Marcie pats Tom on the back. “There there,” she says. His coughing fits have become worse and worse. They had moved Tom out of the hospital and back home once they realized there was not much more they could do for him. The cancer had spread and it was out of the doctor’s control. The first, second, and third opinions agreed he didn’t have much longer.
The final doctor suggested to Marcie that he would be more comfortable at home. They set up a hospital bed in the small crowded living room leaving only a foot between the bed and the low couch. Even though they paid for a full-time caretaker, Marcie couldn’t dare to leave the side of her husband of thirty years. Even sleeping on the couch rather than in her comfortable bed just a few steps away upstairs.
The lung cancer was caught too late and the small family only had a few weeks to digest the news. Once he was back home, no one in the house would use the “c” word. It was inevitable what would happen to Tom and there was no reason to aggravate it. Positivity was the theme
But Marcie knew if Tom didn’t have much more time she better tell him sooner than later.
Tom’s cough finally subsides and Marcie takes in a deep breath. “Tom,” she smiles at him “Are you comfortable?” He nods.
“Do you want water or anything?” She asks. He shakes his head. Marcie needs to bite the bullet and say it.
She continues, “There is something I have been meaning to tell you. And it won’t be easy for me to say nor easy for you to listen, but I need to tell you this. I need to get this off my chest. Perhaps it is selfish of me, but I need this.” Tom nods again and gives Marcie a warm smile. He loved his wife from the moment he met her. She had this curly brown hair she would try to tame and when she got older, decided to cut it short and let it be wild. He loved the woman she was and she turned into the woman she is. They grew together. Not all couples are capable of doing that. But they were.
Marcie continues, “I want to talk to you about something that happened thirty years ago. Before we were married. If I made different decisions our lives would be different. Not just mine but yours too. I want you to know that I do not regret for a minute marrying you. You were the best thing to happen to me and you happened to come along at a weird time in my life. I want you to know that I love you with all my heart and I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Do you understand that?” Tom nods again. He was glad she felt the same way.
Marcie continues, “Do you remember when we first started dating? Back in the early 90s. Do you remember I worked at that restaurant over off 3rd street? I was a waitress. Do you remember?” Tom nods again. That curly hair comes back to his memory.
Marcie continues, “I don’t know if you remember but there was a guy who worked there with me. His name was Mark.”
“I remember Mark. Tall? Beard?” Tom wheezed out and finished with a cough. Now it was Marcie’s turn to nod.
“Yeah, that’s Mark. He was always after me. He was always looking at me. He was always trying to get me to go out with him. So, when you and I had just met, I finally gave in and went on one date with him. At this point, you and I had only been out once or twice. We were brand new and so it wasn’t cheating at least I never saw it that way. I hope you don’t either.”
“So, you went out with a loser. What’s the big deal?” Tom’s wheezing became harsher and he began to cough. He looked up at the ceiling for a moment, took a breath, and then looked back at his wife.
“The big deal is that Tommy is not your son.” Marcie covered her face with her hands and tears started streaming down her face. “I’m sorry.”
The two of them sat in silence. Tom opened his mouth but all that came out was a cough. Marcie patted his back, waiting for the coughing to subside.
A tall figure appeared in the doorway and the shadow got Tom and Marcie’s attention. They both looked up realizing they never heard the front door open and close.
“Dad is not my dad?” The figure took a step forward, eyes wide.
“Oh, Tommy,” Marcie stood. She had dropped a bomb on the two most important people in her life. She was about to ask how much he had heard, but it was clear that he had heard the most important part. She attempted to add the sugar to the conversation as she always envisioned “Dad will always be your dad. He was the one who raised you. And he loves you.”
Tommy cut his mother off, “Because you tricked him into it. You skank.”
The comment stung Marcie but she brushed it off. Her son was hurting. She sighed and took her seat. Marcie looked down at Tom. Tom took her hand and squeezed it. She squeezed back.
“Are you upset?” She tilted her head and looked deep into her husband’s blue eyes. He shook his head.
“Well, I’m upset,” Tommy still stood in the doorway with his hands on his hips tapping his toe.
“Right now, spending time with your father is the only thing that matters. If you can’t accept that then you need to leave and we can work through this at a later date.” Marcie’s tone was sharp.
Tommy was silent. His mother was right. He gave a single nod and walked over to the side of his father’s bed opposite his mother. He reached out and grabbed his other hand and sat down.
Their small family was all they needed. Three was soon to become two. And although it was never said in that living room that day, all three knew that love outweighed genes.