Friday, November 30, 2007

Well it's been a month of blogging...

Not quite the 50,000 words needed to graduate into NANOWRIMO fame, but I wrote everyday, so I'll take it. Thanks for following along. In the end, if I ever write the end, Sam stays on the wagon, Charlotte has a very healthy baby boy, Jonah, her mother is alive for the birth but dies, at home, in the weeks after. And Kaylie the dog is a wonderful new addition to the family; for all of them. It's strange how great things come in the oddest packages.

Part 64

"I thought you said you wanted a small dog?"

For twenty minutes Charlotte and Lovie had been playing with a huge black Lab named Kaylie. The tag on her run said she was great with children and old people, but given half a second would steal the food right off the table. Not answering her father's question, Charlotte turned to Lovie and asked, "Are you sure this is the kind of dog you and Jenny were talking about?" The littlest informer shook her head.

Then turning to face her father, Charlotte asked, "Dad?" The full implied questions was clearly understood to be, would you please help me take this on?

"Why are you getting this dog?"

"Mother's guilt... and the fact that I almost lost her... and it's the last thing she would ever expect... something special for her."

It was now Charlotte's mom turn to chime in, "How can a dog be only hers; a nine year old?"

"I know this is one of those mine on paper situations. She'll love it, might remember to feed it and won't walk it after the first week, but it feels right."

"And what about Sam?"

The answer, Sam won't mind flew out between her lips, but deep in the recesses of her brain she really wondered if she should consult him first.

"So you get Jenny a dog, what are you going to get Sarah and Lovie?"

"From the pile of dog flesh and daughter came the answer, "I want a Barbie doll that dances on a stage."

Charlotte shook her head, and smiled.

"And Sarah, will she want a dog? You seem to be hyper focused on the one daughter."

Charlotte started patting Kaylie. "Sarah would love a dog. She's wanted one for years... this would be a good opportunity..."

"Then why not get Kaylie for the house and not just for the one."

Maybe that was a better idea. After all it would take everyone to take care of her.

The attendant, who had given them some space to become acquainted with Kaylie returned and commented, "Kaylie has been here for a while and I've never seen her get along with a new family before."

"Then we'll take her."


Part 63

To ease the Christmas load, Charlotte was determined to do all her holiday shopping right from her cozy pink recliner. A cup of decaf beside her, still in her pajamas, robe and slippers, she was intently searching the web for the latest Do Everything Suzy doll for Lovie. But instead of seeing Ship By dates she was finding Sold Out, Sold Out, Sold Out. Did retailers do this on purpose? She was just about ready to click over to eBay and see how high the after market prices were, when the little cherub walked in and perched herself on her mother's lap.

Curling her way up into the folds of her mother's robe, Lovie said, "Hi, Mommy."

Finding it difficult to balance her laptop, with her new found typing assistant, Charlotte closed the screen and set her shopping aside. "Hi Sweetheart."

"What are you doing?"


"Can I help?"

Charlotte wondered, could she help? And after a second or two of quick thinking replied, "Yes, go get me a pencil and a piece of scrap paper." Dutifully her elf completed the task, and was back in her cozy perch. "Okay," said Charlotte talking to Lovie, but really setting up a mental list as well as a physical one on paper. "What are we going to get Jenny for Christmas? Knowing the girls had been hoarding their favorite catalogs for weeks, she knew her youngest had full knowledge of her sister's list for Santa.

"She wants the new holiday American Girl dress for her and her Emily."

Charlotte wrote it down while thinking, maybe the doll dress, but to get the dress for Jenny too would be too expensive. "Anything else?"

"She wants the new doll Julie."

Again she wrote it down while thinking, very expensive, and asking, "Doe she want anything else not from American Girl?"

"No..." was her informers first answer, but hen she popped up like a toast from a toaster and blurted, "She wants a puppy."

"A puppy, you say..." Charlotte didn't think she could buy a dog from her chair, but a puppy... except for the fact she would be the one to take care of it... a puppy just might be doable. "What kind of puppy? Did Jenny say?"

Lovie's eyes lit up. "Are we getting a puppy for Christmas?"

Charlotte thought for a moment before answering. "I don't know... If she did get one, could you keep it a secret?"

Lovie jostled all about as she nodded her head yes.

"Then go find Nana and Grandpa and see if they can come in here."

With her bundle off on another mission, Charlotte started to think she was out of her mind to consider getting a dog for Jenny. Wasn't life complicated enough with her mother dying, and her high risk pregnancy? Before she could answer that question there was the stampede of little feet being followed by larger feet that cut into her conversation with herself.

"What's this about a dog?" asked her father.

"I was wondering if you could drive me to the shelter; just to have a look."

"Just a look?" Now it was her mother questioning her daughter's actions. "Do you really need a dog now? You can't walk it. I certainly can't..."

"I know it's not practical, but maybe that is why it's so right." Charlotte went on to explain her idea on how a dog, a smaller one, might just be what they needed. Something to occupy their time. Something for Jenny to call her own. After all she had been through.

Charlotte's dad picked up the Christmas list she had laid down next to her laptop. "Don't you think a doll and some clothes would be more practical?"

He was right. In the end, when all was said and done, the dog would be more. But would there be more bang for the buck? "Let's just go look. I have a feeling about this."

"Can I come too?" It was Lovie. I want a dog.

Charlotte hugged her littlest, and then looking into the disapproving and tired eyes of her parents said, "Of course you can."


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Part 62

The Panchot household was a well oiled machine. Sam was up before the rest making lunches and setting up for breakfast. Sarah was next. Having to catch the bus around 7 AM. Followed by Charlotte's dad, George, whose morning focus was getting the coffee on. Then Jenny and Lovie, who insisted on being snuggled while still in bed. The unknowns, and Charlotte was okay not to be running the show, were Charlotte and her mom; more so her mom. The women would rise when their bodies released them from sleep. Some mornings Charlotte was up with Sam, drinking coffee with her dad. Others, she was still fast asleep until right before the bus tooted from Lovie and Jenny. What she liked best was getting up with her husband. With him back to work, there was very little time for just the two of them.

So this morning when she was flirting with the line between her world of dreams and consciousness she crossed over with a smile on her face. When Sam walked into their bedroom with nothing on but a towel around his middle age waist, she was ready for him.

"Care to be late for work?"

Searching for a shirt in their closet, Sam chuckled. "Need me to change a light bulb or take the garbage out?"

"Oh, no. I have my dad around for that. No, I have a very special task for you."

There was an edge to her voice. It was the first time his wife had suggested anything intimate since coming home from the hospital. It was obvious, by the drape of his towel, that Sam was interested and up for a bit of play. "Are you sure? Should you check with the doctor?"

Charlotte reached for the phone by her bedside, "Should you wake him, or me?"

The towel drooped. "Hasn't he said anything about sex during the 100 appointments you've had since getting out of the hospital?"

"Yes." Charlotte slid over towards the middle of their bed and lifted off the covers, exposing her flesh to the cold morning air.

Sam dropped his towel, and slide back under the covers next to his wife. And as they became reacquainted with each other's attributes Charlotte wondered how their little morning meeting would effect the rest of the schedule.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Part 61

It was somewhere between 5 and 6 in the morning. Unable to sleep, Charlotte had gotten up and wrapping herself up in their luxurious fleece blanket, and settled herself into the oversized pink sanctuary in the family room. A cup of tea in one hand and the trashy romance novel she kept on hand for such sleepless nights, she shrugged up her whole body to generate some immediate warmth. Despite all her complaining about the world's worst case of insomnia, she truly cherished this early mornings. For now she really had time on her side. Of course there was plenty of that with not being able to lift anything heavier than the cup of tea now pressed to her lips. But it was the quiet.

Reaching under the blanket, she rubbed her expanding abdomen. Perhaps in a few months, if they were lucky, th house wouldn't be so quiet. A smile spread across her face. She was getting use to the idea of being the oldest parent in history of a kindergartener. Or at least that was what Sarah was saying. Wouldn't that be nice? To have a baby and then a child that was happy and whole and healthy.

And then as if on cue the baby kicked, and Sarah walked into the room. "What are you doing up? Mother asked sleepy yawning daughter, but she could have been asking either of her children present at the time.

Sarah stretched and as her arms reached their longest extension the baby kicked again. "Stop that!" Charlotte said in a sharp but teasing way.

"Stop what?" asked back the only child who she could physically hear at that time.

"All that stretching. Your brother is following along with every motion. I'll be black and blue from the inside out."

Sarah hurried towards her mom. Her eyes were wide with curiosity and her hands were reaching for her mother's bump.

These early mornings, Charlotte wouldn't miss them for the world. She reached out one of her own hands, and directed her daughter's gentle touch so that she too could feel her brother's playfullness.

And as if to know there was love on the other side of the thick muscle wall, the baby kicked his foot out into their hands and held it there. Sarah's eyes widened even further. "Does he know we're here?"

"He could," answered Charlotte, just as excited as her daughter. Even with this being her third child, feeling him move inside her was so deeply and emotionally binding. She couldn't wait to hold him, to love him. Regardless of the physical problems, or length of his time on earth, she would love him.

Her daughter's words broke into her little lovefest. "You know Mom, he reminds me of one of those dolphins that comes to the surface when their trainers are around."

"Really. Do you think you'll be calling him a dolphin when he comes out?"

"I hope I get to call him period, when he comes out." Sarah's seriousness hit Charlotte head on. She wasn't the only one worried about the little life inside her. The web of life spreads its threads far and wide. Here she thought she was putting on the brave face, and carrying most of the baby burden within her. Of course, Sam had his own worries he toted, but Charlotte had assumed the girls were floating free and easy as it were. Obviously she was wrong.

"Do you want to be there for the birth?" The question was out and floating in the air, before she fully realized what she was saying. Sarah must've been equally shocked, as if touching a hot stove or being hit with a jolt of electricity , she momentarily withdrew her hand from her mother's warm bump.

