The Merging

This book is in the serious editing and rewriting phase… I am not sure how to best present it on this site so I am going to try several ways simultaneously and see which way results in more feedback.

Prologue

Two people are brought together as they both struggle with tragedy in their lives.  The man is coping with the slow death of his wife as cancer takes a part of her each month.  Losing his job as caretaker responsibilities make his life impossible and with mountains of medical debt he feels his life has become impossible.  The woman, with two children to raise while dealing with abuse by her husband and her own tragic childhood, become friends online.  They anonymously share their lives with each other and discover they both enjoy writing erotica.  Writing an erotic novel online becomes an escape from the tragedy of their lives and a mutual obsession.  

Their lives become more complicated and intense when they stumble into each other in a coffee shop they both frequently visit.   They struggle to keep their fantasy world separate from their real lives.  Knowing they can never be together, their fantasy world reaches as far into their real-world as humanly possible without consummating their relationship.  The intensity of their desire and its denial merge their beings into a single being with no emotional boundaries in a bizarre love affair.

Part 1. the Meetings

We don’t meet people by accident.  They are meant to cross our path for a reason.

1 Robert: Pushing Back the Wind 

When I was a teenager, my dad, a heavy smoker, had several heart attacks before the last one got him.  He worked as a mechanic one block from our house; the garage was behind a Texaco and was owned by Johnny, a playboy of sorts.  My younger brother, Ray, at 16 was already a little taller than my dad who was about 5’7″. Ray  was hanging out in the shop when our Dad told Ray he was having trouble breathing and felt weak. But even so, dad waited until quitting time and they headed home together, walking as usual.

In West Texas, they have some horrific wind storms, the sky full of red dirt, the sand tearing at any exposed skin, wind gusts up to 60 mph.   They started down the dirt road to home against the wind. It  became clear immediately that dad could not walk against the wind.  Ray moved in front of dad without being asked and slowed his pace down knowing my dad was unlikely to admit that he needed help.  At a snail’s pace they worked their way home without speaking.  When my dad got home, he drove himself to the doctor’s office who admitted him to the hospital because he had just suffered a heart attack that would eventually take his life. 

We had relatives visit last month; my wife has been diagnosed with cancer.  An event on their visit when they were visiting with my wife took me back to my dad’s walk.  My wife’s brother, sister-in-law, their daughter who was about twelve and their son who was about eight came to visit Helen, my wife, perhaps to say their last respects.  My youngest daughter, Lisa, came up from college to see her cousins.  

I had a great talk with Lisa while I burned up the hamburgers and asparagus.  She told me she was having problems with depression and pointed out that she often can not identify where her pain comes from.  She let me know she is in poor health, clinically depressed, and dropping out of college. I fought my urge to argue with her because my world had already begun spinning out of control.

After the barbecue, we did the traditional everyone walk the dog around the block event, all eight of us plus the dog of course.  The two cats walked to the edge of our property and then waited for us to return.   The wind was gusty, the type that often comes before a thunderstorm.  I was worried about my wife, Helen, going on the walk; she seemed tired to me, but she said she was fine.   It is about a mile around, a comfortable walk for a healthy person.  Helen walked very slow from the beginning, her brother Mitch and I stayed back with her.  Ashton, the Jack Russel, who was not on a leash, made periodic journeys between the two groups to see that everyone was okay.  About halfway around I moved over and took her right hand.  It was then obvious to me how much she was struggling. I let her put as much weight as she could on my left arm.

The front group had slowed down and come back to us.  I didn’t see when Lisa, my youngest daughter, moved in beside her mom, but there she was holding her mom’s left hand in her two hands, struggling with the weight of her mom as Helen moved forward slowing with each step.  The rest of the group was around us talking and laughing and having a good time.  Helen never said a word and no one in the group knew she was struggling except for Lisa and me.   She never told me, but I believe her calves were cramping up and it had become very painful to walk.  We got back to the house, Helen and Jill, the sister-in-law, went inside and I turned on the gas fireplace.

The rest of us went outside and played hide-and-seek in the dark in the backyard.  Ashton helped the seeker find select people, mostly me and my older daughter, Ally.   You can’t really hide from a dog in the backyard, even in the dark.

