"I found a lump," my wife said, lowering her blue eyes. "They want to do a biopsy."
I sat across from her at the kitchen table, 7:30 A.M. on a Wednesday morning. Our ten-year-old daughter, Kelly, was already off to school. It's the first time I'd been in the kitchen for maybe two months—Mandy and I'd been separated for six months.
"A l-lump?" My throat felt clogged.
"Surgical? That means...?"
"Remove part of the lump under a general anesthesia. "
She hesitated a second. "My grandmother died of breast cancer... My aunt Lillian..."
"That doesn’t mean anything," I said quickly. "Not with the treatments they have these days. Besides, your mom's fine."
"It's probably nothing," Mandy said, and sat straight up. "What I wanted to talk to you about, Roger, is—well, I'm going to the hospital Friday. Could you pick up Kelly from school and keep her for the weekend? Maybe take her to school Monday? I know how busy you are..."
I detected a sudden edge to Mandy's voice. "Nonsense," I said. "I've cut way back. Who's going to look after you?"
"Mom's arriving today. She'll stay with me through Monday. They'll give me pain mediation. I'll be fit as ever."
I wanted to cup Mandy's face in my hands. I wanted to kiss her. Tell her I loved her. But I didn't want to upset her. Or complicate things. So before I left the house, I simply held her cold right hand tightly and said what I honestly believed to be true: "Everything will be all right."
Our separation had been my fault. I was a corporate lawyer, a senior partner, my nose always cranked to the grindstone. I came home every night and buried my face in law books and briefs. I couldn't believe Mandy and I had fallen out of love, but I know my being a workaholic had sucked the life out of our marriage. The separation had been her idea. "To see where we stand," she'd said.
When I picked up Kelly after school Friday, she hopped into the car and announced, "I know what's going on, Dad. But I think Mom told me only what she wanted me to hear—is she going to die?"
Leave it to a ten-year-old to be perfectly blunt. "Not at all. She's going to be fine."
"But we don't know for sure, do we?"
"Not for sure. But we have to believe."
"Do you still love her?" I felt Kelly's blue-eyed gaze searching my face. Blue eyes just like her mom's.
"Of course. I will always love your mom."
"She loves you, too—I know she does. So I think it's totally stupid what you guys are doing. And I just hate it that you're not home all the time. Even if you had to spend all the time on work."
"I'm cutting back," I said. "I really am. I miss being with you and Mom."
"You can't like living alone in a condo by yourself."
"You're right—I don't."
I took Kelly out for supper at Applebee's Friday night, to dance practice Saturday morning, and to soccer practice Saturday afternoon—Saturday, a day I usually dropped by the office to spend the day.
That night Kelly and I decided it was time to call Mom. But Mandy was sleeping, so Kelly chatted with her grandmother for a bit and then handed the phone to me. "She's doing fine," Grandma Helen said. "She has a follow-up appointment next week to discuss the biopsy results. Have you and Mandy talked lately?"
"About ending this foolish separation. You two need each other, and Kelly needs both of you."
By Sunday afternoon, Kelly and I couldn't wait any longer to see her mom. At the house, after Kelly and Mandy hugged gingerly and a bit tearfully, Grandma whisked Kelly away into the kitchen, leaving Mandy and me alone in the living room. "You okay?" I asked.
"Perfect. A little sore." Then Mandy's bottom lip stared to quiver—a sign she was going to cry. "I've missed you, Roger."
Kelly burst into the living room. "Dad, Grandma wants to know if you've got time to stay for dinner. It's pot roast."
"We'd all love to have you," Mandy said, smiling through her tears.
"Cool!" Kelly said, as she whirled and took off for the kitchen.
And then, my heart hammering, I cupped my wife's face in my hands, kissed her, and told her I loved her. But that's not all. Mandy's biopsy turned out negative, and I'm back home. I really do have all the time in the world.
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