Chapter Nineteen:

Not Even With A Whimper

“And of course you can’t become

If you only say what you would have done

So I missed a million miles of fun ...

I know it’s up for me (if you steal my sunshine)

Making sure I’m not in too deep (if you steal my sunshine)”


    In our neck of Perm, the sun never came out that morning of Thursday, Nov. 25, 1999.

    The skies were literally gray all day. However, towards morning, I got up, looked in on Cyril and took him out of his crib.  

    The baby was so thin and frail that morning. Had he even gained an ounce in the days we had him?  

    His blue eyes were so distant, and only now do I realize that he was in the beginning stages of fading out. He looked so tired.  And still looked like he was just … waiting.

    I fed him and he ate very slowly. I changed his diaper and placed him on the bed next to Daniel to try to give him some rest. 

    I made a note at how much he looked almost dead resting in Daniel’s arms on our bed. His eyes were wide open still, and they had begun to fall into his thinning face where his thinning cheeks were now taking over.  

    The angel of death had come in and was now hanging over our son. But I didn’t see the angel’s shadow then. I didn’t notice his presence. I will never make that mistake again.

    When Daniel got up, he gave Cyril back to me.  I lay on the couch with him on top of me and said to Daniel, “I can’t see the sun today.”  

    Daniel looked at me and shrugged his shoulders. “Well, we are way up north here, and the days are shorter since it is the wintertime.”  

    Maybe. Not a ray of sunlight entered our hotel room that day.

    Around 11, Lena and Sergey showed up to take Daniel out to the Perm regional museum. Cyril and I were sitting on the couch.  

    Sergey made a comment that I understood, mentioning Cyril’s “big eyes.”  Today we wonder if Lena and Sergey saw that day in the baby’s face death coming for him, willfully ignored  the baby’s condition.

    Daniel was driven to the museum where exhibits touted the bicentennial of Alexander Pushkin, Perm’s role in Russia’s abortive 1905 revolution, and other things you’d expect from a regional museum like geological diaramas.

    One exhibit, though, stuck in his mind then and in both of ours for long afterwards. 

    It illustrated Perm’s horrible pollution problems. Communism had never cared too much about the environment, and the Perm region was not spared the ill effects of the industrialization that was touted in a pro-business exhibit immediately following it.

    Lena afterwards told him about one town in the region that she had visited or passed through on occasion and found very depressing.

    All the buildings there were gray and no one worked. There had been nearby factories and mines, but with the demise of the U.S.S.R. there was no reason to keep them open. So there was no work in the town, and nobody had any place to go while they all let the effects of their former jobs slowly kill them.

    Among the exhibits in the room was a deformed fetus or two in a jar.

    Not a good sign about Cyril’s environment. What were these kids being exposed to? It is still a valid concern for many adoptive parents and the doctors who evaluate them.

    And just after it was an exhibit, sponsored by local businesses, touting the virtues of that very same industrialization that had caused all the problems they’d just seen. It was a strange juxtaposition, and Daniel commented on it to Lena.

    While Daniel was out, I once again fed Cyril and decided to give him a bath.  Before I undressed him and placed him in the tub, I held him close to me and moved closer to the bathroom mirror. 

    I pointed our reflections to him in the glass, and his wan and white face stared back at me and he shook his head.  Cyril was seeing what I couldn’t: in his reflection he saw the angel of death hovering over him (Five years later, Automne would have a similar experience with Ethan)

    After his bath, I dried him off, swabbed some of the German baby ointment on his butt and placed a clean diaper on him.  I then took him out to the living room and laid him on the blanket where he had been rolling around only the day before.

    Instead of rolling, the baby lay there, looking up at me, barely moving his arms. I thought that he wanted a nap, so I got his blanket from his crib and covered him.  He didn’t attempt to roll over on to his stomach like he would have, but lay there on his back, staring and staring back at me.  

    And then his head twitching began in earnest. Just back and forth back and forth, as if he were saying NO NO NO to whatever was stealing what was left of his life away. 

    Finally, I picked him up, and placed him on the couch next to me. I turned on the television set and ended up watching some Russian cartoons with clay ducks and fish jumping in and out of a clay pond.  I thought he would find something amusing about this.  

    Then, I went and got some moisturizer and placed it on his pale face — his skin seemed so dry.  It was if I were anointing him with it. His eyes continued to stare upwards, and sometimes followed my hands as I applied the light cream to his thin cheeks.

    Around 4:30 p.m. Daniel returned to Room No. 11. He had the video camera in tow and told me about the museum, taking note of the exhibit on the environmental costs of Perm’s industrialization. 

    The time was drawing near when we would soon meet Linda Wright, so we prepared to feed and get Cyril dressed up for the occasion.  

    I had laid out a lovely plaid outfit that Daniel’s mother had bought for him, and if he had only a chance to wear it, he would have looked so handsome. As it was, he was wearing only his diaper and a tee shirt, something which we kept him in because it was so warm in our room.

    By 4:45 p.m. Daniel was taking in the bathroom, cleaning himself up. Cyril was in my arms on the couch attempting to eat baby food peaches.  

    Slowly, he swallowed his food, but his eyes, his eyes …they were losing their spark. Daniel came out of the bathroom dressed and went up to the couch. 

    I had stopped feeding Cyril and placed the cap on the baby food and laid it on the coffee table. The baby’s eyes weren’t dilating in the light, yet his throat was still working, swallowing the remaining peaches.

    Good God!  His pupils were NOT dilating!  I jumped up and grabbed the penlight flashlight we had been instructed to bring by the agency for “emergencies.”  

    I can’t remember why we had left it out, but I twisted the knob and shone the light directly into Cyril’s eyes.  His pupils remained fixed; his eyes didn’t blink.

    “Daniel, something isn’t right about the baby.”

    Daniel had seen me take the light and was now hovering over me.  “What’s wrong?  What’s wrong with the baby?  Is he choking?” He asked me. 

    “No!  No! His eyes aren’t dilating!”

    The alarm had gone off too late for us, for Cyril.  Daniel grabbed Cyril off the couch, and rushed him over to the plush armchair by the window.  He placed the limp body of our son on the chair, and as he attempted to sit the baby down, Cyril’s head rolled backwards like a rag doll, and I heard the sound of his soul escaping from his now gaping mouth: Kirill Konstantinovich Petrov had breathed his last breath.

    “Oh my God, Daniel, this baby is dead!

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