The walk around the block marked a small moment in the unfolding of Lisa’s life, but an important one.  She noticed when almost no one else did that someone was struggling and reached in and helped without saying anything.  For a moment, it wasn’t about her own pain, but about someone else needing her help, someone that was too proud to ask for help.  

Helen, her mom, was dying of cancer.

2 Months Crawl By

Months have passed since the walk around the block with Helen’s family.  Most days home feels like we live in a morgue with Helen, Ashton, and me as the caretakers and inmates.  Alternatively,  I feel like we are hot lava, black on the outside and simmering on the inside,  moving toward the sea where we will be mercifully extinguished.  

When I was 19 my dad’s heart went bad.  His hobby was gardening where he spent most of his time when he was not at work.  He turned an arid, caliche clay plot of land in El Paso to an oasis in the desert.  He built an ever-widening garden around the periphery of our back yard that had fruit trees separated by tulips, roses, carnation, and many more flowers that I did not know the names of.   I only knew it was best if our baseball or football did not stray from the shrinking plot of grass in the center of our yard.  We eventually moved to the street for ball games as teenagers. 

After my dad believed his heart was failing, and it was, he started digging up and selling all his flowers.  In his heart, he knew we would neglect them; better to send them to a home than watch them die in the arid soil of El Paso as his health declined. 

Roses were his favorite.  He grew huge giant red thorny bushes that lived like creatures in our backyard ready to puncture our footballs.  After all the flowers were off to good homes he wrote a note and left it next to his bed; in it, he asked for red roses on his grave. We found the note next to his unconscious body the day of his death. 

Yesterday, my wife, bedridden in a hospital from cancer, sent me home to water her flowers.  I don’t know her favorite; she told me I’m sure. I feel guilty for not knowing, for not being with her with all my heart and soul for all these years.   I wonder if I had ever put some rose petals on the bed before making love if our marriage would have gone smoother. 

Our dog Ashton, a Jack Russel with a soul, would not sleep inside last night with Helen away.  He slept in his dog house,  head on his paws, sadness in his eyes. He didn’t come for breakfast. Perhaps later I will bribe him with a car ride. He might think we are going to see Helen and come along for the ride.

As I water per Helen’s instructions, my head is swirling with Ashton’s protest, the gap between Helen and me, my dad’s grave, and how our lives are defined by Helen’s cancer.  I put some food and water outside of Ashton’s dog house.  To him, I do not exist.  There is no fence around our yard, but I know he will be there when I return and the food and water will remain untouched.  I tell him I am going to see Helen; he does not acknowledge I have spoken. 

3 Robert: the Coffee Shop

I can do the trip in my sleep to Union Hospital and the doctors’ offices there.  I know many of the nurses and receptionists.  I get the pitiful smile from most of them and the short phrases “how’s she doing .. hang in there.”  I just dropped Helen off for her bi-weekly chemo-treatments with Herceptin for HER2 metastatic breast cancer.  This is an old story to them, for me, it is my first time on this journey.  I trudge to the coffee shop, laptop in tow.  The coffee shop is my reprieve, my escape from home and the bills I can’t pay, my job where I am hopelessly behind, and cancer that lives in my wife and stalks me like a sinister spirit in the deep dark maze of a life I can not believe is real.

A large cup of french roast is ordered with the simple “the usual and one of those,” a muffin that I point at.  They serve my coffee in one of their large ceramic mugs without asking, I am a regular.  I take a small sip even before I have added the half-and-half and wait for energy to somehow spread magically through my body. My body is past tired and I conquer the gloom by ignoring it.  The coffee is bitter without the cream, but I cup my free hand around the mug and ignore the fact that it’s too hot.  I breathe in the aroma of smells that drift through this place that feels more like home than home does these days. 

Out of the corner of my eyes, I catch her legs first. There is the faintest feel of life, of a quickened beat in my heart.  She is sitting in a short skirt, immersed in something on a clipboard, her legs slightly open in one of the comfortable chairs that surround a central coffee table. I am drawn to her like a drowning man to floating debris in the middle of an ocean.   I take the chair closest to hers although four others around the table are open.  She looks up and gives me a half-smile then goes back to working on her clipboard.  Looking over her shoulder, I note on her clipboard that there are boxes with names written in them.  I judge she is in her mid-thirties, more than twenty-five years younger than me.  Long blond hair, oversized boobs on a slim frame. Implants I’m sure; they say “want me”. Her legs are well shaped, slightly muscular, long and bare, and impossible to ignore.  Eye candy, fantasy land. I’m in LOVE.  It seems only days ago I met my wife when she was thirty-one and had a different, but great body.  In my mind, my body is the same as long ago as I sit by this creature of the universe. I am not bashful in grabbing a lifeline.