"You want me in there?"

The staunch mother in her stopped and thought for a moment. The quick answer, No not really floated into her head. But... for the sake of her daughter and her son... the words, "Yes, if you want to be there, yes," came out of her lips.

Her daughter sat in silence. Her hand resumed its fishing for movement. The baby accommodated her by sending up flutters. "What's he doing?"

Charlotte shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know. Swimming around. After all it's toasty warm."

Then turning all serious, Sarah answered her mom, "Can I decide about being there later?"


For the next hour as the sky outside the window brightened with the new dawn, no words were spoken, as the mother and her children reached out to touch each other.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I like this picture

I took it through the very blue section of the windshield of our Big Rig. Of course I was driving...

Part 60

The movie marathon spread over two days. After all the girls still had school. And with Charlotte home from the hospital Sam's long term medical leave ran out and he had to return to work, and Debbie, despite looking fine, tired easily.

The days that followed were cookie cutter cut outs: get up, go to work or school, come home to homework and dinner, watch a movie. After the girls and Sam left Charlotte and her mom would have their coffee and sit and look through family albums, or plow through a scrap box or two, in between doctors appointments.

This morning, Charlotte dug out the bin of old family photos. "It was always my intention to put these in an album."

"I don't know, sweetheart. There is something exciting about digging into the pile and pulling out a handful of old relatives. Our family wasn't one to be tamed between the sheets... of a book."

Was her mother trying to make a joke? "Still maybe they should be labeled. Otherwise the girls and their girls will say this is somebody, but I don't know who."

Taking a deep swig of her coffee Debbie had to concede that one to her daughter. "Get a pen and I'll give you a hand."

For most of the day, barely stopping to eat, the two ladies labeled the back of the photographs with all the information they could remember. With each picture there was s story and after hours of listening Charlotte got out the old tape recorder and recorded her mother's tales.

"This is your great grandfather on my mother's father's side, George Brown. This picture was taken right after he bought the old farm up on Walnut."

"Did he live their when you knew him?"

"Oh he swore he'd died on that farm."

"Did he?"

Debbie nodded. "But not until I was married to your father. Grandpa said it was living so close to the land that kept him alive so long."

Charlotte's thoughts flashed forward and to her own mother's mortality and to the life she carried within her. She could do nothing about either. Her mother, showing slight signs of slowing, was determined to live each day fully. And the baby, although very active and growing, was still not developing as well as they hoped. According to Dr. Houseman, "the large head size is indicative of fluid collecting near the brain." Charlotte caught the word indicative and said, "But you don't know. He could just have a large head."

For the hundredth time in twenty doctors appointments spread over two months the doctor let out a sigh, "Charlotte I've seen more of this type of defect than I care to admit. If the baby makes it full term, he may not live for very long." Feeling as good as she was towards the end of her second trimester, she was not going to worry. Everything always works out for the best. She dug her hand into the bin before her and introduced herself to some more relatives.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Part 59

The girls tucked under blankets, snuggled up with their grandparents, Sam and Charlotte stole away into the kitchen.

Sleepily Lovie called after them, "Mom, can we have popcorn?"

Leaning into her husband, Charlotte answered back, "In a minute."

Sam laughed, and reaching up into the cabinet behind him pulled out a package of microwaveable popcorn. "Did you really mean in a minute?" he asked.

His wife smirked. "Well maybe ten minutes."

"Then I won't wrestle you off my other arm so I can get into the microwave." Changing the subject he asked, "Are you okay?"

Charlotte glanced away for a second before answering. "Yeah, I am. I'm glad my folks came home. Not just for me and the baby, but for Jenny, Sarah and Lovie. It will be hard when my mother's health deteriorates, but for now they are here. It's these days they will remember."

"Mom," it was Lovie again. "The popcorn; I starving."

"We'll be right here."


Part 58

The girls took Nana's news quite well. At least, Charlotte thought so, and for the moment everyone was happy and calm. Instead of cooking dinner Sam suggested they get some pizzas and have a movie night.

"How about a Lord of the Rings marathon?" suggested Jenny. It was her favorite movie, which caused her mother some level of worry. All that violence; why did she ever let her watch them?

"How about Princess Diaries I and II?" offered Lovie.

"No," answered Sarah, then looking towards her parents with pleading eyes, "That's all we've been watching lately."

Sam laughed. It was true. Just by overhearing the sound track he had jsut about memorized the entire movie. "Lord of Rings sounds good to me, Mom, Dad are you up for it."

Debbie and George both nodded.

So the call placed for dinner delivery, the first of the three movies in the DVD player, the Panchot - Smith family sat down together for a night and more of the one ring.

Charlotte looked about their family room and was pleased that her family was with her. How little time they spent as a family. In a way her mom's cancer and her pregnancy were gifts. The gift of quality time. For the best was yet to come, and she'd be there to savor every second.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Part 57

"Ovarian." for the second time in as many hours tears reached out for the edge of her eyes.


"Are you sure?"

Debbie nodded her head. I had my records sent to Dr. Houseman and he, he..."

Charlotte finished her mom's sentence, "confirmed the diagnosis."

Debbie nodded her head again.

"And why won't you do anything?"

Debbie sat back down next to her daughter and placed one of her hands between her own. "Sweetheart, Nana had ovarian cancer. She fought the good fight, only to be sick for the last remaining months of her life."

Now through a streams of tears Charlotte asked, "How long?"

"A few months, a year -- it depends on how aggressively it progresses."

"Will you stay here with us?"

Sobbing now herself, Debbie replied, "I was hoping we could stay here with you, Sam and the girls, but your life is so complicated. Really, we'll be fine. We'll head down to Florida and stay in our old community."

"No Mom," Charlotte leaned over and hugged her mom. "I want you to stay here, with us, with family."

"Okay, we'll stay."

Charlotte smiled. "Let's go tell everyone we have guests for dinner and then some."


Part 56

Before her mother was through the doorway Charlotte asked, "What's going on?"

Debbie slowly walked over to the chair next to her daughter's side of the bed and sat down.

"We saw Dr. Houseman today and..."

"And we saw Dr. Reid," her mother shot back.

Her mother's announcement took her aback. "Dr. Reid, what for? Is Jenny okay?"

"His nurse called and supposedly Jenny had her follow up appointment this morning. They were wondering why she didn't make."

With everything that was going on... But seriously how could anyone remember the details of her screwed up circus of a life? "What did he say?"

"He said she is a walking miracle. That he expected her to regain full use of her arm and hand, but he's never seen a spinal cord injury heal so quickly."

One good thing; thank God. "Thanks for taking her. I completely forgot."

Debbie rested her hand on her daughter's shoulder. "It's understandable. You've got a lot going on yourself." Then changing the subject she asked, "What are you doing up here? What are you writing?"

Charlotte glanced down at her hands, still poised on the keyboard. "Relaxing. Trying to gain an evener kneel."

Then Debbie's eyes brightened and her hand shot into her pocket. "That editor of your's called. He wanted to know if you could take an assignment for January. Something about homeless women and facing their roads to recovery."

It sounded interesting to Charlotte, but...

"It would give you something to write, and you'd get paid."

Yes, it would be the best of both worlds, if she could manage to keep her life's details on track. She took the slip of paper from her mother's outstretched hand. "Thanks, I'll think about it. There's a lot going on now."

Debbie's eyes turned away from her daughter. Charlotte took it as an admission of guilt. "You were already heading east when Sam called you, weren't you."

"Not quite, but yes we were packing up to leave in the next day or two."

"And you didn't mention it?"

"Don't you think your life was crazy enough without adding my medical issues to the mix?"

"Yes, but no... You should've said something. You've been here a while now. It could have been mentioned, oh by the way, I need to to see the doctor too."

"But why make you worry?"

"Why not?"

Debbie stood and slowly paced from the door to the bed. Her hand was rubbing her chin. Her head was down. Finally, in a thin voice she murmured, "There's nothing anyone can do. It's ovarian cancer."


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Part 55

The ride was home was quiet. When they walked into the house, it was even quieter. Looking at her husband for the first time since leaving the doctors, Charlotte said, "I'm going upstairs." Peering over his wire frames, he didn't say a word. He didn't follow her.

Upstairs, changed into her elastic waisted fleece pants and one of Sam's sweatshirts, Charlotte retreated under her covers, taking her lap top with her. Not thinking about her mother, father, her children or husband, she opened up a fresh text file and taking a deep breath, started the write. The question what to write crossed her mind as her laid her fingers on the keyboard. It doesn't matter, , was the answer that quickly followed. For in writing, she found a calmness, and that was exactly what she needed.

On her 19th birthday, Jessie with her car keys jingling in her hand, waved good bye to her parents, John and Elizabeth Byrd, said she's be back in an hour and then promptly disappeared. That was eleven years ago. Could the body they dug up near the abandoned mine be hers? Her mother refused to believe it. In her heart she knew her daughter was still alive. In their picture window she kept a Christmas candle burning.

Who are you holding out hope for now? Charlotte didn't have an answer. Not for her stream of consciousness story, or for her own life. Live was just too fleeting. It was frigging yesterday when she and Sam got married. It seemed like this morning when Sarah, then Jessie and Lovie were born. Would she be burying her own mother later this afternoon? A tear coursed down her left cheek.

"Mrs. Byrd," it was Lt. Drew, the Officer that handled the cold cases, on the phone, "do you recall whether Jessie wore a black leather chocker with barbed decorations?"

Elizabeth couldn't believe her ears; black leather, barbed decorations? "No, not my Jessie."

The line went silent. "I'm sorry, but you have the wrong girl. Your calling the wrong parents."

"Mrs. Byrd, due to the start of the body the coroner has only been able to make a partial dental match."

More silence.

"Mrs. Byrd, I'm pretty sure that we've found your daughter."

