Stephen Gerard Hadden was born on December 2, 1957 at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Stephen was born just ten months after an older brother, Brian Joseph Hadden passed away at the too tender age of 10 weeks. Stephen shared with Brian however the then fatal, now predominantly treatable, affliction of hydrocephalus also known as ‘water on the brain.’ Unlike older brother Brian though, Stephen got to go home from the hospital.
I remember Stephen, pictured left in our mother’s arms with me smiling back at the camera in the only known photograph of him. He and I shared the small upstairs bedroom located at the back of 189 Pickering Street in Toronto. I had the bed all to myself, not because I wouldn’t share but because Stephen preferred his bassinet – all attempts at moving him into the crib failed due to his loud protests. Stephen loved that bassinet, or at least seemed to from my perspective. It fit well in our little room, nestled between the bedroom door and our window that looked out onto the backyard of the house.
My mornings always started the same – wake up, jump out of bed, run over to the bassinet and see what Stephen was doing. Usually he wasn’t doing much but I associated that to his being a baby – I didn’t understand hydrocephalus, let alone know of its impacts. Oh sure, there were the times when I would sit on the living couch beside my father when Dr. Hoare, the pediatrician, visited Stephen upstairs with Mom. During those visits, my Dad would look worried and sad but I just thought he didn’t like needles any more than I did, and that’s what doctors would give you every time you saw them.
My morning routine changed abruptly on Valentine’s Day in 1959 when I ran to the bassinet to find it empty. Racing downstairs, I found my mother in the kitchen tending to my new sister, Lou-Anne. I asked my Mom where Stephen had gone? Her reply is as clear to me today as it was over 50 years ago, “He’s gone to play with the angels.”
I remember walking about half way down the stairs to our home’s basement and sitting down. I sat there for what felt like a long time, at least to a three year old, wondering why Stephen would want to play with angels when I was willing to play with him anytime he wanted. Of course, I understand now the gentle attempt that my mother was using in telling me that my brother had passed away but, from time to time I can still see myself sitting on those stairs and I remember Stephen.
My sister often complains about how hard life was growing up the only girl with two tormenting brothers. But I wonder what life in our family would have been like if Brian and Stephen had lived. Oh, what chaos we might have caused!