Thomm Quackenbush, author

So, let me start at the beginning. Well, no, actually even at the beginning we find ourselves at the end of the story, but to truly understand what's happening here we need a little more info on the Shedwings clan.

Eight months ago my parents decided to separate. They all of a sudden couldn't live together, speak, or tolerate each other's presence. I had been away at some competition perhaps in Florida when this happened. My flight left on October 21st, when I returned home on the 28th my parents who have been married for 40 years were no longer living together. Now, in a normal family, one would have seen this coming. One might have had an inkling or a suspicion that something was wrong, but not with us. They were no quiet nighttime fights, no broken dishes, no lipstick on the collar. All there was was a new lease on a new apartment and a lot more space in the house. Unlike Mr. and Mrs. Joe Smith my parents refused to tell me or my sister why there was this sudden change. As if too embarrassed by their own humanity, there became this big black secret in my house. The elephant in the living room seemed like it would be there permanently. To this day I still don't have any idea as to what happened. I know it is something secretive but not anything typical. (Shedwingss don't do "typical" in case no one saw fit to inform you of that.)

Fast forward to last week. My mom is at work when we my father decides to go to his doctor because there is this ringing in his ears. He has been very tired--sleeping almost constantly but we figure this is due to depression and sleep apnea, both of which he has in spades. I am not concerned but instead terribly annoyed that he can't finish sentences anymore and can't manage to have a conversation that has more than 3 words. I am on the elliptical trainer at work when my mom calls and said my father is being sent to the hospital because his doctor thinks there is something very wrong with him. I rush to the hospital only to find out that he is not in fact in the hospital but is making an appointment for a cat scan for the next day. The next day dawns with very little of the movie style drama that is supposed to occur when a major plot change is going to reveal itself. I get up, teach my Little Ninjas, go to the podiatrist and go home to get my dad so that we can go get these tests done. I am not concerned, but violently annoyed with the insurance company which wants to send my dad's orders for review and is refusing to allow treatment. I call everyone. I call them names, I yell at insurance companies, doctors' offices, and hospital workers. I get what I want, but only with a price--they have to admit my father to the hospital in order to get the scan he will need. He gets his scan and we joke around a little bit. My mom shows up and the three of us wait.

Eventually, the ER doctor comes in. (Bear with me here because, while all of this is in sharp relief in my head, the entire series of events from herein feel like they happened to someone else entirely.) He brings a young, dark skinned pretty nurse, which is never a good sign. He explains that the CAT scan showed a 3 cm lesion on the brain. Silence. I don't even move, I don't breathe, I don't think. My mom starts to cry and my father's face gets redder than I've ever seen. The doctor explains and the young soft nurse brings me outside for some air. I realise that in my dazed state I am crying but it feels like there is nothing in the world besides this strange weight in my head, a bible laying my chest waiting for the jury to pass judgement. This nurse is holding me and I don't know her name. I pull away from her brightly coloured scrubs with dogs and cats on them in order to find out who she is. This is all terribly important, I cannot cry on the shoulder of someone nameless. I don't remember her name. She tells me that I need to be strong for my mom since it will be like she is losing her leg, her arm. I want to scream that she lost that right 5 months ago, that she left us to figure out her life, to figure out who she was without my father and why should I be strong for her? (These thoughts, violent, black and malicious go as soon as they arrive though the depth of the feeling stays.) I call Suzyn, my boss, and explain I cannot be on call tonight. I call Xen but his phone isn't working. I call his mom and tell her that I need to speak with him immediately. I cannot cry, I can only explain in a voice that is not my own what has happened. I am standing in the parking lot of the hospital calling everyone I know to explain that my father has been given a death sentence as far as I am concerned. My stomach won't stop turning. I know I go back inside and then leave as quickly as I can, stating that I need to go take care of the dog. I leave rushing away from the hospital like it is the scene of a horror movie, a sound stage for whatever will scare you the most.

I know I walked the dog, and still I couldn't cry. I think I went back to the hospital but honestly I don't remember if I went back or stayed at home. I remember sitting on the kitchen floor holding onto Quest as if he were the only thing left in this universe. He stood, stoic, waiting for me to finish, head bowed with me as I tried to share my pain with the only one who I felt I could really cry to at that moment--the only one who would simply be with me. He pushed his warm skinny head against my chest and just waited, big eyes doleful as if he was the only one who had already known of these events and he had just been waiting for us to understand. I think I went to sleep, I think I took some Tylenol PM so that oblivion might be more quickly acquired, I didn't know that this was the beginning, that I would quickly long for the moment when I thought it was simply one brain tumor. When those odds felt easy.

Emily is a strong woman fighting against her body and soul to earn her wings. She is or has been a nationally ranked blackbelt in Tae Kwon Do, a two time inducteee to the Martial Arts Hall of Fame, an animal control officer, a graduate student, and a groovy person.

Stars in the Daytime
Stars in the Daytime

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Works by Thomm Quackenbush

The Night's Dream Series

We Shadows by Thomm Quackenbush

Danse Macabre by Thomm Quackenbush

Artificial Gods by Thomm Quackenbush