THE PHONE CALL
I clicked on the answering machine as I tossed my briefcase on the desk. I stopped what I was doing when I heard the Dr’s voice.
“Cindy, this is Dr. Margolis. I’ve been doing some research on your case. The prognosis is not good. There are some experimental treatments, but the side effects might be more than you would want to deal with. You asked for hard facts, well - ” he paused, “I’d say six to ten months is the best you could do. I’ll be in my office all afternoon, feel free to call”.
Cindy, my precious wife, Cindy! Only six to ten months to live? I couldn’t believe it. It must be a mistake. Why had she kept this from me? Why hadn’t I noticed any signs of her illness? I searched my mind. She had lost weight. She went to bed earlier and earlier. She’d talked of wanting a vacation. Tired, in need of rest. Why hadn’t she told me?
If only I hadn’t been so preoccupied with my work, maybe I would have noticed. If I hadn’t been working late into the night on plans and reports I would have paid more attention when she went to bed so early. But oh, no, I had deadlines to meet.
A pang of guilt stabbed my heart as I remembered how many times I’d cut her phone calls short. I wondered how many times she tried to tell me she was dying. Was it the time I cancelled our dinner plans to meet with a client instead? Or maybe the evening she begged me to go for a walk with her?
My eyes fell on the travel brochures on the desk. Oahu. Maui. She wanted so much for us to take a vacation to Hawaii. How long had she been talking about it? Months. And now, months was all she had left. I’d been a jerk about that, too. I didn’t have time for a vacation, I had to increase sales first.
The back door opened and Cindy stumbled in, her arms loaded with grocery bags. “Whew, I’m exhausted.” She muttered.
“Cindy, my love! Of course you’re exhausted,” I rushed to help her. “Why didn’t you tell me? I could have helped you.”
She looked surprised. I was usually to busy to notice any of her needs. “Helped me? Alright. There’s a case of bottled water still in the trunk.”
“I’ll get it later. Come sit down, you need to rest.” I steered her towards the sofa. “Cindy, I’ve been such a fool. I’ve been neglecting the most important person in my whole life – you! But I’ll make it up to you, I swear I will. If only I’d known…
She sat down, “Known what?”
“You don’t have to brave it alone anymore, darling. I know everything. Dr. Margolis left a message for you on the phone and I heard it. He said the prognosis was bad and that the best he could give you was six to ten months.”I wrapped her in my arms. “ Oh, Darling, if only you’d told me sooner. When I think of all the time I wasted working instead of being with you -”
Cindy burst into laughter. I thought she must be hysterical. I tried to comfort her.
“Is that what you think? Oh, my gosh!” she giggled. “Darling, I’m not dying! I’m fine! Honest, I am!”
“But the Dr. said – and you’ve been losing weight, and getting tired, going to bed early-just a few minutes ago you said you were exhausted. You don’t have to try to fool me any longer.”
“You silly goose! You lovable, silly goose! I’ve lost weight, cause I’ve been dieting. I go to bed early, so I can run before you get up in the morning. And I’m exhausted from shopping. The only thing you’ve got right is that part about being a fool for putting work before everything else in your life.”
“But what about Dr. Margolis? He said-“
She put up her hand to stop me. “He’s helping me with research about a book I’m writing. One of my characters has a rare disease, and I needed to know what the outlook was for her.”
A tsunami of relief broke over me. We laughed together at my terrible and wonderful misunderstanding. When we finally recovered, I asked, “So, shall we spend two or three weeks in Hawaii?
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