Last week I started a story and I asked people to guess Delainey’s age. Today I shall continue the story and give you the answer. Please note: no editing or planning is going into this free form discovery phase.
Nancy turned to her niece Delainey and said, “Now sweetie, you know your daddy hasn’t been able to carry you on his shoulders for a long time. You’re much to big for him now.” And too old. Delainey had turned twenty-five just three days ago.
“I know that, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting it.” Her niece’s blue eyes filled with tears. “I want my daddy to be like he always was. He used to be happy and laugh all the time. Now he’s sad and he’s tired.”
Nancy’s throat tightened, but she kept her tone even, not wanting to upset her dear niece. “He’s still the same man on the inside. And if he could carry you to the county fair on his shoulders again, he would do it in a heartbeat.” She picked up another piece of corn and began shucking the husk off one strip at at time. “How many more ears of corn do we have to clean, Sweetie?”
“We have one, two, three… I don’t know. A bunch.”
“Well we best get back to work then,” said Nancy. Delainey always did like having a task to do. It calmed her niece, made her feel like she was contributing, smart even. And that’s what her brother and sister-in-law cultivated in both their children.
No excuses. Everyone pulled their weight. Even Delainey. Though at first they’d worried about her. Yes, they’d expected her to have problems. After all the doctors had warned them when Mary was pregnant with Delainey. But in addition to her mental abilities being affected, the Downs Syndrome also created a myriad of physical problems. At times it was touch and go, but Delainey was a fighter. She’d done more than survive, she’d thrived.
And Nancy’s brother Matthew had always been proud of his blue eyed, blond haired little girl with her moon shaped face and that dimpled whenever she broke into a smile. Nancy remembered the first day Matthew had taken Delainey to the County Fair.
“Sweetie, what kind of pie did your mamma bake the year she won her blue ribbon,” she asked.
“Peach,” answered her niece. “My favorite.” Delainey grinned, her face shining with pride. “She said she won cause she made my favorite kind.”
“Yes. She did.” Nancy picked up another ear of corn. “She won the blue ribbon for her chili recipe the same year.”
“We had a big party.”
Nancy stripped off the husk and ran her hand across the silken hairs left behind. “I think your daddy was ready to burst, he was so excited.” That day had been a golden day, a day full of hope and promise. But they were younger then, braver, not ravaged by the losses time would bring to them. The losses time would eventually bring to all families. First her sister in law had passed, a heart attack. Sudden and swift. Then her nephew, Delainey’s brother, eight years older when she’d been born, had gone off to join the marines. He’d been on several tours. Sometimes Nancy believed Michael had gone to fight battles overseas because he couldn’t face the ones he had at home.
Now her brother lay dying of cancer and her niece relied upon Nancy for guidance. “Sweetie,” she said, “Let’s get some water poured on these ears of corn and put them on the oven. I’ll start the hamburgers.”
“Okay Auntie,” said Delainey, picking up the the heavy pot.
They walked inside the sprawling, country style kitchen Matthew had installed for his wife two years before she’d passed. Nancy turned on the tap and filled the pot with the cold water, salted it and put the lid on top. She turned on the gas stove.
As she worked on the hamburger meat, kneading it and forming it into balls, her niece fluttered about the clean, oak shelved kitchen opening drawers and gathering cutlery. “I’ll set the table.”
Nancy continued forming the patties in her hand. She thought she’d put the buns in the pantry, but then had found them later in the laundry room. Odd. But then she’d been forgetting little things lately. Nothing major. But silly things happened. And that worried her. A lot. After all, Matthew didn’t have long and she’d promised her brother she’d care for Delainey, but she didn’t know how she’d cope. One day she’d pass and then what? She couldn’t ask Michael to come home. He had a duty to his country to perform. But she wished. Now where did she put her apron? Oh, there, she grabbed it from the top of the fridge and tugged it on.
She might not put things back properly, but she remembered her brother dancing with is bride as clear as a bell. And the way he tossed a football to Michael on a hot summer day during his playing season. Oh, and his pride, his shining joy when Delainey went to school on the yellow school bus just like all her friends. Oh, she remembered it all as if it happened now. A slow winding film reel that she played over and over in her head.
“Auntie,” cried Delainey. “What are you doing?”
Nancy snapped out of her reverie. Flames licked out of her frying pan and threatened to hit the ceiling. “What the devil?” she asked, then she saw her mistake. She’d put the hamburger’s meat casing into the frying pan and tried to cook the plastic and foam.
After she’d put out the fire, cleaned up the stench and focused on fixing dinner again, Nancy sent up a snippet of prayer. She needed help. She didn’t want to worry her brother with her own problems. But she desperately prayed for His intercession. Promising to keep Delainey had been easy. Keeping her promise seemed impossible now. She didn’t even know what to ask. She only knew that Jesus, in his mercy, would intercede for her.
She prayed again. For her brother. Her niece. And her strong nephew. She couldn’t ask Michael to give up his life for his little sister. But she had to pray he would want to change it.
Question: Why is Michael so unwilling to come home during his father’s illness?