Beyond Transgressions

Chapter 1 Vacation

 

Eight hours later I am awakened when Rod’s gentle arm of persuasion nudges me out of my deep sleep.  “Wake up honey, we’re here.” Startled, I slowly open my eyes. Rod checks in at the service desk and suddenly I’m hit with an uncontrollable urge to release my bladder.  Afraid of going in my pants, I dash to the bathroom before I explode. I can’t even control my body.  Once I’m finished the beauty of the resort puts me in the moment and affords me the opportunity to remember that God’s in control. The negative thoughts are disbanded. Satan will not control my mind.

I return to the car to find Kristen and Dewayne unloading the suitcases. “Where’s your Dad honey?”  “He’s in the bathroom. I guess neither of you old folks could hold it.” I chuckle at the comment. “Mom, when Dad comes back, we need to talk.”  “Okay.” This sounds serious. Once we’ve all gathered in the living room she instantly starts muttering. “Mom, Dad I appreciate everything you’ve done for me, the way you’ve provided for me and taken care of me. You taught me the difference between right and wrong.  You taught me how to be independent. Now, I’m perfectly capable of making my own decisions, mistakes included, so it’s time you let me live my life.”  Rod speaks up and says, “Yes, Kristen that’s what we’ve been doing.”  “Then there’s no longer a need for you to control me.”  “Okay Kristen, what is it?” “Dewayne and I would like to share rooms.” Rod looks at her dumbfounded. “Dad, I’m not saying that we’re going to have sex with you and Mom in the next room but I’m saying if we wanted to we could have already. You policing me isn’t going to stop us.” “Kristen, what you do on your time in your own space is your business but I will not pay for the room if you and Dewayne are going to sleep together.” Dewayne chimes in and says, “Mr. Jones I’ll be happy to pay for our room.” Rod says, “I bet you would be.” Rod is irate. Before he says something he will later regret I distract him by calling him into the bedroom. “Rod, let’s take a tour of the villa.”  “Stacey, not now.” “Yes, Rod now.”

 We enter into the first bedroom and Rod slams the door shut before he spats off at the mouth. “The nerve of him. I invite him on a family vacation and he takes it as an invitation to sleep with my daughter. I have always had the utmost respect for him until this stunt.”  “Honey, I know but remember we agreed to let Kristen make her own mistakes.” “I didn’t say I’d agree to let her flaunt her sins in my face. This is not something I signed up for.”  “ I know and I’m surprised that she disrespected us by asking.” He’s really angry because now he’s crying. I hug him to console him but I think he’s overreacting. “Honey, let’s go for a walk.” “Okay, let’s put our clothes away first.” Rod wheels our suitcases from the living room into the bedroom. Kristen and Dewayne are no longer in the front room but I can hear them upstairs. They must be unpacking. We put our clothes away and I walk up the steps to check out the rest of the apartment. There’s another bedroom, another bathroom, and a loft. Wow this is really spacious.

 “Kristen, your Dad and I are going for a walk on the beach.”  “Hold on a second Dewayne and I are going with you.” I rush back down stairs to warn Rod to be on his best behavior. “Rod they’re coming with us. Please don’t say anything rude.” “Honey, I won’t. This vacation is for us and I’m not going to let them ruin it. Besides realistically she’s right, they could’ve already slept together. It just overwhelmed me to hear her say it.”  “I know, but it’s her life and ultimately her decision.”  God says he doesn’t put any more on us than we can bear. This is a real hard pill to swallow. What if she gets pregnant?”   Kristen hears the end of the conversation. She’s standing in the door. “And what if who gets pregnant?” she says. I’m not biting my tongue. “You. Your Dad was talking about you.”  “Really, why are ya talking about my business? First of all, I wouldn’t be that dumb. I don’t want any kids right now and second of all like I said if I wanted to have a baby I would already be pregnant. I told you I don’t plan on having sex with Dewayne until after we’re married and especially not in the same house with you two. But, it’s my choice and not yours. On second thought I don’t want to go for a walk right now. I’d rather be alone with my baby’s daddy.” She’s angry. I can’t believe she just said that.

 

 “Come on Rod, let’s go. You’d think that at a time like this she would be thinking of more than herself.” We leave. The overcrowded beach is 1500 feet from the Villa. I’m surprised by the overwhelming number of people drinking cocktails. Wow, that strawberry daiquiri sure looks good. Oh no not again. I want to drink and I’m a long way from home. Not sure what to do I tell Rod, “I really want to drink. That strawberry daiquiri looks delicious.”  “Okay, what can I do to help?” “Let’s pray.” I’m desperate and I don’t care who sees so we stop in the middle of the beach, take hands and pray. “Dear God, Please help my wife. She’s crying out to you right now. She’s trusting you to remove this obsession.  She knows that alcohol is the weapon of the devil. That’s why she’s calling on your precious and mighty name because you are stronger than alcohol. We need you right now. We are calling on your Divine Intervention. Please help us right now in the precious and mighty name of Jesus we have prayed and will forever continue to pray. Amen.” Together we say in unison. Instantly I feel relief the desire has been lifted. I’m utterly amazed. A fleeting thought crosses my mind. Did the prayer remove my desire to drink or did the prayer change my mind about drinking? I don’t know the answer to the question but I feel instant relief and the reason is not so important. I no longer care about the drinking people.  Rod and I spend the next fifteen minutes walking and talking about whatever comes to mind.

We return to the villa. Dewayne and Kristen are watching television, they seem bored. “Hey guys we’re back. Would you like to go to dinner?”  “Where to?” Kristen says. “While your Dad and I were walking I saw a nice seafood restaurant right on the beach. I think we would all enjoy.” “Great, that sounds good. What time should we be ready?” “How about seven?” “I’m sorry, I’m exhausted and I need a nap.” “That’s fine mom. But just so you know we never planned to sleep in the same room. We want you to know my life is my decision. Dewayne and I are going to take turns sleeping in the loft. I didn’t want you and Dad not to share rooms. ”  “You stinker. You almost caused your Dad a coronary.” Rod doesn’t speak but walks into the bedroom.  “Please don’t let me sleep past 6. I’m exhausted and could easily oversleep.”  “Mom, we could just hang out here tonight and do things tomorrow. I’m sure the trip must have drained you.”  “Wake me up at six and we can go from there.”  “ Okay Mom, I love you.”  “Love you too muskrat.”

I join Rod in the hot tub. The warm water is very soothing. Within ten minutes I’m sitting in front of him sound asleep. We soak for an hour. I wake up with a massive cramp in my right leg. I step out of the spa and feel extremely weak in the knees. To keep from falling I grab a hold to the counter. Rod wakes as well. I’m not feeling too good. I’m tired, groggy and nauseous. I have a really gross sour taste in my mouth.  Standing in the mirror I notice a white patch at the roof of my mouth. Unsure of the sticky substance, I pull it. The more I pull the more that comes.

I’m scared but determined to have a good time. I don’t say anything to Rod.  Instead I grab my tooth brush from my suitcase and brush my teeth. The tooth paste burns, quickly I rinse with cold water. I will have a good time.  “Rod, honey wake up. Do you still want to go to dinner?” “Babe, I’m not sleep just resting my eyes.” I’m tired and I don’t feel well but resolute I’m not going to cancel any plans. I turn the decision over to Rod. “Honey, if you’re too tired we can go to bed and go out tomorrow.” “No we can go to dinner and call it an early night.” “That sounds like a good idea to me too.” There’s a soft knock on the bedroom door. “Mom, Dad it’s six o’clock.” “Okay thanks baby. We’ll be ready in twenty minutes.”

I know how I’ll dress. I say to Rod, “What are you wearing?” “My brown shorts and my beige shirt.” “Good, then I’ll wear my orange sun dress.” Nauseous, I dress, curl my hair and apply my make-up. I feel sick. I look in the mirror and wonder if Rod knows I’m not feeling well. I know I’m going to vomit but I hope I can wait until he’s out of the room. I don’t want to ruin his vacation. I contemplate closing the door that leads to the bedroom from the bathroom but I know this is too obvious. He’s gonna know something’s wrong. I send him out of the room. “Rod, will you get my purse so I can change lipsticks? I don’t like this color.” “Okay honey, where’s your purse?”  “I think it’s on the couch in the living room.” I know it’s not but him having to look for it will give me more time. I turn on the water and throw up into the sink. Man this really sucks.

 

“Honey, your purse isn’t in here.” Finished heaving.  “I’m sorry, it’s hanging on the back of the bedroom door.” Once again, I brush my teeth.  Rod comes into the bathroom and hands me my purse. “I thought you just brushed your teeth.” “I did, I forgot to floss so I brushed them again after I finished.” “Okay honey, I’m ready whenever you are.”  Dewayne is dressed and sitting in the living room but Kristen isn’t quite ready. I join him on the couch. He reminds me that Kristen’s birthday is next week. “Mom, do you want to see what I got Kristen for her birthday?” “Sure.” Too embarrassed to admit I’ve been too self-absorbed to remember my only child’s birthday. A small voice utters in my head hey, go easy not self-centered just sick.

Dewayne removes a diamond tennis bracelet from the box. He has engraved on the back To Kristen with All My Love Dewayne. “Do you think she’ll like this?”  “Yes, Dewayne that’s beautiful.” Rod is fooling around in the kitchen. He appears to be still irritated with Dewayne. I believe that although he won’t admit it Kristen’s trick tugged a little too tight on his heart strings.  Rod steps into the living room, “What’s beautiful?”  “Dewayne, show Pastor Jones.” Rod takes the bracelet from Dewayne and without cracking a smile holds it up to the light. “Dewayne, Kristen is definitely going to know.” I can tell Rod is in one of his get even moods so I’m waiting to see what comes next. Dewayne indecisively says, “Know what?” “That this is not real.” “Yes, it is I bought it from Jason’s Jewelers.” “Really, I hope they didn’t get you for too much for this cubic zirconia.” Dewayne fearfully takes the bracelet and holds it to the light. “How can you tell?” Kristen’s enters the room and says, “Tell what?” Seeing the look in Dewayne’s eyes Rod calls off the joke. “Never mind honey, I was just pulling Dewayne’s leg. How does it feel to be on the receiving end?”  “You got me Dad.” Kristen doesn’t like not being the center of attention. “I’m ready.”

I lead the way to the restaurant. I didn’t think it was far but by the time we arrive on the deck, I’m panting and out of breath. So that no one can hear I refrain from talking for a few minutes. I go into the bathroom and practice doing breathing exercises that I used to do when I was pregnant with Kristen. Why is this so fresh in my mind? I’m sure I remember from having just lost Rod Jr. I must have put the thoughts to the forefront of my memory bank. The mind is a powerful tool or a dangerous weapon.

The waitress approaches.  “How many for dinner?” “Four there are four of us.” Once we’re seated Dewayne and Kristen both order drinks. Kristen says, “I’ll have a strawberry daiquiri.”  “And for you sir?” The waitress is looking at Dewayne. “A long Island Iced tea.” Obviously I’ve missed something. When did they start drinking? I want to join them but when the waitress looks at me I order. “A sweet tea with lemon.”  “And for you sir?” Rod chimes in, “I’ll have water and could you also add a lemon?”  “Sure not a problem. I’ll be right back with your drinks.” The waitress gathers the drink menus and disappears. “Kristen, I didn’t know you drink.”  “Yes, sometimes but rarely.” Sounds like she’s trying too hard to convince me that she’s different from me. “I’m sorry Mom I didn’t think about you. Do you mind?” “No, not at all. I just didn’t know that you drink.”

The waitress returns with all of our drinks. She sets Kristen’s drink in the middle of us and I instantly imagine how cool and refreshing it must be. I know what I’ll do. I’ll go back to the bar, order a drink and take it into the bathroom to guzzle. “Excuse me, I’ll be right back.” When I’m sure that Kristen isn’t behind me I ease through the double doors of the bar. I step up to the counter and to my surprise I order two drinks. “I’ll have a Strawberry Daiquiri and a Pina Colada.” Fearful of being caught I continue to look over my shoulder. I lie to the waitress. “Can I take these drinks into the restaurant? We’re having dinner and our server is taking too long to take our drink orders.” “Sure not a problem, just leave the glasses on your table and we’ll collect them with the rest of the dishes.” I quickly drink two sips from each glass so that I can rush into the bathroom without spilling any. Within three minutes I’ve guzzled both drinks. Just as I’m leaving the stall Kristen enters the bathroom. “Are you okay Mom you’ve been gone for a long time?”  “Yes, honey I’m fine.” She looks down at the two glasses on the floor. “What a weird place for glasses.”  I play it off. “Looks like someone was getting tipsy in the bathroom.”     “I guess so.”

Prior to reaching the corner of the table Kristen says, “Someone was drinking and left two glasses in the bathroom stall.” Rod looks at me with ambivalence but doesn’t say anything. I failed that quickly. How in the hell did I get here again? I’m so worried about getting caught that I’m extremely cautious of my behavior. This is not fun. I can’t even enjoy a buzz. Twelve bucks down the drain. Now, I’ll have to do it again. The waitress returns to the table, “Are you ready to order or do you need more time?” Rod looks at me for approval. He orders both of our dinners. I think it’s funny that Dewayne mimics Rod and orders Kristen’s food. Of course Kristen doesn’t want the food Dewayne orders so she says to Dewayne “You getting a meal to go?” “No, I just thought I’d order your food since I’m the one paying.” “Since you’re the one paying you’ll be the one eatin.” She looks at the waitress and orders. “I’ll have crab legs and seafood chowder.” The waitress gathers the menus and says, “Does anyone need refills?” When no one responds she says, “I shall return”.

