We’re going to start the New Year out a bit different from what you’re used to in this community. Rather than talk about money I’ll be telling a story.
My stories are always true in this blog with modifications to fit the content, size of the post and to protect players. Today’s post is a short story; a work of fiction. It’s also a parable; a story with a moral lesson.
Money is so important as we strive for our goals we sometimes forget how wealthy we really are regardless the size of our bank account.
After I fleshed out this story I ran across a news article which moved me. I changed this story so there is a slight resemblance (the disease the woman had).
There was a time I wrote more fiction. It feels good to exercise those skills again. I hope you are as moved and touched by this story as I was writing it.
Where I Want to Be
The words crushed my chest. The world spun as the words sunk in, unreal.
Most people don’t know when they’re going to die; most don’t want to know.
“It could be longer, perhaps as much as two years,” the doctor was uncomfortable as he reached for any hope to offer.
Linda squeezed my hand.
The news wasn’t totally unexpected. Fourteen months ago Linda felt a small lump on her breast. It was so small it could have been anything. A cyst, maybe.
Then the bad news. Malignant.
Linda was always stronger than me. She had mentally prepared herself. I refused to accept the love of my life was about to be taken from me.
Linda and I dated on and off in high school. She was my first love.
College separated us for several years, but we caught up at our five-year high school class reunion. The flame rekindled and the rest, as they say, is history.
Eight months later we were married.
My family warned me about marrying Linda. They said she was too ill and would drag me down and hold me back my whole life.
There was plenty of truth to the warning. Linda was sick a lot in high school; age didn’t improve her medical condition.
None of the health issues were super serious, but they cut into the quality of life.
Linda suffered a list of maladies the worst of which included heart issues. Stress wore her out fast.
I wanted to travel the world when I was younger, but after Linda and I rekindled our relationship I knew that dream would never happen if Linda were to be a part of my life. Before long I convinced myself traveling was something I didn’t care for either.
Money was tight those early years. To be honest, money was always tight.
Linda picked up a part-time job at the local library. They gave her plenty of latitude when she was sick. Her heart could knock her out for days. Damn mitral valve.
I was a different story. Energy is in endless supply in me. It’s a good thing too. Somebody needed to keep the wolf away from the door and I refused to leave Linda alone when she was sick.
Her frail body worried me every day I was with her. I couldn’t understand how she could stay alive being so small, so thin. And the cough. Her body didn’t possess the strength for an effective cough. And winter cold and summer heat caused the cough. If we were lucky we had a few free weeks in the spring and fall.
Linda needed me. She didn’t have friends because she was sick so often. My friends went on with life as I stayed behind with my lovely bride.
Uncle George ran a machine shop and gave me a job. The money would be good if I was there full-time, but doctor’s appointments interfered.
Anyone else would have fired me. Uncle George warned me of the life I’d lead if I married Linda. He gave me a job anyway.
So much for a job in forestry. My dream of working in the outdoors evaporated with Linda’s health.
High school was a hard time for Linda. People stayed away from her because she looked so pale and missed a lot of school. Kids started rumors she had AIDS. Kids can be so cruel.
Fortune smiled on Linda during her college years. Books were her dream and she always wanted to be a librarian.
When we met again at our class reunion she had her first spell in years. It wasn’t bad, just enough to let you know the demons never left.
I still held dreams of visiting exotic places. In my mind Linda was a strong woman who would rise to the wonder of a brave new world.
My plan was to work hard and save like crazy. If my calculation were right I could cut back in ten years to spend more time with Linda and to travel. Then disaster struck.
The short days of December are dangerous. Linda worked late at the library since she was really adjusting well without too many medical problems.
Her shift ended at nine. Mist caused a serious glare on the windshield. And the serious drinkers were already intoxicated.
A drunk driver swerved across the centerline. Linda couldn’t judge the intrusion onto her side of the road due to the glare.
The drunk driver glanced off the side of her car. It was enough to send her into the ditch and set off the airbag.
The airbag is there to protect you, but when a small body like Linda’s is smacked full-force by an inflating airbag damage is certain to be done.
The police called. I rushed to the hospital.
The accident wasn’t serious, but the car was probably done for. Linda tried to shake it off. I knew she was acting for my benefit.
