As is says in the good book, there is a time for all seasons, on earth as in heaven. It was now time for winter to evolve from what had been a wonderful, midwest fall. Not more than two weeks ago, the dark brown, dead leaves that were now strewn about the frosty ground had been a rainbow of colors against a blue sky.
Now dark gray clouds hung over the chilly air and a cold wind blew from the north like an omen of the approaching hour. Jim Baker was born with Spinal Bifida, a crippling disease that had robbed him of ever knowing what it was like to take a simple step. All Jim had known his entire life were challenges, some big, some small, but none as difficult to face as the one that now lies in front of him.
He had to stay strong, strong for her. She had enough on her mind. He couldn't let her see into his soul like she was so capable of doing, he couldn't let her see into his heart as it crumbled from the pain.
His beloved Cathleen sat next to him holding his hand with tears running down her cheeks. It was getting late and the cab that would separate them for the first time in eight years, would soon be arriving.
Cathleen was an Army nurse and, up till now, had always been able to stay in the states with her loving husband. Last week that all changed when she received orders to go over seas to Germany on a special, humanitarian, assignment. At first she begged her C.O. to have the orders rescinded but was told her services were very badly needed. Morally, as difficult as it was, she felt it her duty, her obligation, after all, this was why she became a nurse in the first place, to help those who needed it most, and she knew Jim would feel the same way. The deployment would be for only nine months, a short time for some, a life-time for others. As they both stared down the lonely country road a bright yellow car appeared in the distance heading their way. Cathleen's breasts started to heave and her tears flowed freely. She squeezed his hand harder, as if she would never let go.
"This is so hard," she wept, "I don't want to leave you. My heart already aches at just the thought of not having you by my side. Oh God, why do I have to go?"
Jim held on to her hand. He wanted to simply burst out crying along with her. He wanted to grab her, hold on and never let her go. He wanted to tell the Army they had no right to drag his cherished from him, no right at all. But of course, he couldn't do any of those things. Instead he had to put on a brave face and tell Cathleen she must go where she is needed.
The gaudy colored vehicle pulled into their drive and headed for the house. Cathleen jumped from her chair and threw her arms around him. She showered him with kisses knowing they would have to last him a while.
The taxi driver walked up to the porch.
"May I help you with your bag, Ma'am?" he asked.
Cathleen was busy hugging her precious husband and was too lost in her thoughts of abandoning him to even acknowledge the driver's presence.
Sadly Jim nodded to the young man. "Please," was all he get out.
He picked it up and laid it in the trunk of the car then went back to the driver's seat to wait. He could see the trouble they were having saying good-bye.
It was one of the toughest things either of them had been through since first meeting in a hospital nearly ten years ago.
One terrible side effect from his disease is the susceptibility to urinary tract infections. These infections had landed Jim in the hospital more than once, but that time, ten years ago, it was much more serious. The infection had spread to his testicles forcing their removal by the impending operation.
Cathleen, his assigned nurse, watched as he struggled with the mental and emotional aspects of such an operation. She immediately recognized the incredible courage with which he faced the situation.
Here was a man who was born faced with a life-time of struggles, disappointments, hardships, and pain; yet he refused to let anything stop him. Where others would have quit, he just worked harder. To Jim Baker, where there was a will, there was a way, and damn, he sure had the will.
Being confined to a wheel chair and in constant pain from birth never stopped Jim. He worked through the pain and became self sufficient. He dressed himself, bathed himself, cooked for himself, and lived by himself. Jim even found ways to support himself financially and took himself off of government assistance at the age of twenty.
Yes, Cathleen did not see him as someone to be pitied but admired and respected ... as much as any man she had ever known.
"You're going to be fine," said Cathleen with a smile, bending over Jim as they wheeled him into the recovery room.
Jim was still under some of the effects of the anesthetics. He looked into the bright eyes of the familiar face and nodded his head.
"I know," he said with a small grin.
Having a violent reaction to morphine made Jim's recovery especially painful. At times, even for Jim, the pain was excruciating and he would yell out in agony. Only one thing seemed to help, the gentle touch of his nurse as she held his hand. All his life Jim saw only pity in the eyes of others, but for the first time, he found someone different, this woman, this nurse, this angel of mercy. When she looked at him there was no pity. There was respect.
For Cathleen it was more, much more. She had watched him suffer the mental anguish of physically losing, what most men would consider to be their manhood, but not Jim. He knew being a man entailed much more than a pair of testicles.
She watched as he forced himself to deal with an incredible amount of pain and still push forward, working harder, doing more and more for himself each and every day.
Cathleen looked into his eyes and saw a gentle strength, a passion for life, no matter how difficult, and, in spite of the hand he was dealt, she saw no bitterness, no hate, only kindness and compassion.
There was no doubt, Cathleen was falling in love.
Jim and Cathleen continued seeing each other after his release and the deep admiration and respect they felt for one another grew into love, a profound, intense love shared by each.
Eight years ago they married. Two years ago Cathleen's military reserve status was upgraded to active which, up till now, only meant a little longer drive to work at the Army hospital for her regular shift. This would be the first time since they were married that they would not spend the night together.