Focused and limited, I watch what I say. Rod initiates the conversation. “Why don’t we make plans for tomorrow?”  Kristen chimes in. “I was thinking that maybe Mom and I could go shopping for wedding stuff while you two play golf.”  Rod says, “Dewayne that sounds like a good idea. I brought my clubs just in case.” Dewayne replies, “I didn’t bring mine.” Rod speaks “I brought extras. You never know when a challenge will arise.” Kirsten says, “Mom is this okay with you?” “Sure, I’d love to go shopping for your wedding.” Not really but what mother would tell their child no?  Besides, I may not live long enough to see the wedding. The least I can do is go shopping with her. My plan was to be drunk lounging on the beach. I’ll get sober at home. The waitress brings our food and I’m contemplating my next drink. When will I make my escape for liquor? I resolve the thought knowing it’s going to have to be tomorrow. It will be easy to slip away from Kristen.  But, she’ll notice my drinking sooner.

What to do, what to do? I should be praying but my mind is struggling. I’d rather drink. I can always start over later if I don’t die first. I don’t know how I ever managed to stay sober for so long. Life is more exciting with liquor. I’m glad when the waitress brings out the food because I can eat without worrying about conversation. The next ten minutes are silent. Everybody seems to be tired. Boy am I glad!  This makes it easier for them not to notice I’ve been drinking. I think of a reason for me to pay the tab instead of Rod. I don’t want him to see the charges for the two drinks. I whisper in his ear, “Take Kristen and Dewayne out to the beach, I’ll check to see if they make birthday cakes.”

Rod snarls at me.  I wonder if he can smell the liquor or if I’m slurring my words because I do feel tipsy. I’m relieved when he stands and says to Kristen and Dewayne, “Let’s go, we’ll meet your Mom on the beach.” I sense Kristen’s skepticism but I smile when she follows directions without a fight. I pay the bill without asking about the birthday cake. Rod is so gullible. Who would order a birthday cake from a seafood restaurant? Seeing how much he trusts me makes me feel guilty. Then again maybe he knows which would explain the look. Now, I’m anxious and afraid to go outside. I spray breath freshener and chew a piece of gum.

I step off the deck when Rod says, “Did you get it?” “No, we’ll talk about it later. He knows, oh my. Back at the villa, I shower, brush my teeth and go straight to bed. Ten minutes later Rod joins me.  “Stacey, are you okay?” “Yes, I’m fine why do you ask?” “Because you haven’t completed a whole sentence since dinner. ” “I’m sorry, I haven’t had much to say.”  “Are you feeling well?” I’ll tell him I’m sick this way he’ll excuse my behavior. Just in case he thinks I’m acting weird. I no longer feel drunk or tipsy. “To be honest, no Rod, I’m not feeling well. I threw up just before dinner and I’ve been feeling queasy all evening.” “Is that the reason you drank those drinks?” “Huh?” His comment takes me by surprise. I don’t lie. My marriage depends on it. “I’m sorry Rod. I didn’t plan on drinking but seeing Kristen’s drink made me want to drink. How did you know?” “I had to go to the bathroom when I saw you standing at the bar.” “You saw me standing at the bar but you didn’t say anything.” “Honey, I’m your husband not your father. Only you know when you’ve had enough. I thought losing our soon would be enough.  I hope you realize I’m not back tracking. If our marriage is going to work, we have to continue to move forward.” “I feel like such a failure.” Unable to control my tears I continue to babble. “I killed my son and I continue to drink.” ‘Stacey, we’ve had this conversation. God forgives you now you need to forgive yourself. I’m not saying forget about it just let it go.”  “What do you mean?” “I mean keep it in the back of your mind to do better but not to beat yourself over the head.”

He gives me something to think about but I want to be honest with him. “Rod, I’m scared.”  “Scared of what?” “I don’t want to die.” ‘Aw honey, come here.” He holds me close. “You’re not gonna die. Where’s your faith?” “I don’t know how to explain this but my faith doesn’t allow me to believe bad things don’t happen. Faith to me is believing that God can stop bad things from happening in our lives only if he chooses. Forever isn’t that far away. So for me faith is accepting whatever God believes to be best for me but it doesn’t mean I’m not afraid.” He’s silent for a moment and then he speaks. I wonder if what I said makes sense. He must have read my mind because he says, “Honey what you said makes perfect sense but if you truly believe that then you know God will always do what’s best for you even if we don’t agree. God promised to never leave or forsake us so he’ll be there no matter what.” “I just don’t wanna die.” “Honey, I don’t want you to die. I believe in my heart that God knows how much Kristen and I need you and he won’t take you now. But even if he does, you don’t want him to come while you’re drunk. What will you say, hold on Jesus let me get sober?” This comment sounds funny and turns this serious conversation into a joke. I laugh. “Rod.” “Yes, honey.” “I love you and thank you for being so understanding.” Suddenly my desire to spend the rest of the vacation drinking is removed and I believe tomorrow is a new day for me to start over being sober. “I love you too. Goodnight.”  “Goodnight.” Rod’s encouragement gives me hope. I fall asleep excited for another chance.

I wake up bright and early to call Stephanie.  I want to tell her that I’ve messed up so she can hold me accountable.  She answers, “Good morning Jackson residence.”  “Good morning Stephanie this is Stacey.”  “Hi Stacey, how are you?”  “I’m okay, how are you?”  “I’m good, what’s going on with you?”  “Nothing, I’m on vacation.” “Really, where are you?” “Hilton Head.”  “Sounds like fun, and you’re calling me really?”  “Well, yeah. This isn’t exactly a social call. I’m calling to let you know I messed up.” “What do you mean?” “I drank two drinks and now I have to start over getting sober. I’m telling you so you can hold me accountable. I feel so guilty.” “No need to feel guilty. Guilt will eat you alive. You know how many times I’ve had to start over?” “No, how many?” “Three but let this be your first and last time. You don’t have to do it again.” “Why do I keep telling myself that I can start over when I get home?” “Cause alcohol is tricky, it will make you think it’s okay to start over. One more drink won’t hurt. But, one more drink almost got me killed. I’m done, finished.” “Really, I didn’t know you almost died.” “Yeh girl two weeks ago. I haven’t drank since. You know the weekend we were supposed to go to French Lick I went out and got drunk instead.” “I’m so sorry I didn’t know.” “Trust me, you couldn’t have stopped me.” “Not with my luck, I probably would have drank with you but then I’d have two weeks under my belt.”  She sighs. I feel like I’m bothering her. “Is something wrong?” “Not really, it’s just that I like the taste of liquor but when I think about not being able to drink for the rest of my life it’s overwhelming.” “I think so too. That’s the reason for the slogan “one day at a time.”  “Um makes sense to me.”
“How about we go to a meeting together when you get back?” “I don’t know, I‘ve had some weird experiences with people in the program.”  “Really, how so?”  “Can we talk about it later? I don’t want to discourage you.”  “Don’t worry you won’t.” “Good, I’ll call you as soon as I get back in town.” “Sure, I’ll talk to you soon.”

I hang up the telephone and Rod says to me, “Come here Stacey I have something to show you.” He sounds like a little kid and he’s excited. He takes my hand and leads me through a door in the bedroom. This door leads to an enclosed balcony with a swing.  I stand on the porch staring at him. I’m waiting to find out the reason for his excitement. He speaks, “I figured we could make love out here since you’re always looking for excitement and new experiences.” Is he insulting me by subtly alluding to my affairs or is he just wanting to spice up our love life? Things are going too well for me to take this comment as a negative. “Sure”, I respond all the while thinking I could really relax out here with a bottle of wine. The thought fades as quickly as it arrives. I can’t drink and I don’t want to. We’ve made good love since I’ve been sober. “I have an idea Rod, why don’t we get some nonalcoholic wine?” “Definitely, we can. So do we have a date for this evening?” ‘Absolutely.” “Are you ready to get up?” Rod says.  “Yes, I don’t want to sleep too late. I’d rather get an early start so we can come in early.

Are the two love birds up yet?”  He responds with, “I don’t know, I’ll check.” He steps out into the hall and says, “I can’t tell, it’s really quiet. Hold on a minute let me go upstairs and check.” Five minutes later he returns. I’m wondering what took him so long. He looks bothered but only states, “They’re getting ready. I wonder if he walked in on something. I hop into the shower and he joins me. Afterwards call the office and order breakfast.  Breakfast and lunch are included in the cost of the villa. Thirty minutes later the server arrives with bacon, eggs, toast, orange juice, coffee, cereal and milk. Once we’ve eaten, I call for a taxi to take Kristen and I to pick up the rental car.   The golf course is on the grounds so Rod and Dewayne don’t have far to go.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Chapter 2 Wedding Shopping

Kristen is so organized. She’s already map quested directions to local wedding boutiques. Our first stop, she purchases costume jewelry for the wedding party. Next, at the shoe store she buys peach three inch satin heels for all five bride’s maids. The wedding colors are peach and white. I’m surprised when she pulls out Rod’s credit card and asks me to sign the receipt with Rod’s name instead of my own. I look at the card because it’s one I don’t recognize. Oh my, he must have gotten the bill for all of the liquor purchases. Now, I know that more than likely he has closed that account. “Kristen, I don’t think your Dad wants me to sign the receipt you need to do it.” “Why Mom? He won’t care.” “Yes, he will that’s why he gave you the card instead of me. He doesn’t want me to have the card.”  “How do you know Mom?” I’m not about to tell her since she’s already accused me of purchasing drugs and alcohol with his money. “Just say I made a bad choice.” She doesn’t press the issue any further and signs the receipt. Now, I know what took him so long when he went upstairs this morning. I did wrong but it’s upsetting that he doesn’t trust me. We did agree to start over and he did agree to let everything go. Yeah, but I did drink last night. Now, I’m not so angry. I don’t deserve his credit card but he should have told me.

Kristen’s immaculate organization skills is making for a painless shopping spree. “Mom, I’ve seen a dress I like but it’s not like I know it’s the one. Would you like to see?” “Sure.”  “Alright go to the light and turn right. Now go down two blocks and make a left at the next light.” I follow her directions before saying, “How’d I get stuck driving? You know I hate to drive.” “Okay, I’ll drive back.” I pull into the parking lot and Kristen is greeted at the door. “Can I help you?” A small, petite blond approaches. Kristen responds with, “Is April here?” “I’m April, how can I help you?” “Yes, my name is Kristen, I called you from Indiana.” “Hello Kristen it’s nice to finally meet you. Let me grab your dress.”

April returns with a dress, a bottle of champagne and two wine glasses.  Kristen looks at April and says, “No thank you.” She looks at me and says, “Mom, you didn’t want anything to drink did you?” “No, honey, I don’t.” Did Rod tell her I drank last night? Surely, he didn’t. Now I’m angry and frustrated because how else would she know? I’m careful. I don’t want her to sense my frustration so I say nothing more about the situation. The sales clerk hands Kristen the dress and she tries it on. The dress is okay nothing fantastic so I understand her hesitancy. “What do you think Mom?”  “It’s alright but I believe when you have the right one you’ll know. If you buy your dress here you need to be sure. I can’t see you wanting to drive back down here for a return.” “I’m not making a decision today and I’ll bring Dad up here to have a look also.  I know he hates shopping but I want him to help make the decision since he’s the one paying.”  Kristen looks at the sales clerk and says, “We’ll be back.” “I’ll be here and thank you for stopping by.  Call me if you need anything between now and then.”   “Thanks, you know I will.”

We leave the store and Kristen says, “Mom, I know you’re probably tired but can we go to one more shop?” “Sure, but you’re driving.” “Okay, you’ll have to read the directions.” “Not a problem. It’s walking distance from here. Go to the light, turn left and it should be on the right hand side of the street.” She pulls into the parking lot. This shop appears to be more her style. Inside the sales clerk is ringing up another customer. “I’ll be right with you,” she says. Kristen doesn’t waste any time she’s walking around looking at the dresses on the racks. She holds a dress up to her body in front of a mirror. That’s a pretty dress. I really like it. “What do you think of this dress mother?” “It’s nice I like it but I wish I would have seen the bride’s maid dress first.” She hangs the dress back on the rack.  “I’ll describe it for you. It’s peach, knee length, lace, with sheath. You know what I have a picture in my phone.”  She shows me the picture.  “Aw that’s pretty.” “Thanks and it was much easier to pick than the wedding gown has been.”  “I know but remember the feeling you felt when you picked out that dress. You’ll have a stronger feeling when you pick the right dress for you.” “I sure hope so because there’s such a variety to choose from.”

The sales clerk approaches and stands between the two of us. “May I help you?” “Yes, I’m looking for my wedding dress. Here is what my brides maids are wearing.” Kristen shows her the picture in her cell phone.  “Oh, how pretty and have I got the perfect dress for you. I’ll be right back.” Two minutes later she reappears with a Shayla Lynch silk pearl gown with an asymmetrical layered skirt, a crystalized satin petal belt and a chapel train. I can tell by the glowing look in Kristen’s eyes this is the one. She reads the price tag,” $4,334 this is less than the $5,000 budget Dad gave me.” She turns to the clerk and says, “What’s your name?” “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude. My name is Amy.” Kristen extends her hand. “Amy, I’m Kristen and this is my mother Mrs. Jones.” “Nice to meet you both.” “Amy, I know this is the dress for me but I want my Dad to see it. Can you hold it until tomorrow?”  “Don’t you want to try it on?” “Not today I will when I come back with my Father.” “Kristen, may I have your telephone number?” She gives her the number and the clerk writes it on a small piece of paper and pins it to the dress. “I’ll be back tomorrow Amy.” “Okay Kristen I’ll see you then.”

