Part 18: "Would you believe?"
Still nothing to indicate whether the baby is a girl or a boy.
"They're very independent in there," says sonographer Anne Kerns. "They choose what they want to show and what they don't want to show.
"This baby is a little camera shy."
Try as she might to get a good angle, it's no use - "The baby's legs are crossed."
Anne prints out a strip of small photos, clips two of the best frames apart, and gives one to each sister. Kathy, hands on hips, just looks at Wendy and shrugs.
Wendy shrugs, too - "Suspense."
* * *
Would you believe? Your son's gonna have a child?
Standing at the gravestone, the Mother's Day tulips he'd left a month ago still blooming, Joe speaks the words in his mind - praying, in effect, to his mother, as his parish priest advised him to do, to help him over his lingering grief for Florence, who died of cancer three years ago.
Talking to her this way, Joe feels he might cry, he misses her so much, but the feeling passes ("I numbed out a little bit") and he takes a few steps in the family plot toward the grave of his twin brother, Christopher, who was murdered 15 years ago. The crime has never been solved.
Remember I was telling you years ago, Chris, that at least you're leaving something behind when you go out the door? Well, now I'm leaving something behind . . .
Thoughts like these are new for Joe, he says, and carry the force of revelation.
Whereas in the past, he worried about dying - even expected to die young, a common feeling among Vietnam veterans, he says - now death is not an issue. "I don't care if I die tomorrow. I'm leaving something behind - not only my life, but something of my own blood behind."
For months, he says, he has experienced all that's happened - the attempts to get pregnant, the success of it - in a kind of a daze, not really grasping the situation, not sure how he felt about it.
But then he heard the heartbeat and it became more real, he says. He knows now, "it's God's will."
* * *
Joe is not the only one who needs time to acclimate.
Recently, he stopped at his father's house in North Smithfield. His father, for whom Joe is named, is a retired union construction worker; his son describes him as a "rough and tumble" guy. (He didn't care to be interviewed for this series.)
Joe let his father know that if the baby's a boy, he will be named Joseph. His father was pleased enough to hear this, Joe reports. He said, that's nice.
Then today, Joe again stopped by the house, and again spoke of the baby. But this time, his father surprised him.
"It's truly a miracle," he told his son. "Just having a baby is a miracle. But this is truly a miracle." He took off his glasses and wiped his eyes.
It reminded Joe of the day he left for Vietnam.
"When he took me to the plane at Green Airport, he had sunglasses on then, and he made sure they stayed on, because he didn't want red eyes or tears or whatever.
"But I could tell. I knew."
* * *
As much as Joe is growing more comfortable with the prospect of fatherhood, he still has a lot on his mind.
A big worry is his brother, Donald, 46, who is developmentally disabled, partially paralyzed and afflicted by occasional seizures, all due to an inoperable brain tumor he's had since childhood.
Donny has always lived with his parents, but he is getting to be too much for his elderly, widowed, and now often ailing father to handle. And so Joe and Kathy have offered to be Donny's new legal guardians.
They are happy to do this. They love Donny, are patient and tender with him, and include him in their many family events. Still, his joining the household will mean making a big adjustment - and right before another big adjustment is required.
In just a few months, this couple will become a family of four.
* * *
"Joe and I are leaving for Bermuda on a cruise this Sunday," Kathy writes in her diary .. "Joe has been wanting this for awhile . . ."
Personally, she'd rather stay home. Home with her pregnant sister.
But she senses that this is important to Joe, who's craving a "last fling" before the baby is born, and who loves cruises - the sleeping late, the dancing, the midnight buffets.
The last time they went on a cruise - they've been on more than a dozen - Joe won a prize for successfully rolling a grapefruit around Kathy's body without using his hands. They laughed themselves silly.
Go, everybody tells her. Go now.
* * *
"Freedom," says Joe at the Bonanza Bus station in Pawtucket, where they are meeting a chartered bus to take them to the ship. "It's like freedom for me. If I was here, I'd be worried all the time. This week, I'm not going to worry about nothing]"
He is already decked out for the tropics. He wears his favorite "cruise shirt," with its swirling mint green, red, yellow and pink pattern; green shorts and sneakers that Kathy gave him as his first-ever Father's Day gift.
The trip, too, he says, was one of Kathy's surprises.
He had been sort of moping around the house when she got the message, felt guilty, and said, "Go ahead, talk to Tony," their travel agent.
"That was all it took!" says Joe. "Bingo! Here we are!"