Greta had retired after thirty years as a senior operating room nurse with a very prestigious hospital. Now, a year later, she was ready for the wonderful trip she and Alvin had been planning for months. His retirement ceremony this afternoon had been bitter sweet after so many years on the bench. His tenure as superior court judge in this large city had not been without turmoil. It had been a time of civil unrest, and Alvin had overseen his many cases with grit and integrity.
As they stood admiring the beautiful new motor home they had bought for this journey, they were both excited to begin this new phase of their lives. They had a small car that could be towed by the motor home, and all that needed to be done now was get their affairs in order and pack.
Alvin’s doctor appointment was the first in depth examination he’d had in several years. After all, he was only 65, and had always been in excellent health. He and Greta chatted about their plan to leave the following Monday as they waited for the doctor to return.
“Alvin, I want to do another test before you leave,” said the doctor. “It’s just a precaution, but since you may not be seeing another physician for a while, I want to make sure I haven’t missed anything.”
Greta tried to conceal the chill that crept up her spine, knowing this could be some very bad news. It was important that she not let Alvin see that she was frightened, so she put on a smile and said, “OK, let’s get this done so we can be on our way Monday.”
The next few days were busy with preparations for the trip. Just loading the motor home with all the necessities was a monumental task. Never before had they travelled for more that a few weeks at a time. Trying to remember everything, Greta tried to keep her mind busy.
When the call came in, Alvin took it on the speaker phone in the kitchen. The doctor said, “Alvin, I have some bad news, and since we’re such old friends I’m going to tell you now. I see no need for you to come into the office to hear what I have to say. Is Greta nearby?” “Yes, I’m here,” she said from across the room.
“I’m afraid you have metastatic lung cancer and it has invaded your spinal cord. It is not operable, since it’s already within the spinal cord itself. It’s close to the brain, and may well be growing there already. We need to do further tests, and I suggest we start with an MRI tomorrow morning. I am so very sorry, my old friend.”
Stunned, Greta and Alvin simply looked at one another. Greta found she could not speak, and finally Alvin said, “we need to talk about this calmly, my love, before any decisions can be made.”
Somehow they got through the day, Greta keeping herself busy with mundane household chores, and Alvin tinkering with his model ships. When evening came, he suggested they light a fire and have a glass of wine.
Greta knew it was time to tell him. There was no longer any reason to withhold the information she had been carrying for the last year. When her doctor told her she had pancreatic cancer, she had elected not to receive treatment, but instead enjoy what time she had left. The diagnosis had stayed quietly buried in her subconscious, but when it came time to tell her husband, she couldn’t find the words. She hadn’t spoken to anyone since the doctor had called Alvin, and even talking with her beloved husband at this crucial time was very difficult.
Suddenly she knew the answer, as if it had always been right there in front of her.
“Alvin, why not have a martini tonight. It’s been such a horrific day that I think we could both use it,” Greta said. “I’m going to put on my robe and slippers and I’ll be right back. Make mine a double, would you, my love.”
She’d been saving the pills for months now, since her diagnosis. The time had come to use them, for both her and Alvin. Fortunately Alvin was a small man, and she could manage to move him after he lost consciousness.
Greta stood in the back doorway that led into the garage. Alvin sat upright but unconscious in the front seat. He snored slightly. Greta made sure the garage was closed up tight, opened the car door on the driver’s side, and turned the key in the ignition. Alvin never stirred. Ambien and martinis were such a deadly combination. She climbed in beside him and shut the door.