Meadowvale (2016 revision) Chapter 18

Link back to Chapter 17

There were many moments over the next few months when I was so full of joy that I thought I was going to burst. Just the sight of Kelly in the rocking chair in the corner of our living room, nursing Emma, each of them totally absorbed in the other, was sometimes enough to bring tears to my eyes. Kelly would look across at me with a smile and say, “Are you okay there, Poppa Masefield?” and I would nod and say, “Yes – just looking at my girls and thinking how beautiful they are”. She would smile again, and sometimes she would say, “Why don’t you play us a song or two, then?” and I would get my guitar and sing a couple of Kelly’s favourites. At times little Emma would stop nursing and twist her head around, trying to find the location of this new sound, and Kelly would laugh and say, “Getting distracted by your daddy again, eh? Well, he is a handsome guy, isn’t he?” At other times I would read to Kelly, or just sit quietly with them and watch as Emma nursed contentedly and then eventually fell asleep.

I was determined that I was not going to be an absentee dad like my own father, and so whenever I was home from work I played as full a part as I could in caring for Emma – holding her, changing her, playing with her, trying to soothe her when she was crying, walking the living room with her at night on those frequent occasions when she just would not go back to sleep after being nursed, and I knew that Kelly was exhausted and needed sleep herself. Tiredness, of course, became a regular way of life for both of us; our nights were interrupted every two or three hours by the sound of Emma’s crying, and Kelly would get her up, bring her to bed and nurse her. Sometimes they would both fall asleep again, and I would wake up a few hours later and find that there were three of us in the bed, and some instinct had prevented me from rolling over onto Emma. I had been afraid of this at first, but I very quickly discovered that I somehow knew when she was there, even if I was asleep.

“You were right”, I said to Joe after church one Sunday, “Her life right now is about eating, sleeping, and pooping. What you didn’t tell me is that all three of them are usually attended by crying!”

“Yeah, it’s kind of amazing just how penetrating that tiny voice can be!” he replied with a grin.

“I was afraid I would get cranky and bad-tempered after so many short nights, but somehow I seem to be able to get through it okay”.

“When grace is needed, grace is given”.

“That’s exactly right”.

Of course, one of the wonderful things about having a new baby in Meadowvale was the way our extended family gathered around and helped us out.

Sally had been a stay-at-home mother herself, and although she now worked part time as a bookkeeper, she made sure that she was available when we needed her help. She would often come over during the day and spend a couple of hours with Kelly and Emma, or they would go over to visit her. “Sometimes we play with Emma”, Kelly told me, “and sometimes she helps me change her, and sometimes she just watches her for an hour so I can get a few things done around the house. And sometimes”, she added ruefully, “she just tells me to go to bed for an hour and get some rest while she keeps an eye on things”.

Joe and Ellie, of course, were a big part of our lives as well. Ellie had been off work for a year with Jake, and had gone back part time just after our Emma was born, but when she was home she often brought Jake around to spend time at our place. Like them, we had decided to make godparents a part of Emma’s life, and of course we had asked Joe and Ellie to fill that role for us, as we were doing for them. So in mid-January they had stood with us in church for Emma’s dedication service, and they were just as keen to play a part in her life as we had been with Jake. Joe and I were already close friends, but during those early months of Emma’s life we became even closer, as we would compare notes about the things we were going through. Joe was a year ahead of me in parenting experience, of course, but he rarely gave unsolicited advice; we would talk about the challenges we were facing, and by the time the conversation was over, I usually felt better and had more sense of confidence that whatever my current difficulty was, I would be able to get through it.

Krista and Steve were further away, but still, Saskatoon was not that far, and despite their busy lives, they seemed to be in Meadowvale most weeks at some point. Krista was very much like Kelly in her love of children, and having a nephew and a niece in Meadowvale made it even more attractive for her to come home regularly. Also, Steve’s grandmother was ailing. She was younger than Kelly’s grandparents, but like them, she had been born in Russia; Steve was quite fond of her and tried to get up to visit her as often as he could.

One Saturday afternoon when we were all sitting around in Will and Sally’s living room, I was watching Kelly and Krista talking together while Kelly nursed Emma. Steve was sitting on the couch beside me, and I spoke quietly to him; “I think Krista loves kids just as much as Kelly does”.

“Yes, she does. We really want a family of our own, and there’s a part of her that would like to start right away. But she knows she needs to finish her doctorate first. After that…”

“Will that be in the spring, then?”

“Some time in May, if all goes well and she gets all the work done”.

“What happens after that?”

“Well, hopefully I’ll get a job with Parks Canada; I’d really love to work as a wildlife biologist in a national park”.

“Anywhere in particular?”

He shook his head; “We’d like it to be somewhere within a day or two’s drive of Meadowvale, of course, but you never know”.

One night in late February after we came home from a visit at Don and Lynda’s Kelly was sitting in the rocking chair nursing Emma, and I was doing a bit of cleaning up around the house before we went to bed. The living room was dimly lit by a single standing lamp, and Kelly looked relaxed and peaceful as she sat in the rocker with our little girl at her breast.

“Are you okay for schoolwork?” she asked me as I came into the room and sat down in my armchair beside them.

“Pretty well; I got a lot done last night”.

“You look tired”.

“I’ll sleep, when I get the chance. How about you?”