As were walking to the car Kristen says, “Mom that dress is beautiful.” She’s so excited. “I think so too.” “Good, I’m glad you like it.  One down and one to go. I hope Dad likes it as well. I don’t think I can live with buying a dress he doesn’t like. I have to have his approval or I’ll think my marriage is doomed to fail.” “Good luck because you know your dad has old fashioned taste.” “Yes, but this dress is conservative enough, I think he might like it.”  “Maybe, we’ll have to wait and see. I’m only saying this because I don’t want you thinking there’s an omen on your marriage if the two of you can’t agree on a dress.”  “Okay Mom, I’ll keep that in mind.”  “Where to now?” “If you’re finished I’d like to go back to the villa so I can take a nap before we make our plans for the evening.” “Sure.”

Nausea overtakes me while I’m walking from the parking lot to the condo. I’m scared because I believe I’m going to pass out. Fear makes me want to tell Kristen what’s going on but I don’t want to worry her. I whisper a silent prayer. “Please God let me make it to the bed without passing out.” I unlock and open the front door. Without warning, I vomit in the foyer. I was not expecting this. Kristen is a few steps behind so I run to the bathroom before she approaches and continue to puke. I’m scrambling to clean up the mess before she sees. She must be gathering her purchases from the car. I can’t find the mop so I grab the towels from the bathroom and wipe up the puke. I’m almost finished when I hear footsteps. Kristen has arrived at the door with the stacked shoe boxes. I know she can’t see the ground so I say to her, “Be careful.” “Okay Mom, will you help me.”  “Well, okay.” I remove half of the shoe boxes from her pile and when I do she sees the remainder of the mess. “Mom, why didn’t you tell me?” That’s all she needs to say before I burst into tears. “I know, I’m sorry honey. I just wanna get better. I’m tired of being sick. I don’t want to ruin everybody’s vacation.” “Mom, don’t think that way. We’re here for you!  Now go get cleaned up and get in bed. I’ll finish the cleaning.” “Kristen please don’t tell your Dad. I don’t want him to worry.”  “I won’t say anything. Now, go get in the shower. Are you hungry, do you need me to get anything?” “Yes, will you order lunch? I wanna Seven Up or Ginger ale to drink.”  She cleans the mess and I take a quick five minute shower.

I’m in bed and already asleep when Kristen wakes me to give me my lunch. I sit up. She sits and watches to see if I will eat my food. I do my best. I eat half of the soup and only two bites of the sandwich. I drink all of my Ginger Ale. Hopefully this will soothe my stomach. I don’t want to be in bed when Rod and Dewayne return. “Kristen have you heard from your dad?” “No, I haven’t.” “Why?” “Because I want to get up before he comes back. I don’t want him to see me in bed in the middle of the day.”  “I’m tired too Mom so how about I take a nap with you so Dad won’t think anything of it?” “Okay, honey.”  “Let me take these dishes in the kitchen first.” When she returns, she climbs into bed with me. Within a matter of minutes I’m sound asleep.

I’m sleeping and dreaming about dying. Rod marries Rayne.  I awaken to sounds in the bedroom. Kristen is no longer in bed. Rod is standing by the closet taking off his clothes. “Hi honey.” He comes over and kisses me on the cheek. “Are you feeling okay?” “Yes, why?” “Just wondering why you’re in bed at 3:00 in the afternoon?” “I was tired.” “Okay, I’m going to take a shower.” While he’s taking his shower, I call my mother. “Hello Mom.”  “Hello baby, how are you?”  “I’m okay Mom, how are you?”  “Doing pretty good. What’s the matter?” “Nothing, I just wanted to hear your voice.”  “Glad you called, are you out of town?”  “Yes, Mom I am. How’d you know?” “Even though you don’t come to see me, I do see my grandbaby. Where are you?”  “Hilton Head.” “Your baby brother Stevie called me today.”  “How’s he doing?”  “He’s okay, you know he got some girl pregnant and at 35 his first baby is on the way.”  “Is he happy?”  “He says he’s not but it sounds like he is.”  “Well Mom I called to check on you.” “Thanks baby. Kiss my son-in-law and my grandbaby and tell them I love em.”  “Okay Mom. I’ll see you later.” Something about talking to my mom when I’m sick always makes me feel better. Today is no different. I get up to wash my face and hands.

 “Stacey, is that you?” “Yes, Rod   I’m washing my face and hands.” “Why don’t you get in the shower with me?” I don’t feel like it but I can’t think of a reason to deny his request so I conform. He’s horny so we make love in the shower. It feels good. I love him so much and the thought of him being with another woman makes me sad but when I die I don’t expect him to spend the rest of his life alone. The feeling of helplessness overtakes me and I cry. At least when I’m drunk I don’t feel these intense emotions. But, then again Rod’s right. I don’t want to be drunk when God comes for me. Suddenly, I’m reminded of the AA slogan for the word fear. Fear can either mean face everything and recover or forget everything and run. This thought gives me power because I have a choice to make. I can be courageous and sober or a drunken coward. Right now, I believe, I’ll remain sober in spite of my circumstances. Sobriety can no longer be a temporary condition but has to be a way of life. No matter what happens, drinking is not the solution.

“Honey I’m tired,” Rod says. Thank God. “Me too. I haven’t recuperated from the long ride yet.” “Dewayne and I decided we would be content with staying in for the evening and relaxing unless you and Kristen want to go out.” “Sounds like a plan to me.  Remember we had already decided to get some non-alcoholic champagne and stay in?” “I know but I needed to make sure Dewayne and Kristen would be alright with those plans.”  “I’ll run out and get some liquor free wine. I’ll see if Dewayne wants to go with me and while we’re out I’ll pick up dinner.”  “It’s too early to eat.” “I know but I’m not going back out.  Once I’m in I’ll be in for the evening.” “We could always order something.”  “Okay.”  “I mean we don’t have to but if you want.” “Only if I don’t see anything that looks good.” He kisses me on the cheek before they leave.

Kristen stands in the doorway and says, “How are you doing?” “I’m fine but I thought you agreed to stay with me until your Dad got back.” “I did. I didn’t get up until he came.” “Oh, because he still asked me why I was in bed in the middle of the day.” “Only because he knows you too well.” “Dewayne knows me and we haven’t been together near as long as you and Dad. I bet even when you don’t tell him he knows when you’re sick.”  “Yeah probably but I don’t think he pays that much attention.” “Mom, I think Dad knows more than you think he knows. Sometimes I just think because of his demeanor he doesn’t say anything.”  “Maybe.”  “Anyway, I’m glad you’re feeling better.”  “Yeh me too.”

“So is it okay with you two if we stay in for the evening?” “That’s fine but if Dewayne and I get bored we may go out later. Do you mind if we use the car?” “Not at all honey just enjoy yourselves. You’re on vacation too.”  “Thanks Mom I appreciate it. When they come back do you want to watch a movie?”  “I’ll check with your Dad because were having a date night.”  “Oh, I see.  Mushy, mushy.” She puckers her lips and I laugh at her. Before she leaves, I say, “Kristen.”  “Yes Mother.” “I love you.” “I love you too Mom.” She leaves and I cry. There’s so much more I want to say to my baby girl but I don’t. This is supposed to be a vacation not a pity party. I have an idea. I’ll start keeping a journal and make a video just for her to watch after I’m gone. I’ll think of different things she may go through at various stages in her life and give her feedback. I’ll do this until I die. This way I don’t have to have that depressing conversation I’m sure neither her nor Rod will ever allow me to have. Listen to me, I’ve already read my last rites, had my funeral and buried myself.

I call Rod on his cell phone. “Hello.”  “Hello, honey will you get me a spiral notebook and a pen?” “Sure, you gonna write while we’re here?” “Yes, (partially joking) I say, “I’m making a kick the bucket list.” I laugh to play it off all the while crying inside. “Sweetheart that’s not funny.” “Lighten up old man.”  “Hey watch it now. Do you need anything else?” “No, Darlin just you.” “I’ll be back shortly.” “Can’t wait.”

We disconnect the call and I feel a moment of gratitude. I get up out of the bed, make a quick stop in the bathroom prior to joining Kristen in the living room. She’s making jewelry. The girl’s an overachiever she never stops. Afraid she has her mother’s traits a perfectionist by nature. “What are you doing?”  “Working on a project.” “Why didn’t you make the jewelry for your wedding?” “That’s kind of cheesy and cheap. They’ll be other opportunities for me to advertise. I am thinking about giving jewelry as a gift to the wedding party.” “Now, that’s a good idea.” “Would you tell me if it wasn’t?” “I’m sure I would. What are you watching?” “Nothing really the news is on, you can turn if you want.” I flip through the channels and really I’m not interested in watching television. I’m pretty bored. “I haven’t had much exercise I want to take a walk on the beach. Would you like to join me?” “No, I’d like to get some pieces made before they come back.” “Alright, I shouldn’t be long.”

The fresh air energizes me. I take my shoes off and walk barefoot to the end of the beach where land meets water. I love the feel of my feet against the sand. I kneel down, roll up my pant legs and sit on my bottom to gather my thoughts. The wondrous works of our great creator. Heaven is a much better place. Am I too human to like streets paved in gold? Afraid not. I’ll live with Rod Jr. Why can’t I stop these thoughts of dying? Maybe it’s not my time. To distract me, I build a sand castle. Totally engrossed in the moment I don’t notice the street lights.

 “Here you are.” I look up from my project to see Rod standing in front of me. “Care to join me?” For a moment he forgets his reservations and sits next to me. This is the first time in our marriage we’ve done anything remotely similar to building a sand castle. Rod looks as if he’s having the time of his life. I take his picture. He looks peacefully, youthful. I hate to disturb him. This is a moment I never want to end. When it appears that the sand castle will crumble if it gets any taller I say to him, “You ready to head back?” “Ready whenever you are.” I stand up, dust the sand from my bottom and we walk back hand in hand.

Kristen’s in our bathroom curling her hair. She must notice the quizzical look on my face.  “Dewayne’s in the shower. We’re going out,” she says.  “Where are you going?” “To the bar after we eat dinner.” “Look at your Dad.” I show her the picture of him building the sand castle. “Aw, Daddy you look so busy.”  I comment, “He was.” Rod responds, “There’s a lot of strategic planning involved in creating a masterpiece.” His choice of words warms my heart. That’s’ exactly what it was a “master piece.” Rod has picked up dinner from the chicken place. We wash our hands and sit down to eat family style. Dewayne has joined us at the table and Rod says Grace.  After Kristen and Dewayne leave I say to Rod, “We need to plan for something special tomorrow. This may be our last vacation and I want Kristen to remember it.” “Honey, why do you say these things?” “Because I have a premonition and I know you don’t like surprises.” “The only thing that’s surprising me right now is your lack of faith. Do you know that you can speak things into existence?” “I know, I’m sorry.” “Please honey stay focused on the positive no more negative talk or thoughts. Think only positive and you’ll see, you will get better. You gotta trust me.” “Alright, I completely trust you.”

“Did Kristen tell you she’s found her wedding gown and wants you to see it tomorrow?” “Yes, she told me as soon as I came in.”  “She wants her Daddy’s approval.” I say sarcastically. “No, she wants to spend her Daddy’s money,” he says. We both laugh. “Shall we begin our evening?” I throw all of the paper plates away and put the remainder of the food in the refrigerator.  I wash the plastic silverware and wipe down the table and counters. Rod helps. He grabs the bottle of alcohol-free champagne, a candle, two glasses, some massage oil and my journal. He hands me my pen and journal. I place them on the dresser by the television. We shower again because I’m anal and I don’t want to apply the oil without being clean beforehand.

We have the best foreplay in the shower but we don’t have intercourse. I could make love to him ten times a day and never grow tired. It feels like he’s just as attracted to me. After our shower, I turn on the soft jazz music so we can hear it outside. I take the candles, lite them and place them on the table in the yard. I fill the two glasses, put on my robe, grab the oil and head out the back door. Rod is dressed only in his underwear. His first time inhibition excites me. We lay on the swing, under the moon, counting stars and sipping non-alcoholic champagne. He massages me with the oil and I return the favor. Eventually we make love. We cum together on three separate occasions.

We are awakened early the next morning when we hear the neighbors on the patio.  We grab our supplies and return inside the house. Not ready to get up, I crawl into bed and wrap myself in Rods arms and his love. We sleep until 12 pm.

