The cancer hadn’t devoured Ray yet, but with each rising of the sun, Sam knew his father was closer to dying than to living. It was too bad his folks lived over two hours away. Just far enough that Sam couldn’t get there as much as he would have liked. After all, he had two children, a job, a wife, and a lot to do. He was busy—there was no other word for it. But despite that busyness, he’d do what he could to help Ray. He’d been doing what he could to help both his parents: taking time off from work to shuffle Ray to this appointment or that; making meals and placing them in the freezer; talking to the lawyers and doctors and banks and credit card companies—all the people Ray wanted to speak to, but couldn’t. And there Sam was once again, sitting in his car on a Tuesday afternoon in May, contemplating the two-hour drive.

What would his boss have to say about taking another chunk of time off? Or how about Josie, Sam’s wife? Cutting out in the middle of the week would disrupt the schedules of the entire family. Up until now, Josie had been so patient with Sam and his parents. She’d cut back on her own very busy schedule, limiting book club to once a month and altering her hours at work.

“It’s that time of our lives, honey,” she’d whispered to him so that the kids wouldn’t hear the conversation. Haley, their three year old, wasn’t particularly fond of bad news. And sickness and death, should she overhear talk about those subjects, sent her into a tailspin. She’d have nightmares for weeks. Her older brother, Adam, could care less about death. The more violent, in fact, the better. What an odd boy.

Sam had leaned into Josie then and wrapped his arms around her body as he thanked the good Lord for such a wonderful woman. He’d certainly gotten lucky the day Josie decided to say hi to him at the Wendy’s salad bar and every day since then—they’d been together 13 years now—something subtle reminded him of that fact. That day, it had been her simple and caring words.

But something felt different about this trip and he couldn’t understand why. As he turned the key in the ignition and placed the car in reverse, he looked up at his family, his three loved ones waving at him through the picture window of the living room. He tipped his hat and smiled, and then carefully backed out of the driveway. He looked one last time at his family before he began to drive forward. He watched as Haley removed her sticky hands from the window and Josie dropped the curtain. A flash of finality sped through his body, a strong sense of dread.

Something inside of him told him that he shouldn’t leave right now, parents be damned. He slammed the car in reverse and backed up into the driveway. After placing the car in park and shutting off the engine, he pulled out his cell phone and texted his mother: Will come in this weekend. Can’t get away today. Send my love to Dad.

His mom was quick with her reply: We’ll miss you but look forward to the weekend. Thanks. See you soon.

Sam breathed a sigh of relief. His dad was strong. He’d live to see another day, most likely more than another day. He’d be there on the weekend. And in the meantime, Sam could figure out where that sense of dread had come from.

He opened the door of the car and stepped out onto the driveway. He could see his kids’ faces in the window once again. Sam felt a smile spread across his face as he grabbed his luggage and closed the car door. It was good to still be at home.

To be continued . . .

Image of succulent by Scott Webb from Pixabay.com.

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