Always wanting to get the most from life,
one morning after a terrible snow storm
she rose from bed stretching
the most radiant, playful grin spread across her face,
"I feel incredible," she screamed,
"Let's have a picnic!"
"In this?" I said pointing to the window.
"Oh, come on chicken," she said jumping on the bed
and pushing me off the side.
"I'll make sandwiches! We can go back to the spot we met!
Just think, snow angels and snow ball fights,
the possibilities are endless! I know!
We can sneak out a bottle of wine in a paper bag
and hope we don't get caught drinking it in the park!
Come on, live dangerously!
You can even take that book you never finished."
She hurriedly jumped from the bed heading for the kitchen.
"I did finish it," I replied.
"No you didn't," she called back laughing.
I left the book at home.
We trudged through three feet of snow
to get to the Maple tree where we first met.
There were no leaves, but the snow and ice
made the the limbs glimmer
like jewels in the midday sun.
I removed a blanket from the small basket we carried
and spread it on the snow.
She gathered a few sticks from the base of the tree
and in a moment she built a small cozy fire
in an old coffee tin she brought.
We decided against the snow angels
and she hit me with just one snow ball,
regretting it almost immediately,
when she saw my bright red nose and ears.
We talked and joked and ate our sandwiches.
The wine we finished without incident.
Laying back in the snow
we watched the ever changing
clouds meander slowly by.
I pointed out shapes to her
but she became quiet.
She had been sick for several weeks,
the flu I believed,
and it was nice to see her feeling better.
I was scared the weather might cause a relapse.
"Let's get out of this cold," I suggested.
She cuddled firmly against me.
"I don't want this to end.
I know I'm being selfish,
but just a bit longer."
I said OK,
but it felt as if she was not talking to me.
She became distracted for the rest of the day.
In the evening as we sat at the table
her tone became serious.
"Are you familiar with Lymphoma?"
Her voice quivered
as if she had just cursed.
I looked at her curiously,
"Some type of cancer, right?"
She nodded and looked away.
Slowly she opened up to me about her ordeal,
why her friends and family were
so overly protective of her,
her parents putting up with me,
but only her older sister being truly kind.
The months of chemo and radiation
that were of no use,
and her decision to finally stop them
a little over a year ago.
She just wanted to live
what little time she had left
as freely and openly as she could.
She couldn't do that with the drugs.
Luckily her hair had grown back,
but a lighter shade than before.
She felt OK most days, but for the last few weeks her night sweats
had returned with a vengeance
and the medication she took for her symptoms
was causing her to cough a lot.
Then she talked about us,
"I didn't expect to fall in love that day when I left home,
in fact I tried not to,
but I did."
I listened without responding,
taking in every word, feeling fear for her,
feeling fear for us, then feeling selfish.
She looked into my eyes and saw the tears welling,
"If you can live with the fact that I'm dying,
and can treat me as you always have,
without letting this change things,
then, I need you, I love you; otherwise..."
Her words trailed off, and, as she wiped her eyes
I heard her whisper, "I'm so, so sorry."
I looked at her for a long moment.
Doing my best to not let go of my emotions,
I said in as even of a voice as possible,
"I wish you had told me this sooner."
She glanced up at me.
"If you had I could have called out of work
and spent more time with you."
A smile immediately stretched
like a crescent moon across her face,
but just as quickly her grin became stern,
"And absolutely no crying for me, understand?"
I nodded a promise,
as her welled up emotions broke through
and her tears flooded the front of my shirt.
She looked up again,
"I said you can't cry, I'm allowed,"
and her laughter rang sweet in my ears.
For weeks we spent every moment together,
walking in the park, going out to dinner,
movies and theater when she was able,
cooking for her and sitting together, talking
and holding hands when she was not.
Early one morning she awoke barely able to walk.
I helped her to a chair in the kitchen.
"It's the cold," she said as she looked out of the window.
"Oh God what I would give to feel the warm sun on my face,
to see beautiful flowers blooming, to feel life again."
I made her a cup of hot tea, walked into the bedroom
and called my work to take an extended leave of absence,
then I packed a couple of small bags.
I asked her if she was up for a drive.
She refused but I insisted until she gave in.
We drove south. It didn't matter where, we just drove.
Taking our time, we stopped often,
and she seemed to feel better as the day passed.
She slept for short periods
and even offered to drive at one point,
but I politely said no.
As the sun set she dozed off
and slept while I continued on.
Late evening I grew tired and saw signs for
some small gulf coast town
with a name I had never heard before.
I found a small motel on the beach,
and checked in, helping my sleeping beauty
to the room where I put her to bed.
In the morning she awoke.
Walking through the door
the sun splashed gold
into every lovely crease on her
Eyes closed, she soaked in the warmth.
I took her by the arm
and led her to a chair on the patio,
the sound of waves calling in the distance.
Picking a lovely yellow hibiscus
I placed it behind her ear and she smiled.
The next few days were the happiest of my life.
Copyright © James Inman | Year Posted 2018