The townhouse which had been his haven away from the rigors and responsibilities of his surgical world now became a place of haunting memories.Arlene’s presence was everywhere, in a vase that she loved ,in the color of the walls and the selection of her favorite paintings. The lingering residue of all of the wonderful moments that had been shared in this home was unbearable especially after sunset. The early evening with increasing shadows of darkness engulfed him into a loneliness that often led to his leaving the building and wandering around the neighborhood for hours. He never wished to frequent the little restaurants and bistros that were their regular stops, and found that Café Nero was a preferable choice. He often would sit there until closing and then take the longest route possible home.
The following months after Arlene’s death were not anything new as far as the intensity of the loss, but this time it was different. One of the keys to working your way through the grieving process was to have an ally that would be constantly available. When his mother had died Arlene had been there. She was not only his rock, but became a second mother to his young, vulnerable brothers, When Donald was killed in that horrible accident at the beach she was the one who was the glue that held them together. Also ,when tragedy struck again. and Donald died in his arms on the basketball court she was the one who adsorbed his tears ,and allowed his pain and confusion to surface. She had been the safe harbor, and now when he needed her the most she was gone. Her death stole his biggest ally to combat the pain, and he was stripped naked before the endless torture of her absence.
One bright Tuesday morning Michael decided that moping around the house feeling sorry for himself was a strategic mistake. He had no illusions that he could dismiss his grief, and instantaneously get on with his life, but he needed more social contact. Mary and the rest of his children were consistently a presence, but he needed to allow them to get back to their own lives. Scanning his cell phone list he stopped at the number of Jim Tracy his accountant who lived in Nanuet. Jim had called almost weekly inviting him out to lunch,.Today he decided to join Jim in Nanuet.
The traffic was fairly light as he crossed the George Washington Bridge, and entered the Palisades Parkway.His eyesight ,which had been failing over time ,was having difficulty with the glaring sunshine ,and for the past two miles he had frequently drifted into the speed lane. On each occasion a blaring horn had startled him, and he made a sharp turn back to the inside lane.The next time he drifted the move back was too radical ; he hit the curb on the shoulder and lost complete control. He was wearing a seat belt, but the car crashed into a tree and the impact launched him toward the doorThe front windshield was shattered ,and shards grazed his face and forehead. Witnesses to the accident stopped and one called 911. Before long he was placed in an ambulance and whisked off to Good Samaritan hospital.
“That deer jumped right in front of me and that is when I lost control of the car.”
Michael McNally told the same story over and over again to explain why he had lost control of his car, and crashed into a tree. In fact there was no deer, but this fabrication was his way of saving face, and avoiding the reality that his sight was severely impaired. He had hid the recent diagnosis of macular degeneration from his family, but they were aware that his eyesight was failing. His daughter Mary had been worried about him especially since the death of her mother. The last two years had been a drain on his vitality as he cared for Arlene through the final stages of her illness. The foundations of his world had vanished, and the certitude of Arlene’s presence and his medical career were only memories as he tried to piece together how he would spend whatever time was left.
The injuries from the accident were not life threatening, but because of the concussion the attending physician decided to keep him overnight for observation. Mary had arrived at the hospital, and seated by his bed had begun a conversation that she hoped would bring some decisions for the future.
“Dad I know that this was not your fault, but I would feel more at ease if I knew that you were safe and secure.” Michael winced because he knew where this conversation would lead.”Mary this was pure and simply a case of a deer jumping in front of my car.”Mary knew that a frontal assault on this would be in vain, so she attempted a roundabout incursion that would be less threatening. “I know that Dad, but I have had concerns about your staying at home, and though you know Tom and I would love to have you live with us, the boys would drive you crazy.” Mary was referring to the four hellions aged five to eleven that made living in the house an adventure. Michael smiled”I love them Mary, but there is no way that I will live with you. I would like to remain where I am.” Mary ever the barnacle tried again. “Dad you know that there are places where you could keep your independence but you would have fewer responsibilities. I know that Mom had a friend who lived at Fox Hill and loved it. When you are released I would like us to explore the options.” Michael knew that Mary like his wife was like a dog with a bone, and there was no way she was going to abandon this issue. Reluctantly he agreed, but there was not a twinge of enthusiasm for leaving his home.
Doctor Vic De Fino had been a cherished friend and colleague of Michael’s for over thirty years, and was privy to the medical changes that had occurred the last year. Entering the hospital room he greeted Mary with a kiss and hug. Turning to Michel he said”Well is it true that you are going to apply for the Nascar tour?” Michel smiled and quipped “You and the white horse you rode in on.””Well I can see that despite the poor quality of medical care here you have survived your encounter with Bambi.”” I am sure you think that’s funny, but it is a simple fact. No one could have avoided losing control of the car.”Doctor DeFino smiled turned to Mary and said”Mary could you please step outside for a few minutes while I examine this curmudgeon. “Mary picked up her sweater and said.”I will go to the cafeteria and be back in a while Dad.”
Once Mary left the room the gloves came off ,and Vic DeFino waded into the real crux of the issue.”Michael I don’t know whether there was a deer or not, but you can no longer hide the fact that you have lost significant sight. Driving a car is no longer an option,, and I have been silent up to now but can no longer allow it”Michael knew this was true, but felt a wave of anger toward his colleague and friend”. Are you a member of the sight police?” “Cut the bullshit Michael if the roles were reversed you would take the same stance. It is time for you to face the reality of your situation.” “Alright but don’t say anything to Mary. You and I can discuss it next week.” “Alright good buddy and I know you are pissed at me for bringing it up, but together we will find ways to handle all of your needs.”