“It is strange to see anyone working on paper these days,” I say to her to start up a conversation.  I am hungry for any interaction with a woman, especially a healthy vibrant one less than a foot away. I can smell her hair, Johnson Baby Shampoo I’m sure.  She has children.  I deliberately avoid looking at her ring finger and breath in her smell as subtly as possible.

“Ya, we are a hundred years behind. I am trying to schedule technicians to man all the X-ray machines, MRI, echo-scan, etc. in the hospital. “  She holds the clipboard up to show me.  “These people down here have to go up here.  These columns show me what equipment each technician is trained on, and down here I have vacation requests, and Sally is getting married next weekend, etc.  It’s a mess.”

“Are you a secretary?” I ask.

“No, administrative assistant.  Yea, I guess I am more or less. I’m not important if that is what you mean.  I am getting coffee and stuff for the whole office, well, and combining it with my break. I can take a longer break this way, who is going to complain when their coffee hangs in the balance,” she says matter of factly and then laughs softly.  I imagine birds fluttering from her lips.  I follow her glance to the clock on the wall, nine thirty five.  

“What brings you here?” She studies my face for a moment.  Her brain seems to scroll through faces like someone looking at mugshots, “you brought your wife in last week for an MRI.” It is a statement, not a question.

“Yea, my wife is getting chemo in Hausford’s office right now.”

“Herceptin”, she says more as a statement than a question.

“Yes”, I answer and nod. From that moment it seems as if she knows me. It’s not eire but strangely comforting. 

“Sorry,” she says softly.  There is a long moment of silence.  She defensively pushes the v-down that is made by her tight skirt across her legs. I avert my eyes realizing I was staring and that my body has begun to respond. “My name is Melissa, and I’m sorry about your wife.”  I keep my eyes focused on her and don’t look down to see if my problem is visible yet.  It feels like a snake that is coming out into the sun for the first time after a long winter.  The intensity of my body’s reaction makes me want to kill the snake, but IT is beyond my control, or my willpower, I don’t know which.

“I’m Robert.  You were in the back. I remember your hair.  It’s beautiful by the way”, I audibly stumble suddenly awestruck by the woman in front of me.  It is not just her beauty.  She has a presence about her, someone that has lived more than her years, the words “old soul” pass through my head.  There is a profound sadness around both of us that feels, well, like we both have shared it for a long time.   I fell slightly humbled to be in her presence.  Our eyes lock and for a moment we are lost inside of each other as if we are recalling something.  And just as suddenly we are both back from wherever we have just gone. 

“Thank you,” she says softly and when my face tells her I have no idea what she is talking about, she adds “my hair.” I nod and smile as she rises.  I stay seated afraid to rise unless she notices the serpent.  She holds out her hand and I hold it. Her hand is soft and warm, but firm. We just hold each other’s hand without shaking, then let go. We say nothing, but the connection sends a shiver down my spine.   I wonder if IT flows both ways.

“I have to go.  My order is ready.”  And yet a third time, she says, “I’m sorry about your wife.”  My eyes follow her to the door.  She is shorter than Helen – about five foot three or four – and I can’t help but smile as I notice her small ass nicely filling out her pleated skirt swaying down the sidewalk with two plastic grocery bags of coffee swinging in unison to her butt.   I’m surprised to find my hands shaking slightly.  It’s been almost a year since my wife and I have made love.  We were going through a bad patch in our marriage and then cancer came back just shy of her five-year remission celebration.  Cancer had metastasized and spread to her lungs.  They found a lump underneath the breast that had been reconstructed five years earlier that was assumed to be the original source.  It made no sense removing the lump with millions of pieces of it already growing in her body the doctors admitted, but Helen wanted it gone so she endured another operation.

I asked why they didn’t find the lump with the mammograms she took every six months. They said the reconstructed tissue was denser and didn’t work well with mammograms.   I was fighting mad when they told me that in only two percent of the cases did cancers reappear under the reconstructed breast.  Yea, but if it did, frequently they couldn’t find cancer until it metastasized.   Really?  And that was okay?  There was a wad of anger I carried around with me at the values people had that made this all possible.  It was not to be my last wad of anger about cancer I was destined to carry.   