 

 

Chapter 3 Tourist Attractions

Like Dewayne and Kristen we sleep through breakfast.  We have five days of vacation remaining. I think it’s a good idea for each of us to take a day to plan activities. On the fifth day we could recuperate to get ready for the long ride home or we could plan a hodge podge of events. The extra day will also afford us the opportunity to revisit any enjoyable attractions. I share my thoughts with Rod. He agrees. “Kristen has dib’s on the first day since activities need to be centered around her visit to the dress shop. Let’s inform them of our plans. Put on your pajamas.” He obliges. I take a seat on the living room couch. Rod yells up the stairs for the two of them. “Come to the living room, family meeting in six.”  I laugh. “Six, that’s an awkward number.” They join us. I speak. “Each of us should plan a days’ worth of activities around what we personally want to do for the remainder of the vacation. Kristen you’re up first.”  “Why do I have to go first? I don’t know anything about this city.” “I thought since part of the day will be spent looking at your dress you should go first. But, I can make today’s plans if this is too short of notice.”  “Okay Mom, you go ahead.”  “What time would you like to leave?”  “How about in two hours? I’m still tired so I want to rest for another hour before I get ready.”  Dewayne is complaining about sleeping on the floor in the loft area. It’s hurting his back. I say to him, “Why don’t you sleep on the couch?”  He responds, “That’s a good plan” Rod speaks up, “If nothing else meeting adjourned.” We part and go our separate ways.

I find the brochure given to Rod by the hotel staff. We’re going to the House of Jazz for dinner. Tonight is Oldies night. Then I plan to take the ferry to Croise Island. I check the schedule to see that ferries run every 45 minutes. I hope we can make the 4:15.  I shower and get ready for the day. It feels good to have a few moments of alone time. I say a quick prayer to God asking him to allow me to be more positive. I dress and call to order lunch. Everyone has to have the same meal or they will charge extra. I order the fish, fries, coleslaw, iced tea and pie alamode. I don’t know how they know but once the food is delivered we congregate in the kitchen. Kristen’s ready but she looks like she has a hangover from hell. Seeing her like this gives me a dose of gratitude because believe it or not I feel pretty good.   Thank God it’s not me puking with the massive headache. There’s nothing worse than throwing up. 

Rod says Grace and we eat. I tell them our plans for the day. Rod repeats, “Stacey, Oldies night?  You know I don’t listen to that music anymore.” “I know you still enjoy it. David danced in the Bible. Listening to good, clean wholesome music isn’t a sin. Besides, you’re a minister not a dead man. On your day, I’ll have to do whatever you want, even if it’s something I don’t enjoy.” He has a slight attitude but responds, “I guess.” I let the comment blow over. He wants to argue. I’m convinced men also have pms. Today, I’m feeling disconnected. I read a few chapters in my Bible. Reading the Bible inspires me to write a letter to God in my journal.

Dear God,

Thank you for my daughter and my husband. Thank you for allowing me to see another day. I’m sorry I disappointed you by drinking again. Will you please forgive me?  Thank you for taking care of my son in heaven. I am writing you this letter because I need to ask you a special favor. God you know I have cancer. I believe you can heal me. My life is really good right now and I don’t want to die. Kristen says I’m always running away and I don’t want to run away from her before she gets married. If nothing else, will you please let me be healthy and live long enough to attend her wedding?  I want to go to heaven just not now. Thank you for hearing my prayer.  Stacey. 

Writing the letter gives me freedom. In my heart I believe that God heard me and the worry of dying is easing away. Rod comes into the room, “Honey we’re waiting for you, what you are doing?”  I was writing.  Here I come.” I place my tablet in my suitcase so no one reads it. “Let’s go.”

Rod drives and Kristen gives him directions to the first shop. This is the location of the dress she is unsure of.   I say to Kristen, “I thought we were only going to the other shop.”  “I want Dad to see both dresses and since they’re right around the corner it’s no big deal.” “Oh, okay.” “Hi April.” “Hi Kristen, Mrs. Jones. Are you enjoying your vacation?” “Yes, we are. Thank you for asking.  “Can I show my Dad the dress?”  “Sure, I’ll be back in a flash. Or better yet Kristen why don’t you just come with me.” Kristen follows behind her. Ten minutes later the two emerge. Kristen is dressed in the gown. Rod sees her for the first time and a tear rolls down his cheek. I can’t believe how sensitive he is. Has he been this way all along and I just missed it?

“Come here baby. You look beautiful,” Rod says to Kristen. He takes her hand and spins her around in a circle. Dewayne is staring at her in awe. This time I notice the dress looks much better on her than it does hanging on the rack. A minor detail I missed the first time. Kristen says to Rod, “Daddy do you like it?” “Yes, I do.” I snap a picture of her so we can compare her physique in the two dresses. Kristen stands in the mirror a few minutes longer prior to returning to the fitting room to change. “You know what Mom, I like this dress better today.” “That’s strange Kristen because I do too. Is this the same dress?” I read the tag. “Susan Wang.” “Same designer but I’m sure this is a different dress. At any rate, I like it.” “Do you like it better than the other one?” “I don’t know because I didn’t try that one on.” She prances a few minutes longer before April trails her to the fitting room.”

Kristen says to April, “This was not the same dress I saw yesterday but I like it much better. I have another dress to show my father. But, I’ll call you before Saturday to let you know.” “Kristen, this dress is on sale. The sale ends on Friday.” Rod intervenes, “How much is it?” “$2,500 and there’s a coupon in the paper for an additional 25% off if you buy it before the end of the month” “I don’t live here so I don’t get the paper.” “I know so I saved you one.” “That was nice.”  “I’ve talked to you more than any of my other customers and you were calling long distance so I had to do something special for you.”  Thank you, I appreciate it.”  She raises the papers scattered around the cash register and locates the coupon. She hands it to Kristen. As she’s placing the coupon in her purse Kristen says, “I’ll be in touch.”

While we’re walking out the door Rod says to Kristen, “I agreed to give you $5,000 for your gown. If you spend less than that you can keep the rest for your honeymoon so it might be something for you to consider.” “Oh, Daddy, I thought I’d save you some money.” “No baby I’ll give it all to you.” “Thank you Daddy, I love you so much.” “I love you too baby.” I feel excluded. Am I jealous of their relationship? I don’t know but I interrupt their father daughter love scene and give Rod directions to the next store. I check the time and see we have an hour and fifteen minutes until the ferry departs. I don’t want to be rude but I hope Kristen hurries.

Amy greets us at the door. “Welcome back. Can I get you all something to drink?” Kristen quickly glances at each of us and responds, “No thank you.” Amy pulls the dress from the front rack. Kristen follows behind her. Five minutes later she returns fully dressed in wedding attire. ”What do you think Daddy?” Rod looks her up and down and smiles. His face says it all. He also likes this dress. “Honey, I like this dress but I’m not the one getting married. How much is it?” “$4,334.” He whips out his calculator. “Let’s see the other dress is about $1,875 because its $2,500 with a 0.25% discount and this one is $4,334.  That’s a difference of about $2,500. You look fabulous in both dresses. I’d take the extra money and spend it on my honeymoon. That’s just me.”  “You know what Dad, I’m glad you like it and I’ll have to agree with you. That would completely pay for travel expenses. I’m going back for that dress.” I’m hoping not today. I take a picture of her in the dress before she changes. When she returns, I speak, “Don’t make a decision now. Take a couple of days to think about it so you can be sure.” “Okay Mom, I will.” She repeats the same spill to Amy and we leave. We arrive at the hotel parking lot just in time to take the 4:15 ferry. Everything’s going as planned.

The vibrations of the ferry engine separating the waves is the extent of the noise pollution upon entrance into the Island. The pungent sound of the bird mating calls startle me out of my dreamy state. I wake up just in time to snap a picture of a dolphin jumping up out of the water. Once again I’m impressed by the creativity of my master. This island along with its marshes and wild life represents the epitome of beauty only made for the movies.  I nudge Rod and he taps Kristen on the shoulder. She and Dewayne are both sound asleep.

The ferry docks and I stand feeling as though I’m still lifeless. “Kristen, Dewayne we’re here.” As we’re exiting the boat the tour guide hands us a map and advises us we can either follow him or go alone. Consensus is we’ll stay with the group. Although the island is stunning I have no desire to get lost. While we’re waiting for our golf cart Rod says to Dewayne, I’m tired of driving. Why don’t you drive partner?”  “Sure Dad, I’d feel honored too.” I’m happy we don’t have to walk for the condensed version of the four and a half hour tour.

 The first stop is at a gallery. Although, the artist is very good at what he does I’m not impressed with the concept of fish art. In my opinion, fish and art should never be spoken in the same sentence. If the figures were objects other than marine life I’m sure I’d be making purchases instead of daydreaming.  While the historian is talking, my mind is lost in a sense of wonder. What type of person would hang a sculpture of a fish in their living room or anywhere in their house for that matter? My curiosity is short lived when Dewayne purchases a sculpture for an uncle who loves to fish. No doubt a bachelor.

The next stop is at a pottery shop. I want to buy a souvenir for my mother but I’m overwhelmed by the amount of items to choose from. After twenty minutes of aimless marveling I finally locate the object. I buy her a bowl that she can put inside of her curial cabinet.

 I’m sure Rod and Dewayne will not be captivated with the yoga class that we’re about to endure. But, cancer is always at the back of my mind and I’ve heard that yoga is very spiritually and physically healing. Really I’m not going to hold them hostage if they want to leave to play golf or tennis I won’t mind. I’m anticipating that Kristen will be at my side. We pull in front of a quaint house with lots of shade. We’re greeted by a tall thin woman dressed in gray tights and a black leotard. My guess is she’s the instructor. “Welcome to yoga. Please leave your shoes at the door and come in.” We remove our shoes and Rod glances at me with an ambivalent look. I’m not detecting any animosity so he appears to be open to the idea. The facilitator hands each of us a pillow prior to beginning with a warm up activity. The rejuvenation I feel after the class is promising. We thank the instructor, put on our shoes and leave. 

The last stop prior to departure is at an old church. This church was built in 1885. This land was owned by a plantation owner who gave recently freed slaves a place to worship. Listening to the old Negro spirituals remind me of pictures I saw in history books.  There’s plenty more to see and do here but it’s time to leave. As we board the ferry we are given cheese and crackers for a snack. We have a choice of either wine or grape juice. Rod and I choose the grape juice and of course Kristen and Dewayne drink wine. Is Kristen an alcoholic? It’s 8:15 when we arrive back to the car.

“Hey guys you might want to think about what you’re wearing on the way back.  We only have forty five minutes to get to the Villa, dressed and to the restaurant.”  I know I’m wearing my new short outfit that I bought on sale at the end of last summer. I’ve lost a few pounds so I hope it still fits. To save time, Rod and I will take our showers together. Within half an hour we’re ready and in the car.

The House of Jazz is an upscale classy restaurant. I’m surprised to see a handful of patrons smoking cigars. Rod says to me, “They’re smoking, honey do you think you should breathe second hand smoke?” “A few hours won’t hurt. They’re only smoking cigars not cigarettes.” “I’m healthy and I don’t want to breathe nor smell like any kind of smoke.” “Relax old man and you’ll be fine.” “Hey now, watch it. Three strikes and you’re out.”

 The first group takes the stage. The music is totally relaxing. I temporarily forget about my health issues. I want to dance but I know Rod doesn’t. I wonder how he’d feel if I approach one of the men standing at the bar for a dance?  With my history I better not.

The waitress approaches, “Can we start with an appetizer?” I’m starving so I order first. “I’m ready to order my meal. I’ll have the coconut shrimp, with a spinach salad and clam chowder. For dessert I’ll have Banana Crème Brulee. To drink water with lemon and an Iced Carmel Cappuccino. Rod orders next, “I want deep fried blue oysters, with smoked blue cheese, panko bread, Caesar salad with shaved pamigiano cheese and Key Lime Pie with Blueberry Soufflé for dessert. I want water and House Blend Coffee with cream and sweetener on the side.” Kristen orders next, “I want the seafood fettuccini, Caesar salad, Pina Colada cake and we’ll share a bottle of red wine together.” She points her index finger between herself and Dewayne.  The waitress responds with, “Which red wine?” Kristen says, “Why don’t you surprise us with your favorite?” “We may not have the same taste.” “I’m sure we’ll drink it. Don’t worry I don’t think you can go wrong with red wine.” Dewayne interjects, “I’ll have the rib basket with collard greens, mashed potatoes, grilled pear Brie, with Roasted Beet salad with walnuts.” May I also have a glass of water?” The waitress takes the menus and says, “I’ll be right back with your drinks.”

I’m really feeling the music and anxious to dance. Kristen motions for Dewayne to meet her on the floor. They dance for two songs before returning to the table for sips of wine. The more wine she drinks, the louder her conversation. “Kristen, do you mind if I dance with Dewayne?” “I don’t mind but you need to ask him.” “Dewayne, would you like to dance?” “I’d love to.” He follows behind me and we dance for two songs. “Thank you for the dance.” “You’re welcomed.” We return to the table in time to eat. Stuffed and content, I snuggle close to Rod. The music puts me in a tranquil mood. For the next 30 minutes we enjoy the music. We leave while the band is playing the last song.

Back at the villa, I shower and go to bed. Rod is already sound asleep. Unable to rest I locate my journal. This time I write a letter to Kristen. Her drinking has me alarmed. I tell her how blessed I am to have such a wonderful husband. I also tell her about the problems my drinking caused between us. I warn her to be careful since alcoholism can be a hereditary disease. I close the letter by leading her to Proverbs 31 in the Bible. I tell her this is how God expects her to behave as a wife. Writing this letter emotionally drains me.

I’m crying and extremely sad. Overtaken by feelings of helplessness for a number of reasons. I don’t have any control over Kristen’s drinking and furthermore I don’t have any control over how long I will live. I may not be around to comfort her through her drunken escapades. My fear is that Rod will never understand because he’s not alcoholic. He will think this is a moral dilemma and she can quit at any time.

