Do Miracles Happen? Ch. 05byRabbitrunner91©
With time on my hands, Claire and I spent the remainder of the morning playing with the kids on the living room floor. At noon, we ate a quick lunch and piled into her suburban for the appointment with Mark.
His heart clinic was a light tan brick building, originally an office complex, but having been converted into his medical facility. Three other specialists had joined him and they had a thriving practice, well known and respected by all. When I'd been in med school, Mark was the attending physician for a patient in the wing, where I worked. We'd struck up a growing friendship, it was his recommendation and support which helped me through my medical boards.
The receptionist was bright and cheery, smiling as us. She handed us a stack of forms, and I was glad we'd come early. Tedious as they were, the one which took the longest was Andrew's medical history. Claire was scratching her head to remember things from his birth and other events since then.
The nurse called for Andrew, and Claire carried him to the examination room, I stayed with the older two, they played in the children's section, while I browsed a magazine. Time dragged and the two were tired, they'd missed their afternoon nap. Amy handed me a story book, Aaron climbed into my lap and both listened contentedly while I read the story of some adventuresome puppies. Finishing, Aaron jumped down and snatched up another book, encouraging me to read more, which I did. This one was about a little train and his escapades in the train yard; I read it through twice.
Amy was wiggly, when I asked if she had to go 'potty', she slipped off my lap and tugged on my hands. Not wanting to leave Aaron alone, I took them both. Returning to our seats, Amy asks, "Where's mommy?"
"She's with Andrew, back in one of those rooms."
Amy was tired, rubbing her eyes; I picked her up and gently rocked her on my lap. She was asleep within minutes, her doll cuddled in her arms. Aaron is clingy and I suggest he lay on the carpet beside me, which he does. He fiddles with the chair for about ten minutes, and then he's asleep too.
Glancing at my watch, it reads 4:06, still no sign of Mark or Claire. All of the other patients have gone and the clinic staff is busy with paperwork and phone calls. At the present moment, I'd traded my doctors hat for one who was responsible for these children and I wasn't complaining, not one bit.
4:48 when I saw Mark appear in the hall. He was talking to one of the nurses when he looks up and spies me. He motioned to me, I placed Amy over one shoulder, reaching down, I lifted Aaron to the other. They stir and wake up, but settle back in my arms, dozing again.
"You have your hands full, I see." Mark comments.
I smile, but don't say anything.
"She back in room #3, waiting. Go on back, I'll be there shortly and we can talk."
It takes a minute, I'm seated beside Claire, and she's holding Andrew. "How is he?" I ask.
"He's still doped up. They put him out and stuck this thing down his throat. Haven't been told anything yet."
"I just saw Mark, said he'll be back in a couple minutes."
She reached out and brushed the hair away from Amy's face. Her eyes fluttered open, she reached out touching her mom's hand. Claire leaned over, kissing Amy on the cheek. Being this close, she moved a couple inches, kissing me full on the mouth and I kissed her back.
Mark stepped in the doorway at just that moment, saw us and loudly clears his throat. "Ahem. All right you two. This is a doctor's office, not the love boat." He grins.
Claire blushes, but I know Mark. He's a big tease, and enjoys giving me a good ribbing. I figure this won't be the last time I hear about it, either.
Putting his doctor face back on, he stepped forward and checked Andrew. "He's coming round. When you get home, let him eat, then put him down for the night, should sleep soundly."
Mark sat on the examination table, facing us. "The good news, you have a very healthy boy there. He's strong and his weight is good. The bad news, as you know, is his heart. Andrew has two issues, one is a small hole between his ventricles. This can happen in newborns, and as they grow, the hole closes normally. Andrew's hasn't. By itself, we'd watch it and it would close naturally over the course of a few months.
The problem which troubles me is his Tricuspid valve hasn't formed properly and it's leaking; there's regurgitation. That's why he turns blue, not getting enough oxygen."
"What's it mean, Doctor? What's this all mean?"
Mark pulled down a chart of the heart, a diagram, showing the chambers, valves, and connecting arteries. Briefly he outlined the normal flow of blood. Then he showed what would happen when the valve didn't close, and the blood moved backwards, his body would starve for oxygen.
He stopped and we waited.