Her hand quivered. I held her hands in mine as I looked her in the eyes. She calmed.
“There are no broken bones,” she stammered.
We laughed as the tension broke.
“I could never bear to lose you,” I said.
It was amazing my hands were as steady as they were.
Linda recovered from the scrapes and bruises. Neither of us knew the real damage done.
The first sign of problems can only two weeks later. Linda wasn’t responding to her blood pressure and heart medication.
The doctors were stumped as they tried every medication in their arsenal. Linda’s body decided to react instead of respond. Her tiny frame had no reserves for this kind of stress.
Another two weeks and Linda was finally on the road to recovery. The stress was wearing me down, too. I missed most work, but tried to get out to clear my mind. The rest of the time I sat next to Linda holding her hand and watching her breathe as she slept.
Things were never the same after that.
Linda’s time at the library was limited now. The accident ended any hopes and dreams of traveling the world or building a retirement account. We lived paycheck to paycheck and had to accept a few handouts along the way.
It was hard for me to push down my dreams. Eventually I pushed them down until they were only vague memories.
The years started to walk by. Our love continued to grow and blossom as we spent all our free time together.
It was nice to get out of the house to see family. A few friends from college and high school eventually grew up and accepted Linda wasn’t some infectious woman.
Time does that; helps people grow up. We all think we’re so smart when we’re younger. Then life hits us in the head with a hammer a couple of times and we become less smart, but all the wiser.
Our friends understand Linda’s condition. Once in a while we catch a movie, but usually we stay home and play cards. By 10 o’clock it’s time for Linda to rest. Sometimes she stays up and listens to us talk; other times she goes to bed as I send our guests home.
We fell into a routine both of us enjoyed. Linda worked as much as her health allowed at the library and Uncle George gave me as many hours as I wanted. Some paychecks were really good. Then there were times I amassed no hours at all in a pay period.
We became masters at saving. Every storm we weathered. I am proud to say I never allowed Linda to suffer alone. I was always at her side.
It was so quiet when Linda was sick. I could barely hear her breath as she slept hour after hour.
I dozed in an old chair next to our bed. Late at night I would snuggle into bed with her. If she didn’t wince in pain I’d gently put my arm over her and hug her tight in the spoon position.
There was something about those moments when she was fast asleep. Her body was covered in a sleep film that felt so comforting. Holding her warm body next to mine was the greatest pleasure I ever experienced in life.
Shortly after our tenth wedding anniversary Linda started getting sick more often and for longer. In October she was sleeping almost all day and night.
I crawled in beside her and wrapped her in my arms from behind. I cupped her breast in my hand and enjoyed the softness of my wife’s body.
As I massaged her I noticed a small lump on her breast. I thought it was a pimple at first, but it didn’t seem right.
The next day I scheduled an appointment with the doctor. As soon as Linda was able to leave bed I got her in for an examination.
A biopsy was taken.
I already knew what was about to descend on this family.
Linda found her strength once the doctor broke the bad news to us. She was started on yet another medication and responded well to the treatment.
Not since college has Linda had such a strong stature. She looked healthier than I’ve ever seen her! She ate better, gained a few pounds and found never before noticed physical strength.
The doctor looked pleased at Linda’s progress. She never did so well when it came to medical issues. If I didn’t know Linda had cancer I’d have never guessed she was sick a day of her life.
Her smile was the best part. Many times Linda had a pale smile as she struggled for energy. Now she perked right up. It was almost too good to be true.
We started taking walks before or after work. And for the first time of our marriage we were able to engage in regular, well, you know, sexual activities.
In the past we seldom had relations. There is no pleasure in lust when your partner is in pain. We learned over the years to fill our needs by just being in each other’s arms. It was more than enough.
Now I was enjoying Linda’s company three or four times a week! Once or twice a month was a lot in the past; not that I’m complaining. Linda’s is a remarkably beautiful woman. If feels good to be inside her.
Winter passed into spring and then summer. The healthy times ended with the flick of a switch.
Linda vomited violently and ran a high fever the morning of November 2nd. I called an ambulance.
The doctor ran test several tests and returned a few days later with news we weren’t ready to hear.