"Well, I'm not." And with that Elizabeth hung up the phone.

Charlotte's fingers were poised on the keys, waiting for the next story line to pop into her head when there was a soft knock upon her door. Leaving Jessie and Elizabeth's world behind, she answered, "Who is it?"

"It's me, dear, your mother. May I come in?"


Friday, November 23, 2007

Part 54

"I'm sorry Charlotte, but the baby's measurements are still indicative of a problem with chromosome 18."

How could this be, with the good news wave they had been riding? "Are you sure doctor?"

Dr. Houseman looked to Sam, and then to Charlotte. "I wish I could tell you differently. Maybe things will change, but I don't have a whole lot of faith on this one... I'm sorry."

Tears leaked down both Charlotte's and Sam's face.

Then writing on her records the doctor said, "We'll continue to do the ultrasounds."

"Okay, we'll be back in two weeks," said Sam.

"Oh, I won't see you before?"

Charlotte's face wrinkled with puzzlement. "What?"

"Well, I probably have said too much..."

"You might as well finish saying it," added Sam as he continued to hold his wife's hand.

"It's your mother. She came to see me this morning." Then glancing down at his desk he continued, "Maybe you should go home and talk with her."


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Part 53

With another ultrasound scheduled in the morning, yes, maybe it was a sign of good things to come. All these ultrasounds; if her risk of losing the baby wasn't so high, she'd of had that amnio. Even Dr. Houseman wasn't for it. So instead the battery of picture sessions was before her. Usually Sam came with her for these events would he be put for this one.

That night, before turning in they went over the schedule for the next day with her parents.

"Sarah is off to school at 6:30" said Sam.

"That's awful, " interrupted Charlotte's dad. "How do they expect these kids to learn on very little sleep?"

"They don't. Then the little ones walk at 8:30."

"I'll walk them," volunteered Debbie.

"Jake, from Jake's Oil and Heating is coming sometime between 10 and 3, Sarah comes home either at 2:50 or 4, the little one's need to get picked up at 3:15, and," turning towards his wife, "our ultrasound is at 4."

So he was planning on coming with her. But what about his meeting? The thought had no sooner flashed through her mind when her dad said those same exact words.

"Seven o'clock."

Settling back into his chair, Charlotte's dad announced, "I'll go with you. With living out of that box and moving for a living, I don't have a usual support network anywhere. It's great to see some of the old boys again."

Charlotte didn't know for sure, but she wondered if her dad really needed to be going to these meetings or whether he was being the supportive network that Sam needed. With Charlie and Angie away for still another month, having her dad around for Sam was looking to be another good thing.

"If the ultrasound is over, I'll go," stated Sam.

Knowing if the ultrasound was not over, it could be bad news, Charlotte's dad came back with, "If the ultrasound is not over, I'll pick you up at the hospital."

It was then Debbie's turn to chime in, "I have a quick errand this morning, then I'll woman the kitchen. Some body has to feed this crew."

Yes, good things were coming.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Part 52

Sitting at a long table along side Sam and Sarah, and across from her folks and the two little ones, Charlotte could barely contain herself. With all the excitement of being served as if they lived in the 17th century, she was practically bouncing out of her seat.

"Mom," said Sarah in a strained, but hushed voice, "the other people are looking at you. Sit still."

The fact that Sarah was correcting her, made Charlotte laugh causing her to fall off the bench. The only thing that saved her from hitting the floor was she fell against two men sitting at the table behind them.

"Oh, I'm sorry, " she gushed like a school girl. "This is my first time eating like a Pilgrim. Have you done this before?"

The men smiled at each other, helped Charlotte back into her place, and not answering her question, quickly returned to their own conversations with their own families.

"They probably think you're a drunk," whispered Sarah.

Realizing Sarah was the voice of reason, she was a bit more reserved, and cowering like a dog caught with the beef bones from the trash can in its mouth, said, "Sorry."

Until the food arrived, Charlotte sat with her hands in her lap. Was her school girl demeanor because she was in the presence of her parents? They had only been wonderful since arriving. Walking the girls to school. Running out to get take out for last night's dinner. Her dad even went to a meeting with Sam. It had been a while since he had been to one, so under the guise of probably needing a refresher, accompanied his son-in-law. Her mom washed, dried and folded the five loads of whites and colors that had managed to spill out of the laundry room. And now they were at Plymouth Plantation eating like Pilgrims.

First was the bread and butter, followed by turkey and stewed pompion. The turkey was wonderful, but one bite of the pompion and Charlotte thought her whole body, being lead by her digestive tract, was heading for heaven. Attracting the attention of their historic interpreter server, she asked, "What is this?"

"Pompion, mamam."

"What is pompion?"

"It is a vegetable that grows well here. Maybe you've seen it out in our fields."

Charlotte had been to Plymouth many times, but never saw a pompion. "You say it grows well here."

"Yes, mamam." Then giving a hint, "It's a large orange flesh. We stew it with a bit of butter, some ginger, salt and vinegar."


"Some from a foreign land may call it that."

For all she knew pumpkin was only good for pie, and pumpkin pie was not a favorite by a long shot. Given the chance to have pumpkin pie or nothing for dessert, Charlotte would choose nothing, thank you.

The next dish served was a dish taken from the Wompanoag called potage. A maize based dish with spinach and fresh herbs. Looking around at her family, Charlotte saw she wasn't the only member truly enjoying these very traditional foods. Catching the eye of their interpreter, she asked, "Is there anyway we can get these recipes?"

"I believe there is a book available mamam."

Lovie piped up, "You have to get it. I love this stuff."

With food dripping down her fingers, Jenny nodded her agreement.

And they would, since Lovie was such a picky eater. It would be a pleasure to serve something nutritious that she would actually eat willingly.

For dessert there was Indian Pudding, a pudding based upon corn meal and molasses. "We have to have this too," added Sarah. Who obviously had shared her sister's enthusiasm for the meal.

At the end of the meal, the Panchots waddled through the gift store in search of the cookbook. "Here it is Mom," shouted Jenny. The book in hand they slowly walked back to her parents mobile home. And as they head home on Route 3, the sun setting on another different but perfect Thanksgiving, Charlotte said, "Thanks, Mom and Dad. This was perfect."

Her mom just smiled and said, "Things always work out in the end."

Charlotte nodded, and despite this not being the end, was happy for some peace and happiness. On this Thanksgiving she was thankful for the tiny baby that surprised them all, for it brought her parents across the country, and gave them a Thanksgiving that was out of the ordinarily special. Maybe it was a sign...


Part 51

Still sitting behind the closed bathroom door, Charlotte was dried off, and dressed when there came a familiar rapping sounded on the other side of the door.

"Sweetheart, it's me." The voice was all too familiar, all too sing- songy.

Charlotte's heart sank down into the baby. Swallowing hard, she tried to bolster her spirits. "I'll be right out."

"Daddy and I have a surprise, so do hurry."

Determined to put a better foot forward, Charlotte put a smile on her face, and picked up her discarded pajamas. Opening the door, she wrapped her full arms around her mother, said, "Hi Mom." and noted that Deborah Jane Landis seemed smaller and more frail.

"How are you, dear?"

"Fine. I just have to take it easy." Charlotte walked past her mother and started towards her bedroom. Her mother followed. "How are you?"

"Can't complain." Then changing the subject, "Did Sam keep our trip a secret?"

"Yes, I had no idea you and Dad were coming."

Her mother giggled like a school girl. "We made him promise not to tell."

"Well he didn't." Her voice almost giving away the frustration she was feeling.

"This is so exciting. Oh due hurry up so we can go down stairs."

"I'm all set." The words out of her mouth Charlotte wondered if she was ever really all set for her parents. Oh they were well meaning, and loved her and her family deeply, but they were eccentric -- to be nice. Having sold their home, and bought a land ark, they traveled all the time. Their communication limited to sporadic emails and the static filled cell phone conversations, Charlotte never knew really where they were on any given day. Occasionally package would arrive from far away places like Nevada or Oregon, even even close by places like New Jersey with tshirts and pressed pennies for the girls. Cheers would erupt, "A new penny!" and a push pin was placed in the girls' map of the United States that hung in the family room. Thinking of the map made her smile.

As she walked down the stairs, Charlotte was delighted that last night's mess was no where in sight, or detectable. Of course her parent's knew Sam had a little problem. But who wants to face it the minute they stop in for a visit. Was this a visit? Or was it something more permanent? What was her parents' news?

Walking into the kitchen, the sound of sizzling bacon and her father's military embrace greeted her. "Hi Dad."

"Hello Charlotte." Having been in the military, active and reserves for over 40 years, the military style was all he knew. Growing up his daughter learned not to press for any more emotion than he was able to present. Besides her mother more than made up for him.

Seated at the kitchen table, her morning decaf before her, Charlotte asked. "So what do we owe this visit to?"

Unable to contain herself anymore Charlotte's mother blurted, "We're here for Thanksgiving."

Charlotte's first thought was, Oh God, there's no food in the house. It dawned on her that there was no sign of turkey, no stuffing, no ten pound bag of potatoes waiting in the wings to be peeled. "Well, that is a surprise." Still wondering with Thanksgiving the next day, what they were going to eat.

"Yes it will be a regular Pilgrim experience."

Charlotte laughed. She absolutely loved visiting Plymouth Plantation and that first Thanksgiving wasn't any thing like what is depicted in all those children's stories. "What, 90 Wompanoag men are coming to our door, baring 5 deer and many fowl."

"Close, we're going to Plymouth for a Thanksgiving feast."

The girls were jumping about the kitchen screaming with delight. Sam, still a bit hung over, was a bit more jovial as he now stirred the scrambled eggs. And Charlotte was more delighted than them all put together. Were they in for the Victorian meal, the traditional American faire, or the rugged Pilgrim feast? Regardless, it was her dream to eat their. But how could you break with the tradition of cooking at home?

