A young girl ran across her grassy yard, red pigtails flailing behind her. Her pit bull trotted beside her barking in response to her screams of laughter. Then there’s dad, running purposely slow, before taking two swift steps, picking her up into his arms.
“Gotcha!” He yelled as she shrieked with laughter. He tossed her into the sky, flying above his 6ft height, and catching her again. The dog circled his owner’s legs, acting as a backup if she were to fall. Her dad scrunched his nose, making a silly face, then placed her gently onto the grass, for her to take off running once again.
“Dinner’s just about ready,” he heard a voice say from behind them. His wife shut the door behind her, crossing the patio to join them in the backyard. He put his arm around her, bringing her closer to his side. “You better not have dropped her Dean,” she reprimanded in jest. He huffed a laugh and shook his head.
“Nah, not today,” he joked back. The two watched in silence as she rolled down the hill, getting grass stains all over her clothes. “When’s the last time she peed?”
“About 2 hours ago,” she replied, checking her watch for confirmation.
“We’ll check with her before we eat.” He rubbed his hand on her back, taking a deep breath, eyes never leaving his daughter.
“Your mom called today.”
“What does my brother need now, a kidney?” He turned to her and smiled at his joke. She rolled her eyes, not appreciating his genius sense of humor.
“Don’t say that.” She paused for a moment before adding, “besides, I don’t think he’d want yours.”
“Oh god, is she coming to visit?” He asked, feigning mortification. She slapped him in the chest for that one.
“No! She was checking in on Amy. I asked her again what your warning signs were.” He returned to watching the daughter in question, reminded of the current priority. “She said you just always wet yourself, and she never thought much of it.”
“I don’t wanna take her to a doctor to get poked and prodded unless we have to.”
“Are you sure?”
The toddler kicked a patch of dandelions, giggling as they flew through the air, an innocence in her blue eyes that once matched her father’s.
Amy sat in front of the tube TV in her sparkly purple princess dress. She watched Dora and Boots dance across the screen saying words she didn’t understand, besides the occasional “Hola” and “Rojo.” Her dad was napping on the couch behind her, his cap covering his face to shield him from the flashing colors on the screen.
“Amy, don’t sit too close to the screen, it’ll ruin your eyes,” her mom called from the kitchen. Amy huffed, standing up to walk back to the beanbag on the ground behind her. Her mom watched from the table, ensuring she did as she was told when she spotted something.
“Oh hunny, stop,” she said, quickly running into the room. “Why’s your dress wet?” The young girl looked down at the ground in embarrassment. “Did you pee yourself?” she asked, already knowing the answer. Her mom glanced at her sleeping husband, before quietly ushering her daughter to the bathroom to get cleaned up.
“So… Amy peed herself earlier.” There was no easy way to start this conversation, so she decided to just come out and say it. Dean froze mid-chew of his midnight cereal in shock.
“Jesus Jen, why am I just being told now!” He whispered angrily to not wake the sleeping 4 year old.
“Because I knew you would do this,” Jen replied sternly, already having planned this argument ahead of time.
“Worry over my daughter’s health?”
“Over complicate the situation. We know Amy doesn’t have your bladder issue. Your’s were found when you were 3, and your cousin even younger. She’s now past that age. We have nothing to worry about.” His wife attempted to reason with him but to no avail.
“You don’t get it. I don’t want her to live like this, like I’ve had to.” Jen conceded and asked if they should take Amy to a doctor in the morning. Her husband said no.
A crowd had gathered around Amy’s classmate at recess. She slowed down the swing and hopped off, running across the blacktop to join the other six year olds.
“No running!” An aid yelled from the side. She slowed down to a walk with an occasional hop to get further. When she reached the group, the girl was crying and their friends were taking turns hugging her. Amy jumped in quickly, asking what was wrong.
“My grandma was in the hospital last night,” She sniffled in between words. Amy raised her eyebrows in confusion.
“Oh, okay. Is she still there?” The girl blew her nose into a tissue with a honk and shook her head no. Amy glanced at her classmates, seeing that they all had equally sad looks on their faces, which she didn’t get. “Oh, I mean that’s not that bad. It’s just the hospital.”
“The hospital is a big deal, Amy,” someone in the group said. The girl continued to cry in the arms of her friends as Amy muttered a quick apology and slid out of the huddle to go use the bathroom.
“Let’s play Sorry!” Amy said, grabbing the bright red pawn out of the tote bag. She gave her mom the cards to shuffle and sat on the thin bed next to her dad.
“What color do you want?” He asked her as she pulled out the little pawns and pieces.