I’m distracted from these thoughts when I think about Rayne. I want to tell her about my sickness. I want her to video tape my secret talks to Kristen. I want her to be there for the conversations Rod and Kristen will never allow me to have. I fall asleep thinking I’ll call her to arrange a lunch date when I return home. I sleep until 6:00 am.

I wake up at the crack of dawn. Rod is sound asleep. I turn on the television in the living room before I notice Dewayne is sleeping on the couch. Too anxious to sleep but not wanting to wake Dewayne I take an early morning shower. I’m dizzy and feeling like I’m going to faint.  These fainting spells are often and I am instantly reminded of my circumstances. I’m sick, I have cancer, and I’m dying. Visions of my life flashing before my eyes throw me into an instant panic. What if there really isn’t a heaven or hell and I spend the last days trying to be good when I could have had one big final bang. During this time of uncertainty a revelation is revealed to me. It’s better to believe there is a heaven and hell and there not be one than to believe there is not one when really there is. If one doesn’t really exist and I believe then I’ve lost nothing but if one exists and I don’t believe I’m going to hell. I don’t want to go to hell. Is not wanting to go to hell enough to keep from eternal damnation? I don’t know but I’m sure I can only be judged for what I do know.

I drink a glass of coconut juice and go back to bed. I wake up mid-morning Rod is showered and dressed. “Good morning honey. How are you?” I feel like I’m choking so I sit up in the middle of the bed. The blood and throw up that oozes from my mouth take me by surprise. I look at Rod to see if he’s paying attention. Words can never express the amount of fear in his eyes.  Without saying a word, he leaves the room. I’m sad and scared. He returns five minutes later with towels and cleaning supplies. “I called an ambulance.” “You did what?” “I called an ambulance.”  “Why?” “Stacey you need to get to the hospital.”  “Not here. I don’t want to ruin our vacation.” “Honey, you’re being irrational.” I don’t even attempt to clean up. I lay back down. This is one time I don’t care how I look. If I look like I feel, I’m in serious trouble. What’s going on? Has the cancer mastasticized?

 

Chapter 4 Bad News

The ambulance arrives within 8 minutes. I’m carried out on a gurney. Kristen is hysterical. She’s frantically asking questions that I can’t answer. I’m so afraid that I can’t pretend everything is okay. I’m choking and crying. The paramedic puts me under an oxygen mask. Rod says to Kristen, “Grab your shoes, we’ll follow behind the ambulance.  Instantly angry. Satan is ruining my vacation. I vow to fight back. He’s already invaded my space with this disease. I will enjoy my last days. The hospital is a five minute drive from the plantation. For some reason the locals refer to the villa as a plantation. I’m too sick to feel offended by the name.

Once I’m wheeled into the room, the doctor instantly enters. “Hello Mrs. Jones, how are you?”  I can’t talk, I shake my head to imply not well. Rod tells him I was recently diagnosed with cancer. The doctor orders a series of test. Two hours later he returns with the news that the cancer has spread to my colon. It’s only a small amount so he wants to operate immediately and remove parts of my colon before it spreads further. I’m confused as to how to proceed. Should I wait until I get home? Do I need a second opinion? The medical staff is moving too quickly. I’m in no hurry to make a rash decision I will later regret. I want a personal conversation with Rod. I say to the nurse, “Can you guys excuse us for a few minutes, I need to talk to my family?”

It’s almost as if time freezes. The room is rapidly cleared and the silence is overwhelming. Rod, Kristen and Dewayne approach the bed. Fighting back the tears I say, “What do you think? Should I wait until we get home, should I get a second opinion, should I go home today?” Rod kisses my head and says, “Slow down honey. Let’s pray.” The four of us join hands and Rod prays. ”Dear Father, it’s me your humble servant. Father, I’m calling on your mighty and holy name will you please hear my prayer? Lord, we need you. We can’t make it without you. You know what’s going on with Stacey please direct our paths. We realize the power of life and death is in your hands. Master, we’re confused and don’t know which way to turn. Your word says we have not because we ask not. Right now Jesus we’re asking you, what would you have us to do?  Please remove the uncertainty and make your answer plain so there is no confusion. Grant us the wisdom and knowledge we need to make the right choice.  We are trusting and leaning on you. We know that through you all things are possible. You know what’s best for this family. Only in the precious and mighty name of Jesus have we prayed and will we forever continue to pray. Amen.” No sooner than Rod is finished praying, I have my answer. I’m supposed to have the surgery in this hospital. “Rod, thank you for praying for me. I love you.”

We’re all crying. “I will have the surgery here.” He shakes his head and nods in agreement. He received the same answer. Kristen speaks up, “Mommy, you made the right decision.”  We all hug. Will this be our last time? “Rod, will you have the physician come back in?” Rod sends for the general practitioner. The doctor tells me he will not do the surgery. He explains that the surgeon, the oncologist and a colon doctor are on their way. The surgery is scheduled for tomorrow. After he answers the page; he informs me the others have arrived.

“Rod, come here.” I have to tell him how I feel just in case I don’t make it through the surgery. I don’t want to have this conversation but I must. Although he probably doesn’t’ want to, he needs to hear it. “Rod, we have a good life together. I’m sorry for the problems I’ve caused. So, we’ve gone through a turbulent time but these last few months have been amazing. I wouldn’t trade our life together for anything in this world.” He’s crying. “Stacey.” “Rod, let me finish. I hope that you have forgiven me because I love you more than words can say. I’m truly sorry I was so foolish. But, I thank God he revealed your love before I left this Earth. If we never spend another night together I have no regrets.  In spite of the recent confusion the good has outweighed the bad.”

“Stacey, stop it honey. I can’t and won’t go on without you.” He’s really sobbing. “You can and you will; Kristen needs you.” She runs out of the room and Dewayne trails behind her. “Tell her to come back here. I have something I need to say to her too.”  “No, Stacey I won’t, you’ll be fine. Kristen doesn’t need to hear this negativity. You can tell me what you need to say to her.” “Rod, before I tell you what to say to Kristen, Rayne will be there for you after I’m gone. You’re young. I don’t expect you to spend the rest of your life alone. When you fall in love with her, you will have my blessing.”  “You may be planning your death, but I’m celebrating your life. I’m getting ready to renew my wedding vows with my wife and I’m preparing for my daughter’s wedding. I’m leaving to take my daughter to pick up her dress. We ‘ll be back within an hour.” This conversation is too much for him and he leaves.

I want to call my mother to say “goodbye” just in case.  Then again, I don’t want to worry or surprise her. I can’t call her. I don’t have my cell phone. I’ll write her a letter. She’ll appreciate it more. Something to hold on to after I’m gone. I snap out of my thoughts of death when I think about passing before her. Realistically, I can’t justify the thought so this temporarily stops me from thinking about dying. 

An hour later the three of them return. Kristen has her dress. “Look Mom, I got the cheapest dress; the one I liked the best.”  I feel really sick. I don’t feel like talking and whenever I move I feel like I’m going to gag. I nod to let her know I hear her. I close my eyes. I hope I can fall asleep. Eventually they move me to a room where I can stay the night. Rod says to Kristen, “I’m going to stay here with Mom, do you know how to get back to the villa?”  She responds, “Yes, are you sure you don’t want us to stay?” She’s looking at me but he answers, “No honey, this room isn’t big enough for the four of us.” They leave and I sleep.

I wake up in the middle of the night. I’m crying and in pain. My stomach hurts. Rod hears my grunts and says, “Honey, are you alright?” “No, I’m hurting. Will you call the nurse?” He reaches across the bed and presses the call button in my hand. “Yes.” The nurse is loud. She sounds irritated. “My wife is in pain will you give her something?” ‘I’ll be right down.” The nurse comes in with liquid for the IV. “What is that?” He asks. “She responds, “Morphine. We’ve already staffed with the doctor and he approved it.” I’m surprised when Rod says, “My wife is an addict and alcoholic she almost killed herself by taking too many prescription meds.” “Unfortunately, Mr. Jones there’s no medication out there that’s strong enough to stand up to cancer that could not potentially be habit forming. Fortunately though she can’t administer it herself unless we give her a pump which we won’t do now.”

I look at Rod, “I promise to be good.” Once again I feel like a mischievous child. The morphine is already kicking in and I’m drifting back to sleep. I’m dreaming about Rod Jr. He’s older he looks about three. He’s playing with other children inside a house. I’m standing outside peeking in the window. I attempt to open the door but it’s locked. I’m knocking on the window but he can’t hear me. Some man comes and gets me. He taps me on the shoulder and escorts me away. I can’t see the man’s face. I wonder if it’s Rod.

I sleep until mid-morning. The nurse wakes me when it’s time for surgery. Kristen and Dewayne are back. I hug all three and tell them how much I love them. Rod is able to wheel me closer to the surgery room but Kristen and Dewayne have to wait by the double doors. Rod isn’t allowed to enter the room because of the sterile equipment. He kisses me at the door and says, “I’ll see you in a couple of hours.” I’m crying but I don’t want to be upset. Worry will make the surgery worse than it is. “Rod, don’t forget what I said.” He counters my suggestion with, “And don’t you forget what I said.” I blow him a kiss and once I see the lights I instantly fall asleep.

I hear muffled voices but can’t understand the conversations. I’m in a semi state of consciousness without feeling.  Through blurred vision, I see shadows of people who are very close but seem so far away. I’m distant and outside of myself. Floating, I drift off. Fading away. Am I dying?  “Can you hear me Mrs. Jones?” I can but can’t answer. Although strange these spirits are all too familiar. A lifestyle to which I had grown accustomed. The initiation on my path to self-destruction. I struggle, I’m fighting to survive but am eventually overtaken by the cold and darkness.

“Mrs. Jones.” I’m awakened to a nurse shinning a bright light in my eyes. I shriek. “Yes.” “Can you see me?” I nod my head. “Squeeze my hand.” I do but my grasp isn’t tight. She’s still talking. Shut up. My body is sore. I can feel pain, the medication isn’t working. I can’t tell her the problem I can only utter the word. “Ouch.” Are you in pain?” “Yes.”  “What hurts?” I can’t answer. “Ouch.”  “I’m putting some medication in your IV. You should feel better any minute.” Rod kisses me and the pressure makes me jerk.  I don’t want to be touched. My stomach feels like it’s about to fall out of my body.

“Hi Mom. I knew you’d be okay. See I told you.” She kisses me and the pain is so intense I want to lash out at her but I can’t. Why don’t they know their kisses are hurtful? Kristen sits on the edge of the bed and the movement makes me throw up all over the back of her shirt. “Gross,” she yells. Serves her right. I’m too sick to apologize. “Come on Dewayne, I need to change.” Rod expresses regret for me. “Kristen Mom didn’t mean to do that.”  “I know Dad.” Eventually the pain subsides long enough for me to fall asleep.

The next voice I hear is the doctor, “Hello Mrs. Jones how are you feeling?” “Okay.” Not really, please leave me alone. I don’t feel like talking. “Bathroom.”  “You have a catheter so you should be fine. We are at a pivotal stage of fighting the disease so we need to proceed aggressively. We’ll start chemotherapy as soon as possible.” I look for Rod. Why can’t he be my mouth piece, how come he won’t tell the doctor we’re going home in a few days?  He doesn’t say anything and I can’t.  I don’t pretend to agree. I hate hospitals and I want to go home. I’m too weak to fight. The nurse gives me more medicine and I go back to sleep.

I guess I’ve been out for a few days because I wake up starving.  “Eat.” I’m not talking in sentences but Rod understands that I’m hungry. “Let me tell the nurse.” He leaves the room and returns almost instantly looking upset. “I’m sorry, honey. You can’t eat yet.” “I’m not going to die from cancer but I’ll starve to death.” Wow, a whole sentence. I say this jokingly but I’m serious. “You’re not going to starve to death. They are feeding you through the IV.” I look at the many tubes still attached and wonder which one houses the food? As I am wondering the nurse comes in and removes some of the tubes and puts medication in the other. “Hello Mrs. Jones, how are you?” “I feel much better, how are you?” “I’m fine thanks. The doctor will be in later to talk to you.”

As the nurse is leaving, the cancer team approaches. Wow, six different doctors. There’s an overseer. He’s the primary doctor. Then there is the surgery doctor, the liver doctor, the kidney doctor, the heart doctor and the oncologist. They take turns speaking telling me their role in my recovery process. They talk about how each organ is doing post op and pre chemo. This information is overwhelming electrolytes etc is too much for my brain to completely grasp. The overall feeling that I receive is that I’m doing well. I feel more confident with this group of doctors than I do with the ones at home. I almost want to stay here until the cancer is gone.

I’m starving and the only question I have is when I can eat. The primary doctor advises me that I should be able to eat a light dinner. He instructs the nurse to bring me the menu for the foods I’m allowed to have. This really sucks. I want some real food like fried chicken and mashed potatoes with gravy, green beans and corn. Instead, I settle for jello and cottage cheese. My bottom hurts and I want to walk around the hospital. “Rod, can we go for a walk?” “I don’t know but I’ll ask the nurse.” “Yes, she said we could. We need to walk slowly and you need to be careful.”