Her mother, her smile wrapped clear across her face said, "We've had this plan for weeks now. As soon as we heard you were pregnant, we made the reservation. Figuring you wouldn't really want to cook."

It was true. She didn't want to cook. And now with all her restrictions, she couldn't cook. Basking in the fullness of delight Charlotte replied, "You're right. And this is so wonderful. Thank you."

Her dad, lowering his guard for a moment added, "Don't thank us yet. The only feast we could get is the one were you eat with your hands."

Charlotte gave off a guffaw, while the girls cheered all the louder.

(17969 -- Some how I don't think this number will say 50000 in a week and a half...)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Part 50

A agitated knock at the door shattered the moment. As the words, "Who is it?" formed, Charlotte's mouth, and throat reemerged in the physical world.

"It's Jenny, I need to go."

Charlotte wanted to remind her daughter of the bathroom downstairs, but didn't. "Come in."

"It sure is steamy in here."

Getting back to the business of washing, Charlotte attacked her curly locks with some shampoo, and her fingers and scalp reappeared. She then ran her puffy scrubber over her legs, arms, before massaging her belly with gentle circles. Her skin tingled with the new citrus soap she had ordered from the Body Shop.

"Are you going to be in there all day?"

Charlotte thought to answer her daughter, yes, but instead asked why.

And simultaneously with flushing the toilet, Jenny gave her the answer she didn't want to hear, "Because Nana and Grandpa are ..... over." Her voice was muffled by the swirling water.

Charlotte nearly fell in the tub, trying to get her head out of the water stream and on the other side of the curtain. She had to make sure she had heard correctly. "Did you say Nana and Grandpa are coming over?"

"No, replied Jenny, this time the water from the faucet muffling her voice, "I said they are here."

On one dire exhalation she was all back in the physical world, and in no way prepared for what lay ahead.


Part 49

Charlotte offered to help clean up the mess, but Sam wouldn't let her, ushering her upstairs into the bathroom for a shower, turning on the water for her before leaving her alone. Charlotte dropped her clothes to the floor and watched her rounding shape disappear as the mirror fogged over.

There are some days I wish I could just disappear. And stepping into the pulsating warm wash she imagined that as each soothing droplet splashing upon her, it erased tiny bit of her physical self. Until at the end all that could be left would be thought; no substance. She stood there allowing the back of her head and shoulders to disappear, then her ass before she turned around and sprayed the water full force in her face. Keeping her eyes closed so that as pure thought she'd still be able to see. She pictured her new self, a vaporous cloud with eyes. What will I need eyes for? The answer, "The better to see you with my dear," rumbled out of her throat.

She shook her spirited head and then washed away all physical sense of her legs and feet, and as she went to wash away her abdomen breasts she stopped. For the baby. Thoughts escaped for the baby. Dr. Houseman had been so worried about saving the mother, the wellbeing of the baby had been put on a back shelf. Now that she was stable, the tests would resume.

Warm, resounding choruses of, No Worries, filled her head. No worries, and then Bob Marley joined in with, "Every thing is going to be all right. Every thing is going to be all right. No worry no cry." It certainly was a more interesting place being a shower spirit.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Part 48

The sweet song of chickadees dipped into Charlotte's unconscious and brought her back to her pink paradise. Wrapped up in her grandmother's quilt, she hadn't slept so long or so deeply for months. Maybe this chair isn't such a bad place after all. She didn't want to move. The feel of the warm upholstery cushioning her was a comfort.

"Mommy." It was Lovie. She had padded into the family room still in her purple plush footie pajamas. "Did you fall asleep in your chair?"

"Yes," giggled Charlotte.

"Daddy slept all sick."

Charlotte's jaw flew open. "Where is he?"

"At the bottom of the stairs."

Dear God, I hope he's all right. Had he fallen? Struggling to get out from under the quilt, she threw the covers off onto the floor and practically catapulted herself out of the chair. "Sam, Sam are you okay?"

Her passed out husband was sprawled out over the three bottom steps, head down, mouth just inches from a dried pool of vomit. When she saw him, it was all she could do not to get sick herself.

"See Mommy," said Lovie, "maybe it's a stomach virus."

Despite what she was facing Charlotte smiled at her daughter's innocence. "Yes, maybe it is a stomach virus." Then reaching over she gently touched his shoulder and shook him.

"Are you okay?"

Blurry-eyed and hung over, Sam answered, "I've been better."


Another picture worth 1,000 words

Part 47

Charlotte was still up when Sam came through the door at 8:30 that night. She let out a sigh of relief before getting up from her pink chair sanctuary and as she walked into the mudroom, watched him close for any signs of staggering.

"Are you okay?" asked looking at her husband's back. Sam was half in and half out of the closet hanging up his coat.

A barely audible, "I'm fine," came out of the clothes.

"Where have you been?"

Still without facing his wife, Sam answered, "Where do you think?"

Immediately the words "A bar" shot into her head. They were front and center flashing like a neon sign right before her eyes. A shutter traveled through her. Should she admit that she thinks he failed? What would that mean? What would it do? Before she could put out any kind of an answer Sam turned around and shoveing his face right into Charlotte's yelled, "Where do you think, I've been?"

She turned her head to avoid the smell of gin, and whispered, "A bar, I thought you were at a bar."

"Glad I didn't let you down."


I love this picture

New from a quick trip to Plymouth Plantation. I know it's just a bed, but the light and the dark speak to me. I walked into one of the homes, saw the light coming in the window and shot. That was it. Okay, I took two pictures. I absolutely love that place. I learn so much every time we go there. I see so many wonderful sites to photograph.

Part 46

Charlotte was back in her slice of pink heaven with her copy in one hand and a pen gripped in the other. Her mind was elsewhere. Wandering from townie bar to townie bar, trying to find her husband, when Jenny and Lovie walked into the family room.

"Mom," said Jenny, "Where's daddy? We want something to eat."

The words no cooking rattled in her head. But it was after 2 in the afternoon and Sam had been gone for three hours and ten minutes. "What do you think you want?"

"Noodles," said Lovie.

"Salami sandwich," said Jenny.

Standing up Charlotte thought I can do that. Neither is heavier than a cup of coffee. But as she headed to the kitchen, again she heard: No cooking. She argued back -- it's nothing.

But what about Sam? If she cooked anything it could negate his sense of purpose and his help. And what about herself? Is her need to control a situation a lot like drinking? Sure she could handle this one situation, but could she stop. Or would it set a precedent? With the mayonnaise in her hand, Charlotte turned to Lovie and asked, "Where's Sarah?'

"Upstairs doing homework."

Charlotte sat down at the kitchen table. "Would you go get her for me?"

Both girls ran off with Lovie screaming, "She told me to do it."

And as she waited for her oldest to appear, and rescue her from herself, Charlotte stared at the mayonnaise jar in her hand. It was heavier than a cup of coffee.


Part 45

It was great to be home, but at the same time it was terrible. Sam had her sitting in the family room with her knitting to one side, the tv remote at the other, along with a bottle of water. The girls were being good, so that was one on the plus column. But the last time she attempted to do some writing Sam brought the kitchen timer over to her desk and gave her the look.

"What?" she barked, being stuck on the wording of a particularly long sentence.

"Three minutes."

"I'm sitting. It's just like sitting over there," she said pointing to her pink lazy boy thrown not ten feet away.

"Houseman said."

"I don't care what he said," sh e barked again.

Sam put the timer down and walked away. Her anger wasn't at him. It was really all about her senseless use of commas, and her insistence to write exactly how she spoke, on and on and on.
John was forever telling her to get to the point, and stick with it. This piece on Christmas cookies and the traditional cookie swap should have been wrapped up in the hospital. She selected to print the piece, pushed the keyboard away, pulled the copy out of the printer, then sought out Sam for forgiveness.

He was in the front hall.

"I'm sorry."

"You can't be this way for the next 25 weeks."

Charlotte knew what he was saying between the lines was: If she kept up this attitude that she would drive him right back to the bottle. She wouldn't become his excuse. "I won't accept the blame for your disease nor your choices." Why did Charlie and Angie have to go out of town now?

Sam bit his tongue. "I'm going out."

Charlotte didn't want to ask where. She didn't want know. Rubbing her head with her hand, pushing hard on her eyes, she shook her head okay. And as she watched her husband walk towards the door she called after him, I love you."

"I love you too, but right now I'm loving something more."


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Part 44

Three days to T-day. It had been three weeks in the hospital. Sam had been home alone with the three girls for the past three days. Getting them up, making the breakfast, packing two lunches while overseeing the third, putting them on the bus, well two of them, then going to his two to three meetings a day, food shopping, laundry, cooking or buying dinners, then tucking the three into bed. Three was a magic number. And today, three days from the family feast at three o'clock Charlotte was going home.

"No cooking, cleaning, lifting anything heavier than a cup of coffee..." Her discharge orders were three pages long and it seemed like Dr. Houseman was hell bent to read them all to her.

Charlotte interrupted trying for a bit of levity, "I can't have a Ben and Jerry's Vermonster?"

Without missing a beat he replied, "Keep it resting on the table until you get to the bottom of it. Then you can tip it into your mouth to drink the last remaining three drops."

There certainly were a lot of threes in her life right now.

"No driving, no laundry, no stress..." the doctor paused and looking over the top of his glasses said, "if you can't write without stress -- no writing." He continued on, "No volunteering at the school."

"Why, all I do is read at the library, shelve books..."

The doctor wrote and recited, "No shelving books."

He then switched his tune. "You may: rest, eat, sleep, sit at the computer for 3 minutes at a time, get yourself a timer."

Charlotte started to protest, but the doctor interrupted her. "You can get a lot done in three minutes," then continued his list, "watch TV, knit, do crosswords that do not come in books heavier than a cup of coffee. Am I making myself clear?"

His patient nodded. If it was the only way for her to get home, she would agree to anything.

