PLEASE DO NOT ACCUSE ME OF PLAGIARIZING THIS STORY. It is one I wrote several years ago and have posted on another site under a different pen name, but I assure you, the author is non-other than myself.
Written for James, my brave friend who has spent his entire life in a wheelchair. It is to him I dedicate this story of love and courage.
I hope you enjoy the read, and as you know, I always like hearing your comments.
As it says in the good book, there is a time for all seasons, on earth as in heaven. It was now time for winter to evolve from what had been a wonderful, Midwest fall. Not more than two weeks past, the dark brown, dead leaves that were now strewn about the frosty ground had been a rainbow of colors against a clear blue sky.
Now dark gray clouds hung over the chilly air and a cold wind blew from the north like an omen of the approaching hour. Jim Baker was born with Spinal Bifida, a crippling disease that had robbed him of ever knowing what it was like to take a simple step. All Jim had known his entire life were challenges, some big, some small, but none as difficult to face as the one that lie in front of him.
He had to stay strong-strong for her. She had enough on her mind. He couldn't allow her see into his soul like she was so capable of doing. He couldn't let her see into his heart as it crumbled from the pain.
His beloved Cathleen sat next to him holding his hand with tears running down her lovely cheeks. It was getting late and the cab that would separate them for the first time in eight years would soon be arriving.
Cathleen was an Army nurse, and up till now, had always been able to stay in the states with her loving husband. That all changed when she received orders to go overseas on a special humanitarian assignment. At first she begged her C.O. to have the orders rescinded but was told her services were very badly needed. Morally, as difficult as it was, she felt it her duty, her obligation; after all this was why she became a nurse in the first place, to help those who needed it most and she knew Jim would feel the same way.
The deployment would be for only nine months, a short time for some, a life-time for others. As they both stared down the lonely country road a bright yellow car appeared in the distance heading their way. Cathleen's breasts started to heave and her tears flowed freely. She squeezed his hand harder, as if she would never let go.
"This is so hard," she wept, "I don't want to leave you. My heart already aches at just the thought of not having you by my side. Oh God, why do I have to go?"
Jim held on to her hand. He wanted to simply burst out crying along with her. He wanted to grab her, hold on and never let her go. He wanted to tell the Army they had no right to drag his cherished from him, no right at all. But of course he couldn't do any of those things. Instead he had to put on a brave face and told Cathleen she must go where she is needed.
The gaudy colored vehicle pulled into their drive and headed for the house. Cathleen jumped from her chair and threw her arms around him. She showered him with kisses knowing they would have to last him.
The taxi driver walked up to the porch. "May I help you with your bag, Ma'am?" he asked.
Cathleen was busy hugging her precious husband and was too lost in her thoughts of abandoning him to even acknowledge the driver's presence.
Sadly, Jim nodded to the young man. "Please," was all he could get out.
The driver picked it up and laid it in the trunk of the car, then returned to the driver's seat to wait. He could see the trouble they were having saying good-bye.
It was one of the toughest things either of them had been through since first meeting in a hospital nearly ten years ago.
One terrible side effect from his disease is the susceptibility to urinary tract infections. These infections had landed Jim in the hospital more than once, but that time, ten years ago, it was much more serious. The infection had spread to his testicles forcing their removal by the impending operation.
Cathleen, his assigned nurse, watched as he struggled with the mental and emotional aspects of such an operation. She immediately recognized the incredible courage with which he faced the situation.
Here was a man who was born faced with a life-time of struggles, disappointments, hardships, and pain, yet he refused to let anything stop him. Where others would have quit, he just worked harder. To Jim Baker, where there was a will, there was a way, and damn, he sure had the will.
Being confined to a wheel chair and in constant pain from birth never stopped Jim. He worked through the pain and became self-sufficient. He dressed and bathed himself, cooked for himself, and lived an independent life. Jim even found ways to support himself financially and asked to be removed from government assistance at the age of twenty.
Yes, Cathleen did not see him as someone to be pitied but admired and respected...as much as any man she had ever known.
"You're going to be fine," said Cathleen with a smile, bending over Jim as they wheeled him into the recovery room.
Jim was still dazed from the effects of the anesthetic. He looked into the bright eyes of the familiar face and nodded his head.
"I know," he said with a small grin.
Having a violent reaction to morphine made Jim's recovery especially painful. At times, even for Jim, the pain was excruciating and he would yell out in agony. Only one thing seemed to help, the gentle touch of his nurse as she held his hand. All his life Jim saw only pity in the eyes of others, but for the first time, he found someone different, this woman, this nurse, this angel of mercy. When she looked at him there was no pity. There was respect.
