As I sat at my desk and reflected on the past year, tears rolled down my cheeks. I clearly remembered the night Liz told me she was pregnant with our third child. We were in bed, snuggling after a very satisfying round of love making.
"Tim, I have something important to tell you. Promise you won't get upset and raise your voice so the kids hear you," cautioned Liz.
I knew that there had to be something very serious on Liz's mind. I seldom raised my voice, especially in bed. I did raise myself up on my elbow and nodded to Liz as I waited for her to continue.
"I seem to be pregnant, Tim," began Liz nervously. "I can't believe it, but it's true. Please don't be upset with me, Darling."
I looked at Liz like she was from outer space. My jaw worked up and down, but nothing came out. I felt giddy and very excited. I finally found my voice.
"Upset? Sweetheart, how could I be upset? We've been given a precious gift!" I exclaimed.
"You really feel that way, Tim?" sobbed Liz. "I was afraid you'd be angry at me for not being more careful. It really was an accident. I didn't plan on it. That's for sure."
"What will the kids say when we tell them?" I wondered. "Steve might not act too excited, but I bet Angie will love the idea!"
"They'll be embarrassed, Tim," replied Liz. "They're in high school. Kids their age don't have little newborn siblings. People our age don't have babies."
"Well, it seems that these people our age will have a baby, doesn't it?" I laughed. "This is just incredible, Liz. I can't wait to tell everyone!"
"Tim, I do love you so much! I was afraid you'd be angry about having another baby after all these years. It'll change our lives in all kinds of ways," warned Liz. "You may have to give up some golf dates to do parenting. You might not be able to retire in ten years. "You'll be up all night with the baby more than a few times. Is this all okay with you?"
"Sweetheart, it's more than okay! I'll quit golf if I have to. I'll take off from work when necessary to take of this little bundle of joy. I was pretty young and inexperienced with our first two kids," I admitted. "I'm going to be sure to spend time with this baby as she grows up. I'll be the best dad ever!"
I had quickly grasped that Liz was concerned about my reaction to her pregnancy. I had to put her fears to rest. She needed me to be happy and supportive. The subject of an abortion would never even be discussed. I knew that. Liz and I would treasure this child.
It was six months later that Liz gave birth to Marisa. As I had predicted that night, we had a girl. Liz had waited until she was three months pregnant, and certain of her condition, before telling me about it. Her birth was one of the happiest events of our lives.
It had been difficult to relearn how to hold, feed, change, burp, and care for an infant. I had been determined to be a hands on father and I changed at least as many diapers as Liz. Angie had quickly overcome her initial embarrassment about having a sister seventeen years younger than she was and helped tremendously. We all viewed Marisa as a special gift and showered her with love.
I took a lot of ribbing from the guys at work and my golf buddies, but I didn't mind. My happiness was apparent to everyone. I was a very proud father. Liz had to conceal her anger a few times while she was pregnant because of an occasional cruel or insensitive remark about a woman in her forties having a baby. Once Marisa was born, the only emotions either of us ever felt were positive.
When Marisa was six months old, Liz returned to work. She had only been back to work a week when my life fell apart. I was doing some paperwork in my office when the phone rang. I answered on the first ring. I knew it would be Liz calling. She would have picked up Marisa from the daycare and arrived home to tell me about her day and how the baby was doing.
I listened in stunned silence as Angie explained how she had just received a call from the local hospital. Liz had been in a serious automobile accident! Angie showed a lot of pluck as she fought back her tears to explain what she had been told.
"Mom was hit by another car at that intersection by the Home Depot. That means she wouldn't have had Marisa with her yet, Dad!" she reasoned. "We have to pick up Marisa and get to the hospital. The person that called said you needed to get there right away. Dad, this isn't good!"
I forced my brain to slow down and plan my next few moves. It was no time to do something stupid or neglect something important.
