We undertook our first jaunt a week after Mike’s liver biopsy. I filled the water tank, checked the oil and brake fluid levels, packed food stuffs, our clothes, Mike’s R/C car and tool boxes, his walker, our dog and its related supplies, and finally, helped Mike from the wheelchair into the passenger seat, then stowed his chair inside.
I drove to the campout site, parked the rig, leveled it with the wooden blocks Mike had made before losing his leg, hooked up to the electricity, turned on the water and propane tank, and made sure to put the correct amount of chemicals into the black water storage tank to avoid unpleasant odors.
With the RV settled in place, I pushed Mike in his wheelchair to where folks had gathered to greet one another. They welcomed us warmly and made a point to engage Mike in conversation, which he enjoyed to the max.
After a weekend of chatting, joking, playing silly games and sharing potluck meals, we headed for home still laughing at the antics of our fellow campers—memories more uplifting than our everyday challenges. The moment I pulled into our driveway, however, the reality of our daily concerns took over—like waiting for the results of Mike’s liver biopsy.
That call came the next afternoon. As soon as I learned it was the doctor with the report, I hurried to get Mike. He was in the carports sanding layers of paint off the old kitchen door so that I could redo it.
"The doctor’s on the phone with your biopsy results." I told him.
"Let him tell you."
"Are you sure? They usually won’t tell anyone but the patient …"
"I don’t care. Get him to tell you!"
With trepidation I returned to the phone. "Mike would like you to give the results to me."
"Okay," he said. "We did not find any cancer; however, his liver is on the verge of developing into cirrhosis. If it were my liver, I wouldn’t touch another drop of alcohol for the rest of my life."
"Okay, I’ll tell him. Anything else we should know?"
"There is evidence of his chronic hepatitis B, which you already knew about."
"Yes, we did. Someone told us it was because of the transfusions during his bleeding ulcer episode."
"Most likely. That’s it, then. Repeat my findings to him, will you?"
"Yes, I will. Thank you."
We hung up and I went out to tell Mike what the doctor said. Exactly. He showed no emotion. Gave no response. He simply whirled his chair around, turned on the belt sander and continued working.
Maybe he finally realized the seriousness of his health. Maybe he was a bit shocked. I went back into the house, allowing him time to absorb what he would of the doctor’s message.
After a while, I returned to find him vigorously moving that sander along the door, cutting deeper than any layer of old paint, and creating long, uneven gouges in its surface.
"Whoa, Mike! What are you doing?" I hollered.
He shut off the sander and turned. "What do you mean? I’m sanding the paint off like you wanted."
"You’re gouging it!"
"I am not!" He scowled.
"Look at it …" I squatted down, putting my eyes level with the door that rested upon saw-horses. "Look at it from this angle." It was worse than I first thought. If he couldn’t see the unevenness, then maybe his eyesight was, well … I shoved the thought back, not wanting to consider the possibilities.
Mike rolled his chair backward and took a look. "Looks fine to me, but I’ll go over it again if you want."
I didn’t want. He’d probably make it worse. I also didn’t want to insult him, in case he was doing the best he could. And I surely didn’t want to start an argument. "Well, how about just sanding the places that still have paint on them instead? That’ll be quicker."
"Thank you." I headed back inside and left him to his work.
While he continued sanding, I called my mother to let her know we’d stop by the next day after Mike’s appointment with the prosthetist in Seattle. Mom was pleased, and told me that her bank statement had come, so I knew she’d expect me to balance her checkbook—something I’d done since my father died the year before and Mom added me to her bank account. That done, I got dinner started and returned to the carports to fetch Mike.
"How does it look?" He gestured over the now nearly paint-free old door, a big grin on his face.
"Looks great," I said. "Good job. Thank you." I patted his back.
"Now, let’s get you inside for dinner." I pushed him and his chair up the ramps to the back porch and on into the kitchen to eat. "You feeling better now … about the liver report, I mean?"
"I guess. I feel like it’s the beginning of the end. Can’t drive. Have to depend on you to take me anywhere. Can’t do anything around here to help."
"We’ll survive, Mike. You’ll get your leg one of these days, and things will get better."
"They certainly can’t get any worse," he said.