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I walked down the empty sidewalk. Red and yellow leaves fell to the ground as a cold breeze rustled my coat. The excitement of New York City did not apply to this quaint little village. Here, the streets were quiet and the houses maintained.
I spent my day at the hospital; my wife of fifty years was diagnosed with breast cancer. She met with a doctor to schedule treatment and more tests. She stayed overnight to have other tests completed. After this day, I needed a little time alone.
I opened the large front door leading to the foyer of our house. The brass doorknob was cool to the touch, and the dark mahogany wood was inviting. I glanced at the crowded bookshelf on one wall. How many times had we attempted to organize it?
One photo album had fallen to the floor. I picked it up and looked at the cover. It was from our wedding day, almost half a century ago. The pictures were pink, as all old color pictures were. The plastic layer protecting the pictures was coated with dust. I gently pulled a picture out of the sleeve. It was Eloise, at twenty-two, wearing her wedding dress. It was a modest gown, not too frilly but not too dull. I turned the page and looked at another picture. There was rice flying everywhere and the two of us were shielding our heads. I sighed--why hadn’t we looked at these before?
Another album, with a dark green cover labeled “Kids”, documented our three children’s early lives. They were playing at the park, taking baths, all the things normal children do. But, I thought, none of them know about Eloise. How would we tell them?
After a while, I tired of looking at the albums. I wandered into the kitchen. The white refrigerator held the children’s artwork. I leafed through the papers piled on one another and found the painting that I favored most overall. Our oldest daughter, Kris, painted it when she was fifteen and passionate about art. It showed Eloise and I sitting on a porch swing, surrounded by friends and family. I placed the painting on the rectangular kitchen table used for family dinners.
The floorboard creaked as I stopped at the top of the stairs. To the right sat a small brown piano. We had bought it when the house was new, and I loved to sit at it. I opened the bench and removed the piece I played the day our second child, David, was born. I sat down and ran my fingers over the keys. The song was slow and soft then loud and fast. How long had it been since I played last?
In our bedroom, the nightstand contained many trinkets including fliers for the children’s school events, more pictures, loose change, and keys. Next to the lamp rested our family Bible. I picked up a white envelope next to it and lifted the flap. The card was light yellow and read, “Congratulations on your…” in purple font. It was addressed to our other son, Jonathon for his recent Master’s Degree in teaching. The ceremony was soon, too soon for Eloise to be healthy enough to go. I put the card back and walked downstairs. How would Eloise feel if we couldn’t go?
The back porch light was on, and I walked over to the door. The shiny surfaces indicated rain and the stems reached up for water. I stood among the flowers and plants in our small backyard garden. The green stalks stretching up the wooden fence indicated the need for water as winter approached. I picked the last pink rose frost hadn’t killed yet and inhaled the sweet smell. My eyes filled with tears; how could this cancer happen? Sure, the doctors could prevent it, and use surgery to take it out, but what it came back? We had prepared for everything but this!
I stiffly climbed the stairs to get ready for bed.
I woke up too early the next morning. The sky didn’t show any sign of the sunrise, and birds were silent in their nests. I decided to make breakfast anyway because I couldn’t possibly sleep. Once it was later in the day, I went to the hospital. The doctors had finished Eloise’s tests earlier, so they reported to me with the results.
“Sir, it looks as if your wife will survive once we remove the cancer. The cancer is in the earliest stage; it is an extremely minor case. The program we use is very responsive, and we will begin surgery when Eloise regains most of her strength.”
The spotless waiting room, less than comfortable chairs, and the stress of the past days all faded away. Nothing had ever been very serious; perhaps I had only overreacted. I thanked the doctors, who were supportive, and left to call the family.