Before I Forgetbyqhml1©
When you finish this I'll tell you my inspiration for the story. This is a revenge on a cheating wife tale, very little sex.
WEDNESDAY EVENING 5-21-11
Their visitor was right on time. Since she received the phone call the day before, Ronnie was consumed with curiosity. She knew the woman slightly, she was her third cousin after all, but they hardly ever met except at family reunions. The fact that she was a lawyer deepened the mystery.
Her husband was a lawyer, and she asked him if he knew her professionally.
"Barely" he said, "She practices in another county so we rarely cross paths. She works alone, doesn't have partners, and does everything she can to pay the bills, including family law. I can tell you she is well respected."
Veronica ushered her into the den, and noticed how nervous she was. After the catching up on family was out of the way, she got right to the point.
"Ronnie, Phil, you must be wondering what's going on. Your dad contacted me almost two years ago about using me for some work he wanted done. Phil, I know you're his lawyer of record, and you will continue to be. Nothing will change that."
The woman, an attractive blonde in her early fifties, looked like she had tears in her eyes.
"This is the hardest thing I've ever been asked to do, but you don't refuse kin, so I helped him. Everything will be explained in the DVDs I have.
The first one you'll watch was made day before yesterday. All the rest are a good bit older. I'll be here while you watch them in case you have questions. I'm sure you will, and I'm sure you'll understand why I asked that your children not be here tonight."
She handed Phil a small stack of discs, each one labeled, and whispered to him.
He nodded, and came back with water for all three, and a box of tissues.
He picked up the one marked VERONICA AND PHIL, and inserted it into the player. Her father's face filled the screen. He was smiling.
"Ronnie, Phil, hi. Phil, don't take me getting Anne to do this is an insult to you, and after I explain, I'm sure you'll understand."
He paused and took a breath.
"You guys know that for the last year and a half I've been seeing a doctor. What you don't know is why."
He paused again, obviously fighting his emotions. Ronnie felt an impending sense of doom, she had never seen her father so emotional.
"There isn't a gentle way to say this. Almost two years ago I was diagnosed with Alzhiemers'. I went to the doctor because I was depressed, and thought that was what was causing me to be so absent minded. You didn't notice because at the beginning it was slight and I could blame it on my age. As it got worse I came around less and less, hoping you wouldn't notice."
"The drugs helped for awhile, but it progressed, and now my doctors have agreed it has entered the second stage. I have to give up my drivers' license and they urge that I look into assisted living. I've made the arrangements, but I want to clear up a few things before I go."
He slumped his head down for a few seconds before starting again. Ronnie felt the tears to starting.
Damn it! She had felt like something was off, but with two teenage girls, her job[especially this time of year, she owned an accounting firm and tax season had just ended], and his assurances he was fine, she had let it go. He looked up at the camera.
"Don't be mad at me for telling you like this. I just needed to make sure I got it right, and with this, it helps me make sure I'm clear. Plus, I'll still be around, and I expect all my kids to come and see me as often as they can while I can still remember them."
He stared hard at the camera for a second.
"When you, Joy, and Junior come to see me, I'm only going to ask for one thing. When it gets worse, when I can't remember who you are, and lose the ability to speak, I want you to stop coming. I won't know, and the thought of you staring at an empty husk would be too much to bear. Try to keep your memories of me happier."
"Remember when I asked you guys to give my doctor a DNA sample? I told you it was for research on a genetic trait that was almost exclusive to our family. What I was actually doing was having you tested to see if you were predisposed to Alzhiemers, after all it is genetic."
"Well, two out of three are safe. But you Ronnie, you're at risk. Phil, make sure she has a physical once a year. Progress is being made daily in search for a cure and treatments, and it is my sincere hope it never happens, but if it does, the quicker she starts treatment the better the quality of live you'll have."
The pain in his voice was very evident. He drew a deep breath.
"Now for the hard part. The reason Junior and Joy aren't at risk is they're not biologically my children. They don't have the same father either. I have no idea when it comes to Junior who his biological father is, but I'm pretty sure that Josh Randall is the sperm donor for Joy."