"And no stairs."

"But my bedroom is on the second floor."

Doctor and patient stared at each other. Was this the straw that would break the back of the camel that was going to carry her home? Houseman sighed and pulled on his lips with his hand. He sighed again... "You can go up and down the stairs three times. That's 6 trips a day. After that no more.

There is a lot of power in the number three.

(15633) -- Getting there...

Part 43

It wasn't long after breakfast that the Panchot-Westing brigade invaded the hospital. This time instead of visiting Jenny, she was leading their charge, bursting through her mother's door singing, "I am Mrs. Turkey, Turkey, Turkey. I am Mrs. Turkey big and fat." Her sisters were close behind giggling. And following them, with two grande Annie's coffees, for Sam and Charlotte, were Charlie and Angie, neither smiling, both looking quite tired.

"When I walk I wabble, wabble, waaaabble...."

Looking at Angie, not to talk over her daughter's singing Charlotte mouthed,"Everything all right?"

Angie shot her a pensive smile.

"When I walk I wabble, what do you think of that?"

Laughter burst out of everyone, while Charlotte watched for signs of her daughter's paralysis. There were none. She was a walking miracle. Content to be among her family, she waved for the girls to crawl up on her bed with her. Lovie was the first up. Cozying up close, tucked tight to her mother's side. Next was Jenny, a little snarly that she wasn't first, and last was Sarah who happily grabbed the open spot by her mother's feet, and asked, "How's it going?"

"Everything is going to be fine."

"And the baby?"

Charlotte looked towards Sam, and then swept the crowd before saying, "Your brother is just fine."

"A boy," screamed Jenny, "We get to have a brother!" She was practically jumping up and down on the bed.

Sam put out his hand, "Careful Jenny, mommy still has to be careful."

"But we get to have a brother." Then turning to Charlotte she asked, "How do you know?"

"It's just a feeling your father and I have. Sometimes the parents know..."

Sarah, who had been listening to her iPod chimed in, "I thought parents weren't suppose to be having those feelings."

Charlotte couldn't tell if it was a joke or just a teen covertly spouting off about her apparent parental affections. With all the brain rewiring that takes place in the teen years it was tough to keep things sorted. As she went offer a retort, her cell phone started to ring from within the bedside table.

"I'll get it," offered Sam, his hand already in the drawer and pushing the accept call button. "Hello... No she can't talk now... No... No... I don't think she's up to anymore editting until further notice... Yes, I'll have her call you back. bye," and then hung up the phone.

Charlotte made a mental note to call John back later, but nothing was said further just then.
In the pregnant pause between the end of one conversation and the start of the next, in walked Dr. Houseman. Reaching for the charter, he announced with a bit of a flair, "Hail, hail the gang's all here!" The girls giggled some more.

"Looking good Charlotte." Then turning to Jenny right before dashing off said, "It's good to see you on the otherside of the hospital fence young lady."

Jenny smiled and waved her arm at him. He responded with a nod as he dashed off.

Charlotte noticed that Angie and Charlie, who had been keeping out of the mix, were still seemingly restless. She asked again, "Everything okay?"

Angie nodded again , but Charlie answered, "No."

Charlotte marveled at his honesty. "What's up?"

"We hate to do this to you, but we have to go to Dallas for a week or so. Angie's dad is expecting us for the holiday."

"We hate to leave, it being Thanksgiving and all" added Angie, "But..."

"There are no buts, " interrupted Sam. "Of course you'll go. We'll be fine. Won't we girls?"

The girls nodded their heads in a sing song kind of way, while Charlotte was hoping they wouldn't be eating turkey hospital style.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Part 42

The doctor gone to complete his rounds, with the promise to return, Charlotte and Sam were as close as two people could be, where one was in a hospital bed and the other sitting in the bedside chair.

"Charlotte," Sam spoke her name softly. "I have to tell you something."

Please God, let it not be an affair. Remembering her husband picks the most inopportune times to drop bombs like, needing AA, and quitting his job. She braced herself, and hoped that her baby, was it really a boy, was braced as well.


"You said that already."

"Charlotte..." His wife waved her hand in the air, trying to rush him to the punch.

"When the hospital called, I was in bed dreaming."


"I was dreaming about playing cards with three women in a hotel room. They were telling me that everything was going to all right and to go to you. Next thing I knew the phone was ringing and the rest is history."

Charlotte smiled. "Or is it her story?"

Sam rubbed his hand across his wife's abdomen. "Or maybe it is the beginning of our story?"


Part 41

"Are you saying that heaven is a hotel room? That Mary the Mother of God plays cards?"

Sam was not a believer. Charlotte knew that, and not to put her husband over the edge she calmly answered, "Heaven must be what you make it."

Husband and wife just looked at each other until Sam's gazed dropped and Charlotte thought she was going to lose him to the bottle. That the moment he walked out of the hospital, he'd walk into a bar. She reached out and laid her hand upon his. "It's just a dream, Sam. But I feel that everything is going to be okay."

As Sam parted his lips to speak the door to the room swung open and in stepped Dr. Houseman. "Little lady you are one lucky soul." He was practically falling over himself with excitement. "I have to tell you, on the way into the OR, I honestly thought for sure we were going to lose you, and was sure we'd lost the baby."

Despite having a deep feeling that all was going to be well, Charlotte's face turned shock grey.

"And then you coded on the table..."

"Coded?" interrupted Sam, who practically shot up out of his chair.

The doctor's demeanor softened. "We lost her for a moment."

The room went silent. Charlotte knew she would have to break the dam that neither her doctor nor her husband knew what to say next. So putting on a bright face she said, "No worries, everything is fine now."

"You always say no worries. In this case, I would say it's no worries -- for now."

The three of them sat together until early morning rounds. The heart monitor beeping a steady rhythm of life.


Friday, November 16, 2007

Part 40

When Charlotte woken up, Sam was sitting next to her, rubbing his eyes with his hands. His eyes and face were red. His cheeks were still wet from what had to be tears.

"Sam," she called in a sleepy voice.

At the sound of her voice, her husband burst into tears. "Oh Charlotte, I thought I was going to lose you." His shoulders heaved. His whole body shaking so much that it looked like he'd fall off his chair.

"It's okay Sam. It's going to be okay," reassured Charlotte.

"Dr. Houseman said the baby is miraculously still attached to the placenta, but that you could lose it anytime. OH CHARLOTTE! I can't lose you."

Charlotte smiled. She loved her man. "Everything is going to be okay. Mary told me."

She pushed herself to talk above her husband's sobs. "When I was on the table, I dreamed I was visiting Mary the Mother of God in a hotel room. She was playing cards with three other women and they told me everything was going to be okay. That it wasn't my time, and that our son needed me."

Sam had stopped sobbing and was now intent on what his wife was saying. He was not a believer, but supported Charlotte's choice to take the girls to church and send them to religious education classes.

Very relaxed and serene Charlotte reached up and stroked the side of her husband's face. "Everything is going to be okay."


Part 39

Dr. Houseman glanced down at the bed and saw the blood stain spreading out on the sheets. Diving over Charlotte he grabbed the nurse call button and yelled, "Nurse stat, call the O.R..We have a bleeder."

Charlotte was woozy. Still she thought, with that tone of voice, he didn't need the call button.

In no time the room was full of medical personal. Dr. Houseman was barking orders. And the staff were preforming in what seemed like medical military precision. "Charlotte," called the doctor, "Can you hear me?"

Charlotte opened her eyes and nodded. They were wheeling her down the hall.

"We're taking you to surgery. We have to stop this bleeding."


Charlotte nodded again.

"Charlotte," Dr. Houseman put his hand on her shoulder as he ran along side the gurney. "I'll do everything I can for you... and then the baby."

As she feel back to what seemed like a dreamless sleep Charlotte wondered what he meant by that. Of course he'll help the baby. that was his job.

Part 38

"You work harder than the nursing staff on the west wing."

Charlotte looked up from her typing to see Dr. Houseman resting on the door jam. "Not so, I've had the pleasure of watching them busting their... humps for over two weeks now."

"You've been hunch over that computer for two days now." Dr. Houseman was pointing to her record that hung on the end of her bed. "It's all in there, workaholic, not a candidate for continuing bed rest at home."

Charlotte's shoulders slumped. "What's that mean? That I'm here for the duration?"

"You'll have another ultrasound today and if the placenta shows signs of moving up the wall, you might be able to go home in a few days."

Charlotte's cell phone rang. While she talked in a heated conversation over whether the figures on a dietary requirements table were accurate, Dr. Houseman , busied himself with her chart. At the end of the conversation, she slammed the phone down on the bedside table.

"That's not going to help little Joey?"

"Really, a boy?" There was hope and excitement in her eyes and voice.

"Boy, girl at this stage it's all the same."

"Not really... a boy would be a nice addition."

"No, a healthy baby would be a nice addition, don't you think?"

The doctor was right. She needed to relax. After all that was why she was here. Breathe in, breathe out... breathe in.... again. But Charlotte wasn't used to being idle and just sitting. Finally she asked, "What's the harm in doing a little writing? I'm not up and around. I'm in this bed."

"That's my point, it's not a little, and from that phone call am I correct in concluding that it was John."

"You were listening in," Charlotte was on the verge of indignant.

"Charlotte, the whole wing heard. Besides it's 10:30. All good mothers to be are in bed, sleeping at this time."

"And all good doctors, where are they?"

"On there way home from delivering babies." Dr. Houseman smiled. "Can you go to sleep now and lay off the work at least until afternoon tomorrow.?"

A pained expression came over her face. "I think I'm going to have to."

Silence blanketed the room as a tear coursed down her cheek. "Dr. Houseman I think I'm bleeding."


