What happened that long-ago day in July comes back to me in fragments. Jerry, half-naked and confused, is stomping around the house, mumbling obscenities. I’m in the kitchen, on the phone with his pharmacist, who tells me that Jerry’s prescription is ready. He then informs me that he’s closing early today for the town’s annual Rodeo parade, and that I have about an hour before Main Street is completely blocked off.
I hang up the phone, grab my purse and keys and look around for Emilee. I find her staring out of the big window at the front of the house. I join her to have a look, and sure enough people are starting to gather on the streets below for the parade. If we hurry, we can make it to the pharmacy and back in, what, 30 minutes?
Wait, I can’t leave Jerry here alone. What if he goes outside while we’re gone? What if I’m driving back home and we see him running down the street, naked and cussing? Maybe I can leave Em with him. I suggest this to her, but as soon as the words are out I regret them. She’s only five. It’s bad enough that she’s watching her daddy behave this way.
“No Mommy! P-l-e-a-s-e. Don’t leave me here. He’s scaring me.”
I’ve got to get help.
I go back into the kitchen and call Jerry’s oncologist and leave a panicked message. A moment later he calls me back. My throat tightens when I hear his voice. I somehow get the words out. “Something’s wrong. Jerry is out of control.”
“It sounds like we better get him back to the hospital,” he sighs. “Call an ambulance and I’ll meet you there.”
I take a deep breath and hang up the phone. I collapse onto a chair and look around the quiet kitchen. I’m beyond tired. I’m weary. Please just let this be over.
I call for an ambulance, and I start to feel a little better, knowing that help is on the way. Now I need to try and get Jerry dressed. I find him wandering around the living room and I slowly corral him into the bathroom. He seems a little calmer. I manage to get his t-shirt on, but he keeps tugging at it, as if this thin layer of cotton is painful against his skin.
I notice again how thin he is. About a week ago, as I was helping him out of our big claw-foot tub, I was shocked at the sight of his suddenly bony back. I tried not to show my fear, but I knew. As sure as the image I had of the pine coffin that would soon hold him, I knew. My once-muscular young husband was dying. And now here we are, getting ready for yet another – maybe our final – trip to the hospital. Should I call his parents? Could they make the 600-mile trip on time? Is this it?
I need to talk to Em. I follow the sound of her voice to her bedroom. On the way I pass Barney, her beloved blue parakeet. He’s in his cage, chattering away at something outside, beyond the French doors.
Em is in her room, sitting on her bed and talking softly to her stuffed animal, Kitty. I lean on the doorway as she and Kitty share their hushed, private “meow” talk. I watch the trees outside an open window, and I feel the breeze as it moves through the wind chimes. I close my eyes and imagine for a moment that life is peaceful. I don’t want to go. I want to stay here. I’m afraid to what’s coming.