They had to shut the player off because Ronnie was sobbing into the chest of her husband. Soon Anne joined them with tears of her own. It was twenty minutes before she could regain her composure.
"Would you like me to leave?" Anne asked gently, "You could just call me later f you have questions."
Ronnie gripped her hands firmly.
"Please stay. I'm sure I'll have a million questions. How much longer is the video?"
"This one, about thirty more minutes or so. There are private messages for you, your brother and sister, both your spouses and one for Joy's roommate. And lastly, there is one for your mother. Are you up to continuing?"
Ronnie shook her head in assent, and they settled back into the couch as Phil turned it back on.
"You have no idea how shocked and hurt I was to find this out. It took me a few days to sort through my emotions. In the end, as far as you kids were concerned, it didn't matter. You're still ALL my children. I raised you, I loved you, I'll still be proud when you call me dad. You can't take back a lifetime of love based on a few lines of a chart. I pray they feel the same way."
"But Ronnie, in spite of how I feel about you guys, when it came to your mother, I admit it changed my feelings for her. I had a little investigation done, and didn't like the results, so I changed my will."
"You and Anne are my executors of the new will I had Anne draw up. We tried to cover ever contingency, but you never know. Ronnie, the fact that you alone are biologically mine has nothing to do with it. I named you because you were always the tough one. You're the one I trust to do the right thing. Junior has always favored his mother, and I was all right with that. Admit it, he's the most tender hearted person we know. And Joy is still a child, and I'm sure my revelations will hurt her deeply. You have to have the strength she needs to draw on. Help her."
"You know how much I love the mountains, and I found a nice place specializing in my condition there. Mountain Pines Assisted Living. The arrangements have been made and the finances have been taken care of. I want you and all the kids to come see me next weekend after I've settled in. I'm looking forward to it."
"But before I go, me and Elvis are going trout fishing. I'm taking my tent, I haven't done that in years. My last hurrah, so to speak. I love you Ronnie, all of you. I'll see you soon."
After a few more tears the questions started.
"Anne, how long have you known?"
"I found out almost as soon as he did. He surprised me by coming by my house. When we were settled he handed me a hundred dollar bill.
"What's this for?"
"Anne, I want to retain your services. I use my son in law usually, but what I'm doing is extremely confidential, I don't want any of my family finding out. Will you help me?"
"I felt like I was going to regret it, but I agreed. I was right, you can ask my husband how many times I came home over the next few weeks with a tear stained face. As I helped him, my admiration grew. Here was a man faced with a terrible future, and his first priority was to make sure his family wouldn't suffer. I can't say I agreed with everything he had me do, and I actually talked him out of a few things."
"One thing he stressed. You are not to tell your mother or your siblings until he personally says you can. He wanted you to know sooner so you could prepare for the storm. Look, It's getting late, and you've got a lot to think about. Come by Saturday evening. We'll fire up the grill and let my husband roast something. He is very good at that. Then we'll start on the paperwork."
MONDAY EVENING 5-09-11
On Monday of that week, three days before Anne met with his daughter Ronnie, David Childers sat in his worn old recliner, the one that was so comfortable he just couldn't get rid of despite his wife's complaints. He was looking at his wife of thirty one years. She felt his eyes and looked up.
"What?" she said with mild annoyance, her usual tone.
"Just thinking, Thirty one years together, a milestone for this day and age. Did you ever regret choosing me, a farmer, over your other beaus? Especially Ed. I think that man was born in a suit. Bet he's never had a dirty hand in his life."
He saw her eyes tighten up some. She waited a few seconds before answering.
"No, I don't regret choosing you. I'll admit, I wish you'd have dressed up a little more often, taken me out a little more often than you did, but that's history. I chose you, and I don't regret it."
"You sure? I know I haven't been a very good companion lately, with being sick and all. We haven't made love in almost a year, since I got sick, don't you miss it?"
He could tell she was uncomfortable with the subject.
"Relax, honey. A night out at a good restaurant pleases me more now than drinks and dancing. And we're in our sixties, that urge has been gone for a while now."
