In Defiance of the Night

Chapter 8
Home Again

The morning I was discharged, three urologists visited me. I’ll call them Peter, Paul, and Mary.

“Your blood work looks great,” Peter said, clearly in charge.

“Does that mean I’m going home?”

“Well, that depends.”

I knew where Peter was going. Before being pinned down on a release date, he wanted to make sure my insides remembered their job descriptions.

“Are you going to the bathroom?” Peter asked as he pointed the side of his head at the john. Although he was masked, I knew he was grinning because the crow’s-feet at the corners of his eyes deepened.

It was the smile and the tone of his voice that got me—both endearing and hopeful. That’s what I like about urologists. They can  be surprisingly charming even while talking about the most indecorous bodily functions.

After bladder surgery, constipation is common, which must be corrected before being discharged. So I played my ace.  “I think you’ll like this,” I said as I reached for my iPad and presented a toilet-bowl image—surely a passport to freedom.

Peter, Paul, and Mary leaned over my bed and stared at the photograph. With eyes expanded, they all spoke at once.




Despite ten years of medical school and residency, urologists are easy to please.

That’s the thing about bladder doctors: Nothing makes them happier than knowing their patients have greatly pissed, pooped, and farted. Nor are they shy about expressing their pleasure.

“Good job,” Peter said.

“Outstanding,” Paul said.

“And solid,” Mary said.

I grinned. “Cut it out. You’re making me blush.”

Peter was the last one to speak before turning to leave. “I think we can kick you out today.”

I hammered the air with my fist. “That’s what I’m talking about, Doc.”


My neighbors, Bob and Nancy Rosselli, drove four hundred miles round trip to pick me up and take me home. According to an African proverb, it takes a village to raise a child. True enough. It also takes a village to care for bellyachers, and my belly ached enough to warrant a regiment of oxycodone and Tylenol.

 I live in a neighborhood called Country Ridge in Richland, Washington. I would put my community up against any contender. We’re blessed with life-long friends who are intellectually astute, emotionally evolved, and spiritually grounded. And the Rossellis are the template for our neighborhood’s character.

Although our return over the Cascade Mountains, into the Kittitas Valley, along the Yakima River, and into the shrub steppes of the Tri-Cities was uneventful, the conversation was rich in friendly bantering and philosophical musings—just my style.

“How are you feeling?” Bob asked.

“Like I was sucker punched with a medicine ball.”

As much as I love the Rossellis, the sweetest moment was when I gathered my wife, Nita, into my arms.

“I’m so glad you’re home,” she said.

“You feel good,” I said. “Like you’ve come home too—right here into my arms where you belong.”


Nita gazed at me and cocked her head to one side, her eyebrows pinch. It was a look of puzzlement.

I tucked her into my arms again, holding her tenderly, her body so frail and delicate.

The next morning, when we awakened side by side, as we have done for fifty-three years, I turned on my side to face Nita who already had her eyes on me.

“Honey, I want to ask you something,” I said.

“Of course. What is it?”

“Yesterday, when we embraced for the first time, you looked at me strangely. I’m not sure I can explain it. It was almost as if you didn’t know me.”

“I didn’t,” she said without hesitation.

I took her hand, turned it over, and glided my fingertips across her palm. I was all in. “What do you mean?”

She didn’t hesitate. “I thought you were my father. Then I remembered Papa was dead.” She raised herself higher to be at eye level with me. “And when we went to bed, I wondered why you were sleeping with me.”

“We have always slept together.”

“I know. But it wasn’t you.”

No, not this. Not dementia. Not Parkinson’s disease having its way with her. “Who was in bed with you?” I asked softly.

“It was you, but it was not your heart,” she said as cool as asking for a menu.

I imagined she thought my heart had been lifted from my body during surgery. But that wasn’t it.

“I thought…” She paused for one tick of the clock. When she did speak, her voice was drained of emotion. There was no malice, no grief—only the calm expression of her reality. “I thought you gave your heart to another woman.”

I took her into my arms. “No, bunkie. The only woman who has my heart is you. The way it’s always been. The way it’ll always be.”


“Yes, really. I’m not letting you go. If you slipped away, I would just drift into space. And the air is thin up there. It would be impossible to breathe.”

She looked at me as though she expected me to levitate in the next breath. And then the corners of her mouth turned up into her sweet, familiar smile. “You’re teasing me,” she said.

“Maybe a little,” I admitted, “but not by  much.”

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