Wednesday Evening 5-21-11
Their visitor was right on time. Since she received the phone call the day before, Ronnie was consumed with curiosity. She knew the woman slightly, she was her third cousin after all, but they hardly ever met except at family reunions. The fact that she was a lawyer deepened the mystery.
Her husband was a lawyer, and she asked him if he knew her professionally.
"Barely" he said, "She practices in another county so we rarely cross paths. She works alone, doesn't have partners, and does everything she can to pay the bills, including family law. I can tell you she is well respected."
Veronica ushered her into the den, and noticed how nervous she was. After the catching up on family was out of the way, she got right to the point.
"Ronnie, Phil, you must be wondering what's going on. Your dad contacted me almost two years ago about using me for some work he wanted done. Phil, I know you're his lawyer of record, and you will continue to be. Nothing will change that."
The woman, an attractive blonde in her early fifties, looked like she had tears in her eyes.
"This is the hardest thing I've ever been asked to do, but you don't refuse kin, so I helped him. Everything will be explained in the DVDs I have.
The first one you'll watch was made day before yesterday. All the rest are a good bit older. I'll be here while you watch them in case you have questions. I'm sure you will, and I'm sure you'll understand why I asked that your children not be here tonight."
She handed Phil a small stack of discs, each one labeled, and whispered to him.
He nodded, and came back with water for all three, and a box of tissues.
He picked up the one marked VERONICA AND PHIL, and inserted it into the player. Her father's face filled the screen. He was smiling.
"Ronnie, Phil, hi. Phil, don't take me getting Anne to do this is an insult to you, and after I explain, I'm sure you'll understand."
He paused and took a breath.
"You guys know that for the last year and a half I've been seeing a doctor. What you don't know is why."
He paused again, obviously fighting his emotions. Ronnie felt an impending sense of doom, she had never seen her father so emotional.
"There isn't a gentle way to say this. Almost two years ago I was diagnosed with Alzhiemers'. I went to the doctor because I was depressed, and thought that was what was causing me to be so absent minded. You didn't notice because at the beginning it was slight and I could blame it on my age. As it got worse I came around less and less, hoping you wouldn't notice."
"The drugs helped for awhile, but it progressed, and now my doctors have agreed it has entered the second stage. I have to give up my drivers' license and they urge that I look into assisted living. I've made the arrangements, but I want to clear up a few things before I go."
He slumped his head down for a few seconds before starting again. Ronnie felt the tears to starting.
Damn it! She had felt like something was off, but with two teenage girls, her job[especially this time of year, she owned an accounting firm and tax season had just ended], and his assurances he was fine, she had let it go. He looked up at the camera.
"Don't be mad at me for telling you like this. I just needed to make sure I got it right, and with this, it helps me make sure I'm clear. Plus, I'll still be around, and I expect all my kids to come and see me as often as they can while I can still remember them."
He stared hard at the camera for a second.
"When you, Joy, and Junior come to see me, I'm only going to ask for one thing. When it gets worse, when I can't remember who you are, and lose the ability to speak, I want you to stop coming. I won't know, and the thought of you staring at an empty husk would be too much to bear. Try to keep your memories of me happier."
"Remember when I asked you guys to give my doctor a DNA sample? I told you it was for research on a genetic trait that was almost exclusive to our family. What I was actually doing was having you tested to see if you were predisposed to Alzhiemers, after all it is genetic."
"Well, two out of three are safe. But you Ronnie, you're at risk. Phil, make sure she has a physical once a year. Progress is being made daily in search for a cure and treatments, and it is my sincere hope it never happens, but if it does, the quicker she starts treatment the better the quality of live you'll have."
The pain in his voice was very evident. He drew a deep breath.
"Now for the hard part. The reason Junior and Joy aren't at risk is they're not biologically my children. They don't have the same father either. I have no idea when it comes to Junior who his biological father is, but I'm pretty sure that Josh Randall is the sperm donor for Joy."