Rod helps me out of the bed and ties my gown in the back. At first he’s pushing the IV but it’s uncomfortable for me to try to keep up with his pace and not walk in his space. “Here, I’ll push it.”  “Are you sure?” “Yes, walking like this isn’t comfortable.”  I push the IV and head straight into the chapel. I want to thank God for bringing me out of the surgery and for healing my body. Rod walks behind and looks at me in disbelief. “Rod, I want to thank God for all he has done for me.” “Okay.”  I bow my head and this time I lead the prayer. “Dear God, thank you for blessing me. Thank you for making me better. Thank you for sparing my life. Please forgive me for my sins. Thank you for such a wonderful husband who has stood by me even when I didn’t deserve it. Please look beyond my faults and continue to see my needs. Thank you for my daughter and her fiancé. Thank you for keeping them safe. In the name of Jesus I have prayed. Amen.”

“Stacey, honey that was great a prayer of thanksgiving. I’m proud of you.”  “Thanks.” I respond positively but I think he’s offensive. I feel as if I should know better. Why am I doing this again? Get behind me Satan. The devil is busy. He’s always trying to sabotage something good. “Rod, I think we should head back to the room now. I’m tired.” “Sure honey. Not a problem.” Not long after I’m in bed I fall asleep. Rod wakes me and says, “I’ll be back, I’m going out for a while.”  I’m awake enough to ask, “Where are you going?” He’s hesitant but finally says, “To get something to eat.” The look in his eyes informs me he feels guilty for not being sick. “Honey I know you need to eat.” “Okay, I’ll be right back.” “I’ll eat too while you’re gone.”

I go back to sleep. This time I dream I’m drowning. I’m shipwrecked in the ocean and every time I get close to making it to shore something lures me back to the water. I wake up terrified. Rod is back and he’s watching television. I tell him about my interpretation of the dream. “I think I’m going to die. Like choke to death on my own blood.  Drown or something drastic that’s going to take my breath away. ” “That’s not what I got out of it.” “So, what do you think?” “I think it’s about your relationship with God. It seems to me like whenever you get close to him something interferes. I think he’s showing you no matter what happens you can trust him.”  “That makes sense but how in the world did you get that meaning?” “The fact that you never drown tells me it’s not about death.”

I trust his opinion and I’m content with his explanation. I need him to touch me. “Rod.” “Yes honey.” “Will you come over here?” “Sure.” He climbs into bed with me, I lay my head on his chest and fall asleep. I have the best husband ever. Happy thoughts. He understands me. When I don’t understand God, he speaks through Rod. This is a match made in heaven. I’m awakened by a ringing telephone. It’s Rod’s cell phone.

“Hello,” he says. He whispers to me, “It’s Kristen.”  I listen to the conversation by his response. She’s letting him know they are on their way back. She asks how I’m doing and he tells her I’m awake. She wants to talk. “Hello Mother.” “Hi baby, how are you?” “I’m good Mom, how are you?” “I feel much better thank you. The doctor said the cancer has shrank.” “Good Mom, that’s great news. You were talking about dying and I told you, you’d be fine.” “You’re right, I should’ve had more faith.” “I need to get going. We’re on our way back there.” “Okay, baby be careful. I’ll see you when you get here. I love you.” “Love you too Mom.”

Rod explains to me that Kristen and Dewayne returned to Indiana. Dewayne had to work for a few days. They’ll be back this weekend to pick us up.

“Hello Mrs. Jones how are you this morning?” “I’m okay, how are you?” “Blessed, thank you for asking.” He must be Christian. “We’d like to start chemo today.”  Dr. Brown the cancer doctor is standing in front of me. “Alright.” What is he expecting me to say?  “Let me explain the process to you, what chemo is, some possible side effects and answer any questions you might have.”

“Chemotherapy is as you may already know a way to treat cancer. During this process medication destroys cancer cells. But, the trick is this treatment also destroys healthy cells which explains the reason for some side effects like hair loss. All side effects tend to leave after the treatment is over. We are going to do what is called adjuvant chemotherapy with you. This is the one that destroys remaining cancer cells after surgery. Our plan is to give it to you traperitoneally through an IV. Which means it will go directly to the peritoneal cavity. This is the area that contains your intestines, liver, stomach and ovaries. We chose this area because this is where your cancer began.  We will give this to you for a week cycle and then you will have three weeks off.”

I interrupt, “A week, I won’t be here for another week. I’m supposed to go home this weekend.” “Where’s home?” “Indiana,” “How did you get here?” “Drove.’” “I would suggest you fly back because we can give it to you for the next three days and then you go home immediately following the third treatment. On the fourth day you can go to your local hospital or your doctor’s office for the next three treatments. That’s one option or we could give you the three treatments and give you the topical cream or the pills for the next four days. But, there could be side effects and I wouldn’t suggest traveling by car with flu like symptoms.”

I look at Rod for an answer. He responds, “We’ll fly back. Excuse me I need to call my daughter to tell her not to drive here.” Rod leaves the room and calls Kristen. He returns. ”Luckily they’re still in Indiana. I need to go book our flight. I’ll be right back.”  While waiting for his return the doctor stops talking about treatment and starts talking about God. I like this doctor. Like Rod he’s confident in his faith and I feel very hopeful about my future. Rod returns and the doctor says, “I’ll contact your doctor to schedule your chemotherapy for the last three days. I’ll be right back.”  Rod says, “Our plane leaves Saturday at 2pm.”

Dr. Brown returns, “All set. You need to report to the hospital at 10 am on Sunday morning.” “Which one; we have three.” “Hope Hospital.” “Good choice.” I smile at the doctor. I wonder if he’s married and has children. I check his fingers and notice his wedding band. Why? “Do you have any questions for me Mrs. Jones?” “What happens after the week of treatment?” “At that time your doctor should do an x-ray to check for remaining cancer cells. I’m hoping after this all of the cells will be dead. If they’re not, I imagine your doctor will repeat this process at least one more time but you’ll have to talk to him about that. Any other questions Mr. Jones?”

“No sir. You explained the process very well.” “Good, but should you think of any additional questions, please don’t hesitate to have me paged.” “Thank you, I will.” He shakes Rod’s hand and leaves. Two nurses enter immediately following him. One says, “Mrs. Jones this is your chemo.” The other hooks up the bag and reads some information from it to the nurse who documents everything. I’ve never seen this before. “What are you doing,” I ask. This is a precaution for making sure we are giving the right medicine to the right patient. “Alright.” Their exit is a quick as their entrance. Rod is dozing in the chair. I also see this as an opportunity to sleep.

I sleep as the chemo enters into my body. Simultaneously as the last drip drops I have to throw up. The nurse has placed the bedpan on the night stand next to the bed. I didn’t see them leave it. They must have brought it after I fell asleep. Rod wakes up once he hears me barf. He doesn’t say anything just stands watching. My sickness is taking its toll on him. I see it in his eyes. Instantly I am granted the knowledge; I know him as well as he knows me. Once I’m finished he takes the bed pan and dumps it into the toilet. I ask him to call the nurse. I need her to remove the IV so I can brush my teeth. No matter how nauseous I feel I can’t take this gritty feeling on my teeth.

“I need to take a shower.” “You can’t, your body hasn’t healed enough.” “I feel really gross. I can’t feel good about myself if I’m dirty. I’ve heard that frame of mind can play a strong role in determining my fate.” “It could be, but I don’t understand why you feel so dirty the C.N.A’s are washing you daily.” “I didn’t know that.” “But, if you want I can get some shampoo and soap for you to wash up in the sink.” “Yes. I’d like that.” “Will that make you happy?” I smile at her because she understands me. “Yes, mam.” She leaves and returns with personal hygiene products. Rod helps me in the bathroom and washes me while I lean on the counter for support. Housekeeping is changing my bed sheets so I sit up for a while in the chair watching television. Rod says, “I have to leave. I need to go pack our stuff, shower and get something to eat.”  “Will you put me back in the bed first?” The orderly speaks, “Mrs. Jones we can help you back into bed.” Rod kisses me on the cheek and leaves. I sense something on his mind which makes me uncomfortable.

Chapter 5 Home Sweet Home

Prior to boarding the plane, the nurse gives me a bed pan. The doctor sees me off and wishes me well. I feel like hell but the chemotherapy experience is making me a different person. The road to recovery is very lonely. Rod is at my side and I’m grateful he’s here. An awakening occurs when I realize sickness and death are very lonely ventures. Family and friends are here but no one really understands.

Rod has made arrangements for the rental car agency to pick up the car in the airport parking lot. I’ve been given enough morphine to sleep the entire trip. An airport attendant greets us at the front door with a wheelchair. Rod drops me off along with the luggage and parks the car. We stand at the doors waiting for his return. As we’re walking the attendant hands me a pillow.  We cut in front of the line and she pushes me directly on the plane. Why am I getting such special treatment? Rod has told the airline my story. I’m angry because this is an invasion of my privacy. I don’t want empathy.

“Rod, did you tell them I have cancer?” “Tell who?” “The airport staff.” “Yes.”  “Why?” “I had to because if I didn’t we couldn’t get a plane until next week.” My anger dissipates and I fall asleep. I wake up in the back seat of Kristen’s car. We’re finally home. I’m still not feeling well from the chemotherapy but I take a bath anyway. I fall asleep while soaking in the tub.  Rod carries me to bed. He dresses me in pajamas and covers me but I’m still freezing. “Rod.” “Yes honey.” “I’m really cold will you get me an extra blanket?” “Sure, I’ll get one out of the dryer.” He covers me and I fall asleep. When I wake up in the middle of the night he’s not in bed. I yell for him but Kristen comes instead.

“Where’s your Dad?” “Uh, he’s not here.” “Where is he?” “He went out for a while.” “Did he say where?” “He went for coffee.” “By himself?” “Um, no.” “Kristen, who’s he with?” “Rayne?” “Really, I told him after I die not before. He can’t wait to put his dying wife to bed so he can rush off with his healthy mistress.” “Mom, you know that isn’t true.” “Really, if you thought it was so innocent; why were you so hesitant to tell me?” “Because I think Dad should tell you, not me. If he was hiding something he wouldn’t have told me where he was going and with whom. He could have lied.” “You know your Dad better than that.” “He didn’t have to tell me anything, I didn’t ask him.”

“Will you get me a cold glass of juice?” “Grape or pineapple?” “Grape.” She hands me the juice and I sit up in the bed. “Turn on the light.” I want to be awake when he returns. I’m sure he thought I’d be out for the rest of the night. Although I’m dozing I’m determined to stay awake. I want to see his face when I catch him. I’m frustrated because eventually I give in to the morphine and sleep overtakes me. When I awaken, Rod is sound asleep in bed next to me. I want to shake him so I can tell him I know he left. He looks so peaceful that my love for him will not allow me to disturb him.

He wakes me with barely enough time to arrive for treatment. We’re late. What are they gonna say? Sorry we can’t treat you now go home and die. At the hospital, he removes a wheelchair from the trunk of the car. Where’d he get that from? I’m sick and I don’t feel like talking so I don’t ask.  I can tell by the way he maneuvers the chair that he’s tired. The nurses are waiting for us. He completes the paperwork and they immediately wheel me back to a big room where there are several other patients. The nurse hooks up the IV and within 45 minutes the whole process is complete. Rod meets the nurse at the door and wheels me back to the car. This time I only throw up once. 

The next few days are uneventful. I go to treatment and sleep the rest of the day. My appetite is completely dwindled and it takes all of my strength to retain the protein drinks. The fifth day I wake up to go to therapy and Rod reminds me that I only had four more sessions with three weeks off. “Did the doctor say that I had to continue with the chemo?” “He didn’t say yet. He said you have to come in again before the end of the three weeks so he can do an x-ray.” “So I have a break?” “Yes, almost for at least three weeks.” “Thank God because I can’t take much more at the moment. My body is ready to fall apart.” He kisses me and I’m so exhausted I go back to sleep.

I wake to the sound of Jazz music on the radio. The smell of cleaning supplies does not overtake the smell of food. Someone’s cooking in the kitchen. I yell for Rod. I’m surprised to see Rayne. “Good morning Stacey, how are you?” She bends down and kisses me on the head. I don’t want to be rude but I’m frustrated. I didn’t want her to see me like this right now. Not wanting to show my true feelings I smile and say, “I’m fine, how are you?” “I’m good.” “Where’s Rod?” “He took Kristen out to lunch for her birthday.” I sigh and I’m holding back the tears.  “What’s wrong?” “He could have at least asked me. I’m not even dead yet and he’s already excluding me.” “Dead. Girl you’ll be here next year.” “You think so huh?’ “I know so.” “What are you cooking?” “Some good healthy food.” “You hungry?” “Yes, but I want to get cleaned up first.” “I don’t know why Rod left without giving me a bath.”

“Rod needed a break. It’s my turn to take care of my friend.” “I don’t want to burden you with washing me. How embarrassing.” “Embarrassing. Looking at you will be just like me looking at me.” “Okay.” “Did Pastor tell you I’m a nurse by trade?” “No, I had no idea.” “Well, now you know. Rest assured, I’m not seeing or doing anything new. Now, come on girl, let me help you in the bathroom. I stand up and lean on her for support. “Should I get the wheelchair?” “No, I need to walk.” “Good.” She escorts me into the bathroom and helps me into the tub. She sits on the closed toilet. We talk for a bit but then I ask her, “Rayne can you leave so I can wash myself?” “Sure, I’ll finish putting the laundry away. I’m going downstairs to get the rest of the clothes. I’ll be right back but you call me if you need me. I can hear you.” “Okay, thank you.”  “Sure, notta problem, that’s what friends are for.”