"Thank you babe, that means a lot."
He changed the subject.
"Honey, will you do something for me?"
A little leery because of the last conversation, she didn't commit immediately.
"What do you want?"
"It's trout season. I'm taking Elvis with me and spend the night at the state park. Will you make some of your pimento cheese and a batch of brownies for me to take? It seems like I catch more when you do."
She smiled indulgently.
"Sure thing. Are you up to a trip?"
He had kept his condition from her a secret as best he could. It was pretty easy actually, since she ignored him a lot. When she did, he blamed a sleep disorder and insomnia for making him forgetful. He had even moved out of their bedroom, saying he didn't want to keep her awake with his tossing and turning. She was fine with it.
SATURDAY EVENING 5-14-11
Ronnie and Phil, Anne, and her husband Jerry
were standing on the patio, enjoying the lat spring breeze while the meat cooked. There was little in the way of conversation, each wrapped in their own thoughts. Anne got another round of beers and settled back into her chair.
"Did you watch the DVDs?"
Despite trying to put on a brace front, Ronnie broke into tears immediately.
"Yes. And after talking it over, Phil and I had Junior, his wife Jane, Joy, and her roommate Sidney come over last night. I let them watch the cover DVD, and then gave each of theirs. I had watched them first per my instructions. Joy didn't take it well, she just got out of the hospital at three. She was treated for shock and a nervous breakdown. Junior went real quiet, then went on a rant about it being a pack of lies. Jane took him home and called me later. She had to give him a sleeping pill, and he was still ranting and tossing on the bed. I bet she didn't get a wink of sleep last night."
Anne hadn't considered that she would reveal the DVDs this soon, but everything was in place and rock solid. Phil had reviewed it and complimented her on her work. He gave her thanks for doing it, saying he understood how much of a conflict of interest it would have caused if he had prepared it. He had tears in his eyes when he told her of his video.
"I didn't know my father in law liked me so much. He thanked me for being such a good husband and father, and apologized for putting us in the middle. It made me very sad, and regret not spending more time with him. He made sure he stressed the importance of Ronnie and I being the anchors in the family now. I want to thank you, Anne. I know you probably didn't this much involvement in our lives, and we'll try to keep it to a minimum."
Jerry stood with his arm around Anne. A quiet man by nature, the depth of the betrayal he was exposed to affected him deeply.
"If you need anything, anything at all, call us. Doesn't matter what day it is, what time it is, call. It's too big a burden to carry on your own."
Anne tried to hug him harder, thanking God for the man he was.
"Now that everybody knows, Ronnie, what are you planning?
Ronnie sat up straighter, allowing some of her anger to surface.
"Not everybody knows. Our dear mother is in for one hell of a surprise down the road. We're all going as a family tomorrow to see dad at his assisted living facility, to see if he has anything he wants to add, and just love him. I
think he needs that right now."
SATURDAY MORNING 5-14-11
David felt the tug on his sleeve that same Saturday morning.
"All right Elvis, I'm awake. Too damn early on a Saturday if you ask me, but your right, trout waits for no man. Give me a minute and I'll make breakfast."
He sat up, glad for the little frame he had bought to put his double air mattress on. It made it a lot easier to get out of bed. He held his head in his hands for a bit. He'd had a bad episode last night, coming to his senses in the woods, with no idea how to get back to the campsite. If Elvis hadn't been there he would probably still be wandering around in circles. They were getting more frequent.
He fixed breakfast quietly while Elvis watched, keeping a close eye on the bacon.
Dishes done, he filled his small pack with lunch and fishing gear, picked up his rod, and looked over at Elvis.
"I'm gonna get that big one at Baker's Point today, Elvis. I can feel it. Ready to go?"
Elvis was so anxious he led the way.
FRIDAY NIGHT 5-13-11
Sidney held Joy by the hand in a firm grip for reassurance.
"Calm down, babe. It's probably nothing."
Joy had a death grip on Sidney, trying to draw strength from the woman she loved.
"I can't calm down. This has to be bad news. What if they know about us? What if they disapprove. The secret is killing me."