They had to shut the player off because Ronnie was sobbing into the chest of her husband. Soon Anne joined them with tears of her own. It was twenty minutes before she could regain her composure.
"Would you like me to leave?" Anne asked gently, "You could just call me later f you have questions."
Ronnie gripped her hands firmly.
"Please stay. I'm sure I'll have a million questions. How much longer is the video?"
"This one, about thirty more minutes or so. There are private messages for you, your brother and sister, both your spouses and one for Joy's roommate. And lastly, there is one for your mother. Are you up to continuing?"
Ronnie shook her head in assent, and they settled back into the couch as Phil turned it back on.
"You have no idea how shocked and hurt I was to find this out. It took me a few days to sort through my emotions. In the end, as far as you kids were concerned, it didn't matter. You're still ALL my children. I raised you, I loved you, I'll still be proud when you call me dad. You can't take back a lifetime of love based on a few lines of a chart. I pray they feel the same way."
"But Ronnie, in spite of how I feel about you guys, when it came to your mother, I admit it changed my feelings for her. I had a little investigation done, and didn't like the results, so I changed my will."
"You and Anne are my executors of the new will I had Anne draw up. We tried to cover ever contingency, but you never know. Ronnie, the fact that you alone are biologically mine has nothing to do with it. I named you because you were always the tough one. You're the one I trust to do the right thing. Junior has always favored his mother, and I was all right with that. Admit it, he's the most tender hearted person we know. And Joy is still a child, and I'm sure my revelations will hurt her deeply. You have to have the strength she needs to draw on. Help her."
"You know how much I love the mountains, and I found a nice place specializing in my condition there. Mountain Pines Assisted Living. The arrangements have been made and the finances have been taken care of. I want you and all the kids to come see me next weekend after I've settled in. I'm looking forward to it."
"But before I go, me and Elvis are going trout fishing. I'm taking my tent, I haven't done that in years. My last hurrah, so to speak. I love you Ronnie, all of you. I'll see you soon."
After a few more tears the questions started.
"Anne, how long have you known?"
"I found out almost as soon as he did. He surprised me by coming by my house. When we were settled he handed me a hundred dollar bill.
"What's this for?"
"Anne, I want to retain your services. I use my son in law usually, but what I'm doing is extremely confidential, I don't want any of my family finding out. Will you help me?"
"I felt like I was going to regret it, but I agreed. I was right, you can ask my husband how many times I came home over the next few weeks with a tear stained face. As I helped him, my admiration grew. Here was a man faced with a terrible future, and his first priority was to make sure his family wouldn't suffer. I can't say I agreed with everything he had me do, and I actually talked him out of a few things."
"One thing he stressed. You are not to tell your mother or your siblings until he personally says you can. He wanted you to know sooner so you could prepare for the storm. Look, It's getting late, and you've got a lot to think about. Come by Saturday evening. We'll fire up the grill and let my husband roast something. He is very good at that. Then we'll start on the paperwork."
MONDAY EVENING 5-09-11
On Monday of that week, three days before Anne met with his daughter Ronnie, David Childers sat in his worn old recliner, the one that was so comfortable he just couldn't get rid of despite his wife's complaints. He was looking at his wife of thirty one years. She felt his eyes and looked up.
"What?" she said with mild annoyance, her usual tone.
"Just thinking, Thirty one years together, a milestone for this day and age. Did you ever regret choosing me, a farmer, over your other beaus? Especially Ed. I think that man was born in a suit. Bet he's never had a dirty hand in his life."
He saw her eyes tighten up some. She waited a few seconds before answering.
"No, I don't regret choosing you. I'll admit, I wish you'd have dressed up a little more often, taken me out a little more often than you did, but that's history. I chose you, and I don't regret it."
"You sure? I know I haven't been a very good companion lately, with being sick and all. We haven't made love in almost a year, since I got sick, don't you miss it?"
He could tell she was uncomfortable with the subject.
.... There is more of this story ...