Turning to Claire, "As he grows, his body will need more and more oxygen, but his heart won't be able to provide; it'll work harder, grow larger. At some point, he'll become a prime candidate for congestive heart failure."
"What's your recommendation?" I ask.
"I'd like to do a 'heart Catheterization'. That means inserting a tube into an artery in his leg, to closer examine his heart from the inside. At this time, I'm fairly confident on what we'll find; it'll be necessary for surgery to repair the valve and to close the hole."
He looked at Claire before continuing. "It's not an emergency, but the sooner it's performed, the quicker he can resume a normal life."
"Following valve surgery, what's your prognosis?" I raise the question.
"He can have a normal live, maybe not with high contact sports, but otherwise he'll have a healthy life. He'll be on medication for the rest of his life and require monthly blood tests."
"Why the medicine and the blood tests?" Claire inquired.
"His heart valve's not repairable; he needs an artificial valve. It'll work normally and there's a very high success rate. Because the device isn't biological, blood clots can form, therefore, the medication, to thin out his blood and prevent clotting around the valve. The level of medication has to be closely monitored."
His explanation detailed the surgical procedures, potential risks, hospital stay, and recovery period. Claire asks the questions and Mark outlines his answers.
At the conclusion, "The decision's yours. What do you want to do?"
"When could you do it?"
"We can check with my scheduling nurse, but probably 3 or 4 weeks. The Cath can be scheduled, directly followed by surgery OR the surgery can be done at a later time."
Andrew begins to cry as he was waking up. His throat is sore and his voice is subdued. She patted his back and adjusted his position on her shoulder.
"Let's do it at the same time." she answers his question.
This doctor's visit was brought to a close, and Claire, carrying Andrew and escorting the older two, stopped by the scheduling nurse, to make the appointment. Mark pulled me aside, "What's with you and her?"
Quickly I give an overview of the events from the past two weeks; the meeting, the trip, the medical emergency, loss of her husband, and her staying with me.
He whistled, "You have been busy."
"Will the hospital pick up the tab?"
"Working on it. Greer figures it's doable and he's handling the details. He'll know in a week or two. The test results from today will help strengthen his case to the hospital board."
"You're probably wondering about her and me." I volunteer, looking towards Clair, "We've no personal commitment. But there's the family I've taken responsibility. I can't ignore them."
Mark chuckled. "All physicians with families wrestle with their personal lives. How much time to devote to the 'profession of healing' and to how juggle time with a family. Here's my two cents, if you plan on a commitment with her, do it soon. If you're not, then find a way to cut her loose. If it's the latter, don't burn your bridges, because you may have to cross them when you go in the other direction."
I'd known Mark for several years, he wasn't meddling, he was being brutally honest.
Looking towards the front, he adds, "There's a lady up there with three kids. Go take care of her."
He gave me a pat on the back and together we walked to the front; Claire was waiting.
By the time we left the clinic, Andrew was extremely fussy. Back inside the apartment, she set about changing him and I was in the kitchen, looking to start supper. Aaron and Amy were awake, hungry and grumpy. They'd been playing in the other room; I was busy putting something on the stove, when I heard loud voices and Amy crying.
Stepping around the corner, Aaron had her doll, fiddling with it in the corner and Amy was sitting cross-legged on the floor, wailing at the top of her lungs, wanting it back. He, for what ever reason, had forcibly taken the doll. I stepped in as mediator and pulled him back towards Amy and asked him to return her doll. He stood there, ignoring me.
"Aaron, give Amy her doll."
Silence. Amy was watching, her crying diminished.
"Give the doll back to her, Aaron."
His demeanor radiates defiance, and he stands there, adamantly refusing.
As a child, I'd been taught that disobedience merited swift punishment. With that in mind, I gave Aaron a stiff swat on his bottom. "Aaron, give her doll back." I demanded with a stern voice.
His eyes opened wide in surprise, he dropped the doll beside Amy and moved to sulk in the corner. At that moment I see Claire, holding Andrew, watching me, and her face was full of anger. She said nothing, but sparks flew from her gaze.
I made certain Amy had her doll, which she snuggled in her arms; I scooped up Aaron, sat in a chair and put him in my lap. He may have thought I'd swat him again, for he held himself rigid. "Aaron, that's Amy's doll, you shouldn't take it from her."
