twenty dollars."

"Don't worry about it.  You needed it.  I had it.  It was a blessing to be able to give it."

Back in 1971/2, twenty dollars represented ten hours gross wages at minimum wage in a small factory reeling toward bankruptcy.  It was never about the money.

If a man wants to be respected as a man, the first thing he needs to do is act like one, not just prance around like some kind of wannabe.  Children need fathers, not "baby daddies".

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Why My Mother Reared Me In The Episcopal Church

My mother, Regina Stephanie Zajfert, attended catechism classes in preparation for her First Communion in the Roman Catholic Church in Chicago in 1927.  There were two things that stood out in Mother's mind for the rest of her life whenever she spoke about those classes.

The first was that Mother felt treated like a second-class Catholic by the nuns because she attended Chicago Public Schools rather than a parochial school.  On one hand, maybe the nuns just knew the children from the parish school better and were less reserved with them.  On the other hand, even if my grandparents could have afforded the tuition for a parochial school in light of Grandfather's recurrent hospital stays, Grandfather preferred to send his children to Chicago Public Schools.  Having grown up a son of the church organist in Slesin, Poland, and having watched church politics from the sidelines, Jozef Michael Zajfert wanted his daughters to view life from a more broadminded, i.e., less parochial, perspective.  Maybe that attitude came through in Mother's innocent curiosity at that tender age.

The second was what happened in catechism class the day the nun spoke to the children about what kind of books "good" Catholics read.  "Good" Catholics read only those books that had a certain stamp on the title page of the book.  The stamp was called the imprimatur.

Mother piped up in her eight-year-old voice stoked up by Chicago Public Schools civics class, "But Sister, isn't that censorship?"

Guess who flew out of catechism class that afternoon.  Perplexed about what is was that she could have done that was so wrong, Mother went home to ask her parents why the nun had reacted to her question by expelling her from class that day. Grandmother and Grandfather reassured Mother that she had done nothing wrong.

Grandfather went for a walk and stopped by the rectory that evening to chat with the priest.  That was the last time Mother flew out of catechism class.  But the seed of skepticism, not cynicism, born of injustice and stupidity already had been sown in a child's mind and heart.

Fast Forward:  In 1960 most of my third-grade classmates in Copaigue, Long Island, New York were attending catechism class after school; the rest were attending Hebrew school.  Where did I belong?  I asked my mother why we had no catechism class in our church.  She explained, "We do.  You will attend your catechism class in eighth grade, when you are old enough to comprehend better what you are getting into."

Mother formally converted to the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States on the same day I made my Confirmation in Red Bank, New Jersey, in 1966.  Mother brought her Polish traditions of Christmas and Easter babka, rye bread, pierogi, smoked sausage, sauerkraut laced with caraway seeds, and horseradish with her.  She left behind the confessional and blind obedience to papal infallibility or to any earthly authority for that matter.

So, my Polish Roman Catholic mother and my German-Irish Evangelical Lutheran father reared me as an American Episcopalian, i.e., a renegade Catholic/backsliding Protestant fan of Erasmus of Rotterdam.  My childhood best friend Ruthie was a Reform Jew whose Viennese parents had fled Hitler.  I spent more time in Ruthie's synagogue than in my church during high school.

All in all my spiritual upbringing instilled in me a small-c catholic outlook on life.  It's a bit like being a small-d democrat.  In terms of intellectual rigor amalgamated with human empathy, I think it was the skepticism and respect for critical thinking that stuck.

Addendum:  See also (broadcast August 9, 2011)

I Heard Tell About An American Solomon

Many years ago, a coworker told me about a judge back home.  Back home for that coworker was Montana or one of the Dakotas or maybe Nebraska -- I do not recall which.

It seems that a high school girl had born a child out of wedlock sometime in the 1960s or the 1970s.  She went to court to demand child support payments from the father.  The father enlisted six of his buddies to testify that they all had had sex with her.  In a time before the advances of molecular biology and genetic testing, the boys insisted that there was no way to determine who really was the father.

The girl and her family were devastated by the lie.  However, that judge had been around the block once or twice.  He ordered each of the boys to pay one-seventh of the child support until the child's eighteenth birthday.  They could pay up for what they had confessed in court, or they could confess that they had perjured themselves in court and face those charges instead.

That judge was an American Solomon in my book.

Meet My Classmate Nina

Nina and I attended the same high school in the late 1960s.  Back then it was still a scandal for a girl to get pregnant before she graduated high school.  Considered unfit to attend regular public school classes (A loose girl in class might have contaminated the rest of us girls and given the boys unpure thoughts), the girl usually was shipped off to distant relatives or a home for unwed mothers until she delivered the baby.  Then she would return to school, the baby having been given up for adoption at birth.

Sure enough, it happened to Nina.  She cleaned house after school for a grown man with children, and he had taken advantage of the situation.  Terrified of how her parents would respond when she told them that she was pregnant out of wedlock and that there was no prospect of even a shotgun marriage, Nina enlisted my younger sister to be there for the revelation.  She felt that having an outsider present would increase her prospects of making it through the ensuing explosion safely.  They both made it through physically whole, but it still got very ugly.

After Nina returned from the home for unwed mothers run by the nuns, her body and her spirit had changed.  Her girlish waist was gone.  The nuns had withheld pain medication while Nina was in labor, telling her that she did not really need it and to stop making a fuss about everything.  Nina screamed until she broke her own soprano voice.  Nina had had a beautiful voice and had participated in all the musical events at school, but she did not sing again after she came home.

There was a hard edge to Nina that had not been there before.  With a flinty look in her eyes, Nina related that, during the delivery, she had been told not to look at the baby.  She was not allowed to hold it, either.  The baby was taken away for adoption immediately.

Nina had looked anyway.  That's how she knew that she had born a son.

Addendum:  Compare (broadcast on July 21, 2011):