For Cathleen it was more, much more. She had watched him suffer the mental anguish of losing, what most men would consider to be their manhood, but not Jim. He knew being a man entailed much more than a pair of testicles.
She watched as he forced himself to deal with an incredible amount of pain and still push forward, working harder, doing more and more for himself each and every day.
Cathleen looked into his eyes and saw a gentle strength, a passion for life, no matter how difficult, and in spite of the hand he was dealt, she saw no bitterness, no hate, only kindness and compassion.
There was no doubt, Cathleen was falling in love.
Jim and Cathleen continued seeing each other after his release and the deep admiration and respect they felt for one another grew into love, a profound, intense love shared by each.
Eight years ago they married. Two years ago Cathleen's military reserve status was upgraded to active which, up till now, only meant a little longer drive to work at the Army hospital for her regular shift. This would be the first time since they were married that they would not spend the night together.
The cab driver watched with a note of sadness as he saw the couple say their last good-byes. He opened the back door for the lady as she climbed in and looked out the back window to the brave man she held in her heart. Nothing he had ever faced could equal the pain he now felt watching that cruel instrument of departure disappear over the horizon and taking with it, his Cathleen.
No longer needing to be strong, Jim buried his face in his hands and sobbed like never before in his entire life.
The wind blew harder and the temperature was dropping. The dead leaves blew with a rustling noise across the empty wooden porch. It only served to remind him that she was not sitting next to him like she normally would be. The porch was as empty and bare as his life would be for the next nine months.
Physically, Cathleen would not be there, but he would keep her in his heart every minute of every day. Jim felt the need...no, the compulsion to write his lovely Cathleen a letter; Just something simple to reassure her of his love. He knew that sounded silly. She knew how much he loved her, but this was more for him than her.
He wheeled himself into his home office, took a tablet of lined paper from the drawer of his desk, and took pen in hand.
My dearest Love,
It has been but a few grains of sand in an hour glass since I watched as you disappeared behind the setting sun. Already the house echoes with silence and the emptiness of every room stands as a reminder of how much I miss you my love.
I close my eyes and see your smiling face. I open my heart and feel the warmth of your love. I reach out and feel your golden hair. I breathe in the aroma of your essence.
You are with me my darling. You are with me in my mind, my soul, my being. I will carry you with me in my every endeavor, my every action, and my every thought.
My dearest, you must do the same. As you departed you carried the love I so willingly sent with you. You must keep it with you always. Its heat will shield you from the cold. Its presence will give you solace from the lonely nights. Its boldness will give you courage in time of need, and its depth will guide you back to me soon.
My love, in spite of the difficulties and challenges we have faced together, the love we feel for each other has never even been tested. We are as one in our thoughts, our desires, our disappointments, and our triumphs.
Neither distance, nor borders, nor time, nor space will ever change that.
I have calculated there are two hundred and seventy three days between now and the day when I will hold you in my arms again. You may use that same number to calculate the sum of letters you will receive while we are apart. As you read each one, may it remind you it brings us one day closer to being together again.
However, until that glorious day when I can once again hold you in my arms, know that time will not be measured by the hours in a day, but by the beats of my lonely heart.
One down, just two hundred and seventy two more to go.
With all my heart and eternal love,
Time has a way of passing, as it did for Jim and Cathleen. Each and every day they each wrote the other a letter, never missing a single day. Two hundred and seventy three days, one by one, became one hundred days, then sixty, then thirty.
The August heat and humidity was heavy like a wet blanket. For the first time since she left, Jim sat on the wooden porch, the site of their last kiss. In his hand was an unopened envelope, number two hundred and seventy three.
His lonely heart started to pump as if it had been jolted by lightning as the bright yellow car appeared from the roads vanishing point. It shimmered from the rising heat of the road. As the vehicle closed the gap between his love and himself his palms started to sweat. For the first time in his life, he cursed the disease that would not allow him to leap up and rush to her.
His darling Cathleen couldn't wait, jumping out as the cab came to a rolling stop. She ran to him with arms waving, her voice screaming with excitement. She knelt down as they wrapped their arms around each other, wildly tasting each other's tears with every kiss.
Nine months ago neither Jim nor Cathleen would have suspected their time apart would actually enrich their lives and bring them closer, but it did-through the power of words. Each and every day, they told each other things they never felt it necessary to say in person, the things that went unsaid before.
Now, together again and forever, their bond was stronger, their love even deeper. Jim handed Cathleen number two hundred and seventy three. She tore open the envelope and opened the letter. It read;
My Dearest Love,