In the meantime, nobody seemed to be paying attention to the kids we found in the waiting room.
"Where's your mommy?" I said.
"She's having a baby," the boy said.
"Who brought you to the hospital?" I said.
"My mommy," he said.
We found out later he told the truth. His mother was in delivery having a baby - she thought.
When we visited our daughter and our new grandson yesterday, we learned
from a nurse the mother was 30 weeks into pregnancy and insisted Monday night she was in labor.
"She's done that a couple of times," the nurse said, "brought the kids here and left them in the waiting room while we convinced her it wasn't time."
"Is an uncle or an aunt coming to get you?" I had asked the little boy.
"No," he said. "We're waiting for mommy."
The waiting room had started to fill up by this time. Two young guys in their 20s came in. They were dressed in jeans and sports shirts and were wearing expensive sneakers, unlaced, of course. The young guys looked well conditioned, like athletes.
I turned back to the little boy.
"Can we get you something to eat or drink?" I said.
"No," he said.
You could tell by the way he answered that his mother had taught him not to accept things from stangers. She must have felt a need to teach her kids especially well. She might be the only adult in their lives.
One of the athletes went into the delivery room to be with his wife. After a while, I got into a conversation with the other one, who had a Deep-South accent. He said he and his friend were soldiers stationed at Fort Bragg and that his friend's wife had decided to stay home in Philly to have their baby rather than accompany her husband to North Carolina. He said he took a 20-day leave with his friend so he could come north with him for the birth of his child.
"We might be going over pretty soon," he said.
Nowadays, "going over" means only the Persian Gulf.
Our son-in-law came into the waiting room around then. Our grandson, John Steven Paone, had been born with the umbilical cord twisted and knotted around his neck and under his arms. He had swallowed fluid during birth and was having some trouble breathing.
We waited in the hallway outside the nursery for an anxious half-hour or so while doctors and nurses busily worked on the baby. Blinds on the nursery
windows remained drawn all this time but we caught glimpses between the slats of what was going on.
Our grandson, and his mother, turned out to be healthy and fine.
Before we left, I asked the little boy in the waiting room one more time if he and his sister wanted something to eat.
This time, he gave in and said loudly, "Yes, pizza."
His sister smiled.
We went downstairs to the snack bar and brought back pizza and sodas. The kids weren't in the waiting room when we got back. The soldier from the South said they were in seeing their mother. I put the food on a table and asked if he would make sure the kids got it. He had known them for even less time than we had.
"There's nobody else here to do it," he said, "so I'd like to thank you."
We both knew he was talking about caring, not pizza.