Sue and Ray
The letters arrived; Ray’s, the original; Sue’s the carbon copy.
It looks like we are to remain in Spokane. Therefore Mother and I visited Fr. Buckley last night to find out what documents would be necessary.”
Ray scanned the page. Looks like a lot here. Better get on it and see what I need to do.
“I told him that I was under the impression you had completed the necessary religious instruction classes but that I believed Sue had mentioned that those were taken under a priest you had known at school. If that is the case a letter from that priest to Father Buckley certifying that you had received and completed the course of instructions will be required.(Most of these university priests go to summer school, visit their families in places like Puyallup, Washington, or go street preaching in South Carolina, and cannot be located hurriedly! – why not consult with him about the completion of the enclosed forms?)
Ray smirked. I get the hint. Turn in this stuff… or else.
The letter continued.
“Forms M1 G and 3 are to be filled out by your parish priest on the information you can furnish; likewise the agreement and promises listed on the back of “3”…
Form #2 “Testimony of External Witness” will be filled out by the priest… Finally your baptismal certificate or certified copy form the church records where you were baptized is required.”…
“All of this sounds like a lot of work but after you look over the forms you will see that there is not too much effort involved…
The wedding will be held in the Church (home weddings are not permitted); Mass of course so the ceremony will be quite brief.”
Scanning the pages, Ray considered all that was expected of him. Not for the first time, he tamped down his irritation with the arrogance of the Catholic Church. Sue had explained the belief of Catholics that theirs was the One True Faith, but he could not agree. Weren’t all God-fearing people equal in the eyes of the Lord? He and Sue had agreed to disagree, and he certainly had no quarrel with her devotion to her faith. He was more than willing to respect her devotion to the Church, to raise their children as Catholics, and so on. But all these forms! I don’t think I was under this much scrutiny to become accepted into the Air Force Intelligence! More hoops to jump through than the United States Air Force – now that’s saying something.
Meanwhile, in Minneapolis, Sue was looking over the same letter. It certainly doesn’t look too complicated, and I know Ray will take care of this right away. That’s the way his Air Force mind works – so on top of things. Daddy’s comment about those college priests … so true! And he’d know! Daddy has had so many priest friends over the years.
As soon as these forms are mailed in, we’ll be official!
Hours before his wife and daughter would be coming downstairs, Henry woke. He struggled to sit, then stand, and tried futilely to stop the gasping. Wincing, he shuffled into to bathroom and back. Why has the swelling in my feet worsened overnight? The pain is nearly unbearable today.
Later, while Catherine and Mary bustled around in the kitchen, he remained in the living room, rooted to a chair, his feet propped on a footstool. “Not too hungry this morning,“ he‘d replied when Catherine offered to make him an egg.
“See you tonight, Daddy. Gotta run!” Mary called out. The door slammed, and Henry heard her car backing out of the driveway. Catherine came in to the living room.
“Here’s your coffee, dear.” She glanced down. “Henry, my goodness! Your feet don’t look good today.”
Trying to mask his discomfort, he said, “I’m no worse for wear.” But he knew she was seeing right through his charade.
Catherine shook her head. “I’d better call Doctor Cunningham. He told me to call if things got worse.”
He wanted to protest, but couldn’t muster up the energy to object. Besides, why argue? She was right. Catherine headed for the phone, and he listened to her leave a message with the nurse. Then she returned and joined him while he drank his coffee.
“Catherine, let’s change the subject. I want to get a letter off to Ray with the particulars.” He shambled toward the desk, grasping for the backs of furniture as he went, his worn moccasins dragging along the floor.
“That would be a good idea, if you’re up to it. I only wish that we’d gotten the opportunity to meet him before the wedding. It just seems so strange that our daughter is marrying a man we’ve never met.”
“It is unusual, but I have to say he’s done nothing but impress me. He’s responded so promptly to all of the requests from the Church, and his letters to us have been so heartfelt. Our Sue is certainly taken by him.” Leadenly, he sunk into the chair.
“Yes, she certainly is. I’m just finalizing the list of invitees. Tomorrow I plan to pick up the invitations, then address the envelopes and get them in the mail. But, I’m certainly not liking the looks of your puffiness this morning. I hope the doctor calls back soon.” She eyed the telephone.