He listened but said nothing, Claire watched from the far side of the room, fire in her eyes.
"Do you know why I swatted your bottom?"
He remains silent.
"Aaron, why did I spank you?"
He had relaxed a bit, but his body was tight. "I took Amy's doll."
"No, that's not why I swatted you."
He looked at me for the first time since this began, a big 'Why' was on his face.
"I'd asked you to give the doll back, but you didn't listen. I spanked you because you didn't obey."
With that, I wrapped my arms around him, giving a hug, and a kiss on the forehead.
"You can go play now."
He jumped off my lap, but stood there. "Why did you spank me and give me a hug?" he asked.
I laughed. "Aaron, I hugged you because I love you. The spanking was because you did something wrong. I like YOU, but I didn't like what you did. Do you understand?"
He shook his head, and then sped off towards his mom, who'd been watching the entire time. From her look, I knew we'd talk about this later and for that, I was glad.
She and I worked together to cook supper. Not much conversation passed between us and her attitude towards me was cold. The evening was awkward and our relationship was stilted, things certainly weren't the best. After we'd eaten, she read to them and I was left to wash the dishes. The task didn't bother me, I was troubled at being excluded.
Eventually, she put the children in bed and we were alone. Knowing a discussion was coming, I'd brewed up some coffee and had a steaming cup ready. She sat and I slid it across to her. She picked it up, holding it in her hands and our eyes locked.
"Don't you EVER discipline my children again." She said sternly.
At first I said nothing, then commented, "If you're gone from the apartment, say ... the laundry room, and I catch Aaron yanking Amy's hair, you don't want me to do anything? I'm to watch?"
"Well, I ..." She stopped … , then continued. "They are MY children, NOT yours."
"Yes, they are and you have wonderful kids. However, this is my apartment and they DO fall under my care."
"You will NOT spank my children."
"How should I …?
"We could leave."
"Yes you could." I know she won't; she knows she won't; and she knows I know she wouldn't. I smile.
She was trying not to, but a smile crept to her lips.
"Want to discuss how we'll form a united front when it comes to disciplining them? They should learn that the two of us are working from the same set of rules."
She rolled this around in her mind for a minute. "But, what …" Her attitude softened, a sigh escaped her lips. "Okay."
For the next hour we talked and discussed ways, rules, and guidelines for handling the children. A list was drawn up which set the boundaries and the extent to which we'll act. Both of us give in a little, it was not completely to my liking, nor was it hers, either, but with the end result, we were in agreement. In addition, we talked about giving Aaron and Amy responsibilities for each day. Things like putting the toys away, picking up clothes, helping with other household chores. Together we formed the rules that would govern the household and how we'd react when handling the children.
Not only did we come to an agreement about the children, lines of communication were opened between us which was drawing us closer. I wondered how far this would go, but now wasn't the time to consider that; that would come later.
The evening ended with us in much better spirits than when it had started. "I'm sorry for being so angry with you."
"I'm sorry for being so upset earlier this morning." I confess.
The coffee was gone and I stood to wash. Her hands found mine and we spent a moment together, I kiss her softly.
"Thanks. I needed that." She responded.
Shortly after, she went to her room, and I slipped into my bed.
In the morning, the temperature hovered close to 30 F and the sun was shining, with a few clouds. She and the kids were antsy, so we headed for the mall; nothing was planned, only to spend the time away from the apartment. We browsed the stores, ate ice cream, and visited a movie theater.
The afternoon was warmer, so a visit to the park was in order, after lunch. Nap time passed and Claire figured to put them to bed early, that evening. After the children had been tucked into bed, she commented, "Your entire vacation has been spent with my children. Do you wish it were otherwise?"
"Yes, I do wish it otherwise. I wish it could've been two vacations, instead of one. As far as spending it with your kids, nothing could've been more enjoyable."
All she said was, "Thank you." But the smile brightened her face.
The next day I returned to work and the news of Claire and the kids had preceded me. Only it had become a rumor of me shacking up with a girlfriend who had children. Initially I attempted to correct the false premise, but this became tiring; in the end it was easier to let the rumors stand.