“Again? Don’t you wanna change the color for once?” The now seven year old shook her head no.
“You’re green dad! And mom’s blue! I like yellow.” Her mom finished shuffling and dealt the cards. Jen pulled her chair closer to the bed and straightened the space at the bottom to use as a makeshift table.
“Welcome to sorry card revenge. Press the noggin when you’re ready to play,” the electric voice came out of the pawn after Amy hit it. The game progressed, the three laughing whenever the speaker voiced its prerecorded complaints that they had long memorized. After a few rounds, the wife looked up to see a nurse walk in quietly pushing a cart, not wanting to interrupt the family.
“I’ll be quick, just have to change his fluids.” They continued the game for the most part, except for occasional glances from their daughter to the equipment, back to her dad hooked up to the machines.
“What day do you get to come home, dad?” Their daughter asked as her mom reshuffled the cards.
“I think only a couple more days honey. Not long,” her mom answered for him. Amy smiled briefly and then rearranged her pawns.
“I want to take a vacation this year,” Jen said, one night after their daughter went to bed. “You got that really good bonus for Christmas, it would be so fun. Amy would love it.”
“How about we just go camping once it gets warmer, we’ll go upstate instead, make it a long weekend,” Dean suggested, his focus on changing the TV channel to the History channel. She sighed, putting her head in her hands.
“Babe, all we’ve done is go camping for years. Let’s take a cruise, let’s go to Bermuda. I priced some ships out already,” She pleaded with her husband.
“Of course you did,” he teased but she continued.
“Summer is a bit pricier but then Amy wouldn’t have to take off from school, and there are five day cruises which aren’t as expensive and we’ll only have to take off 3 or 4 days from work.” She spoke animatedly about the subject, hands flying everywhere and her green eyes brightening. When she got excited about something, he couldn’t help but give in. She knew this too.
“We can go, but in May.”
“Summer’s riskier. I don’t wanna book something only to end up in the hospital with a kidney infection right before we go.”
“We don’t know if you’ll have one this summer. You didn’t use to get them like this.”
“But now I’m 46. It’s getting worse.” She frowned before nodding in agreement. She leaned over to kiss him, staying in his arms after.
Amy sat at the kitchen table doing her science homework, tuning in and out of her parent’s conversation.
“I’m going to die young,” Dean said from his spot on the worn out couch.
“Dean!” her mom scolded. She looked at Amy and back at him, “not in front of Amy!” He shrugged his shoulders from the couch and made the face that her mom always hates, but she didn’t really get why.
“What? She needs to know and accept it. Alright, Amy?” He asked her. She has heard this many times before and has learned to just nod in response. He didn’t mean it like that, he was just joking like always. Her mom rolled her eyes and put the potatoes on the stove. Amy felt the familiar sinking feeling in her stomach, before deciding to refocus on her homework.
“Dad dad get in!” Amy shouted from her cousin’s pool. Her parents watched her swim from their table decorated in red, white, and blue streamers.
“Later boo bear,” he called out to her. He looked back to his wife, who frowned at his response. “What?”
“I wish you could just get in with her,” she spoke quietly, not letting the others hear her, with annoyance in her tone.
“I will another day. Just not with everyone here.”
“You don’t even have to take off your shirt.”
“You can see the outline of my bag through it.”
“Everyone here knows.”
“And? I don’t want them seeing it, alright.” Dean was harsher at the last word, leaving no room for argument. He stood up not too long after that. “I’m tired, I’m gonna head inside.”
A few minutes later, their daughter got out of the pool and joined her mom at their table.
“Where did dad go?” She asked. Jen gave her daughter a worn out smile before responding.
“Oh he just had to take a nap; you know how he is,” she said, attempting to make a joke of it. Amy laughed at the common occurrence, not thinking anything of it.
“Mom, how much longer are we gonna be here?” Amy said impatiently. No one prepared Jen for how antsy eight year olds got. She recently began complaining about their days of doctor appointments where she can instead go to her soccer team’s practice or a friend’s house for a playdate.
“Not too long. How about we get Fridays after?” The girl lit up with glee, hopping onto the bench outside the office next to her mom, retelling the story of what happened at lunch earlier that day. After a long five minutes, her dad walked out of the building holding a manilla folder. Amy jumped off the bench when she saw him and ran ahead to the car.
“Let’s go, I’m starving,” Dean said to Jen who was still on the bench. She looked at the folder in his hand and back to him.
“What’d he say?”
“We’ll talk after dinner, c’mon.”
He took off after their daughter, leaving his wife on the bench to catch up with them.