Coming back to the present, I opened my laptop and sipped my coffee. I felt my body settle back into being exhausted.  I sipped slowly waiting for the drug to flow through my tiredness.   I waited while my laptop connected to the internet and downloaded my email.  I work from home now, but work is shaky.  My performance has been anything but stellar over the last few months.  My concentration sucks, I am an ex-workaholic in withdrawal.  I stare at the screen, but I am soaking in the ember of hope that has found its way into my life.  Nothing like an old fool,  I say to myself.  My brain wanders around inside of the memory of Melissa before it fades before the onslaught of cancer.

4 Robert: Helen’s Gardens
“I need you to pull some weeds out of the garden. I can’t keep up anymore,” Helen lays the sentence out in the air as a simple statement but it floats in the air bouncing off all the baggage in the air floating between us.  I cringe but say nothing.  I am washing dishes after breakfast as she sits looking out into the backyard which just a year ago was filled with her beautiful gardens. Her Master Garden friends kept it in good shape for about six months, but now grass and flowers blend together in a big mess. I imagine a large fire engulfing it but say nothing.
I push back the resentment. I feel my body tense.  She is asking for too much.  How can she be asking me to pull weeds?  We need groceries, the bills aren’t paid, there isn’t enough money to pay the bills, and I’m late on a report for work.  But, I can’t tell her this, so I just stall “It will have to wait until this weekend. I’ve got work to do and I need to get a pizza on for supper.”  By now she must know it is impossible for our life to go on as it was before.  It is a funny game we play-act like all is normal when not a goddamn thing is normal.  Nothing is normal and nothing is okay.  The only thing that is worse than today is thinking about how it will be tomorrow and the day after that, and the day after that…anger at what life is doing to ME boils inside of my chest making my chest hurt.
“Can’t we have something else?  There are hamburgers in the freezer,” Helen offers without emotion in her voice.
“I’ll thaw the meat in frig while we are gone.  We don’t have any rolls and only three pieces of bread.  There’s an old tomato on the counter that will have to do.  Yea, we can have hamburgers of sorts.  I’ll do some canned corn too.”
“We got an overdue notice on my Tykerb, didn’t you pay for it yet?” Helen asks as she turns away from the garden toward the tv; the volume blares when she hits the remote drowning out my answer.
I answered half to myself, “The insurance hasn’t reimbursed me for the script.  We are always three thousand behind, except this month we are still waiting for last month’s payment, too, so we are six thousand behind.”
“There is something on the table about Lisa’s school loan not being approved.  Says you make too much money,” Helen now pushes all the problems onto me.
“I took too much money out of the IRA account for your drugs; it raised our income level,” I say, understanding the red-tape mountain in front of me.  A mountain I don’t have the energy to climb.  Our daughter is not doing well in college, her grades have declined each quarter since her mom came down with cancer.  She seems to be in free fall, but I have no energy to address anything else.  I will call her tomorrow. She can wait until tomorrow.  I’m sorry Lisa.
“I think you should call someone and tell them what is going on,” Helen says, raising her voice over the drone from the tv.  I have started the corn not thinking about what I am doing so I turn it off and put the pan in the frig.  I get the George Foreman grill out.  It’s dirty from the last time it was used.  I put it under the kitchen faucet and began scraping old fish from the worn-out surface.  I want it clean and dry when I need it tonight.
Helen watching me from the couch advises me, “I don’t think you should put that grill in the water like that.  It’s going to short out and cause a fire.  I read in the paper that electrical shorts are one of the main causes of home fires.  Which reminds me, we need to check the batteries in the smoke alarms, it’s been a couple of years.”
“Yea, I know. Do you want mayonnaise or ketchup on your hamburger tonight?”
“I want mustard. You know that. Maybe you could pick some up” It is as close as she comes to complaining. But, she doesn’t praise much either.  She would make a good poker player.
“I doubt it. Mayonnaise or ketchup?”
“I’ll eat it plain; it will be okay.”  The last word is said in a low pitch,  perhaps she is punishing me for being behind on the shopping.  Why did I bring up supper now, we will just repeat the entire conversation again tonight.  Because you are losing it, that’s why.
“What time is your echocardiogram today?”
“Nine thirty, I think.  The paper is on the coffee table.” She rises slowly, her feet shuffling toward the table.  The steroids have made her face round, her hair has not begun to fall out from this round of treatments, but it is short and gray, nearly white.  
“I want to go in a little early, okay?” I know she is going to ask why.  My brain is busy looking for a white lie.
“Why?” she asks matter of factly.  
I hesitate my thoughts stuck on Melissa in the coffee shop.  “I need to get some cash out at the bank and pick up your prescription at the drugstore.  It gets busy at about ten, that’s all. Sit down, I’ll bring your orange juice to your tv-table,” bringing our conversation back to the present.  I have a report that was due yesterday for work and my new boss is a jerk. He will be calling about 11 am and I have done nothing since yesterday.   My bones seem tired as I drink my fifth cup of coffee for the day knowing from the pressure in my temples that my blood pressure is already elevated.  I debate taking another half pill of my blood pressure medicine. I check my pulse and estimate my pulse is about fifty and decide it is not safe to take any more and leave my full cup of coffee on the counter.
“I’m going downstairs to work, I’ve got a report overdue. Here is your cell, call me if you need something,” I say as I head down the stairs. She is telling me something about not being able to see the screen on her phone and her glasses being upstairs, but I pretend not to hear and move toward the solitude of my small basement office.