Sidney rolled her eyes, thinking how many times they had already gone over this.
"Good. Look, when we came out to my Mom last year she didn't freak. I think she was a little disappointed from the grandchildren angle, but she's always liked you, so she was happy for us.
When we told her we wanted to adopt after college and established in out careers, it sealed the deal"
Her eyes hardened.
"And if they don't approve, we'll wear them down. But it really isn't as big a secret as you'd like to think. I get the feeling your dad knows, even though he's never said anything. Your brother and sister aren't idiots, they have to suspect. I think the only one worried is you."
Now relax, I'm sure this doesn't have anything at all to do with you."
She thought many times over the next year how she wished she'd been right.
Junior and Jane were already there, so they started the meal. They were all intrigued by the the almost demand that they all be there. Ronnie just said it was important family business.
Finally, they were in the living room. Ronnie had fended off their questions during dinner.She surprised them all by hugging them in turn.
She grabbed Junior and Joy and looked into their faces.
"What I'm about to show you is going to hurt, really bad. There's nothing I can do about that. What I can do is assure you that no matter what you see, I'm still your sister and I love you deeply."
She played the original first. Soon everyone in the room was in tears. Ronnie gave Joy her video, offering to let her watch hers in their oldest daughters room. Per her father, she had watched everyone of the DVDs.
Five minutes later they heard a scream like that of a wounded animal and rushed upstairs, finding her curled into a fetal ball, moaning. They had to call the ambulance, and she was treated for shock, sedated, and kept overnight. After making there was absolutely nothing they could do, the went back to Ronnie's. The hospital assured everyone she would wake around eight. Sidney stayed.
Junior sat in his niece's room for a long time after the video ended, without moving. Jane finally went and got him, leading him like she would a small child. She promised she would have him at the hospital by eight, and she would watch her video at home. By then it was almost two in the morning. Ronnie and Phil fell into the bed exhausted.
SATURDAY MORNING 5-14-11
Sidney was dozing when Joy woke up. She stirred, trying to remember what kind of accident she was in. Her hands and legs moved fine, she didn't feel any lumps or contusions on her face of body. Joy felt the locket her dad had given her, and it all came back. She woke Sidney with a wail, bringing the nurses and doctors charging into the room. Sid had her wrapped in her arms, rocking her like a baby, waving them away. Soon the rest of the family were there and took turns holding her until she quieted down. She asked to be alone with Ronnie. After thirty minutes they came out, and Joy told them she was going to go spend the night with Sidney and her Mom. They all promised to meet at Juniors and go see their dad the next morning.
When she heard about David, Sidney's mom hugged Joy hard.
"That poor man. He was always so strong. Not the flashy look at me type strong, but like a tree. Solid. Dependable. You felt safe with him around."
SATURDAY AFTERNOON 5-14-11
Jane watched her husband like a hawk. She had never in her life seen him so quiet. He was loud, rowdy, in a happy kind of way. She rubbed her tummy to give her strength. Five months along, it was a girl, something that gave them both a lot of pleasure. She was a surprise baby. Jane was thirty six, and they had two boys, fifteen and thirteen. They loved their grandfather, this was really going to hurt them.
She had always liked her father in law. She didn't much care for her mother in law, she always seemed distant, cold. The kids always flocked to their grandfather. She and Ronnie always tried to engage her in conversation, but she rarely talked any length.
"I hope he does something about how awful she's been to him all these years. She deserves it."
She thought quietly. She never said anything, he had always been a bit of a momma's boy. Jane definitely did not want to have to comment on the whole mess.
The boys came home to them from the other set of grandparents, and he surprised them by hugging fiercely. They were surprised.
"Gee, dad, you act like somebody died. Are you all right?"
Junior spoke for the first time in hours.
"No, son," he said as he ruffled the hair of his oldest. He knew how bad he hated that, it just wasn't cool.
"I just got really sad news, and I'm still trying to process it."
He turned around and hugged Jane so hard he lifted her off the ground. For the first time in twenty four hours he appeared normal. She dreaded tomorrow, she had always been afraid of rest homes.