Aug 19, 2011

When The Fireworks Begin (Chapter VII)

Chapter VII

It has been two days since Devon fell down the stairs.  Both James and Devon refused to talk about the unfortunate event and the disease that has taken Devon’s body. James refuses to talk about it, or hear anything that implies Devon’s sickness and possible death. If I keep thinking that this is just a terrible nightmare or just not true, then it could go away, James thought. It was immature, but for him it was hope.

Devon was quietly leaning on her bed watching the television in front of her. Meanwhile, James was tapping on his laptop, trying to finish some work.  He took some freelance consultancy work, just to keep up with the hospital bills.

Devon looked at her husband, she felt guilty. I am so sorry, she whispered in the air.  She does not want to take him away from his comfortable life and put him into this kind of misery.

Devon shifted her attention back to the television, I must think positive. Positive thoughts attract positive results,  she told herself.  Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman’s face was displayed on the screen. They were talking about the list of things that they want to do before they die, both of them in their hospital beds.

“I want to do that,” Devon said aloud.

James looked at his wife and asked, “Do what, baby?”

“I want to have my bucket list,” Devon answered.

“A bucket list?”

“Yeah,” Devon nodded. “A list of things that I want to accomplish or do, before I die.”

James felt that familiar pang again in his chest. Before I die, he felt that the words were being etched into his heart.

“You’re not going to die baby,” James said reassuringly. “We would look for the best medical care out there and possibly a cure.”

“We both know that is impossible,” Devon countered. They did some research on her disease and found out that there is still no cure for ALS.

“But we both saw that there are people with ALS who lived for ten, twenty years or more,” James said hopefully.

Devon smiled sadly. “James, I could not be one of them.”

James sighed.  “Don’t lose hope, okay?”

“I am not losing hope, baby,” Devon said. “I just want to do things. Let’s think of it as a celebration of life.”

James looked at Devon, intently.  She still looks that healthy wife he walked down the aisle with a few months ago.  But there were dark circles under her eyes. She has been sleeping, but her sleep has been shallow, just making her more tired every day.  Her smile barely reached her eyes anymore.

James would give everything to make things different. He sat besides Devon on the bed and pulled his wife into his embrace.

“I wish, I was the one who’s sick, not you,” James whispered to Devon’s ear.

“It’s not going to make things easier,” Devon answered. “I will be in the same pain as you are. We both hate losing each other.”

James nodded in agreement. 


James was walking in the hospital corridor. He has just paid the hospital bills, Devon will be discharged in the afternoon. The hospital bills made a huge dent in their savings, Devon already thought about that.  James saw her talking to a colleague in the university, earlier.

“What was that about,” James asked, sensing some relief in Devon’s face.

“She took over some of my classes,” she said. “Also, I asked her to file monetization of my leaves. It would help us financially.”

“Don’t worry yourself about the finances,” James said reassuringly. “Let me take care of it.”

But now James is thinking hard about it.  I need to take more freelance work, he thought hard. He was thinking about borrowing some money in the bank.  Devon’s parents were offering their meager savings but James refuses to think about it.

“You will need some financial help,” AlingLinda said yesterday, when she saw James pouring on a piece of paper making computations.

“I can’t accept that Inay,” James answered.

Aling Linda looked at the sleeping Devon. “Let us help James. She is our daughter.”

James accepted the amount which paid for half of the bill. But James could not continue accepting help from Devon’s parents, he knows that they are also having some difficulties financially. They are not really that well-off, and worked hard for every centavo that they have.

“James,” Dr. Alvarez’s voice startled him.

“Ninong,” James answered, bowing his head to mano.

Dr. Alvarez complied.  “I’m sorry about this last hospital bill,” Dr. Alvarez mentioned. “I was not able to give instructions to the cashier that some of the tests will not be charged to you.”

“It is okay, Ninong,” James answered.  “Really, we will be fine.”

Dr. Alvarez sat on one of the row of chairs in the corridor.  He motioned for James to sit beside him. James looked at him and slowly sat besides the doctor.

“I talked to your father, yesterday,” Dr. Alvarez said.

James looked at the doctor, with wide eyes.  “Don’t think that I or your father arranged the meeting,” Dr. Alvarez assured.  “We just happen to see each other in the mall yesterday. I was doing some grocery shopping and apparently he had a business meeting in one of the restaurants there.”

James remained silent. Dr. Alvarez tried to make things lighter, “Yes, I do the grocery shopping. One of the things that your Ninang insists that I do, instead of the maids. She thinks I am great in choosing seafood.”

James smiled a little at what the Dr. Alvarez said. Dr. Alvarez breathed easily when he saw James smiled and relaxed a little. Apparently, hearing something about his father makes James tensed.

James went quiet and then he could no longer help himself but ask. “What did he say?” James asked. “I bet he said bad things about me, especially Devon.”

“He wants you to know he’s sorry,” Dr. Alvarez stated while looking at James.

James snickered. “He probably told you what happened.”

“Not entirely,” Dr. Alvarez said. “But I gathered that he really did bad things to you and Devon.”

James did not answer and looked ahead. He offered no stories, no explanations.  Dr. Alvarez was not expecting anything anyway.

“I told him about Devon’s condition,” Dr. Alvarez said.

James looked angrily at the doctor. “Why do you have to do that? You are in no position…”

“Because you will need help,” Dr. Alvarez cut his tirade.

“We can manage,” James angrily answered. He was about to stand up, when Dr. Alvarez touched his harm preventing him to do so.

“Your father offered help,” Dr. Alvarez said.

“My father,” said James bitterly. “He did things that he should’ve done to his son.  He should’ve been happy for me, but instead he disowned me.”

“Listen to me, James,” Dr. Alvarez calmly explained. “ALS does not only take toll to its patients, but to its families, too.  It is difficult to see your loved one wither away, without being able to do anything about it. But aside from that, you will need money to give the best care possible.”

“I said we could manage,” James countered.

“What will you do, James, when Devon will need special equipment?”  Dr. Alvarez asked exasperatingly.  “When ALS progresses, patients would often need CPAP masks, masks that will help them breathe.  She will need drugs, therapy, and sometimes even speech computers.”

James did not answer but did not look at the doctor. Dr. Alvarez continued, “James, there are a lot of things to consider. Devon needs help and your father is offering that kind of help.”

James shook Dr. Alvarez hand on his arm. “We will manage,” he quietly answered.  “Thank you for your concern.”

James walked away from the Doctor, while Dr. Alvarez looked on, shaking his head. 


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