5 Robert: Coffee Shop Rerun

“We have to hurry, Helen.  You can finish your bagel in the car, I’ll grab you a banana,” I say trying to hurry her out the door.

“My appointment is not for another thirty minutes, what’s the rush,” Helen responds as she shuffles slowly out the back door hesitating at the steps leading off the porch.  I come up and lend her my hand and she goes down slowly leading with her right leg which is unaffected yet by cancer.

“I told you why! Let’s just go.  Do you have everything you need?” I ask, noticing she has her small suitcase-sized purse with her.  She holds it up slightly indicating it is all in her bag.  

I open the front door for Helen at  Union Hospital “will you be okay by yourself” I ask her.  

“Yea, I know the routine.  When will you be back?”

“Just call me and I will hurry back.”

“I have trouble seeing the screen, just hurry back.”  I watch her shuffle toward the door, a trooper, her shoulders slightly bowed.  She has always been the most independent person in the world, single until she was thirty-one.  She wanted children, sometimes I feel that she wanted me for my sperm and stability.  We never talk about cancer or the future.  We don’t talk about the past unless it is about my indiscretion with Sue thirteen years ago. 

I pull my mind from the past as Helen moves slowly out of sight. I park the car in the adjoining three-level parking lot and scurry off to the coffee shop ten minutes late. There is no sign of Melissa at the coffee shop.  I get my usual cup of dark roast French coffee and sit in the same chair like last time.  There are a half dozen people scattered in the twenty or so chairs that make up the coffee shop.  I open my laptop and open up ‘The Wonderful Helen” Blog.  It’s easier to keep all the relatives up to speed with a blog. Before I started the blog, I spent a lot of time answering the same questions from the calls and emails over and over again. My disappointment in not seeing Melissa is soon forgotten, as I lose myself in writing, trying to add a little humor to a depressing storyline. 

Drifting into my consciousness,  her voice sounds like a soft whisper coming from inside my right ear.  I feel her breath on my neck and jump slightly.  I turn toward her, her face close to mine.  My heart does a little skip, but outwardly I pretend to be calm.

“Hi, how are you?”   She is standing beside my chair, leaning over her face uncomfortably, yet wonderfully, near mine.  Her figure is backlit from the large window behind her, the morning sun pouring through.  Her figure reminds me of a carton, her large breasts, small waist, and hips slightly undersized to go with the top.  She is in skin-tight jeans, standing with her legs slightly apart, a ray of light coming from between her legs, her blond hair creating a yellow glow around her head.  I’m in full lust with a single loud thud of my heart.

“I’m okay, and you,” I respond and hold my left hand up to block the light so I can see her face.  “Sit down,” I say and motion her to “her chair“.

“I’m late, but okay,” she says and sits down.  “I saw your wife is in today for an echocardiogram?  How is she?”

“Yea, it’s to see if the chemo messed up her heart yet”, I explain.  “Just precautionary, I think.”

“Probably,” she says softly.  There is softness and depth to her words that makes me wonder if an angel would have such a voice.  Would an angel have such large breasts, my brain counters?

