***Jamie and Brad talked for a while, but I didn’t really pay attention. We had to get to the vet clinic. Jamie can’t be late or the animals will suffer. I don’t know what suffer means, but I don’t think it sounds like something I’d like to do. Sometimes I want to be with my own kind for one day. It’s not that I don’t love my family, because I do, but they can be pretty high maintenance. I’m ready for Katie to come home. I hope she still loves me as much as I love her. I want us to work on all the things we learned that will help her to walk. That’s the important thing in my life. All the other things I do are just busy work.
Well, here we go. I heard Jamie and Brad say they had a plan. I don’t know what a plan is, but I’m happy we get to head for the clinic.
When Dina got to the hospital, she went directly to the waiting room where she and Steve had agreed to meet. He said he would wait until she got there before going to see Katie. She hoped she had gotten there soon enough. Katie shouldn’t have to wait to see her daddy. She should have told Steve to go on alone if she wasn’t there by the time the doctor had given them the okay.
As it turned out, Doctor Simpson suggested Steve go in by himself first, anyway. He said Katie might not be ready for the excitement of seeing her mother so soon after major surgery. It might be wiser to have Steve tell Katie that her mother would like to see her and gauge how she reacts. Too much stress was not something Katie needed right now. On the other hand, it might be more stressful for her not to see her mommy.
“I understand Doctor Simpson,” Dina said. “I understand completely and the last thing I want to do is upset Katie.”
The doctor turned to leave, but he had something else to say.
“I should tell you that when Katie was hovering between sleep and consciousness, she talked about you in a very loving way. She kept saying she knew her mommy loved her, and she loved her daddy, too.”
It was as if all the blood drained out of Dina’s body. She felt every bit of the pain she had caused her little girl. Her baby needed a mother and Dina had not been there. Her husband, her mother, even her sister, Steph had paid a huge price. She hadn’t even given them a chance to be involved in her decision to go to a hospice facility.
“Dina, are you okay?” Steve asked. “You look like you need to sit down. Will you be all right? I’m going in to see Katie now.”
“I’m fine, Steve. Please, go be with Katie. I think I just need something to eat. I’ll walk down to the cafeteria and get a little something to bring back here. I’ll wait as long as you need me to. Promise me you won’t rush your visit.”
It was almost noon when Steve came back to the waiting room.
“They’re giving her some lunch and then they’ll check her incision and do some blood work. Dr. Simpson is still concerned about infection. I hate to say this, but I think she’ll probably sleep for the remainder of the day.”
Steve didn’t wait for Dina to respond or ask questions.
“Why don’t we drive to your house and you can pick up whatever you’ll need for the next few days. Since you don’t have a car, it will be easier for you to stay at the ranch instead having to ride the bus. I’ll bring you to the hospital every day until Katie can come home. Can you get the time off work? I know you’ve been working at the hospice.”
“I called them this morning. I have a lot of vacation time and there aren’t that many patients there, currently. I have all the time I need.”
“Then that’s what we’ll do!” Steve pulled the truck around and within minutes they were headed toward the little town he and Arf had been to the day they found Dina.
“I’ll do whatever you suggest. If you think I should stay at the ranch for a few days,” Dina said not too convincingly, “Then I will, but Steve…please tell me how our daughter is doing. I know she’s got a lot of mending to do physically, but how is she doing mentally?”
“If you’re asking me if we discussed you, I’ll tell you we did. Let me see if I can put what I sense into words. I’m not a psychiatrist, but from what she said, I get the feeling Katie is afraid. She believes that you come and talk to her when she’s sleeping. She feels like she knows you, and she doesn’t want the real you to be different from the imagined you.”
“I get it,” Dina said. “I’m afraid, too. What if I can’t live up to myself?”
“You can and you will,” Steve assured her. “There is one other thing. Katie talks like she is able to walk during those imagined visits.”
Steve knew that was a lot for Dina to absorb. They rode in silence for a while.
“Having a relationship with Katie is really important to you isn’t it Dina?”
“You have no idea, Steve. I’ll take whatever she’s willing to give and I will give whatever she’s willing to take.”
***Everyone returned to the ranch that night. Even Jamie came for dinner. I was supposed to go home with her again, later. We all expected to see Miss B and Grandma Helen cooking a huge dinner, but Grandma Helen met us at the door and said Miss Bessie was all upset because Miss Alice had kicked her out of the kitchen. Alice said it was HER kitchen and she was going to do the cooking. I hate to complain, but Alice never remembers to give me one of the good bones. It hadn’t been a good day for old Arf. I lost a frisbee to that female at the vet clinic, too.