Where The Popsicles Are-28

Back to Minneapolis.

“We must travel in the direction of our fears.” –John Berryman

I got up early on Monday morning, not having slept that well at all. When I came up from  downstairs after my shower, Joanie was sitting on the couch in her sweats, Muffin on her lap, watching one of the morning shows on TV. Without looking up at me she said, “Good morning,” and nothing more. I knew it was going to be a hard morning for her.

She asked for a cup of coffee. I had started the coffee going before I went downstairs to shower, and brought her some. It was only 8:00 in the morning. She hadn’t slept that well either.  After a while, when she did get up from the couch to take her shower, she stopped at the kitchen table where I sat, looked at me and, half smiling, said. “Do you think we can put this off?” Taking her hand, and smiling myself, I said, “We can do anything you want to do darlin’, but if we do, I’ll have to unpack those suitcases.” She laughed half-heartedly, and said quietly, “ Okay, I know, I know.” I did tell her we could stay home another night, but we’d have to leave very early on Tuesday morning, because she was due to be admitted to the hospital at 3:00 that afternoon, and then we wouldn’t be able to stop at Mabel Murphy’s. She smiled again, knowing that we were going to dinner that night with Ginny and Ed, and she would have some time for shopping on Tuesday morning, and she wasn’t going to miss that.

With that Joanie headed for the bathroom, followed by Muffin, who always waited outside the bathroom door while she took her shower, and when she was done, and the door would be open, even a crack, she would join her in there. It was a routine that never varied. That morning, she took one of the longest showers she ever had, and after I heard the water shut off, and she finished brushing her teeth, I heard her ask loudly, “What time is it.” I said, “Don’t worry about it, we’ve got plenty of time, as long as we’re in Minneapolis by six, we’re okay, so take your time. She did.

She didn’t want to leave that morning, and quite frankly, neither did I. She futzed around, with details, and soon we had the last things that needed to be included packed. I took the bags out to the car. Joanie then went about setting the timers she had for the lights in the house, lights that would give any would be intruder an indication that there was activity in the house. I had already alerted, at her request, a couple of our neighbors to the fact that we were going to be gone for an extended period, and told them that the only car they would see in our driveway was that of her sister Ann’s, who was going to look after the cats.

Finally, around ten, she had her coat on, purse on her shoulder, had left a note for Ann regarding the care of her kitties, and had grabbed the treats for them, rattled the bag, and they came running. She doled out the treats, knelt down to pet and scratch both Muffin and Peaches, and started to cry. I almost melted, but knew I couldn’t. My job was to let her do so, and not make it any harder on her than by losing it myself. She never looked more vulnerable than she did that moment when she was saying goodbye to her kitties, and I don’t think I ever loved her more than right then.

We got in the car, stopped to pick up some coffee for me, and a Diet Coke for her and headed in the direction of our fears.

Joanie had taken a tranquilizer before we left, and as we pulled out on the Interstate, she made a couple of calls, one to her office, and the other to Ann. She called Ann to basically tell her what she had said in the note she had left for her, and really to just connect, and to tell her she would be back in a couple of weeks. After that she pulled out one of her books, put it on her lap, not reading it, and in a while, she dozed off.

As we approached Fergus Falls, I asked her if we should stop at Mabel Murphy’s. She told me we’d never made a trip to Minneapolis without doing so, and now was not the time to start, it would be bad luck, so we did. We stopped into the familiar surroundings of Mabel’s, and it seemed like the tension of the time up to our leaving Bismarck, melted away. Now, we weren’t that far from The Cities, and she began to look forward to seeing Ginny and Ed for dinner that night.

We stayed a little longer at Mabel’s than usual, but we made it to the Radisson by six o’clock that evening. We had time enough to check in, change clothes and wait for Ginny and Ed to pick us up for dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steak House.

Under the circumstances, the evening with Ginny and Ed was a wonderful prelude to what was to be an incredible time of her life. They had an ability to make Joanie feel special, and the evening of food and wine was just what she needed. Their consideration and care for her that evening is something I will never forget.

We talked, drank, ate, laughed, and for a time we all had a moment when we were able to forget why we were there, and the fears we all shared, about what Joanie was facing beginning tomorrow, faded.

Ginny and Ed dropped us off at the Radisson with words of encouragement, and Ginny’s telling Joanie she would be stopping by at the hospital when things got settled before the surgery.

After we walked into the hotel, Joanie looked at me and said, “Ya wanna Baileys for a night cap.” We’d been having a Bailey’s for a night cap for years on our trips to Minneapolis and she thought we should do it again on this night. I told her, I thought that was a great idea since it would be a few weeks before she could have one again.

She smiled and we headed for the bar, somehow less afraid of what we didn’t know than we had been.


About Bob Kallberg

Retired reporter. Concentrating now on recounting Joanie's 12 year battle with cancer, a battle she waged with extreme courage, determination and an indomitable spirit, that, for me, serves as an example.
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