Chapter 11: Susan
I’m so relieved that Martin’s not in the house breathing down my neck all the time.
The Christmas-loving kid is gone, and although he was annoying, I prefer him to the quiet, sullen man I send off each morning and greet each evening. We mostly keep away from each other, and he’s even starting to work late some days. He eats dinner at work, so on those nights, I’m not expected to cook for him. He’s very good with scheduling, so I don’t end up waiting for him to come home, but always know.
This arrangement suits me, but I wouldn’t mind the occasional thank-you or a little bit of conversation when he is at home.
Saturday is my favorite day. He always works late, and I have my radio show.
My least favorite day is Thursday, probably because neither of us know what to do with the day. Sunday has always been a day of rest, well, sort of, except for my usual duties, but Thursday is a work day, and yet there’s not much yard work to do, and I can do almost everything, even changing lightbulbs.
One Sunday in late January, we’re sitting in the living room, me with a romance novel, and Martin with nothing.
“I’m tired of seeing that stuff.” He points to the boxes containing knitting supplies and the sewing machine, which have remained untouched since Christmas. “When I come home tomorrow, I want it all gone. Put it in the guest room.”
“All of it? Or just the sewing machine?”
“All of it. Maybe if it’s in there, you’ll learn to use it.”
I know I won’t, but there’s no point in reasoning with him.
He rarely goes into the guest room, and never looks in the closet, so he’ll just assume it’s in there when I take it out of the living room tomorrow.
The next day, as soon as he’s left the house, I move everything from the living room, through the kitchen, out the back door, into the garage, and into the trunk of my car.
I’ll find some place to donate it to.
My car’s big, and there’s still a lot of room for groceries, so I don’t have to take it somewhere right now.
The call comes in early February. Martin’s at work, and I’m just about to start revising the last chapter of Tina’s tenth book.
I take the call at my desk.
“Hi Mom. How are you?”
“I’m not sure.”
There’s something in her voice that I can’t quite place.
“Is something wrong?”
“I don’t really know.”
“Okay. Can you tell me what happened or whatever it is?”
“Yes. Your dad lost more hearing. Almost all of it.”
“Oh no, when?”
“We weren’t sure at first. We thought it was a hearing aid problem. They were busy and your dad wasn’t concerned, so we waited a couple of weeks to get his hearing aids checked out. We can FaceTime, so if I’m in the kitchen and he’s in the living room, we just turn that on and we can see each other.”
She stops speaking, and I hear her taking a sip of something.
“Can my phone do FaceTime?”
“Is it an iPhone?”
Martin’s is, but I’m not going to ask to borrow his phone.
“That’s too bad.”
I know she has more to say, so I wait.
“Well, when we went in, they checked his hearing aids. They were working perfectly, but he said he could barely hear them. They turned up the volume, but that only helped a little bit. I could hear it from across the room. So they sent him to see a doctor and he had some tests. Everything is fine except for his hearing. He wants to get a cochlear implant.”
“A cochlear implant? I think those are for kids.”
“That’s what I thought, but apparently adults can also get them. We just went for the appointment yesterday, and he’s been given the green light. But I’m just not sure.”
“They have to open up his skull and put a device into his inner ear. He’ll have to have general anesthesia. What if he doesn’t wake up?”
“This is Dad we’re talking about. Of course he’ll wake up.”
She laughs and says, “You’re probably right, but I’m still not sure.”
“When does he want to get it? I’m sure you have time to do research.”
“That’s the thing. He doesn’t have a lot of time to decide. They got a cancelation, but other people are waiting, so if he doesn’t take this slot, he might have to wait, and he wants to hear again as soon as possible. He would have agreed to it right then and there, but I think he sensed how I was feeling, and I wrote him a note saying I’d like to talk to you first. I would have called you yesterday, but I was too tired to think straight.”
“What happened to his hearing aids?”
“He’s given them back. I think they’re being donated. So, what do you think? Should we try to convince him not to get this?”
Why is she asking me? I want to work on my book, not try to play mediator between my parents, especially given the fact that one of them can’t hear, and I can’t discuss his ideas with him.
Martin suggested we send him a video. I was supposed to look into learning some signs, but I haven’t done that yet.
I’m a terrible daughter.
“When would the surgery be?”
“Oh, sorry. In a week.”
“A week? You’re kidding.”
“No, I’m serious. We really need to decide today.”
“I don’t know what to say. Sorry, I’m no help.”
A tear slides down my cheek and I brush it away.
“I’m not really either. I love him the way he is, but he wants to do this.”
“When would he be able to hear again?”
“If it all goes well, which is my concern, then in about a month. They have to let things heal before hooking up the external parts.”
“It’s his body,” I say. “I guess he has to decide for himself. He’s strong and healthy, so if he wants this, I guess there’s no reason why he shouldn’t have it. I’m sorry, I have to go. Love you.”
Gently, I put the phone down.
Tina is desperate to escape.
She calls back later the same day, but I’m working, so I let her call go to voicemail.