Henry plunked at the typewriter keys. Even the simple task of getting out a letter drains me. Was I this fatigued a month ago? It’s hard to tell. When was the last time I felt like myself?
He leaned forward and scrolled the paper upwards to reread what he’d typed.
We have learned that the only restrictions in securing a marriage license in this state is the three day waiting period….
We have made some plans which we hope will meet with the approval of both of you…
Mother thought she could hold a party on Sunday, the 25th, if you could arrange to be here on the night of the 24th. Then she thought that we could have our friends and neighbors in for a reception Sunday afternoon which would replace the one normally held on the afternoon of the wedding…
The wedding has been set for Thursday, August 28, at 12 noon…
I am sure that I can march down the aisle with Sue…
We shall have the wedding breakfast at home immediately after the ceremony and you and Sue could leave right afterward if we can hold the reception on Sunday as outlined above. …
This plan seems to have much merit because it would not crowd too much excitement into the one day. And it would give us a chance to visit with both of you for the two or three days between your arrival and the wedding day….
Let us know what you think of the schedule…
“Catherine, I’ve made a carbon to send to Sue as well. Here, read this, please, and see if I’ve covered everything.” He handed the letter to her, and waited for her to skim through it.
“It sounds very clear. Shall I put both in envelopes and address them for you?”
The phone rang, and Henry strained to hear Catherine’s end of the conversation. But, she spoke in hushed tones. Then, her volume increased.
“Yes, Doctor. We’ll be on our way immediately. Thank you.”
“On our way? To his office?” he asked as she returned to the room.
“No. He’s checking you into the hospital again.” She grasped his hands, and leaned forward to look into his eyes. “I know you don’t want to be there, but he feels you need to have the aspiration procedure again, to drain fluid. Remember how much better you felt when he did it a couple of months ago? He’ll do the procedure this afternoon, and you can come home tomorrow.”
His shoulders slumped. Another ordeal, for me and for Catherine. Damn it! He looked into his wife’s eyes. She’s so tired, so beaten down. I won’t make this any harder on her.
“So, let’s get this over with. I better get some decent clothes on. We can mail these letters on our way to the hospital.”
“All right. I’ll help you into the bathroom and get some clothes for you to change into.“
Standing outside of the bathroom where Henry was getting dressed, she mulled over the doctor’s words. “This is build-up of fluid is a common problem for a man in Henry’s condition. But, let’s see if we can make him more comfortable.” The doctor’s tone was gentle and kind, but he’d sounded resigned, too. Without hope. With just a short-term remedy. Once again, she was reminded that there was no cure, and only minimal ways to alleviate some of Henry’s suffering. For how long? How long will I have my husband? Please, dear Lord, keep him with me for a while longer.
“We’ve got quite a warm day in store, Henry. I don’t think you’ll be needing to wear a tie,” she said through the bathroom door.
“Nonsense! Of course I’ll wear a tie.” He opened the door and stepped out. Beads of sweat glistened at his hair line and he gasped for air. Putting on the oxygen mask, he inched his way into the living room, holding on to the wall for support, and plopped into the nearest chair.
“Well, I’m going to dress in something cool. I’ll go on upstairs and get ready quickly, and then we’ll be on our way.”
Upstairs, Catherine slipped into a short-sleeved linen dress. Has it only been a few weeks since Henry had last seen Doctor Cunningham? His ankles have ballooned, and that oxygen mask! I rarely see him take it off any more. Blessed Mother, please intercede and allow this procedure to give Henry some relief. She tucked a handkerchief into a navy handbag, and slid into her navy pumps. Time to go! Impulsively, she grabbed the rosary on her nightstand and tossed it in her purse.
“Have you got my tie?” Henry asked as she descended the stairs.
“Yes, I do. Is this one all right?” She held up his favorite, the one in Notre Dame colors.
“Perfect!” Expertly, he tied the knot and slid it up to the collar of his shirt. “Some things I can still do. But I hate having to wear these old moccasins. They’re disgraceful.” He looked down at his swollen feet.
“No one will notice that you’re not wearing your wingtips,” she assured him. “I’ll go get the car and park it right near the kitchen door. Then I’ll come in and help you.”
She rolled down all of the windows to the Buick before she drove it close to the back door, then put it in park and went into the house for Henry. The walk to the car took several minutes, and by the time she was behind the steering wheel again, a rivulet of perspiration trickled down her back and her stockings clung to the backs of her knees. Henry’s once-crisp white shirt was now splotched with damp patches.
