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JULY 1ST. WE drive north because we always drive south at the beginning of summer and I don’t want to do what we always do. My wife wants the old, comfortable way, but I get my back up and decide she could do something I want this year. She can’t reason with me.

That’s her big forte, reason. She finally gives in. This is why.

My headaches had been coming with increased frequency. That started a year ago. Eventually I went to my lady GP and she referred me to a specialist. I railed to my wife about like why should I go to her at all, half serious, half in jest. I said it’s like she didn’t know anything.

I have a fever or a pain and it’s, “Oh, you’re sick. I better send you to a specialist.”

I wonder what commission she got on me. Like, would I go to her because I’m well?

“Why don’t you change doctors?” my wife asks.

My answer: they’re all the same in my book. At least this one’s good looking. Smells good, too. Okay, so maybe I’m oversexed. I just do the eye thing and sniff the air she passes through. It’s not like I don’t know I’m married. It’s not like I don’t know what side my bread is buttered on. I’m a male. We’re hardwired for it. I read that somewhere.

Getting back, the headaches began with tightness across my forehead. It didn’t really hurt much at first, just something new. I read somewhere that the first twenty-five years you get growing pains and the rest of your time is dying pains, so I ignored it.

That pretty much answers it for me so I experiment with ibuprofen and aspirin and other stuff to see which one works best and eventually settle on ibuprofen. Six months into when I’m first aware, I mention it to my wife and she says go to the doctor and why’d you wait so long?

“Because it hurts enough now,” I say. I leave it as a question on my lips.

“Stupido! So now I should worry?”

“Nah, it’s not that bad, just more.”

“You gonna make an appointment or do I have to do it for you?”

“I’ll do it. Geez!”

So I go to my GP and she sends me to a specialist. And I got a brain tumor. And it’s growing. I can still function with pain meds and the doc specialist puts me though chemo and I’m in between sessions and our vacation comes up and I want to go north. I gotta say my wife gave up easy. Maybe too easy. I give that some thought.

So we’re on the road. I wanna go to Canada. I haven’t been there in a lot of years and I wanna go, so she stays mum on the subject, and she’s sitting by my side and we’re grabbing big breaths of clean air in our little convertible and the pain isn’t getting past the good way I’m feeling so all’s well, way I figure.

We go to the Bay of Fundy, stopover in New Brunswick and cruise Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia and see a bunch of sights like Hopewell Rocks and fishing boats lying on their sides waiting for the fifteen foot tide to come in and the Tidal Bore in Truro and this sharp pain begins behind my eyes and I don’t let my wife see this new thing and I’m getting worried, too, but I don’t want to ruin it for either of us, so I hide it.

I should be smarter, because I’m getting it that I really am sicker than the doc’s best guess or maybe it’s growing faster or something. Anyway, I have a choice. I’m in control. My wife doesn’t like to drive. She can do it, no problem, but she likes me behind the wheel and she’s really down on big highways.

Well, we get up at the B&B on our last day before heading back to the States and I’m in the bathroom and this pain hits me like a sledgehammer and holy mackerel, I can’t see for a few seconds and sweat breaks out across my brow and I’m glad my wife is still sleeping, only she’s not, because I thought I held in the groan but it got out and she’s standing at the door and there’s this expression on her face I hope I won’t see again in the future.

“Mickey?” It’s accusatory.

I’m still in pain and she knows it’s worse than ever.

“I’m driving today,” she says.

“Yes, you are, honey.”

"I’m taking you to the local hospital.”

“No, it’ll pass. I’ll be okay, but we gotta head for home, for sure.”

She mulls that. You don’t pull wool over her eyes for long.

“I’m calling the doctor.”

“No.”

“I’m calling the doctor.”

“Okay.” I say this because it’s hard to see again.

This B&B has long distance calling, lot of business from the States, I speculate. She dials out. She waits a time and I hear her side of the conversation with various lengthy pauses.

“Dr. Schwimmer, please? Lola Wright calling. It’s about Mickey.”

“Can I reach him? It’s important.” Anxious.

“He’s what?” Angry.

“Who’s covering?” Demanding.

“He won’t do. No, stop. Listen. You need to locate Dr. Schwimmer immediately and have him call me here. I’m out of the country.”

“You’re not listening. I said Dr. Schwimmer, NOW!” She’s going to follow the cord right up that Receptionists mouthpiece.

“Let me talk to the office manager.” Softer, controlled, dangerous.

“Carol, that ditz you have answering your phones needs counseling or firing. Mickey has taken a turn for the worse and we’re in Nova Scotia. I need advice from Mickey’s doctor now.”

“A fishing trip? Does he have a cell phone?” Scary, quiet, measured, palpable.

“Try to get him.” Serious, holding back. I see her face working.

“Carol, I don’t care. GET HIM!” They can hear Lola in Halifax.

“I’ll be waiting by this phone.” She gives the number and hangs up. She looks at me. I feel pasty.

“Mickey, you better lie down. You don’t look good.”

I married a nurse. What should I expect? Lola edges me out of the bathroom and I go back to bed. She’s a take charge girl. Know your stuff and respond quickly, best kind. It’s one thing I love about her and if I didn’t it wouldn’t change anything.

She goes to her purse and gets this little capsule, brings it with water and I swallow it. No point in asking. She showers and dresses and plants herself on a chair by the window next to the phone.

An hour goes by. I’m flying. No pain. It’s not aspirin. The phone rings.

“Yes, doctor…”

She describes my symptoms and I wait a long time.

“Yes, doctor.” She hangs up.

“He wants us to head for home, but don’t stop there. Come directly to the hospital. He’ll be there. He’s arranging for a surgeon. Said it’s obvious the chemo hasn’t stopped it.”

“They gonna cut a hole in my head?”

“Likely. I’m going to ask them for a brain transplant while they’re in there.”

“Funny.”

“Best chance I’ll ever get.”

“Ha ha.”

“Get up, buddy boy. We’re heading out as soon as we can pack.”

Talk about switcheroo. I get my summer vacation and now it’s back to the States to star in my personal life changing event. I’m riding; she’s driving. I got a new job; keep her awake.

Funny the twists and turns in a life. Until it’s not funny.

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