Part 37

Charlotte spent the next two days, typing, sending the disk home with Sam to have its contents email out and, editing via cell phone, in which every conversation she fielded the question, "Why aren't we doing this through email? Your doc comes across fine." Her answer, "I can send messages fine, but it's the coming back that is fowled up. Must be the SMTP server." John never said anything after she geek-spoke. They had never met, but she assumed he was a reporter of old, preferring the typewriter to the computer.

At dinner time the whole family was coming in. Actually the visits started after school and lasted until right after bed. Angie, with Jenny in tow, would go to the schools and pick up Sarah then Laverne, then drive on over. The girls would work on homework first, then play smuggled in board games on the empty bed next to Charlotte's. Charlie with Sam, who was back and forth for pony express emailing purposes, would arrive together after the 1 PM AA meeting, packing pizza, or real take out from a real restaurant to feed the troops. Life was going along like clockwork, but still Charlotte couldn't imagine another 27 weeks of this.

As the 4 PM news came on, the smell of Chinese food wafted into the room. Without looking up from her homework Sarah said, "Hi Dad. Hi Charlie."

The men put the bags of food down and then walked over and kissed the girls from Angie to Lovie, right down the line.

"How's it going?" asked Charlotte, knowing she really shouldn't ask about the meetings, but hoping she'd get an answer.

"It's going okay," answered Charlie, who then looked towards Sam. "As you know it's a slow road."

She did know. But she also knew, bottom line, she needed the stability of her husband staying away from the bottle. Sam curled up next to his wife on her bed, and whispered in her ear, "A day at a time, sometimes moment to moment, but we'll get there." She turned and kissed him. Each time he had a relapse, which wasn't often, this being the third time in the 14 years since he stood up and introduced himself at a meeting, she recognized the fact that it was harder and harder to stop drinking. She loved him for his efforts.

"Can we eat?" It was Lovie, "I'm starving."

"Truly starving?" asked Charlotte, taking her attention off the wispy hairs on Sam's neck.

"I could eat Brussel sprouts starving."

"That's starving, you hate Brussel sprouts. Sure let's eat."

Everyone worked together to set a table on Charlotte's bed and side table. Paper plates laid out, the food cartons were placed on the side table and then passed around. The room grew quiet after they said grace and dug in.



For those just joining in mid month, this crazy 47 year old is attempting to do it all, and combining the write once a day group with the write a novel in a month group. Yes, she maybe accused of having way too much time on her hands, but it's probably not true. So, if you want to read along from the start you have to go to Part 1 and move forward, which scrolls backwards on a blog.

Don't be surprised if I take a few days off when the month is over.

Disclaimer: The only thing true in this story is I'm 47 years old.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Part 36

Across the top of her copy Charlotte typed: To discuss changes, call my cell phone. Email is unreliable. Then saving the file to a CD, handed it over to Sam to email for her from home. "Think this will work?" The this being the sneaker file transfer system.

"I hope so. Writing gives me something to do besides getting ideas of grandeur from HGTV."

Sam shook his head. "Please no more ideas. It always looks so easy on TV."

"It must be their behind the scenes crew."

"Yes it must." And after blowing his wife a kiss from the doorway, he was off to email off the payload.

The room was quiet. She never had time for herself, and didn't really know what to do with herself in all this quiet. Walking about was out of the question. With her head back on the pillow she wondered if and when they would let her out of bed. Something about the placenta moving up the uterine wall. Three kids out of the shoot and never a problem like this.

More quiet. She listened to her heart beating. Or was she being so still that she could actually feel it pulsating in her chest? She moved her foot and cold room air moved in under the sheets, cooling the hairs on her toes. Nobody should have this much free time so they can feel the hair on their toes stand at attention.

And just as she was melting into the mattress and allowing every cell in her body and willing those of the babies, to relax, her cell phone rang, nearly vibrating off the bedside table, bringing her back into this world.

She recognized the number. "Hi John"

"Hi, how are you?"

"Fine, just hanging out."

"Where, a gym... there is quite an echo."

Looking about the room, it didn't seem that big, Charlotte replied, "No," then asked, "What can I do for you?"

"How's the piece?"

"Fine, it should be in the email shortly."

"I'll be waiting for it."

"No worries, it's on its way."


Part 35

For most of the afternoon Charlotte was propped up in the hospital bed, hunched over her laptop, and burning away at the keys. She stopped typing for the nurses to take her vitals and when Sam brought them large coffees. After that first sip, her shoulders relaxed and a glazed look came over her eyes. "Just how I like it."

Sam looked to see if the coast was clear for a playful banter before saying, "I thought only sex could put that look on your face."

Charlotte smiled and retorted, "Yup, sex or good coffee; the only two ways to my heart."

"I'm sure when you get home, we can find a few more ways."

"If I'm not mistaken is was that type of exploring that got me into the hospital."

Sam took a good long sip before asking, "Any idea of when you're getting out?"

Before she answered, "I don't know," Charlotte could've sworn the coffee was having the same effect on him.

Then through the door came Dr. Houseman. "Is that Annie's coffee I smell. There is none better." He took out his stethoscope and listened to her heart. He looked through her chart and seemed to scribble across a few pages.

Cutting into the doctor's sharp motions, Charlotte asked, "Any ideas of when I can fly this coop?"

His reply was, "Any ideas just how hard it is to stay in bed at home?"

"Total bed rest, as in no cooking, cleaning, driving to church functions, PTO meetings, or Girl Scouts, food shopping or the dump?"

"Especially the dump, but all of the later too."

Charlotte looked to Sam, who looked to Dr. Houseman, who was still looking at Charlotte, waiting for a real answer.


Part 34

Jenny home. The hospital wasn't quite the same. The hustle and bustle of life was out beyond the privacy curtain that was pulled halfway across the door. In the relative quiet Charlotte's eyes were closing in on nap when her cell phone rang. Half in this world and half in a dream, it took her awhile to find the dam thing. But it always took her a while.


"Charlotte, this is John."

Oh God, the editor... "Hi John, how are you?"

"Fine, and how are things with you?" Then cutting to the chase. "How's the article coming?"

She'd forgotten about this month's assignment. How could she? How could she not? Life was just rolling along, with or without her private band. "I haven't had time to work on it. Jenny's was sick. I'm really not up to snuff..."

"Can you get it to me by Wednesday? The layout artists are looking for copy."

"But you haven't seen word one." She hadn't written word one. "What about the usual 47 rounds of what you want and what I'm willing to write?"

"No time. I trust you. Can you do it?"

What should she tell him? As her editor they had a close working relationship. Calling at all hours of the night, interrupting dinners, homework. There was even the phone call in the children's clothing store dressing room. Two kids trying on clothes, and he wanted to mince words over the copy. But despite their apparent ability to work together, now for over a year, they had never met. How much do you share with an email address, and a voice on the phone?

"When's the deadline?"

"Wednesday," he shot back... his voice a bit annoyed. "Two days."

"Yeah, I have some ideas. I'll do it."

"Get me a rough draft by this afternoon."

"All right." And their conversation ended.

Charlotte paused for a minute, to wonder about internet access in the hospital, before calling home. "Hi Sam, it's me."

"Hi me, it's Sam."

She was smiling, picturing his own smiling face on the other end of the line.

"I need my laptop."

"It's packed by the door. I figured you would. John just called and I told him you were out, but he might be able to reach you on your cell."

"Yeah, he called. I have till this after to get him a rough copy."

"Charlie and I'll bring it over after dropping the girls at school, and before our meeting."

A bit surprised to hear the girls were being dropped off at school, Charlotte asked, "And Jenny too?"

"Oh no, Dr. Reid has prescribed bed rest, but it's tough. Angie is with her."

Charlotte could just imagine. When that 10 year old was ready to go, there was no way to hold her back. "Good luck, and thanks for dropping off the laptop."

"You're welcome."


Part 33

Jenny was well on her way. That afternoon she was moved out of ICU, and two days later she was going home. There would be no more bed swapping parties, no more midnight visiting runs, no more family sleepovers at the hospital.

While Sam was out running Sarah and Lovie to school, and Jenny was packing up her things to go home, Charlotte took the opportunity to have a comfy chat with her daughter.

"You know sweetheart, I'm really going to need you at home."

"To do what," asked Jenny, who was busy looking under the hospital bed for her sneakers.

"To help daddy. Sot hat the house runs smoothly while I'm still here."

"Can Angie and Charlie help him?"

It was the typical 10 year old response. "Yes, but they have their own house to run too, so Daddy and I need you girls to work together."

"What's Sarah and Lovie get to do?"

"Same as you, help Daddy."

Jesse took a seat up on her bed and pulled her teddy bear up to her face. "But I want a special job. Something they won't be able to do."

Why was life so difficult? "Well, your usual job is to..."

Jenny interrupted. "I don't want to empty the dishwasher."

"Okay, what would you like to do?"

"Nothing, just rest and watch TV."

A battle was starting when all she really wanted was to have a chat with her daughter, one on one. "Come here, and let me give you the cozy."

A bit leery, Jenny got up from the bed and sat down carefully on her mother's lap. "I love you so much," was all Charlotte could say. And their conversation was over. Ending in a fit of soft kisses.

(11,749, slow and steady...)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Part 32

It was after lunch before Dr. Houseman said it was okay for Charlotte to travel by wheel chair to visit Jenny. All morning, Sam, still indignant Sarah, and Lovie, being as lovable as ever, bounced between the two rooms. Watching HGTV with Mom and Cartoon Network with Jenny. Charlie had taken Angie back to the Panchot's to get a change of clothes for her and Charlotte, who noted, "I might be in the hospital but I still like my own pjs."

Upon wheeling into Jenny's room, Charlotte was met with shouts and cheers, "Mommy's here!" It was Jenny leading the chorus. Charlotte smiled. It was a blessing to see her daughter happy and bright again.

"How's the arm?"

Jenny waved it about, "Fine, see."

It was fine. Charlotte couldn't see any signs of paralysis, and was momentarily memorized by the fine finger motions her daughter was making in the air.

