Fiction firmly based on fact…
Penny started, and her dark eyes flew to Dr. Colby’s sober face. Her magazine slid to the floor, forgotten in her haste as she stood up.
“Kirk is resting quietly.”
Penny relaxed, and then tensed as she absorbed the import of his next words.
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Lansing. We did what we could, but we were not able to get all of it. A high grade astrocytoma infiltrates and becomes entwined with the good brain cells. Consequently it is impossible to remove it all without doing irreparable damage to the brain.”
“How long?” Penny’s voice was barely above a whisper.
“I can’t tell you that. At the moment the tumor is dormant, but it could become active again at any time. Two years… twenty years… we have no way of knowing.”
“But can you tell me if it’s closer to two years or twenty?” Penny hardly dared to ask, but she had to know.
“Closer to two.” The doctor turned to leave the waiting area, but stopped in the doorway.
“Mrs. Lansing? There is one more thing. Because of where the tumor is situated, it is very difficult to avoid doing some damage, and we always expect temporary loss of motor skills.”
Penny nodded, wondering why he was repeating what he had already told her prior to surgery.
“Sometimes the damage is permanent, and that appears to be the case with Kirk. In addition to having lost the sight in one eye, your husband is a left hemiplegic.”
Penny stared at him blankly.
“It means he is paralyzed down the entire length of his body on the left side, and he will never walk again.”
Late that afternoon Kirk was back in his room, sitting up in bed. Gripping a pen tightly, he laboured over a piece of paper on the bedside table which had been pulled over the bed.
“Look, Penny!” he said, proudly holding up the paper. “The doctor wants to see if I can still write! Silly, eh? He says the operation went really well, and I’m gonna be up and around in no time!” His speech was slurred and slightly garbled.
Penny glanced at the scarcely legible scrawl, and her eyes flashed sparks. How could the doctors outright lie to him? Dr. Colby said it was up to her how much she told him, but he didn’t think Kirk was in any condition to know the truth. But was it not his right to know he was dying? And how was she ever going to tell him?
Quickly masking her true feelings, she smiled brightly and said, “That’s fantastic, Kirk!”
Sleep eluded Penny that night and for many nights afterward. She couldn’t bear seeing Kirk this way… struck down in the peak of his manhood, and so soon after their wedding. How could she endure years of watching him suffer like this? And so many decisions to make, each one with the potential of having a great impact for good or bad on Kirk’s health and comfort. How could she do this? She desperately needed someone to talk to. Someone older and wiser than her twenty-three years.
Often as she thrashed in the darkness her thoughts would turn to her mother. Mom was not a Christian, but had raised her children by biblical principles. Married to an alcoholic, she was the strong one, the disciplinarian – the glue that held the family together through many crises.
Mom had married young, and had lost her first husband, Penny’s father, after only eight years. Widowed at 25 with three small children to raise. People were already making comments about history repeating itself.
Penny had always been close to her mother. Long after her friends started complaining about how unreasonable their mothers had suddenly become, her gentle mother had remained her best friend. Until last year, that is. It was her own fault. The brashness and arrogant “wisdom” of youth had gotten the better of her and she had hurt her mother badly.
“Don’t you think it’s time you called your mom and asked her forgiveness for that? It’s never too late to say you’re sorry. And you know your mother would love to be the friend that only she can be right now…”
It was not the first time Penny had heard the still, small voice. This time she would obey.
© Willena Flewelling