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With pale trembling hands he hung up the phone. Fumbling for a moment for his cane, when he found its Dragons head, he slowly started to turn. Again the pain shot through him and he paused for a moment to find his center and focus through it. He willed against the growing darkness in him and slowly shoved it back, all the while keeping a calm demeanor. No one outside was to know what was happening.
When it was finally gone, he was able to lean into the cane and he started to walk back down the hall toward the room. He still managed to keep fairly straight and tall, his hair, still the short, shaggy blond, very thin on top (but no bald spots), his hyper metabolism allowing him to maintain that lanky frame, although the muscle he had finally been able to acquire in his twenties had softened somewhat due to the sedentary nature of his life the last few years. His skin was wrinkled, his freckles replaced by liver spots. But his large brown eyes were clear—and filled with determination.
The phone call had been to a Grandson, one with whom he placed the most trust (he trusted them all but this was the one who currently was the active Field Operations Head of the Team), letting him know to put the wheels in motion.
He knew he was heading down this hall for the last time. And he was glad.
He was glad because the little things that annoyed him would shortly pass into nothing. These things, such as his artificial left foot (lost to the slashing rotors of a mad 'tree chopper' device) chaffed constantly as he hadn't bothered to have the worn padding replaced, the reoccurring pain in his right side from his two artificial ribs (replacements for those shattered by a sonic wand torture device) the cause of a constant dull ache, and of course he still had the ghost feelings from the missing little finger of his right hand (yanked off when he had frantically been grasping at a cable when falling) let alone the way he had always disliked the feel of the entire left side of his jaw/face being made of plastic from the train crash. Petty annoyances for someone his age but annoyances none the less.
But these had been the physical costs of the life that he had gone into open-eyed and standing upright. And as with all physical pain, these too would pass. When one focused on the other things, the ones that had made the journey so rewarding, it changed the whole perspective.
By now he had reached the door and laying his hand on the pad to activate the autoslider, he had to pause and rethink those last couple of thoughts.
His own physical pain would pass. It was his to deal with and find balance. And in the scheme of things, considering seven plus decades, while his body had paid what many would consider an enormous price—
Next to her, as in all things, as it has always been, I have been the second banana, the follow-on. And despite everything I tried, despite the way I threw myself into things, she still took the brunt unto herself—and paid the price.
She was almost not visible in the bed through the tubes, feeds, monitor wiring and scanners. Only her face, and that scarlet hair, still holding its color, (with just a little bit of help). Her face was pale, as thin, and wrinkled as a pharaoh's mummy. That was all that was visible of her, the rest being covered by sheets and blankets. What there was of her to cover.
He stopped by her right side and gazed at her. She called herself a normal girl out to save the world. And she never thought of the cost to herself. She stopped wearing bikini's by the time she was twenty-three because of the wounds and scars, stopped going to the beach period by twenty-seven for the same reason. When that biological crud spilled and melted her left arm—and finally that car bomb that took both her legs—
For what had to be the millionth time in their relationship, he shook his head. And in later years, from exposure to all the stupid beams, rays, chemicals and crap. Breast cancer, the loss of one lung, having to use an electronic box after losing her vocal cords, almost the complete loss of her vision to where she can barely tell the difference between light and dark.
And here she is, when by all medical reason, her body, her eighty-eight year old body is still functioning when all agree that by all medical logic, it should have surrendered to the inevitable long ago.
That brought a loving and yet sad smile to his face. They just don't know that my KP just can't ever give up.
And she would not. Not if she had any say in the matter. None of the injuries that he had just rattled off in his mind had ever done more than direct her boundless energies and attention into other/different ways to accomplish the same tasks. She had championed and helped developed prosthetics that allowed her to keep going. She had become, along with everything else, the forefront of the fight of the handicapped for normalization in the manner only she could. Only the final, ultimate threats that faced her now, maladies and conditions insidious in their slow attacks, accompanied by the fervent pleas of her children, Grandchildren and Great-Grandchildren (and he had recently been told, due to the small indiscretion of one of those, a Great-Great Grandchild was on the way) had moved her from the field of action to the field of supervision and instruction.
She had become Trouble Shooting Guru to the world, demanding and getting top dollar from Corporations which went right into charities while those same charities, the homeless and unfortunate received her talents free of charge.
It had been a full life.
And I've had the honor and the privilege to be there for all of it. She always insisted that I was her partner. I went along with that but I knew better. When it came to the missions, I knew that I was always the sidekick, the distraction, and I've never regretted that role. Each of us had our talents and our abilities and when we finally learned that and honed them and actually practiced at it, it got so much better and we really were a TEAM!
For the roll of second banana was made up for in our life and our love. There we were and we are partners in the total, true and complete sense of the word. Yes, we had our arguments, we exchanged words, (she is a redhead) but we made a promise and a point never to go to bed angry even if we had to stay up until dawn to get things worked out. We have loved each other spiritually every single moment since our friendship started in Pre-K eighty-four years ago, we've loved each other physically from that wonderful night at the Prom until the night before she was finally brought in here.
He could feel his eyes tearing. And it wasn't about the awards, the ceremonies, the galas, the joint sessions. I could see it in her face, hear it in her tone, feel it in her touch. It was always about sitting on the grass in the park, holding the babies, the first caresses in the morning when we woke. Even when she could no longer see, those she could feel, those she could still intimately experience and that was all she needed.
The tears were now rolling down his cheeks as he thought, and now she's fighting this battle, this last battle, because she doesn't want to give that up.
Choking back his own emotion, he stepped closer to her side. Well my Love, my whole Universe, I'm afraid that this is not a battle that you can ultimately win. And your only hurting yourself more than you can imagine by prolonging this. It's time that you surrender your burden, and take the peace you so richly deserve.