“I guess you know how the story goes, you’ve seen it often enough,” I say somewhat matter-of-factly.

“I don’t know what to say to that,” she says her face filled with compassion.

I feel her discomfort and change the subject, “Do you follow all your customers this well?” I ask hoping to hear I am special in her eyes.

“No. I huh … you seem nice, I just .. “ as she stammers as if hesitating to tell me what she is thinking. 

I rescue her, “I got here early hoping to see you,” I confess.   There is an awkward moment of silence and then she returns the favor and rescues me.

“What are you writing, you seemed intense,” she says as she uncrosses her legs and moves forward on the edge of her seat, her knee up against my leg.  I feel my heart rise in my throat and hear my pulse in my ears.   Is she touching me on purpose?  I just met her. This is ridiculous being this excited.

“It’s a blog on my wife’s cancer.  Kind of a daily update of her story, of our story,” I manage to push the words out of my lips.  

“Do a lot of people read it,” she asks, sounding really interested.  

“No, mostly relatives of my wife.  I tell them to read it first before they call me.  I was spending all my time on the phone telling half a dozen people the same stuff over and over.”  I realize I am half babbling and staring into her hazel brown eyes.  We both avert our eyes at the same time, it is so obvious we both laugh.  What is going on here?

“May I read your blog,” she asks.  

“Do you want to write down the blog address?” Wow, what an angel.  Her voice is so soft and gentle it reminds me of a gentle summer shower.  I’m losing it.

“Can you email it to me,” she asks.  

“Okay, what’s your email address?” I ask, prepared to enter it into my Gmail account as we talk.

In a sudden change of mind, she blurts, “No, give me your address.  Write it down here.”  She hands me a used envelope, I turn it over on the back and write down wiley.foxes@gmail.com.   I drop the envelope on the table next to our coffees. She says out of the blue,  “I have two girls at home, they are everything to me.”  My mind locks on the two words “at home”.  Before I can comment, they call out her order, “I have to go,” she says pointing out two large bags sitting on the counter.  “I hope to see you again,” she says softly, my insides turning to mush.  The tips of her finger brush ever so lightly across my knee as she rises. Electricity flows from the spot of her finger into my groin and then up into my heart.  Was that an accident?  Are you insane or just in lust?

“Me too”, I say simply and make no offer to rise.  I am rattled, uneasy.  I notice the joy she has brought me already fading as I check the time and the reality of my world floods over me.  I see a call from my boss in my voice mail.  Ugh.  I try to ignore the feeling of dread filling me as I construct a story in my head responding to what he wants.  There is not a good story.

I watch her leave the store the two bags in hand.  I hope she will turn and look at me as she leaves the shop but she doesn’t.  I watch her ass as it moves down the sidewalk away from the shop.  I look down and notice the envelope with my email address sitting on the table in front of me.  I start to pick it up and then just leave it.  There is no fool like an old fool.  Wow was that sweet.

Instead, I call Helen’s phone and let it ring a half dozen times and then listen to a message telling me her voice box is full.  I get up and hurry to the hospital to pick her up, or more likely sit in the waiting room as tv’s drone in the background of my mind. 

6 Robert: Helen’s Blog – Ashton on Guard   

Today was another typical day.  I took Helen in for her echocardiogram.  We haven’t heard back officially yet, but our read of the technician’s comment is that all is normal, the chemo has not yet affected Helen’s heart.

You all might remember that Ashton, our large Jack Russell, started acting strangely before Helen’s cancer was diagnosed a few months ago.  He started smelling Helen’s breath and for three nights before Helen was admitted to the emergency room he started sleeping outside in his dog house despite the freezing cold.  It even snowed one night.  I tried twice during the night to persuade him to come in out of the cold.  He was curled up in a tight circle and shivering, but he snarled and snapped at me when I tried to get him out of the dog house.  Ashton is not a typical, cute Jack Russell like I have seen on tv.  He is 26 pounds, very intelligent, and has his own agenda on what is right and wrong.  Not wanting to lose a finger, I let him stay in his dog house.  He refused to eat or drink for three days – at least in our presence.

After Helen went to the hospital, he stayed outside with occasional trips through the doggie door to look for Helen.  He started eating a little but was obviously losing weight.  When she returned from the hospital, he went back to his usual self, at least for a while.  

