I woke up on Thursday morning shakily, got to my feet and quietly walked around the bed, so as not to disturb my sleeping wife and went to the kitchen to get my first cup of coffee. I yawned as I reached into the cabinet for a cup and poured the hot black liquid from the steaming carafe into it.
This was part of my normal morning routine, of course as it is for many people. We get up, get coffee, read the paper/watch tv etc, shower, dress and go to the car for the morning drag to reach the office in time and hope that you're not late.
This morning was different though; it had a new element. This Thursday had a specific mission to it, one that had been set up in advance and I was the linchpin of the whole deal. If I did not perform according to plan, it would be delayed and it could mean trouble for all of us. I knew, inside that it was the right thing to do. I knew it, but.... I also knew it would be hard and it would mean betrayal. My wife knew this too and knew that it would be a very hard thing for me to do and she was sympathetic, but she too knew that this was necessary.
I completed my morning routine as usual, had my shower, got dressed, got a second cup of coffee to go, and got in my car to start the morning commute. The traffic was somewhat light this time, so I did not have the added stress of a traffic jam(or animal march as my grandmother used to call them).
I worked my usual shift that day for the usual 8 hours. Usually these work days seemed to drag on forever but today, it went by quickly. I sighed as the 5 pm hour arrived and I got a call on my cell, telling me that I was expected. I acknowledged this call and logged out of the computer and phone and left my gray cubicle and walked out to the building to the parking lot.
For some reason, the overcast sky seemed appropriate to the occasion, or at least my mood as I crossed the lot to get to my car.
"Calm down" I told myself. "Breathe"
It helped a little but I was not sure by how much
I drove out of the lot and slowly made my way towards a suburban area that was only a few miles away. The full weight of my task was making its way down into my stomach and sat there stubbornly as if it was forcing me to pay attention to it.
As I drove, my mind went over the situation and the plan again and again. I still didn't feel any better about it even though it was still the right thing to do. It had to be done decisively almost in one action just like a cut from a samurai's blade.
The sun was setting as I got to the dilapidated old duplex within 15 minutes of my leaving the office and the night was just starting to grow cold. Like a lot of things, the house itself had seen better days. There was a small hole on the roof and some of the shingles had fallen off. The thorny tree in front of the house was big enough that it almost covered the front door making it difficult to enter and exit.
I climbed the stairs and met her inside the old structure and waited for her to get ready to go to her usual haunt for our Thursday outings. In this case, it was the local library. After she got ready, I walked slowly down the steps before her as she stepped ever so gingerly on the steps, her legs wobbling under the strain. I felt a sigh of relief as she made it to the ground and she hobbled to my car.
After she was secured, I closed the door and sighed as that weight in my stomach continued to mock me. daring me to go through with the plan. "Once you do this, " it said with a laugh, "There's no going back. She will hate you forever. You don't have the guts for this at all kid."
Indeed, there were many nights, that I prayed that this task would not fall on me and that someone else should make this decision. Obviously, the answer to that prayer was "No". I knew all of this before I prayed but I did it anyway.
I drove on in silence, trying to ignore the disheveled, skeletal figure in the passenger seat and the pleading stare that seemed to try to keep me from moving forward. Part of me wanted to stop the car right there and run; but I continued on regardless.
We finally got to the little library and I helped her get out of the car and carried her purse and the bookbag while she grabbed onto my left arm and held onto it like a man clinging to the edge of a cliff as she took those shambling steps to the door.
"We're almost halfway there," I said aloud, knowing that the next part of the journey would be the final one. We finally made it to the library itself where I took her to the desk to return her books, while she browsed the romance section for other selections.
As I was returning the books, the librarian looked beyond me and said "Ms. Peay, are you okay?" I turned around and saw my mother there, leaning on one of the chairs, her eyes seeming to glaze over and her mouth hanging open like a fish out of water. She collapsed in a heap into the librarian's arms while the assistant phoned for help.
The librarian managed to help my mother into a chair and informed me that an ambulance was on the way. I thanked them and made another call myself to my mother's doctor and informed him of what happened.
This really wasn't part of the plan, but it did accelerate it a bit.
The EMTs arrived at the library and ran some tests on her to verify that her vitals were fine. Her doctor arrived a few minutes later as well and monitored the situation. The EMTs worked on her for about 10 minutes and found that her vitals were good for the moment. Afterwards, they placed her on a stretcher and took her out of the library and placed her in the back of the waiting ambulance in the parking lot. Her doctor spoke with the EMTs and gave them some instructions
All I could do was stand there and watch as this whole process played out like a scene in a movie or a play and was just a member of the audience.
Her doctor then approached me and looked at me through his thick glasses and touched me on the shoulder.
"I have already set everything up at the facility. They are expecting her and have prepared a place for her. She will be well cared for there.
I nodded to him and meekly uttered a thank you to him.
"You will need to follow the ambulance there and go to the office and fill out all the paperwork. The staff there will help you with it and they will be able to answer any questions you have." he said to me.
My throat was so tight at the moment that I could not force it to do anything at all that time, so I nodded to him again and bowed my head slowly to him.
As the back of the ambulance closed, I breathed in the night air. It wasn't until that moment, that I noticed that the weight had stopped it's mocking speech and had left for more green pastures. I had crossed the threshold and had moved forward
I walked towards my car to follow the ambulance and as I got inside, I noticed the wetness on my face and knew that it did not come from the rain that was already beginning to form in the sky.