The drive to the hospital was a short one, but the breeze through the open windows allowed them to cool off a bit.
“Whew! Pretty hot for Washington!” she remarked. Henry only nodded, not bothering to remove the mask so he could respond.
She helped Henry out of the car near the entrance, then parked in the lot. Inside, an orderly brought out a wheel chair for Henry and they were taken to a room on the fourth floor. After Henry was settled into the bed, Doctor Cunningham arrived.
“Doc, I can’t walk my daughter down the aisle in these moccasins! I’ve got to be able to get shoes on for the wedding!”
“Let’s see what we can do about this,” the doctor said, then proceeded with a quick exam. “It’s a fairly simple procedure, and you’ve had it before. But, you’ll still have a bit of swelling. Catherine, how about taking a pair of Henry’s leather shoes and slitting them open?”
“Ruin a good pair of shoes?” Henry responded, shaking his head. Then he threw up his hands and grinned. “”If that’s what it takes, I guess I’ll have to sacrifice a pair for the wedding.”
Catherine laughed, too. It felt good to find some levity in the situation. “I’m sure I can carve them apart so he can wear them, Doctor. But I hope this procedure will help, too. Wedding is only about five weeks away.”
Catherine was relegated to the hospital waiting room, crowded with others waiting or word of their loved ones. Nearby, a young woman wept silently as her husband tried to soothe her. The poor dear! Is that a photograph of her child she’s holding? How people suffer! What a dismal place to be! Blessed Mother, guide the hands of the doctors here today. Reaching into her handbag, she found her rosary and stroked one bead after another as she prayed.
In the early evening, soon after she was summoned to her husband’s bedside, the doctor returned.
“Go home and get some rest, Catherine. We’ll keep an eye on Henry here. He should be ready to go home by mid-morning.” He shook their hands, and left the room.
Henry looked pale, his eyes rimmed with bluish smudges of weariness. “I agree with the doctor, Catherine. Time for you to skedaddle.” Henry waved his hand toward toe door. She hesitated.
“I suppose we’ll both be more rested if I leave now.” She kissed her husband. “Good night, Henry.”
It felt strange to drive home alone. Mary greeted her at the door.
“How is daddy? Here, I’ve made us chicken salad. Sit down and fill me in.”
“Aren’t you a good daughter, to take care of your old mother? Daddy will be home tomorrow.”
She nibbled the sandwich, and briefly updated Mary, avoiding the mention of the gravity of Henry’s condition.
As soon as Mary left for work, Catherine headed to the hospital.
“Look at my feet today, Catherine! They look much better, don’t they?” Henry pried off his oxygen mask to speak.
“I think so. Do you feel any better?” in spite of the reduced swelling of his feet, he still looked drawn, an almost grayish tinge to his complexion.
“Yes, a bit. The doctor was just in to see me. Said I could go home.” As he spoke, the nurse entered the room.
“Yes, Mr. Brosnahan, the doctor has released you. Let me help you get ready and your wife can take you. Mrs. Brosnahan, we can meet you down at the main entrance in just a few minutes.”
“Wonderful. I’ll go get the car.” She took the elevator to the lobby, then headed outside. The air was even warmer now, and she mopped her brow with her handkerchief as she unlocked the car doors and rolled down the windows. I’ll make a nice fruit salad for lunch. Too hot to cook. Then this afternoon, I can get busy on those wedding invitations.
“Mrs Brosnahan! Mrs. Brosnahan!”
Catherine looked up to see the nurse rushing in her direction.
One look at the nurse’s expression told Catherine everything.
“Come with me, please.” The nurse reached for her arm and Catherine numbly followed her. As they hurried down the sidewalk and back into the building, a kaleidoscope of images played across her mind. Henry and I on wedding day, our Christmas stockings hung on our mantle, laughter around a Sunday dinner table, his silly old buffalo coat, the annual Harvester dinners, cocktails on the porch, the children’s graduations, nightly rosaries together in the parlor, the Notre Dame tie, the moccasins, his glorious laugh… It was if I’m flying above the scene she was a part of. Is this me scurrying into the hospital? Is this really happening? Is today the day I lose my Henry?
The doctor stood waiting at the door. He reached out his arms to her.
“I’m so sorry, Catherine. He’s gone.”