"Now I told Papa and I'm telling you, that if something happens to me, he needs to marry someone who is friendly and who will keep him connected to his family!" Laurie Wills spoke with characteristic matter-of-factness.
"What?! What are you talking about?"
"If the surgery goes wrong..."
"Mama, the surgery is going to go fine...Papa's not doing anything!"
Kate went into the other room and looked at the mirror to check just how big her eyes had gotten in the last 20 seconds. For the patient, surgery on the spinal column was a big deal. For the surgeon, it was old hat, everyday, boring stuff. For the family...it was somehow both. Kate kept telling herself that everything was going to be fine, and fixing her mother's herniated disks were going to make her life so much better. But there's always that tiny percentile...the "almost never" that really just means "sometimes"...that something goes wrong. Kate shook her head and forced herself to think instead of the "almost always" that assured her, and Laurie too, that surgery would help her regain mobility in her neck and back and arms.
A little more than a day before the surgery, Kate and Crew had arrived in Alaska for a Christmasy visit. But since Laurie's surgery had been scheduled for the last day of December, the visit ended up being more to help out and take care of her while she was recovering. Kate didn't mind this less-festive agenda. In fact, she was grateful that the surgery had been scheduled for such a perfect time, when she and Mister could be there to help.
The night they arrived, Kate and Mister told the Wills their big news. There were the usual exclaimations. Again, thought Kate, very much like last year. But this year there was just a film of concern covering the joy of the moment. At first, Kate felt a little resentful--I know that it will be hard work having two little babies. I know I'll be tired. But I also know that God won't give us kids that He won't take care of. But then, after listening to her parents for a few moments more, she was chagrined as she realized what the real concern was. Laurie's desire to come and be helpful, to play with her grandkids, to be able to travel and cook and pick up the babies--they were all things she could not currently do, but maybe...if the surgery went just right...maybe. Laurie's surgery cast a shadow over the future, and New Year's Eve was eagerly awaited as the decisive day.
The day came and went. The surgeon performed beautifully. Laurie came through fine. And there was no more talk about finding someone friendly and family oriented for Kate's father to marry. Laurie came home the next day, and after a day or two of groggy confusion, began (slowly) sleeping better and gaining strength. Within the week, Laurie was able to set up pillows for support and hold her smiling grandson. Now when she mentioned Kate's new baby, it was with hope and joy, and usually coupled with plans for working diligently with the physical therapist.
Kate had a mission that first week in Alaska. Her goal was to make dinners, and make lots of extras so that each meal she made could be two extra meals for her parents when she left. Her dad took her shopping to Costco, and she loaded up with an ambitious amount of food. At home, she wrote out a list of potential meals, ingredients for them, and whether they needed to be cooked before they were frozen. A few days later, lasagna, chili, bacon-potato soup, chicken taco mix, broccoli casseroles, and a few others were safely labeled and stacked in the Wills' freezer. Kate crawled into bed in the afternoon and said, "I think I'm pregnant."
Mister, who was working on scholarship and grant applications, turned away from his computer and came over to the bed to cover up his wife. "I think you are too."
"Uhm...." Kate tried to think of a more powerful way to express how she felt. Something with the same heaviness and slowness and forceful emptiness. "I'm...really tired." No, that wasn't it. But that was the best she had.
"I don't want you to think about meals. Or Teddy. Or exercising. Or packing. Or anything. Right now, I just want you to go to sleep."
Kate looked at her man in awe. This was a real life hero. She smiled and closed her eyes.