“The cancer has spread to the brain.”
I was instantly numb. My lips were cracked with lose skin ready to rip in if pulled. I turned to Linda and understood she knew all along. The doctor had given her a little more life because the cancer was aggressive. Drugs gave her a temporary life, but at a cost. She never went into remission; she was giving me the last she had to offer.
I looked back to the doctor, unable to find words. He knew what I wanted ask.
The doctor was wrong. Before the month ended Linda was in the hospital to stay. Her body was failing fast.
The cough was back worse than ever and she had less strength than ever to clear her airways.
Linda knew what she was doing. The doctor told her there was no cure for what she had. She protected me from the news so we could enjoy the remaining life she had.
Now time was up. Six months seemed so short a time. Now I realized Linda may never see the New Year.
Each day I watched her weaken. Her skin took on the gray tone people get as the end nears.
Her skin was clammy. If felt strange kissing her blue lips, so cold and firm.
Our friends and family came for Christmas. Linda gave a thin smile. She was so tired she barely talked and when she did it was in a whisper. I hugged her parents and thanked them for giving me the chance to love the wonderful woman they brought into this world. We cried for what seemed forever.
My mother hugged me and said, “I’m so sorry.” Even my dad hugged me. He never did that before. “I’m proud of you son.”
Uncle George squeezed my shoulder and turned from the room. I was alone Christmas Eve in a hospital room listening to the last breaths my wife would take.
Christmas Day Linda was still breathing when I awoke. It was mid-morning. I never sleep so late. I was completely spent.
When she opened her eyes and looked at me I received the greatest gift of my life.
I talked quietly to her all day, recalling stories of our life together. I confessed to her all my fears and how I felt like I let her down. I told her how I wanted to show her the world, how she could have had a better man than me.
I kept reliving dreams long suppressed when I noticed Linda had drifted off to sleep.
Each day was worse than the last. I couldn’t understand how her body had anything left to give.
Soon I was praying to whatever god would listen to allow my beloved wife to live to the New Year.
New Year’s Eve Linda slept all day. The sounds of the machines keeping her alive were the only sound in the room. In the distance I could hear hospital staff working in hushed tones.
At 9:30 Linda stirred.
“How are you, honey,” I said as I gently wisped the hair from her eyes.
She smiled. “Keep telling me your dreams.”
I started to speak, but broke down sobbing. I lowered the bed rail and gently snuggled my head in her neck.
“I don’t want to lose you.” My mouth was so dry the words barely made it out.
She patted the back of my head. “It’s okay.”
She fought to gain her breath. “I love you.”
“I love you, too, honey.”
I lifted my head and sat back. I pulled the chair as close as possible to the bed and laid my head next to Linda’s. “I wish I could have taken you to see the world.”
“I was always where I wanted to be.”
Minutes later Linda’s breath slowed to an even crawl. Soon after I feel sound asleep next to the woman I loved more than life.
The next morning Linda was gone. The grief was so deep I was numb.
We were married twelve years, three months and six days. Three days later I laid my beloved wife to rest.
“Tom, Linda wanted me to give you this after she passed away,” Linda’s mother said as she handled me a sealed envelope.
I sat in the church pew and opened the envelope.
My Beloved Husband,
I know you are grieving if you’re reading this. I am gone from this world, but I’m still in your heart.
Don’t be sad, Tom. I loved you with every fiber of my being and know you loved me the same. My life was short. But we have nothing to complain about. I lived more in my short life than most people who live a hundred years. And all because of you.
Grieve. Take the time you need to heal. Remember to move on, as well. I am gone; you must accept that.
Your love is too strong to suppress. Someday you find someone else to love. It’s okay! I want you to be happy.
I’ll always be in your heart so I am always there in a way. Tell her about me. Don’t hold back your love either. Love as you loved me.
I was sick most of our life together. I know how much you wanted to go out in the world and fly. I know why you stayed with me. For that I can never thank you enough.
Now you need to let go and live the life you deserve. I will always be with you.
I wiped the tears from my eyes as my mother-in law hugged me. “What is it?” she asked.
I held up the letter and said, “It took me twelve years, three months and nine day to understand I was always where I wanted to be.”