Rayne leaves and I relax my head on the wall of the tub. Me attempting to stand up to wash seems like such a major obstacle. Eventually, I’m able to pull myself up and wash. Ten minutes is the maximum amount of time I can stay in the bath. “Rayne.” “Yes.” “Will you help me out of the tub?” “Sure.” She hands me the towel and I lean on her shoulder and make my way back into the bedroom. I sit on the edge of the bed before I say, “I’m going to tell you the same thing I told Rod. When I die if you two hook up, you’ll have my blessing.” “Girl, I don’t want your husband.” “Really, Rod is a handsome good man. I got the cream of the crop. Why would you not want him?” “Because he’s married to you and he seems more like my brother.” “That’s just because I’m alive and you can’t allow yourself to go there now but as soon as I pass. The two of ya have my blessing.”

“You better quit trying to give away your husband.” “You don’t have to respond to this question but there’s no way you can tell me you’re not attracted to him. Please don’t say anything because I know better and I can’t trust you if I think you are lying to me.” She says nothing more.

I continue the conversation. “There’s something I want you to do for me.” “What’s that?” “I want you to video tape me leaving important messages for Kristen. For example, I’ll send her a message after the birth of her first child, her five year anniversary, her wedding.” “Her wedding?” You must be planning on checking out real soon. Isn’t she supposed to get married in a couple of months?” “Well, yeah but just in case.” “If you think you must go, you can at least give us more time than that.” We both laugh and as she’s leaving she says, “I’ll be in the next room putting away Kristen’s laundry since you are too shy to get dressed in front of me.”  She blushes and I get clean pajamas out of the dresser. I don’t feel like putting on clothes yet. Maybe tomorrow.

She returns, “Would you like for me to bring your food upstairs?” “No, I need a change of scenery. Will you help me downstairs?” “Sure.” As she’s helping me down the stairs, I say to her, “Thank you for cleaning my house and helping me.” “Notta problem. That’s what friends are for.” She sits me at the kitchen table. “Will you get the bed pan just in case I need to throw up?” “Sure.” She heads into the downstairs bathroom. “It’s upstairs,” I say. “No, I brought you a bunch of supplies that I had from when I was taking care of my mother. I have put them down here.” “Okay. Is that where Rod got the wheelchair from?” “Yes.”

“Rayne, I don’t know how to thank you for everything.” “Just hurry up and get better so we can have some happy times.” “I’ll try.” She looks me directly in the eye and says, “No, Stacey you will get better.” “Okay, I will get better.” The house smells sterile and she’s even mopped the kitchen floor. She’s so much the type of woman Rod loves. She’s a lot like me. “Will you help me onto the couch in the den?” “Yes.” She gets a fresh blanket and I lie down. I’m hurting. “Will you give me some morphine?” She checks the time and says, “Sure.” What a good friend. We watch television until I fall asleep.

When I wake up Rayne has already left. Rod is fooling around with the television and Kristen and Dewayne are playing monopoly on the floor. feel better. “Happy Birthday baby.”  “Thanks Mom, how are you feeling?” “I feel sad that I missed my baby’s birthday.” “My birthday isn’t over yet, we still have to cut the cake and sing happy birthday. Look at my present from Dewayne.” “Yeh baby that’s beautiful.”  “Beautiful Mom, you didn’t even look.” “Honey I already saw it. I saw it last week.” “Alright.”

“Hi honey.” “Rod, please don’t do that again.” “Do what?” “Leave me alone without telling me you’re leaving.” “I didn’t leave you alone, Rayne was here.”  “I don’t like waking up with strangers in my house.” “Honey, she’s not a stranger. How could she be a stranger when just a few days ago you were marrying us off?” “I’m okay with it after I die just not now.” I don’t plan on you dying so I’m not going to stop inviting my friend over to help take care of my sick wife.” He kisses me on the cheek and lays his head on my chest. I feel a need for affection.

“You ready to sing happy birthday to Kristen?”  “Sure.” The doorbell is ringing.  Rod opens the door and I’m surprised when Dewayne’s parents appear in the family room. Dewayne’s mother hugs me and says, “Hi Stacey, how are you feeling?” “I’m okay Karen how are you” “I’m fine. Dewayne has told me you weren’t feeling well. You are in our prayers, and if there’s anything we can do, please let us know.” “Thank you, I appreciate it.” I wonder how much Dewayne has told her. Rod picks me up and carries me into the dining room. Now, I’m embarrassed for not being dressed.

”Please forgive me for not being dressed.” “No worries. We certainly understand.” Dewayne’s father finally kisses me on the cheek. “Hello beautiful,” he says. “Hi handsome.” “You let us know if there is anything at all Karen and I can do for you sugar dumplings.” “Aw, that’s so sweet, thank you so much.” He’s always flirted with me to a degree which sometimes makes me uncomfortable. We sing Happy Birthday and Kristen opens a bottle of champagne. I wonder what her next birthday will be like without me. Will Rayne be here?  

Kristen opens all of her gifts. From Dewayne, she gets a tennis bracelet, a matching gold necklace, a pair of earrings and a cocktail dress. My guess is that she picked it out the dress herself. I wonder where she will wear it.  Dewayne’s parents give her a $500 gift card.  “Wow Mom and Dad this is a lot for my birthday.” “We gave you extra this year because we know you are planning a wedding. Just don’t expect that amount next year.”  “Naw, you’ve already set the standard.” We all laugh. Rod bought her a jogging suit and a pair of tennis shoes. She doesn’t act surprised. She must have also picked them out. She’s such a control freak.  The last gift she has is a cd of some well-known artist from Rayne.  

Instantly, I feel envy and remorse. She’s already stepping into her role as step mother. The doorbell rings again. It’s Rayne and her daughter Autumnn. “Sorry, we’re late. Cheerleading practice lasted longer than expected.”  “No, you’re fine.” Kristen replies. Kristen hugs Autumn as if she’s known her for a lifetime. Autumn approaches me and says, “Hello, Mrs. Jones, how are you?” “I’m good Autumn, how are you?” “I’m blessed and highly favored.” It surprises me to hear a young adult talk like this. Then again this is Rayne’s daughter Mrs. Spirituality. I attempt to eat a piece of cake and am embarrassed when I feel myself gagging. 

I call Rod over to me without making a big scene. Whatever possessed me to think I could enjoy a piece of cake? “I’m sick.” “Okay honey do you need to go to the bathroom?” I nod my head yes and hope I don’t lose the cake in front of everyone. Rod picks me up and carries me to the upstairs bathroom. Once I’m finished I ask him, “Will you please put me in bed and tell everyone I said goodnight?” “Sure honey.” He tucks me in, turns out the light and vanishes. I bet he can’t wait to get back to Rayne. I should have asked him for more medicine. I glance at the alarm. Too soon. I count sheep and think jealous thoughts until I fall asleep.      

I wake up in the middle of the night. I’m in pain. Rod is sound asleep. He must be extremely tired. I want to let him sleep so I attempt to get my morphine. Why doesn’t he just put it on the night stand next to the bed? Getting out of the bed is a big mistake. My legs give out and I tumble to the ground. The loud thump wakes him instantly. “Honey, what are you doing?’ “I’m trying to get my medicine.” He helps me back into bed. “Are you okay?” “Yes, I don’t understand why you don’t put the medicine on the nightstand next to the bed.” “That’s a good idea Stacey. Then you can get it whenever you feel like it instead of only when you need it.” His comment surprises me. “I guess I didn’t think of it that way.” “I guess you didn’t either. You are the love of my life and I try to do what I think is best for you without being too controlling.” “Thanks honey. I’m sorry, I know.”

It doesn’t take long before the morphine kicks in and I’m fast asleep. I sleep for half of the day and when I wake up to go to the bathroom I’m still extremely groggy.  I feel muffled.

 

 

Chapter 6 Grocery Store Encounters

I wake up still feeling really weird. Rod is asleep. I need to get out of the house today. Fresh air always makes me feel better. I rush to the bathroom and greet the toilet with the contents of my stomach. How much longer am I going to feel like this?  I take a shower, and wash my hair. While I’m standing in the mirror brushing my teeth I notice how thin my hair has become. I contemplate making an appointment for the beautician but instead decide to go natural.  Fighting back the tears I prepare breakfast. I find the serving trays and this time I serve Rod breakfast in bed. He’s exhausted but appreciative. He sits up long enough to eat but immediately lays back down. “Honey, I’m going to the grocery store.” “Right now?” “Yes.” “It’s too early Stacey you can’t drive yet.” “Rod I’m going crazy staring at these walls all day.” “Honey wait until I wake up and I’ll take you.” I’m in the kitchen washing dishes when Kristen stumbles in for water. “Good morning mother.” “Hi baby how are you?” I want to talk to her but she cuts the conversation short.  I’m okay just came down to get something to drink.” “I’m going back to bed.” “Okay.” Instantly she disappears.  I know drinking alcohol causes dehydration. I wonder if she’s been drinking all night.  I say a quick prayer and come to the conclusion she’ll find her way. I’m too tired for sleeping.

I need something to do. I find my notebook that has been unpacked and placed neatly on the dresser. I wonder if whoever took it out of the suitcase read it. It doesn’t matter. I’m not sure what I am going to write. I plan my funeral. I give everyone permission to celebrate my life instead of agonizing over my death. It’s weird that I wrote this but have no idea why.  It’s hard to explain like a spirit just took over my pen and wrote what it wanted to say. I’ve even chosen the music and who I want to sing, what I want to wear and where I want to be buried. This process is so emotionally draining that I put on clean pajamas and crawl back into bed with Rod. He’s still sleeping. I’m awake for a few minutes longer wondering what my grandchildren will be like. I really would like to live long enough to know them. I imagine a boy and a girl but the reality is I don’t think Kristen wants children. I think she’s too selfish. Eventually, I fall back to sleep. I wake up midday and the sun is glaring in the window. I can’t believe Rod is still asleep.

I wonder if he is feeling alright. I am reminded of his head injury and I wonder what a setback would look like. I wonder how he’s handling the amount of stress he has endured lately. Not long after I wake up do I feel Rod stirring. “Good morning.” I say but he simply responds with “Hello.” Instantly he’s up out of bed and heading towards the bathroom. I want to talk but he doesn’t. He’s not in a good mood. Sometimes I think he also suffers from pms. I give up trying to be congenial. I wash my face, brush my teeth and dress for the day. Afterwards I sit at the desk and read my Bible. I begin with the New Testament. My goal is to read a book a day.  Just as I’m finished Rod enters the bedroom and quietly gets dressed. He’s quiet and reserved. Finally he speaks. “Stacey what day of the week is it?” This question catches me off guard and I have to think about it. “Today is Wednesday. Are you feeling okay?” “Yes.” He says, “I’m fine. Are you ready to go to the grocery?”

I tell Kristen we’re leaving. She pokes her head out of her door but she’s not dressed. “We’re going to the grocery, do you need anything?” “No thanks.” She says. We’re grocery shopping when I look up at the giggling couple. To my surprise it’s Stanley and Gretchen walking hand in hand leaning on the cart. He appears to be happy with the “white girl” that he said was lacking substance. I quickly turn my head and pretend not to see him. “Hello Stacey,” he says. I smile and speak. I hurriedly brush past him before Rod sees us but he wants to hold a conversation. “Good to see you.” He says. “Likewise.” I speak to Gretchen and hurry along. This encounter puts me on edge. Finally Rod approaches with a hand full of snacks. I’m relieved that he wasn’t around and I’m not going to tell him. I’m nervous and in a hurry to leave. I hope Rod doesn’t see him because he knows what Stanley looks like from the meeting at the house. Just as I think we’re about to make a clean get away Stanley and Rod almost collide. ‘Go ahead,” Rod says as he allows Stanley to cross in front of him. Walking behind the two love birds is more than I can handle.  I pause at the newspaper stand to allow them to gain more footage. Did Rod recognize him?  If he did he doesn’t say anything.  We load the groceries into the car and leave in an uneventful manner.

The drive home is silent. I’m frustrated. Seeing Stanley so happy makes me jealous and I miss him.  I wonder if they have had sex and if it’s as good as it was with me. Strange thought. Why am I thinking this? Stanley is a nice guy and deserves to be happy. Besides, I’m happier with Rod than I’ve ever been. I love my husband and he loves me. The trip has worn me out. I put the groceries away and lay down. It doesn’t take Rod long to join me. Although still reserved he’s feeling frisky. We fool around and I ask him. “Rod, what’s wrong?” “I don’t know, I guess I’m just tired of the emotional roller coaster. Wondering what God has in store for us?” For once I see his humaneness and realize even the strong suffer doubt. I attempt to ease his mind by making lite of the situation. “I’m sure God has a plan. I have an idea. When we renew our vows let’s go on another honey moon.”

Now he’s being negative. “We’ll have to wait and see how your treatment progresses.” Damn instantly jolted back into my reality. I have cancer. One final shin ding won’t hurt, or will it, still toying with good and evil. I have made up in my mind we both cannot be depressed at the same time. I need something productive to do to pass time when I can be up and about. I know I’ll make jewelry for Kristen. I knock on her bedroom door. “Come in.”  “Hey baby. What are you doing?” “Just organizing my room.”
“Aw, you scared me for a minute I thought you were going to move into my apartment.”  “I hope you don’t mind but I’ve decided not to sublet your apartment. I want to stay here with you and Dad for now.” “Until I get better?”  “Yeh Mom until you get better.”  “I came up with my own idea. Maybe to you a long shot but I want to help you make jewelry. Do you think you could teach me?”  “Mom, that’s a great idea. I’d love to. Just let me know when you’re ready.”  “Good that settles it.”