I surprised Claire on two different occasions. The first time I ordered a huge, I mean HUGE, bouquet of roses. I was out running some errands and spied a floral shop. I stopped and placed the order and knowing she'd be at the apartment, I asked they deliver immediately, which they agreed. It was late that evening before I returned home. Opening the door presented me with a view of the arrangement, centered on the table.
Claire was running, making a bee line for me. She wrapped her arms around my neck and smothered me with kisses. "Thank you."
She'd never received flowers before. She'd heard of others, but this was her first time.
The second time I surprised her, took a bit more planning. I'd called Mark and asked his wife, 'Who would she recommend for babysitting?' A name and number was received, I placed the call and Maria was free for the coming Friday evening; I gave a time and directions. Claire hadn't been told, this would be a surprise.
"What would you like for supper?" she asked. Andrew was wandering from room to room, not quite walking, but almost. Aaron had the train set, making 'Choo Choo' sounds and Amy had the tea set on the table before her three dolls.
"I'd like to have a steak dinner with you at the Golden Bull restaurant."
"Bob, be real. What would you like me to make?"
"Tonight, nothing. I want to take you out. Just the two of us."
"That may be what you want, but it's not possible. Do you want lasagna or my famous meat loaf, you're always raving about?"
"Claire, go dress up. I'm taking you to the Golden Bull this evening."
"The kids, Bob?"
"I have a babysitter, she'll be here shortly. You and I are going out tonight."
"You're serious, aren't you?"
Her face was awash with emotions. She wanted to smile, but feared it were a mistake. She was happy but concerned about leaving the children. She wanted to cry but didn't want the kids to see.
"Go change. The children will be fine." I smiled.
She turned and skipped to her room, she became a high school girl who'd been asked to the prom.
Maria arrived and I introduced her to the children, giving instructions on bed times, what they were permitted to do, what they could eat, how to contact us in an emergency, and the medical necessities for Andrew. She settled in quickly by reading a story, the kids gathered round and were right at home.
Exiting her room, Claire was stunning. She wore a beautiful dress, heels, a sweater draped over her arm, her hair was nicely done, and the biggest smile. Tonight I'd treat her like a princess. I pulled out a small package, giving it to her. She was surprised by the corsage; I pinned in on.
She kissed each child, I helped her with her coat, and we were out the door. It was good to see her smile, it made her look beautiful.
At the restaurant I gave my name, they had the table waiting and I escorted her. We were seated and drinks ordered. The music was quietly playing and the candle, burning in the holder gave a soft light which highlighted her face.
We chatted and I gently swung the conversation so she'd talk about herself.
Born in Raytown, Missouri, outside of Kansas City, her Dad skipped town, leaving her Mom, caring for four children, to fend for themselves. Claire was the youngest and her older siblings, by more than 6 years, left the home at the earliest possible moment. It was in Jr. High School she developed a close friendship with Renee, who was active in the band and encouraged Claire to join, which she did. While banging on the bass drum wasn't glamorous, the concerts and road trips to competitions were always fun. The two girls were inseparable, going everywhere and doing everything together. Not being athletic, Claire was pretty and made it on the Cheerleading squad while Renee took a position on the girls' basketball team.
During her Junior year, her Mom found a new boyfriend, a sailor stationed in San Diego, and they left for California. Claire didn't want to leave her friends, and jumped at the chance, when Renee's family opened their home. Her mom sent her a card that Christmas, but since then, she'd heard nothing. Claire became the sister who Renee never had, sharing clothes, trying new hair styles, using makeup, but mostly, they talked about boys.
Renee's crush on Ron, the class President, kept them busy conspiring ways to meet him in physics class or to 'accidentally' bump into him in the hallway. He never asked her out, but she was always dreaming. Claire, being on the Cheerleading squad, met Barry in their Senior year and the two dated regularly. Prom was the crowning event before graduation. Renee's date was Roger, and it was only natural for Claire and Barry to double with them.
When school was over, Claire had no plans; Barry asked her to marry him and with nothing better, she said 'Yes.' She and Renee had drifted apart, particularly after Aaron was born. Barry found work with a construction firm, but this was summer work and by late fall he'd been laid off. The two argued, mostly about money; that was when she noticed he stayed out late, coming home drunk. Their relationship went quickly downhill and deteriorated completely when he beat her half to death; she was carrying Amy then, and almost lost her in a miscarriage.