So it was decided. My sister would go back to the city to keep my mother company while my father was recuperating from his surgery, and she'd send my brother Jackie back to recoup some of his vacation. He, Pam, and the kids, just like my husband and I, arrived during the middle week. And, with all of the upset over my dad, we hadn't done much "vacationing" yet.
With the discussion over, and plans firmed up, we let the girls pick out one of the many kids movies they'd brought along with them, popped a big bowl of popcorn for everyone, and settled in to watch the movie.
About 15 minutes into it, the clunker of a phone rang in the living room. I think we'd all forgotten that there was actually one in there, and we jumped a mile when it rang. Then we all looked at each other for a moment, knowing that whatever it was, it probably wasn't good.
My sister picked up the phone. She mouthed the words "It's Jackie" before listening to whatever update my brother had to deliver. My sister's normally a real talker -- you'd be hard-pressed to get off the phone with her without having at least a 20 minute conversation. So, when she sat, almost in complete silence, listening to the information filling up her ear, and her head, and turning completely pale in the process.... I knew it wasn't good at all. It wracked me with even more fear when she went from being a motionless receiver (except for the occasional, "Uh huh" and "Yes" she sputtered out here and there), to a woman wrought with sorrow and pain, as she began sobbing almost uncontrollably while listening to the rest of my brother's information.
Not good. AT ALL.
She finally croaked out a tiny little, "Okay, see you then. 'Bye." and placed the receiver gently back on its cradle. It was only then that she came back from whatever world she'd placed herself on -- that single, solitary world of "bad information" that no one really likes to set foot in -- and realized there were five pairs of eyes looking at her, waiting for her to relay the (NOT GOOD) information that she'd just received.
She wiped her eyes with the backs of her hands, and told the girls to go upstairs and play for a bit. That everything was okay, but she just wanted to talk to the grownups for right now. Danielle and Jacqueline hesitated at first -- as young as they were at the time, they realized they'd just been given a big load of manure, and wanted to stick around to find out if their beloved Grampie was okay.
"Sure", my sister said, "He'll be fine. He just has a few problems that need to be worked through, and I have to talk to the grownups here about it for now, okay?"
"Go ahead upstairs" Pam told them. I think she felt, as well as I did, that somehow those "problems" my sister talked of couldn't be worked through, no matter how hard we wanted them to.
The girls dragged themselves up the stairs, and started playing with something in their bedroom above our heads. Lord, how I wished I could have gone upstairs with them, happily playing, and oblivious to all of life's miseries and woes. It was times like these when being a child was definitely a blessing.
My sister sat in silence for a few moments, trying to collect her thoughts (and probably trying to fight the urge to take off running like a raving lunatic and screaming like a banshee). The suspense of the moment was almost too much for me to bear. I was just about to pop out of my seat and shake her by the shoulders when she opened her mouth to speak.
What she said made me regret ever wanting her to hurry up about it.
"Jackie said that the doctors at Mt. Auburn thought it best that they operate on Dad right away. They concurred with the doctors at the clinic here, and agreed that he probably had a really badly bulging hiatal hernia.
"When they opened him up, they found it was no hernia at all. His stomach is completely distended, and his liver is full of cancer. There was nothing more they could do, but sew him back up.
"They're giving him 3 months, tops."
After she uttered that last sentence, she slowly lifted her body off of the chair, walked past all of us, through the kitchen, and out through the sliding glass doors onto the back deck. My sister was "Daddy's Little Girl", and had always been the apple of his eye. I didn't much mind, 'cause I'm the baby in the family, so I got spoiled by everyone. But Margie... Margie always had this special, cherished relationship with my father. To find out that her knight in shining armour, her hero, was nearing the end of his life -- it was just too much for her to digest.
The silence in the living room was palpable. You could cut it with a knife. I hadn't even realized that my eyes were streaming down tears. I turned to my husband and said, "Let's pack up and go home."