I feel better and I need something to do. I need to go out to get some positive energy to bring back to Rod. I call Rayne to see if she wants to hang out. “Hello Rayne.” “Hello Stacey how are you?”  “I’m up and about feeling pretty good. I’m calling to see if you want to hang out?” “Sure we can but Autumn has a game at five. You can go with if you want.”  “No, I don’t want to take up your whole evening maybe just about an hour of your time.”  “You want me to pick you up? I know you’re not driving yet.”  “Do you mind?” “No, I’ll be there within a half an hour.”  We hang up the telephone and as I’m dressing I feel a sharp pain in my stomach. Time for my medicine but I don’t want to fall asleep so I take half of what I’m supposed to take. I have to be the worse patient ever always changing my prescriptions.

As I’m changing my clothes I inform Rod of my plans. He’s still relaxing in bed. “Rod, I’m going to hang out with Rayne for a while.” “Oh, I see so you’re gonna hang out with my friend without me?” “Would you like to come?” “No,” he says. But really he’s pouting. The doorbell rings. I kiss him on the jaw, quickly put on my shoes and dash out the front door. Afraid that he may want to join us, and without inviting Rayne in I rush to stand by her car and wait for her to unlock the door. Once we’re in the car, I kiss her on the cheek.  “Where to? She says.  “The coffee shop around the corner.”

Rayne is becoming a good friend to me. I’m extremely comfortable with her. In a way she reminds me of my sister. I don’t know why I haven’t bothered telling either of my sisters about my illness because they would both be supportive. I guess I don’t want to worry them.  Once we’re seated I have so much to tell her. “Rayne, will you do something for me?”  “Depends on what it is.”  “Will you help me make some home videos for Kristen?” “We’re not going there again.” “No we’re not but just in case. If I never need them then that’s okay too but there’s so much more advice I’m going to need to give her. Like after she has her first baby and the baby has colic, how to keep house and keep her man. Advice only her mother can give. I want to limit her wondering what Mom would do in certain situations.”  “Sure, I can help you with that.”  “ Good, I’m glad we’re friends and you’re so understanding.”  “I wouldn’t say all of that but I’m here for you.”

“Fantastic!” I change the subject. “What’s been up with you?” “Interviewing. I’m ready to go back to work.”  “ Had any luck?” “I think so. I believe I got a job. I’ll start out part-time while Autumn is in school then we’ll go from there.” “Good luck. I do have another question if I become too sick, will you take care of me? My insurance will pay you. I don’t want to die in the hospital. I want my dignity.”  “I’m here for you but don’t worry about that now. We’ll cross that bridge if we ever get there. Just know that I am here for you Stacey.”  “Thanks.” She takes my hand. “   “Can we change the subject now?” “Sure.”

“Last week, I met a really nice man in the grocery store.  He took me out to dinner and he wants to go to the movie this weekend.” “How exciting.” Instantaneously I’m saddened. Why don’t I want her to be happy? She deserves it. I know why because I want her to wait for Rod. She would be the perfect second wife. “What do you think I should wear?” After a few moments of silence she lures me back into the conversation. “Hello Stacey, are you there?” “Huh, sorry.”  “What are you thinking about?”
“Nothing I’m sorry.”  “I asked you what I should wear.”  “Let’s go pick out a new outfit.” “Okay.”  I pay our tab and we leave.

It doesn’t take long for Rayne to find a trendy outfit with my approval. Our taste is very similar. I buy some hair supplies and encourage Rayne to put her credit card away. Because she’s been so kind, I buy her outfit. We leave the store and she drops me off at home. “Would you like to come in?” “I can’t honey I need a nap before I go to the game or I may fall asleep on the bleachers. She hugs and thanks me before I leave. Rod has company. He and Reverend S are sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee. I greet him with a hug and a kiss prior to returning to bed for a much needed nap. Once my head relaxes on the pillow exhaustion sets in and it doesn’t take long to fall asleep.

When I wake up to go to the bathroom the pressure on my stomach is so overwhelming that I take the half pill from earlier in addition to the current dosage. Sleep is instant.

I wonder if it’s because of the medicine that I wake up with thoughts of Rod Jr. This time I’m getting him ready for church. There is no longer distance or space that separates us. Once we arrive at the church, it’s a funeral. I hold his hand and together we walk to the casket to view the body. Just as I’m about to get a glimpse of the dead person the telephone rings and wakes me up. It’s really early but I’m glad for the call. I reach across Rod to answer the phone. “Hello.” “Good morning Stacey.”  “Good morning.” The voice is familiar but unknown. The caller continues. “How are you this morning?” “I’m good, how are you?” “I’m great.” It’s my brother Steve. “I’m in town, I brought my girl here to meet the family. You know we’re expecting a little one.” My first thought is when is the wedding? I refrain myself from volunteering Rod’s services. Reality is he wouldn’t marry them anyway without counseling first. I keep my judgment calls to myself and agree to meet him at Mom’s for dinner.

 

Chapter 7 Family Gathering

“Stacey who was on the phone?” “Stevie. He’s in town and we’re having dinner at Mom’s” “Really, I didn’t know you told him.” “Told him what?” I’m irritated because Rod keeps reminding me that I’m sick. “You know. About your sickness.” “I didn’t. I thought I told you the reason he came. He brought his pregnant girlfriend home to meet the family.” “You don’t say. Really, what did Mom say?” “Not too much of anything you know how she stays out of our business.” “Well, yeah she does but I thought she’d have an opinion.” “If she does she’ll never tell me.” “What time is dinner?” “He didn’t say but I imagine as long as we’re there by five we’ll be fine. I need to tell Kristen. It’s time for Dewayne to spend more time with the extended family.”  My stomach still hurts so to avoid getting out of bed I call Kristen on her cell. On the sixth ring the voice mail picks up. She obviously knows I’m trying to reach her because there’s a soft knock on the bedroom door. “Come in.” “Mom, do you need something?” “Yes, your Uncle Stevie is in town with his girlfriend so we’re all having dinner at Grandma’s at 5:00. I think you should invite Dewayne. He needs to know more about the extended family he’s marrying into.”  “Okay Mom, should we take anything?” “Will you pick up dessert?” “Sure.” “Get the money out of my purse.” “That’s alright. I got it. Anything else?” “No, thanks honey.”

Kristen leaves and I return to sleep. I don’t have any plans to get up until it’s time to get ready for dinner. I hope this pain is gone by then. It doesn’t take long for me to get back to sleep.  I’m sure I’m approaching REM sleep just as Rod wakes me to eat. Now, I’m pissed. Does he have a clue how hard it is for a sick person to get back to sleep in between medicine doses? Food is not that important. Missing one meal isn’t going to kill me.

I can’t be mad at Rod for something he doesn’t know. “Rod, will you please do me a favor?”  “Sure honey what is it?”  “I don’t want to sound ungrateful so please don’t take this the wrong way. I know that you worry about me eating but as long as I am sick with cancer please don’t wake me up for meals.” “Honey, you have to eat.”  “I know but here’s the problem. When I’m in pain and I’m in between doses I can’t get back to sleep. My stomach hurts so bad that I can’t eat anyway. It’s not time for me to have my medicine so now I’m going to have to suffer. Ouch. No way can I wait. I need the medicine now. Will you please hand me my prescription?” He hesitates. “Stacey, it’s not time.” “I know but there’s no way I can wait. I’m not abusing the medicine because I really need it.”

He hands me the bottle and I take enough for my next two doses. I’m probably going to sleep through dinner. I wonder if the cancer is growing because I am needing the medicine more frequently. The fear is too much. I’m restless for a few minutes longer but eventually I fall asleep. “Wake up Stacey.” I open my eyes. Rod is dressed and standing in front of me. “It’s time to get ready for dinner.” “I can’t make it. Let me sleep.” “I can’t call Stevie and cancel.” “You and Kristen go. Tell everybody I said hello.” “No, honey. I’m not going without you. Stevie will be disappointed.” “Okay, just 15 more minutes.”

Fifteen minutes seem more like five. Rod sits me up on the edge of the bed. He’s holding me like a baby. I love this feeling so I wrap my arms around his neck. He lifts me and carries me into the bathroom where he undresses me and places me in the tub. He’s focused and washing me. I’m sexually aroused. I’m more alert but extremely groggy. Pleasure and sleep are in extreme competition and sleep is winning. I’m extremely sleepy but my stomach no longer hurts. If I can get through dinner without falling asleep I’ll be fine.

“What are you wearing?”  I think for a few minutes but can’t complete an entire outfit. “I have no idea, you pick.” He dresses me for comfort. A jogging suit and tennis shoes. Second best to pajamas. I’ll probably sleep while I’m there.  I wish I could take my blankie and pillow. Nothing like crawling into Mom’s bed when I’m not feeling well.

“Wake up Stacey we’re here.” I sit up instantly awake in a muffled cloud. Rod opens the car door and I unintentionally jerk forward. “You okay?” “Yes, just tired.” “Okay honey we won’t stay long.” “My stomach doesn’t hurt. I just feel really high.” “Maybe after you eat, you’ll feel better.” “Possibly.” I’m fighting just to keep my eyes open. Rod helps me to the door and before he can ring the bell Stevie yanks it open.

“Hey sis.” He grabs me in a bear hug. “Ouch.” He steps back and takes a good look at me. “Are you on a diet?” “No, I’m not.” This awkward moment is interrupted by his very pregnant girlfriend approaching. Not somebody I would imagine my brother with but she is gorgeous. She doesn’t need a stich of makeup. Her skin color reminds me of Dr. Fink. I wonder her nationality. “Stacey, this is my girlfriend Julienne, Julienne this is my sister Stacey and my brother-in- law Rod.”’

I attempt to shake her hand and she pulls me in for a hug. She says, “In my country we don’t shake hands with family.” I bite my tongue to keep from saying we’re not in your country. I like her. She’s nice and warm with an English accent. This opens the door for me to ask without being offensive. “Where is your country?” “South Africa.” I’m surprised when she says Africa but really surprised when she says South Africa. I’ve heard South Africans don’t like Black folks.  

I touch her stomach and say, “Boy or girl?” She looks at Stevie for approval before she says,”Gril.” I press my lips together to refrain from laughing at her accent. “Nice to meet you,” I say while making my way into the kitchen to find my mother. “Hello Mom.” She looks at me and I notice a tear falling from her eyes. I knew she’d be able to tell. Do I look that sick?  “Hello baby how are you?” “I’m okay.” “How are you Mom?” “Good, glad to see all of my children here.”

Before she says anything more she gives me a look like you have exactly 30 seconds to tell me what’s going on. Finally I give in. “Mom, I have something to tell you but I don’t want you to worry.” Although she doesn’t respond there’s no need to repeat myself. She heard me. “I have colon cancer.” “Oh baby. Seeing how much weight you’ve lost I knew it couldn’t be good. When did you plan on telling me? ““I didn’t” “I figured as much. Why? Even when I don’t hear from you, I know when something is wrong. It would be so much easier if you just call and tell me.” “I know Mom, I’m sorry.”

“Sorry for what?” It’s my sister Tina. Mom looks at me and neither of us responds. So, “I’m getting the silent treatment,” she says. She checks the food in the oven, turns down the temperature, then says, “Dinner’s ready,” No sooner than I’m wondering the whereabouts of Kristen and Dewayne the doorbell rings. My intuition is right. “Got it,” Stevie yells. His “hey niecy” confirms my thoughts.  No one wants to be the first to fix their plate. I’m not pretending. I’m starving. I wash my hands and fix both Rod’s and my plates.

After Rod blesses the food I waste no time eating. I’m starving. Before I take my last bite I’m bobbing my head to keep from falling asleep. I whisper in my mother’s ear, “Can I lay in your bed?” “Sure,” she says. I’m happy because as a sick child lying in her bed always made me feel better. Without calling attention to myself I tell Rod where I’m going and ease into my mother’s bedroom.

Unaware of the time Rod wakes me to leave but still very tired. Everybody else has left except for Stevie and his girlfriend. Mom invites us to spend the night and I persuade Rod to accept the offer. I hate to tell Mom when I’m sick but being around her always makes me feel better. We sleep in my old bedroom. I wonder if Stevie and his girlfriend are sleeping together in Mom’s house.  I’m sure this is very awkward for him because I know Mom won’t allow it. How do you explain to your pregnant girlfriend she can’t sleep with you at your mother’s house?  If it were me I would have stayed at a hotel.

I still have clothes in my dresser drawers. I’m dressing for bed when there’s a knock at the door. “Can I come in sis?” “Just a minute, I’m putting on my pajamas.” I glance at Rod and he’s already stripped down to his tee shirt and underwear. “Come in Stevie.”  “Are you on your way out? “He says. “Not quite. I have a few minutes for my favorite baby brother what’s up?” “I’m worried about you sis. I hate to be so straightforward but are you sick?”

Although surprised by his question I answer him. “Yes, Stevie I have cancer.” As I’m watching him his eyes are tearing up. I have to console him. “Hey, what’s that about? The worse is over. It might be already gone. Don’t go stressing over me. This is a happy time. You are getting ready to be a poppa.” “I know right, but sis are you okay?”  “Honey, I’m fine. I’ve had surgery and a round of chemotherapy. When I go back for my x-ray they will be checking to see if it’s gone.” “Where’s it at?” “It was in my colon and my ovaries. My lower stomach area.”  “How are you feeling?”  “ I am fine. Just tired.

 

 

 

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