"Did you have lunch?"

A smile spread across Jenny's face. "Daddy brought me a salami sub, and chips."

"I didn't get that!"

Her daughter's smile spread further. "Daddy loves me more."

From behind her wheelchair Charlotte heard Sam clearing his throat.

"It must be true," was Charlotte's light response. It was what her middle child needed to hear.

"Oh," added Sam, "I can honestly say that you all have a hold on my heart. " And then from behind his back he put pints of their favorite Ben and Jerry's, with spoons, in front of them.

"Chunky Monkey," screamed Jenny.

"Phish Food," gushed Charlotte.

Then two more pints appeared, one chocolate, and one coffee for Lovie and Sarah.

"Aren't you having some?" asked Lovie with chocolate leaking out from between her lips.

Sam smiled. "Let's just say I'm batting clean up."

"Not if I have anything to say about it," said Charlotte, who was picking the chocolate fish out of the ice cream mix. "In my gentle condition, I could take you on pint for pint, and win."

The hospital was full of half frozen laughter when Dr. Reid walked in.

"I see someone else has learned of the healing powers buried at the bottom of every pint of Ben and Jerry's."

"Really?" asked Lovie.

"Ya, really," commented Sarah, rolling her eyes so far that she almost lost her balance.

"Of course, " answered the doctor. "Usually after eating an entire pint of Ben and Jerry's a patient is ready to go home, or at least be transfered out of ICU."

Jenny dug in deeper. "Well then, I'm well on my way."

(11458 -- geesh...)

Part 31

When Charlotte got back to the room Sarah was sitting on her bed talking with Angie. There were no visible signs of their previous discussion. No disgust looks thrown her way when she walked over to the opposite side of the bed and crawled back under the covers. No heavy obvious sighs that would register heavy upon the local Ritcher scale.

"How's school?" asked Angie.

"Fine, I just got a 97 on my biology quiz."

"Good for you, every thing else going okay?"

Sarah glanced at her mom before answering. "Life was good, and now this."

Charlotte rolled her eyes, but refrained from entering into the conversation. Angie had been a grandmother to Sarah from the time she was 2 years old. If anyone could talk to her typical teenager, it was Angie.

"What, honey?"

Sarah shot her mother a glance, "She's pregnant."

"And that's a bad thing?"

"It's a gross thing." Sarah got up and paced the room. "When it's in kindergarten Mom will be 52. Old enough to be a grandmother, never mind a mother. What will the other kids think?"

Leaning back against her pillow, that was the exact question Charlotte was contemplating. Then through a low chuckle she said, "Ill be the room Grand - mother."

"It's not funny, Mom. You're too old."

"It's not like I have a choice." As soon as the words left her lips, Charlotte realized that she did have a choice. A choice she swore she would never make. But what if the amnio confirmed that there was a problem? She shook her head and put those thoughts aside.

Finally Angie put in her two cents. "Your Mom and Dad are doing what they believe is the right thing to do. They are having a baby. What if they didn't have you or one of your sisters?"

Sarah smirked. "Can I make that decision retroactive?"

Charlotte just looked at her. Recognizing the fact it took a lot of patience to ride the waves of sibling rivalry.

Part 30

As Charlotte stepped into the dressing area of the hospital shower, the look on her teen's face could've curdled milk. "What?" she asked trying not to sound annoyed, but failing.

"Your stomach," the even more than annoyed Sarah whined.

Charlotte looked down and it was rounding to say the least. Trying to play it down, she shrugged her shoulders and finished drying off.


"Well, what?" replied Charlotte.

"Mom," Sarah squealed, "you're pregnant."

"It would seem so." Was this really the place to have this discussion? Obviously, to Sarah it was.
Still standing there half naked in front of her daughter made Charlotte feel very vulnerable. Quickly to even the score, she finished getting dressed and then sat down next to her daughter.

"Look, having another baby wasn't something your father and I were actively seeking to do."

"Mom," interrupted Sarah, "I know how babies are made. I know just how active you and dad have been." Then turning her back to Charlotte she said, "It's disgusting, my own parents. I'll never be able to show my face around school for as long as I live."

Now Charlotte saw the whole picture. No one ever thinks their parents still do the dirty. And now, everyone would know that these 40 somethings were still playing between the sheets. She put her hand on Sarah's shoulder, Sweetheart, I think more often than not, your friend's parents are still sexually active."

Not turning around, Sarah sputtered, "They are, but not with each other."


The teen sighed. Charlotte knew she was in for another life lesson. "No one's parents who are still married do it MOM; except obviously you and dad. But Joey's 'rents are splitting and Dave saw Joey's dad going into some lady's apartment on West 11th and .... Katie saw Mrs. Didnot coming out of the Motel 7 about a month ago."

"Don't spread rumors," interrupted Charlotte. "She could've been looking into a reservation for out of town guests."

Disgusted, Sarah used the tone, "Mom, I'm not stupid. No one puts family or friends up at the Motel 7."

She was probably right. Then taking a breath, Charlotte stated,"Sweetheart, sex is a perfectly wonderful way for two mature, adults, read not teenagers, to enjoy each other's company. It's more than just a physical act. It's an emotion bond. And I'm happy that your father and I still share that."

Picking up her mother's damp towel, Sarah headed for the door. "Well my jury is still out."

(10,706... I think I can, I think I can, I think I can....)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Part 29 -- 10,290 words -- woefully short

Charlotte woke up well after the sun had risen. A long time sufferer, or as Charlotte would say, "enjoyer", of insomnia, this morning she really enjoyed sleeping in. Her eyes still closed, as she shifted towards the left, she let the sheets slide across her abdomen and hips. She couldn't remember the last time she'd been in bed so long. It felt good; real good.

A nurse walked in. "Would you like a shower?"

Charlotte almost said, "Alone?" Meaning, no kids, no interruptions, and with plenty of hot water. Instead she said, "Sure."

The shower met all her needs. It was hot, long and there was a bench on which she rested her weary soul as the water rained down. Washing away the tension and worry that had mounted the days before. Then just as she was pruning nicely there was a knock at the door.

"Mom." It was SArah. "Are you in there?"

"IF I say no, would you believe me?"

"What are you doing? We've been here for 15 minutes."

That was it? Only 15 minutes, max in the shower. It felt like a lifetime. But it would being the first time in 15 years she hadn't been interrupted, walked in on, or joined by a minor. Sam knew better. He'd heard her castigating the girls. "No, I shower alone. It's the only alone time I have." And then they would walk in anyway. But it was worth it. How else would she know that it only takes a 15 minute shower to relieve all sorts of tension.

"I'll be out in a minute."

"Do you want me to come in and help you?" Not waiting for an answer Sarah opened the door and seated herself down in the little dressing area.

"No, I think I can handle it," offered Charlotte. Wondering if her eldest would take the hint.

"Well," said Sarah, "then I'll just wait."

Turning her face up into the warm pulse of water, Charlotte noted: Hint not taken, and laughed. Nothing could get to her now. She was that relaxed.

Part 28

Dr. Reid said the expected. Jenny was doing fine. Recovering faster than anyone could have predicted. Should be out of ICU later today and then home in a day or two. All Charlotte could say was, "Thank God for small miracles," and mean it.

"And, you," inquired the doctor, "how are you?"

Charlotte could tell he already knew the answer to his own question. Still she replied, "Fine, just here for a bit of bed rest."

Dr. Reid's expression didn't let on that he knew any different and offered to check in on the progress of her bed rest. Charlotte giggled at the thought of a doctor checking up on bed rest. But maybe that is why this doctor is so successful?

Breaking into Charlotte's thoughts, Dr. Reid waved as he departed to finish his rounds.

"He seems nice enough," comment Angie, who was curling up with Charlotte's spare blanket.

"Yes, he does, and he's been very good with Jenny." Jenny, what was she going to do with her? Stuck on bed rest, with short field trips, would her daughter understand her absences, or would she attempt to throw the guilt around to anyone who would pick it up?

As if to read her friend's mind, Angie commented, "Sometimes you just have to leave that ball alone."


"Sometimes you just have to let them stew in their own juices. If every time Jenny pitches a fit, because Sarah or Laverne gets two seconds more of your attention or time, and you bend over backwards for her, then that's what she'll continue to do."

Charlotte knew she was right, but knowing what's right and doing the right thing were two different things all together. Was there a step program for parenting lovable, but difficult children?

"Oh, Charlotte, the webs we weave."

She laughed, "You're not kidding."

The two woman remained silent, listening to the bells and alarms of hospital life ringing around them. For them, for this moment, all was calm, and using their 12 step skills they would claim this moment. Not taking it for granted, and keeping their short term goal of one more minute, then one more hour, then one more morning... in sight.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Part 27

It was somewhere between 1 and 3 in the morning when Charlotte realized that she wasn't alone in her room. Peering through sleep deprived haze she realized that Charlie's wife, Angie, was asleep in the chair next to her bed.

What did they do to deserve such friends? AA is suppose to be anonymous, but for the Westings and the Panchots it was as if long lost family members were finally given the opportunity to come together. Angie and Charlie, not having children of their own, practically adopted Sarah, then Jenny and Lovie, who Angie insisted on calling Laverne. But their closeness did not in anyway inhibit Charlie from being the sponsor he needed to be when the call came in.

A sleepy Angie inquired, "You awake?"

A more awake Charlotte answered, "Yeah." Then she asked, "Have you seen Jenny?"

"Yes, she is fine. It's a miracle. That arm of her's is as good as new."

Relief washed over Charlotte, as she asked, "Is she sleeping?"

"I would hope so, it's around 2:30 in the morning."

"What about Dr. Reid, has he been in to see her?"

And just like that the doctor walked in. "Did I hear my name?"

"What are you doing here?" asked Charlotte, who was only voicing the same thoughts as Angie.

"Someone has to take the night shift in ICU. I thought you'd want to hear about Jenny."

