Journey stood in front of the mirror, running her hands over her yellow sundress. No matter how hard she tried to get the wrinkles out, they kept reappearing. She gave up and began to fidget with her hair.
“You look beautiful.” Bruce stood and watched his wife from the doorway as she combed her hair once more.
“It’s just been such along time, I want to look nice.”
“I know honey.” He walked over to her and she fell into his arms, trying to hold back the tears that were fighting to be free like water from a dam. “But you know just as well as I do, that this is a routine surgery. I am sure everything will be fine.
“There is nothing routine about losing the function of your kidneys. And the fact that I haven’t seen my father in seven years doesn’t make this any easier.” She finally gave way to the tears, and as they began to fall, Bruce led her over to the bed to calm her.
“Your father is going to be fine, baby. We have to think positive, and just pray that his body won’t reject your kidney.”
She knew he was right, but it just seemed too much to bear at that moment. Three weeks ago, she had received a phone call from her brother Tommy, telling her that their father needed a kidney transplant, and unfortunately, he wasn’t a match. Without giving it a second thought, Journey was tested, and as fate would have it, she was a perfect match.
She wiped her face with the back of her hands and thanked her husband for trying to put her mind at ease. She began to stand, but not before placing her hand on his well defined chin and kissing him tenderly. Bruce was like a fine wine she thought to herself; he just kept getting better with age. He was ten years her senior, but that never bothered either of them. Bruce’s hair had begun to gray, and he hated it. But to her, it added character to his already strong demeanor.
“Mommy, look at what I did,” Elizabeth exclaimed as she came bouncing into the room holding a piece of paper in her hands. She stood and proudly held it up for her mother to look at. It was a drawing of her mother when she was a little girl lying in the grass, and watching the clouds with her father. Journey had told her that the story many times. Please give this to grandfather for me.
“It’s beautiful, and I promise I will give this to him as soon as I see him. Who loves you more than anything in the world?” Journey asked her as she bent down and rubbed their noses together.
“You do Mommy,” Elizabeth replied giggling and wrapping her arms around her mother’s neck and squeezing it softly.
She ran her hand through her daughter’s dark curls, and kissed her good bye once more before leaving for the hospital.
Journey inhaled deeply trying to calm herself as she walked up the steps of the hospital. As she entered the lobby, she was surprised to find Tommy waiting for her.
“It’s so good to see you,” Journey said as she and her brother embraced. “Where’s Mom?” she asked hoping to have a moment alone with them both. She was still close to the two of them, despite what happened between her and her father.
“Upstairs, I needed a break,” Tommy said, intertwining her arm inside his, and leading her into the cafeteria.
“So, how is he?”
“He’s Dad, still bossing people around,” Tommy replied shrugging his shoulders and laughing a little. But when he saw the concerned look on Journey’s face he knew now was not the time for jokes.
“I have a confession to make, J,” he said, pausing and taking a sip of his coffee. “The day I found out I wasn’t a match, I was relieved.” He wiped away his tears that had unexpectedly begun to fall.
Journey knew what he’d shared was hard for him. She reached across the table and took his hands into hers. “It’s okay. Surgery can be scary for anyone.” Being a nurse had its advantages and she knew her family would be looking to her for answers to their many questions about the surgery.
“Daddy is going to be fine,” Journey said in her most authoritative voice. She wasn’t sure who she was trying to convince more, Tommy or herself.
“That’s my J, always the pillar of strength.” Tommy admired her a great deal and often wished he’d made more of his own decisions in life. Because according to his father, there had never been a question of whether Tommy was going to be a lawyer. And Tommy questioned if he had made the right decision after seeing how happy Journey was with her life.
Journey hoped that their heart to heart had brought him some comfort. But unfortunately, it hadn’t brought her much, and her thoughts returned to what type of welcome she would receive from her father. She said a silent prayer as she walked into the lion’s den, wearing her heart on her sleeve.
Her mother was sitting beside his bed, listening to her husband complaining about one thing after the other. He stopped speaking once he saw Journey enter the room and looked at her with a blank stare.
“Journey, you’re here.” Her mother was happy to see her and embraced her ever so tightly. She hadn’t seen Journey since her last visit out West almost two years ago. And she hated that they were seeing one another again under these circumstances.
James made a grumbling sound before speaking. “I wasn’t sure you would come.”
“Of course I came.” Journey wanted to go to him, but her feet felt as heavy as concrete.
Sensing her daughter’s hesitation, Ella walked over to James, and kissed him on the cheek. “Be nice,” she whispered in his ear. “She is about to save your life.”
“And we gave her life, how ironic is that?” James replied, looking up at his wife. She squeezed his hand, and kissed him goodbye once more.
“Despite what he says, he is happy to see you,” Ella said, hugging her daughter again. She was the glue that held them all together, and they loved her for it.
“Don’t let him break you,” Tommy whispered to Journey before opening the door for his mother. And then they were gone, and Journey was alone with her father.
“How are you feeling, are you comfortable?” Journey asked as she slowly approached his bed.
“You look so much like your mother,” James said with a half hearted smile.
“You should see Elizabeth. She has Momma’s smile.” Journey’s spirits were lifted by the thought of her daughter.
“Why did you stay away so long?”
Journey thought for a moment before answering. “You told me there was no place for me here. What was I supposed to do?”
“You were going to be a doctor. The next thing I knew you were dropping out of medical school and getting married to a man your mother and I barely knew.”
Journey could hear the pain in his voice as though it had all happened yesterday. “Daddy, Bruce is a good man, but you never gave him a chance. Once you heard I didn’t want to be a doctor that was the end of our conversation. ”
“I didn’t understand why you were in such a rush to get married. It wasn’t like you to be so impetuous.”
“We were and still are very much in love, Daddy. I have a wonderful life that you know nothing about.” She instantly regretted thinking this was the time or the place to discuss their issues. “You need your rest. I’ll be back tomorrow.” She squeezed his hand afraid to show him any other signs of affection.
As James watched Journey walk away, he knew he needed to make things right between them. “Motherhood has changed you,” he called out to her, as she opened the door. “You have always been strong, but now, you have grace. I love you, Journey.”
“Oh, Daddy!” Journey dropped her purse and ran back to his bed. “I love you too,” she said, unable to hold back her tears any longer. For seven years that was all she wanted to hear. It was as though a weight had been lifted from her shoulders, and her world was whole again.
The surgery went well and James embraced his second chance at life that God had given him. And he vowed to be a better man for his family, finally realizing what was really important in life.