The next day, I finish revising the book. I e-mail the freelance editor I prefer to work with.
Can you do the editing on my tenth book?
I hit Send.
A week later, Jenny still hasn’t replied, which is strange. Usually, she answers in a day or two, but maybe she’s swamped. I decide to wait another week, and then e-mail her again.
There’s not much to do, so I start on the eleventh book.
“Susan, come here, right now!”
It’s Thursday, and Martin’s in the living room.
I’m just putting away his laundry.
“Susan, I said get in here now!”
So, we’re back to this.
I put the last pair of socks into his bottom drawer and then go into the living room.
Might as well find out what his problem is and get it over with. I’ll apologize and add whatever it is I’ve forgotten to the shopping list.
He’s sitting on the couch and he looks a little pale.
“Have you checked voicemails lately?”
“No, sorry, I must have forgotten. Why? Did I forget to pay a bill?”
I know I haven’t.
“A bill? Susan, your mom has been calling for the last week. In her first message, she said your dad had decided to go ahead with surgery. Her second and third messages were asking you to call her. She sounded so worried. The fourth message was information about the date and time of the surgery. It was this morning. Your mom sounded frantic. She begged you to call her. This was right after they took him to the operating room. You didn’t even answer the [blank]ing phone!”
Martin rarely swears, and I take a small step away from him.
“You’d better call her right now, and you’d better beg for her forgiveness. If your dad dides, it’ll be your fault!”
It’s definitely not the smartest move I’ve ever made, but I can’t help it. Dad’s the strongest person I know, and this surgery’s not going to keep him in bed for more than a day, let alone kill him.
“So, you think it’s funny, do you?!”
I back out of the room.
“Where are you going? Get back here and call your mom!”
He’s capable of picking up the phone and calling her, isn’t he?
Well, let him scream himself blue.
Tina has a book to write.
I hear the phone ringing.
His voice is getting hoarse from all the yelling.
Good. Maybe it’ll bother him at work tomorrow, and he’ll learn to do something for himself, instead of yelling at me endlessly.
“Your dad’s got cancer! The least you can do is call your mom!”
“And when were you gonna tell me, huh? What kind of cancer does he have?”
I don’t think I’ve ever heard the word “cancer” at top volume before. I almost want to respond, just so I don’t have to hear him say it again, but no, I’m almost finished this chapter, and then I need to e-mail Jenny again.
Predictably, Martin loses his voice and starts banging on the door, just as I’m typing an e-mail to Jenny.
No problem. I can ignore this.
I sleep in my office, and get up in time to see Martin off to work. He looks like he hasn’t slept well.
Good. Serves him right.
He doesn’t say much, but when he does speak, his voice is a hybrid of gravel and mouse.
I feed him, but otherwise ignore him, and soon he’s gone.
Finally. I feel like dancing.
Instead, I go into the living room and listen to Mom’s messages.
“Hi Susan. Your dad’s decided to go ahead with surgery.”
I play the next few, and then I come to the one from yesterday morning, just after Dad was taken to the operating room.
I expect her to sound worried, but she doesn’t really.
“Hi Susan. He’s been taken to the operating room, so I’m waiting. I have a good book to read, but give me a call if you want to chat.”
Once Mom has figured out what to do or knows what’s happening, she’s a rock.
Frantic? Yeah, right.
Maybe Martin should get his hearing checked. He catches the words, but not the tone.
In the last message, she sounds tired, but not worried.
“Hi Susan. Your dad’s in the recovery room. He’s awake, and I’ve seen him. He smiled at me, but doesn’t feel like talking yet. I’ll call you when we’re home, but you can call me any time. Love you!”
Mom understands, but Martin doesn’t, that’s for sure.
She doesn’t know about Tina, but she knows that I love her and Dad.
I play the messages again and then once more. It’s so nice to hear Mom’s voice but not need to think of anything to say back. I’m so tired of answering people and answering to them. I want only to answer Tina, so I put the phone down and go back to my office.
That night, I’m late with dinner. I’ve forgotten to set my alarm, and Martin comes home while I’m writing.
Too bad. His voice isn’t going to last long, and he’s probably too hungry to bang for long, so I won’t have to listen to him too much.
It only takes half an hour for him to give up on me and order something.
Fine with me. Tomorrow, he’s working late, so I’ll have the whole day to myself.
By Monday, I’m worried about Jenny. She’s edited all nine of my books, and I really want her to edit the tenth. I e-mail another author whose books she edits.
She replies right away.
Hi Tina. Jenny retired at the end of last year. She sent all her clients an e-mail, so maybe check your Junk folder.
I do. I find an e-amil from Jenny dated November last year, telling everyone she’s retiring.
Darn. I need an editor.
It’s gonna take months for me to find a good one. Finding Jenny was a stroke of good fortune I doubt I’ll ever have again.
I don’t have the energy to do the research. Maybe I should self-edit. I’m reasonably good at it, but I like to have somebody else read my work. Jenny always found typos I just couldn’t see.
Oh well, I’ll finish the eleventh bookk, and then I’ll worry about editing.