Dr. Reid could not have been more correct.

Part 26

Sam, still coming to his wife's defense, said, "Something is wrong. What is it?"

Easing his head closer to Charlotte and Sam, Dr. Houseman confessed, "It's the placenta. It's not very well attached to the uterine wall."

"Which means... " started Sam., only to be finished by Charlotte, "That I could hemorrhage, and lose the baby."

"And your life," added Dr. Houseman. Fortified with a deep breath, he continued. "Charlotte, if you want this baby. Then you have to rest. If your blood pressure becomes elevated the placenta could come off the wall and you and the baby would bleed to death before anyone could do anything."

Sam turned snow white. Charlotte noticed his hands were shaking and he was having a hard time breathing. She'd seen it before. The stress was sending him over the edge and back into the bottle. To stem the tide she reached fro her husband's hand and asked, "What are our options?"

"You could terminate?"

"No," was Charlotte's answer, without even glancing at Sam.

"Then all you can do is rest."

"Then that's all I'll do," answer Charlotte. "Does it have to be here in the hospital?"

"For now, until we're certain the placenta is better adhered, yes."

"Can I sit with Jenny?"

Before answering Dr. Houseman rubbed his hand over his chin and mouth three or four times, took another deep breath and said, "It is against my better judgment to say yes, but given the circumstances, if you remain calm then you can spend part of each day with her."

"This part?" asked Charlotte, a smile curling the edges of her mouth.

"No, tomorrow morning will be soon enough." Then turning to Sam asked, "Are you going to be able to handle things?"

Sam knew what he meant. Would he be able to stay away from the booze, and be there for his daughters and his wife? "Charlie and his wife are moving in with us." This was news to Charlotte; good news, but news just the same. "They've done it before, but not for something as open ended as this situation."

"Those are some good friends."

Charlotte started to cry. "They're family." Sam stepped closer and hugged his wife, "Everything is going to be okay. You just take care of that little baby."

Part 25

Sam didn't let his wife speak. Instead he pushed Jenny's hand on the end of her obviously healed arm away from Charlotte's face and said, "Your mother has been here with you since thing whole thing started."

Ignoring her dad, Jenny continued to shout, "You don't love me. You don't love me."

Now with his raving daughter's face between his two hands, Sam, his voice on the edge, said, "Quiet! There are sick people here, who don't need your aggravation."

Charlotte stood there and watched the circus scene, her head shaking. How did they ever end up with a daughter like this? One who measures everything for the moment without really seeing the big picture. Finally, placing her hand on Sam's shoulder, she urged him away from Jenny, and stepped into his place.

At first Jenny didn't realize what was happening, then she saw it: an ice cream sandwich. The screaming stopped. Charlotte handed it to her daughter, who opened it, without another word, without a thank you. And as she resumed her vigil in her hospital issue wheelchair she murmured, "I picked it up, just in case you were awake and hungry."

The room calm, Jenny calm, it was expected that all would be forgotten and forgiven. At least that was the status quo. But Charlotte didn't know if she could take much more of this sibling rivalry crap. And with another one on the way, what would be like?

As if being lost in baby thoughts was a que for Dr. Houseman to appear, her doctor walked into the room. "Young lady," at first Charlotte thought he was addressing Jenny, but it was her he was looking at. "you should be in bed."

Puzzled, Charlotte replied, "Why? I'm pregnant, been there, done that."

"Not all pregnant women are 47, and fainting."

Charlotte couldn't believe her ears. "I fainted once..." then turning toward Jenny who was on the last bite of ice cream sandwich added, "And my daughter is recovering."

Then becoming very serious, Dr. Houseman stated, with no room for discussion, "Charlotte, you really need to rest."

Once again, Sam didn't let his wife answer. It was so nice to have a knight in shining armor. "Maybe we could take this conversation out into the hall for now." Then with a wave of his hand he invited Dr. Houseman out beyond little ears, and then pushed Charlotte past the privacy curtain and through the doorway into the relative peacefulness of the hallway.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Part 24

"Mom," said Sarah, "can I have an ice cream?"

"What," added Sam, "Charlie took us for ribs, not 2 hours ago."

"I want ice cream, too. Mommy, can I have some?" asked Lovie.

Charlotte smiled, "I guess ribs just don't stick your your ribs like they used to. Sure, I'll take you down to the cafe."

"Are you sure you can go?" asked Sam. "After all you're a patient here too."

It was true. Every hour on the hour a nurse came in and took her vitals. She had fainted. Who wouldn't faint at the site of their daughter going into cardiac arrest? But it was the fainting and the oddities in the ultra sound that sent up the warnings. When this thing with Jenny was cleared up, then she'd have time to deal with the new baby.

"I'll just walk them down to the kitchen. We won't be gone long."

Sam kissed his wife generously on the forehead as she headed for the door. Don't be long. Charlie gave her a warm pat on the back and suggested she take her time. After all she hadn't been out of Jenny's room for over 12 hours. "Or has it been more?" he asked.

Heading down the hallway, Charlotte looked over her shoulder and said, "More."

In the cafe the girls opted for ice cream sandwiches. The three of them sat in a booth in the corner, and Charlotte listened to her girls tell tales of their sleepover and road trip for dinner. Then Sarah asked, "Will you be home tonight?"

"I doubt it. I'm a patient, remember? And Jenny might wake up. I want to be there."

"But what about us?" asked Lovie, with chocolate cookie all stuck to her teeth.

"You'll be fine with daddy. And maybe Uncle Charlie will stay over too."

"But we want you."

Charlotte smiled. It was nice to be wanted. "I'm sure everything will be back to normal soon." Then she added, "Hurry up so we can go back to your sister."

The sandwiches gone, they made their way back to ICU. As they rounded the corner they could hear commotion. It was Jenny screaming, "I want my mommy. I want my mommy."

Charlotte picked up the pace, leaving Sarah to walk with Lovie. And as she walked into Jenny's room, her daughter, pointing with her previously paralyzed hand shouted, "You're never here for me. It's always them. You don't love me."

Part 23


Lovie's sing song call reached Charlotte in a deep, cheek pressed to the bed rail sleep. Not quite awake it was Sam's gentle touch on her shoulder that brought out completely. She loved the feel of his thumb as he stroked her cheek. "Char, mommy we're back?"

"Where have you been?" The question, pressed upon her mind came out rougher than she wanted. "I mean what's going on?"

Before Sam could answer, Charlie and Sarah, bounced through the door balancing coffees and milkshakes. "Hey. Mom, Charlie took us out to dinner." Sam didn't need to answer. Charlie loved ribs and the only place to get ribs was a small divvy non alcoholic rib bar 40 miles away.

"How's Sally?"

"Just fine, and sends her best and a full slab of baby backs for you and the..." wink., "little one."

Sam broke off talks with a kiss, followed by a long gaze down at Jenny. "How is she?"

"She sleeping. They stopped the drugs about 7 hours ago, and I've been sitting here waiting ever since."


"She squeezed my hand a few times, but nothing... really."

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Part 22

Night slipped into day and day slipped back into night. Despite the fact she was technically a patient with a bed in a room two floors away, no one said anything to Charlotte about leaving Jenny's side.

Sam and Charlie had left for their meeting, returned, and then later in the day, left for another meeting. After which they promised to bring the girls by. The meeting had been over hours ago. Where were they? No chance they were out having a bender.

Part 21

Charlie handed Charlotte a cup of coffee. "I hear congratulations are in order. It's decaf."

Charlotte let out a soft laugh. Leave it to Charlie to find the bright side. But isn't that what a sponsor does? Don't they point out the good things and put the focus on the moment? Her husband was her life, and she owed her life to this man. And for this moment he wasn't drinking. She would take this moment.

After taking a long sip she said, "Thank you." And not so much for the coffee, which was at best hours old and burned hospital issue, but for being there for Sam, for her, and for Jenny.

Part 20

It was well after midnight when Sam returned to find Charlotte asleep, her head pressed up against Jenny's bed rail, still clutching her daughter's small hand. It wasn't the bright lights in the hallway that woke her up, or his unsure footfalls. But the heavy scent of alcohol blanketed in mint that carried the kiss he placed upon their daughter's forehead. She knew, he would know, she knew where he had been. And as circular as this thinking, could their life spiral any faster downward? She wasn't going to beat around the bush. Lives were at stake.

Without looking up. Without opening her eyes, she asked, "Have you called Charlie?"

Sam's unsteady hand came to rest on his wife's shoulder. "He's waiting for me out in the hall."
Charlie was Sam's longtime sponsor. Unfortunately, it took years of soul searching for Charlotte to realize that she couldn't be there for Sam when he was drunk. That it would take this stranger, to pull him out of the depths of the bottle and back into their family. This Charlie, who was first introduced to the girls as Mr. Westing, and who now referred to him as Uncle Charlie, and greeted him with love, hugs and kisses reserved for close family members. This man, who had saved her husband and their life together on more than one occasion.

"Have him come in."

"He thought we might need to talk."

Charlotte looked up into her husband's glassy eyes. "Is there something you need to say?" Charlotte wasn't looking for an apology. Alcoholics can't apologize. And when they did, it was meaningless, so why go through the motions.

"No, not really. The girls are at the Master's house. I dropped them off, and then headed out... I was coming back but..." Sam let out a heavy sigh.

Realizing it was more of the same, she turned back to watch her daughter breathe. "When's the meeting?"

"Eight o'clock at the Congo church."

Silence filled the room where fighting would have pursued years before. Despite being overwhelmed, Charlotte reached up and touched her husband's hand. Then turning her head, she brushed a kiss over the back of two of his knuckles. "Go get Charlie. Pull up a couple of chairs. We could all use the company."

Sam's smile swayed with his feet. And as he turned to invite his sponsor into the room, he hoped that perhaps this time he wouldn't have to hit rock bottom before pulling his life back together.