In the last few days, a new behavior has evolved.  He has become Helen’s shadow.  If she sits on the couch for hours, he sits with her.  If she gets up to go to the bathroom, he follows and sits beside her.  I don’t know how he finds the time to take care of himself.

Somewhat disturbing, I tried to hook the leash on his collar to take him for a walk around the block yesterday.  He was sitting by Helen and when I approached him he came at me with his teeth bared.  He sleeps between us and He won’t let me snuggle with Helen unless I get out of bed and go around to the other side.  Even then, he watches me with a scary intensity.  

I am not afraid to use force with him, but I just can’t bring myself to do it.  He knows what is happening to Helen and he has taken it upon himself to protect her, to take care of her the best way he knows how.  It breaks my heart to see him so upset.  I don’t know what this new behavior means; he seems to be one step ahead of the doctors.

7 Robert: Coming Down the Stairs

I am sitting at home scanning an email from my son, picking out the questions to answer in my response.  

So, dad, you mentioned a business trip.  Does this mean you might not be there much when I am there?  Is Lisa staying at the house now? 

Your blog is a good start.  I would like to see some more pictures of Julie:  happy, living, not in a hospital bed only, and some nice pictures of her flowers.  Some pictures of Ashton pouting in the doghouse could go into the blog. 

Dad, I was wondering if there was an ideal scenario in mind for you in regards to my timing and stay? Is Helen checking her email? How was today for you? mikE 

I struggle with a reply trying not to be defensive: 

Mike,

Well. I played tennis today and played okay. I was tired from not sleeping well, but that’s okay. I have all sorts of feelings, probably dread, being at the top. I don’t know how well Helen is going to hold up to the chemo, she was in a lot of pain the last time — I don’t think she was able to handle the entire dose. I left because I thought they were done, but they were only the test doses to make sure that she didn’t have an allergic reaction. So figuring out anything else at the moment, like ideal timing for your visit, is more than I can process at the moment. I need to help Helen get started using Lisa’s laptop in the living room when she comes down, if she comes down,. so she can get her own email. I will try to make that happen tomorrow.  She is not processing things well.

Helen has been struggling with telling her father, the only family member that doesn’t know. He is in his mid 80’s and is already feeling lonesome since his wife has Pick’s disease, which is similar to Alzheimer’s. I can’t imagine finding out that his daughter is really ill is going to go well. I sometimes think I am like an empath if that is a word. Or perhaps, just a wimp. I hate seeing Helen in pain, or even having coughing episodes. I think the coughing is doing better, but I am afraid it is from her using  oxygen more, not a benefit from the chemo.

I look at my email and realize it is a mess.  I don’t have the energy to rewrite it so I send it like it is and then get up to figure out supper.  

11 thoughts on “The Merging”

    1. It is a fictionalized account of what happened …. much of it occurs here on thoughts.com ten to twelve years ago … names have been changed to protect the guilty …

      1. When I write stories and post them in here, if I get just one reader then it makes it all worth while. And a note on commenting: because no one has left a comment on your story is not evidence that no one is reading it.

          1. Thoughts has no notification system in place to tell members of new content as such. All new content can be seen in the ‘Activity’ section – this will include, blogs, updates, group entries, etc, and comments members have left on the aforementioned content. And of course, when submitting a blog post, it will automatically appear on the main blog page.

            Hope this clarifies things for you.

              1. I think you added the chapters to an existing post, not a new post. This will not be updated in the Activity section simply because it is an ‘EDIT’ of an already existing post. In order for new chapters to appear my advice would be to post them as ‘new’ posts – not additions. So in your case when you update the story – New post/Title/Chapter number.

                You can post more than one chapter in the same post, but do it there and then rather than wait a few days, if you do then the same problem will present itself – it will not show up in Activity.

  1. there are bodies and cadavers and hopes and and dreams alike. There are we here, the treetop shadows, the winds and whispers that hope you continue, that live for story. Don’t fall prey to the age of celebrity, there are plenty here, some a little more verbose than others

  2. Benventure, wow, the way you write is very interesting … you should be writing a novel, I love your style. I also appreciate the encouragement. I will edit and post the next chapter today (or I will try). Most of the book is written, but I am using the posting here to clean it up …

    When you have a chance, tell me about your name “Benventure” … is there a story involved?

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