Short story for Short Shots contest.
| Here I am 56 years old and suddenly wondering what my life was all about. Three days ago I was sitting in cold, sterile room at Mercy Hospital and Dr. Drake was telling me I had a brain tumor. Time seemed to stand still for a few minutes and I just stared at Doc and half smiled, disbelieving or not registering what he was saying. My wife Angie was patting my hand and rubbing my back in little circles, tears streaming down her face, "we'll get through this babe, I know we will. We'll get through this."
Now, sitting alone in the family room, I wondered, "will I get through this? I'm just getting the hang of things here and discovering what's really important and I'm gonna die? What kind of deal is that?" My thoughts were interrupted when Angie came into the room.
She crossed the hardwood floor and sat on the arm of my big leather easy chair and said, "What'cha thinkin about babe? You o.k.?"
I looked up and gave her my crooked grin and said," I can't complain. I've got the week off and a pretty girl to spend it with." She kissed my for-head and scooted off the chair.
"Sam and Allie and the kids are coming tomorrow, is that alright?"
"Sure, I'm not going anywhere." Angie started to walk away, "Ang,"
"Let's just keep it positive, I don't want a lot of long faces."
"Sure babe, we'll do our best."
Two hours later the doorbell rang and our daughter from St. Luis was on the stoop. "Jaycie, what a surprise, I didn't expect to see you til Thanksgiving."
"Really dad?" She cocked her head to the side, Did you think I would wait two weeks?" She wrapped me in a hug and waved her hand in front of her face, taking a deep breath she said, "you silly man." You should have known I would have to come to make sure you were taking care of yourself! Now where's Momma?"
"Where do ya think? She's in the kitchen. Sam, Allie and the kids are comin' tomorrow and she thinks she has to have cookies and stuff."
She gave my hand a squeeze and headed through the foyer to the kitchen.
Paul and two year old Sarah walked up from the car carrying all the paraphernalia that it takes for a little one. Baby Joe was still in the car seat so I walked out the the car and unhitched him and carried him in. Paul nodded to me in the hall and shook my hand. "You doin' alright Jonah?"
"Guess as well as expected Paul, thanks for bringing my girl."
"Sure Jonah, She wouldn't hear of nothin' else." We both smiled and went to the kitchen where everyone always gathered.
Later when everyone was in bed I had time to reflect on the day and sent up a little prayer of thanks for family.
Sam and his family showed up early the next mornin' and we got through all of the hello's and a few tears and spent the day playin' with the kids. We played spoons, catch, and Old Maid. We were playing a lively game of spoons when I noticed that there was only one left and I reached for it. Sam's little Caroline had her head under the table trying to retrieve a card and I hesitated. She popped her head up and grabbed the spoon. Her smile warmed the entire room! She dropped all the cards and held the spoon up like a trophy!
"I got it, I got it," waving it in the air! " Awe Pap, did you get out? I don't want you to be out!"
"It's alright, I said. Sometimes Ol' Pap just likes to watch."
After the game she crawled up on my lap and said, "Pap, Iet me tell you a secret." I smiled and leaned in and she said, "daddy said you have an ouchie in your head. I'm gonna pray for it to go away." She laid her little, four year old hands on my head and prayed for the ouchie to go away. Then she looked in my eyes nose to nose and said, "I think it will be better now Pap."
That lump in my throat was pretty tough to swallow. I'm not a cryin' man but I think a tear or two escaped as I watched her scamper after Ol' Red, my Golden Retriever.
Sam walked out the stable with me later and we stood looking at the Bay mare and I felt I had to let him know that I knew I hadn't always been there for him. He was the oldest and I was pretty hard on him as a kid.
I started, "Sam..you know I think your a wonderful father and I'm proud of you. I wish I would have been half as good.."
He held up his hand, "Dad, you don't have to apologize for anything. Nothin' makes me more proud than when someone says, "Sam, your just like your dad."
"We all make mistakes and parenting is the hardest job we have. You helped me be who I am."
I was learnin' things at every turn. This was turning out to be a real eye opener.
It was about twilight and I was leanin' on the door jam on the patio and Sam and Paul were cooking burgers. The kids were playin' tag and the girls were talking quietly in the corner of the yard. Angie came up beside me and puts her arm around my waist, "It was a good day," she says."
I looked into her brown eyes and said, "I'm o.k. Ang. I think I got a little taste of heaven today and because of all your prayin' I think I'm gonna get to see it after all." Her eyes were glistening and she hugged me tighter. I pulled back, "I'm gonna' go catch me a couple little girls and show'em Paps' still got it."
We had four months before the cancer caused any real issues. We got through Thanksgiving, and Christmas and it seemed like everything in my life came into focus. I noticed how much God was a part of the lives of my family. I don't take credit for that. Angie's the one who prayed with the kids and took'em to church. I don't spend time on regret, cause Angie says it's futile and God knows me in and out.
I notice things, like the sun on Caroline's hair and the little lines around Angie's eyes when she smiles. It's like I'm capturing pictures to take with me. Jaycie's gettin' more like her momma everytime I see her. She talks like her and comforts her children by sayin,' "lets just pray about that."
Sam and I have gone fishin' and rode the horses all over the ranch. We've talked more in a month than we did in 30 years. It just occurs to me that God has given me a gift many don't get. I've been given time to count my blessings, and see the fruit of my life. I ain't nothin' special but God has been so good to me. I guess it's time to see if these ol' knees are good for something better that holding on to a horse.
" Thank -you Lord, I know it's been a long time in comin'.... this could take awhile..."
Word count: 1243