"Angie, call my mother and father. Ask them to pick you up and then get Marisa from daycare. Take Marisa home and leave her there with Mom. Then get Dad to drive you and Steve to the hospital. While you're waiting for them to get there, call your other grandparents and tell them what's happened," I instructed. "Ask them to make whatever calls they feel are needed. Can you do all that, Sweetheart?"
"Yes, I'll do it, Dad. You have to hurry up and get to the hospital. Mom's going to need you!" she cried.
The next few days, and even weeks, were a nightmare. I rushed to the hospital only to sit and wait for Liz to come out of surgery. No one could even tell me exactly what injuries she had. I tried to reassure the kids when they came into the waiting room, but I failed miserably. We spent a two long, excruciating hours waiting to find out how Liz was doing.
Finally a thin woman came into the room and approached us. She wore one of those scrubs you always see in the shows on TV.
"Mr. Jackson?" asked the woman as she stopped in front of me. "I'm Dr. Jeffers. Your wife is out of surgery."
The relief that flooded over me quickly dissipated as Dr. Jeffers explained how seriously Liz had been injured. Strangely, she had no broken bones but had suffered severe head trauma. The operation had been to reduce swelling and stop any bleeding.
Liz was in a coma. It had been induced to limit the swelling and the damage to her brain. It would be several days, at least before they would attempt to bring her to a conscious state. The word "attempt" did not escape me. The doctor promised us nothing except that she, and the rest of her team, had done everything possible for Liz and they would continue to do their best.
The kids were crying and I was unable to staunch the flow of tears running down my cheeks. My dad, who always had a comment for every occasion, silently hugged each of us. Liz's parents made their way into the room just as our crying began to let up. Seeing our despair, they immediately broke into tears as well.
My dad was the one that finally explained the situation to my in-laws. I was too emotional to speak. When I tried, I simply made croaking sounds. A little later, the kids and I were allowed to look in on Liz for just a minute. It did nothing to offer encouragement. Tubes and bandages and machines were all we could see.
Dad drove us home a couple hours later. The hospital staff made it abundantly clear that we would be waiting days for any improvement. Liz was stable, but in critical condition. Since we weren't able to be with her, Dad had eventually prevailed upon us to go home. Mom was waiting at the door when we entered the house. Dad had called her from the hospital so she knew the situation, but seeing our faces caused her to begin sobbing and soon the kids were right there, crying with her. I managed to hold it together this time.
I was back at the hospital early the next morning with Angie, after getting no sleep. I had risen early and tried to quietly leave. To my surprise, Angie was dressed and waiting for me when I descended the stairs. She was in the living room, sitting in the early morning gloom.
"I knew you'd be going back early, Dad. I'm going with you," she told me simply.
We waited around all day, but there was no change in Liz's condition and none was expected. It was the same the following day. Then, the following day, they began the effort to bring Angie out of the coma. We were told not to expect any rapid changes, and there were none. After another day with no real improvement, we were urged to go home and get some rest. We would be called as soon as there was any change in Liz's condition.
I decided to visit my landscaping business and see what had transpired during the days I had been at the hospital. It was almost five PM when I walked into my building. All ten employees were there as they returned equipment to the shop and took care of any maintenance. I always had the guys keep everything in working condition and ready for use.
It only took a few minutes to gather that the men had carried on in my absence, perhaps better than if I had been there. My foreman was experienced and respected. He knew what was needed and had stepped up to see if had gotten done. I thanked the guys for their concern and effort while I had been away from the shop. I told them Liz had not come out of her coma yet, but we had every reason to believe she would make a full recovery. Then I stepped into my small office, closed the door, and thought about Liz.
I contemplated how my life would be if she died. It was selfish, but I finally allowed myself to consider that possibility and how it would affect me. It gradually dawned on me that every facet of my life involved Liz. She was the center, the nucleus, of our family. Marisa would need her. Angie and Steve were in high school but still relied heavily on their mother. I felt my gut knot up as I considered the consequences of life with no Liz in it.
.... There is more of this story ...