Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: ONEROUS (03/02/17)
TITLE: The Perfect Storm
By Phillip Cimei
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It started out as “the American Dream”: two children, a nice home, and a good job. Lois, my future wife, was six, and David, her brother, was four. But dark clouds appeared on the horizon.
Violet was pregnant with twins. Adult measles sent her into labor early. “I’m sorry,” said the doctor, “because the twins were premature, we had to put them in an incubator. It malfunctioned. Arlene was deprived of oxygen—eventual diagnosis, cerebral palsy. Darlene had too much oxygen—permanent blindness for her.” Blindness can’t tell midnight from noon; nights and days became blurred—no sleep. Violet became stronger, Delbert lost heart.
Fifteen years later, “Can I walk you to the house?” I asked Lois, on our first date.
“Yeah, I bet mom has some fried chicken cook’n,” Lois said. Talking took the place of our two steak dinners—love trumps food, to a point. The thought of Violet’s southern fried chicken sounded like heaven.
We walked up the sidewalk that led to the back door. Delbert lay passed out, alcohol masked the smell of vomit and urine stained pants. Most girls would have run screaming to their room and cried themselves to sleep—not Lois. She had the resolve of her mother.
“Hello, Mrs. Johnson.” I said.
“Call me Violet,” she said, no red face from Delbert’s binge—habitual behavior. It started with the occasional stop at the local bar; now it’s until all his troubles are at the bottom of the bottle. God’s grace would be Violet’s intoxication.
We talked and laughed about our date. I was introduced to Violet’s “Santa Clause” laugh—a jovial spirit and her faith in God would help her weather the storm.
The storm became intense. “Be content with what you have,” Violet would remind her children, “God knows. Then would come a quote to build and temper their tenacity, “I complained I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.”
The twins, now fifteen, adjusted to life. Delbert couldn’t. 200 mile trips to the Illinois School for the Blind for Darlene: weekends, holidays, and summertime. For Arlene: trips to Easter Seals Clinic, surgeries at Shriners Hospital, therapy, and braces—all failed. Darlene’s life is darkness; Arlene’s is twisted and emaciated legs, incessant rocking, and hair cropped and patchy—from pulling it out.
A huge lawsuit would have eased the burden. “People make mistakes,” Violet would say. She’d rather work to help pay the bills. Lois had to mature at a very early age—babysitting, cooking, washing clothes. She had her mother’s resolve. David was now a marine and off to Viet Nam for his third tour—another burden to bear. Violet grew stronger; Delbert drank more.
Delbert continued his downward spiral. But drinking wouldn’t be his undoing, smoking would. “He has a lump on his tongue, throat cancer,” Violet told us. Her now stoic spirit held tears in check.
Chemo and radiation were band aides compared to the butchery that followed. Two years of surgeons cutting away: tongue, both jaws, both sides of his neck, and tracheotomy. Violet nursed his body and prayed for his soul.
“Come quickly,” Violet pleaded. We arrived to find Delbert standing at the bathroom sink; a towel was pressed against his neck. He took the towel away and blood shot straight out like a leak in a water pipe. An emergency flight to the hospital for Delbert and Violet. I drove my wife and kids to Oklahoma City and returned with the kids. I waited for news.
The call came, “I saw dad take his last breath,” that’s all my wife said.
Unfazed by the crisp January air, I stood on the front porch contemplating what to say when they arrived. One would be a widow, the other fatherless. What words will fill the void, console the regrets, or comfort the spirit?
My thoughts went back to the heartaches Jesus endured in His short life. I recalled His response after enduring the overwhelming disappointment He felt for God’s chosen people as He looked over the city of Jerusalem, “Jesus wept.” John 11:35 KJV
The car pulled up, the door opened, we wept—nothing else—just wept.
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