“Pretty good. I’m still feeling a little bloated”.

“Again, eh? I wonder what that’s about?”

“I don’t imagine it’s anything to worry about. Lack of exercise, maybe; my walking’s down to almost nil right now, and I used to do a mile or two a day”.

“I suppose”.

I was quiet for a moment, watching the two of them, and eventually she looked up at me and said, “You okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine”.

“You were pretty quiet tonight”.

“Was I? Just thinking, I suppose”.

“What’s on your mind?”


She laughed softly; “Tom Masefield, are you going to make me dig again?”

I shrugged; “I was thinking that I can’t imagine what it would be like to be going through this alone, you know? Just the two of us and Emma, with no family or friends to help”.

“No, that would be tough, although I guess some people do it”.

“I know. But your mum and dad, and Joe and Ellie and all the rest – they’ve been really good to us”.

She looked at me in silence for a moment, and then she said, “But you miss your family”.

“My mum and Becca; I think about them a lot. And Owen and Lorraine, too, although they aren’t family”.

“You wish they could be here all the time, like my folks”.

“I do”.

She reached out and took my hand. “Your mom and Becca do really well, just keeping in touch with us and sending us gifts for Emma. I’m glad you keep sending them photographs and little progress reports and all that”.

“It’s not the same, though”.

“No”. She looked at me for a minute, and then said, “You want to go over there again this summer, don’t you?”

“I do, but it’s crazy to think of the expense. Your truck does’t have too many more miles left in it, and we ought to be thinking about buying a house sooner or later, and…”

She shook her head. “No matter, Tom; family’s important, and Emma can travel free for a while yet. If you want to go, we’ll go”.

“I know Becca would come here, but I’m not sure my mum would be able to get away with it”.

“You mean your dad wouldn’t let her come?”

“He wouldn’t be happy, and she doesn’t usually step too far out of line with him. I don’t know if he would go so far as to try to forbid her coming”.

“Men still do that kind of thing?”

“I don’t know, Kelly. What do we really know about other people’s marriages?”


“I can only say what it looks like on the outside, and it does look to me as if sometimes he lays the law down and she agrees to go along with what he wants”.

“I guess she loves him, and she thinks their relationship is more important”.

“It’s hard to fathom sometimes, though”.

“I know what you mean”. She smiled at me and squeezed my hand; “Where did you learn to be such a gentle and loving husband?”

“Determination not to be like my dad, I suppose”.

“Well, I want you to know that I appreciate it”.

I shook my head, looking at her in the soft light of the standing lamp, one side of her face in shadow. “You are so beautiful, Kelly”, I whispered; “I’m such a lucky man”.

“And I’m a lucky girl”.

Glenn Pickering, thirty-six and single, surprised us by taking a special interest in Emma. As I said to Kelly one day, we shouldn’t have been surprised, because we knew that he loved being an uncle to his many nieces and nephews in the Pickering extended clan, and on the few occasions we had seen him with any of them, it was obvious that they loved him too.

He had dropped by our place just a few days after Emma was born, bringing us some packages of herbal tea, along with a tiny stuffed donkey for Emma. After that he got into the habit of coming over once every couple of weeks or so, usually in the early evening while one of us was still doing the dishes, and in fact it became a standing joke between us that he would pick up a towel to help out, and we would then pay him by giving him a cup of tea and a home made cookie or two. Kelly and I both enjoyed making cookies, and we usually had two or three tins of them in the cupboard above the sink.

I had wondered at first how he would feel about Kelly nursing Emma while he was in the room with us, but once again he surprised me by being totally fine with it. I had very quickly become adept at reading people’s body language when it came to nursing; some, especially older people, would quite deliberately look away, even though Kelly always covered herself discreetly with a blanket when we were in company. Glenn, however, carried on with whatever he was saying or doing without batting an eyelid, and when I asked him about it once, he made a dismissive gesture with his hand and said, “You seem to keep forgetting that I’ve got four nieces and seven nephews. Trust me, I’ve seen more nursing than most married men!”

One night after he left, while Kelly and I were getting ready for bed, I said “I’m seeing a whole different side to Glenn these days”.

“I guess so”, she replied, pulling her pyjama tee-shirt on over her head; “He’s full of surprises”.

“Yes, he is. Until these last few weeks I’ve very rarely seen him without a suit on, and I certainly never thought he’d be the sort of guy who’d enjoy rocking a sleeping baby”.

“Or picking up stuffed toys in the living room”.

“Not to mention drying the dishes”.

“He obviously likes you a lot”.

“I don’t think he comes over here just to see me”.

“No, I know, but it’s obvious he feels comfortable around you”. She climbed into bed, but as she bent I noticed her wincing a little. “Are you okay?” I asked.

“Yeah, just a little soreness in my side, that’s all. Nothing to worry about; I’m probably just getting some cramps”.

“Are you sure?”

“Oh yeah”.

One night in the middle of March when Glenn was over at our place, he stayed a little later than usual, and after she had put Emma down to sleep Kelly made a pot of peppermint tea for us. We sat together in the comfortable chairs in the living room, listening to the winter wind howling outside the window, and then, speaking in a quiet voice, Glenn said, “I’ve got something to tell you”.

“What’s that?” asked Kelly.

“I’ve started dating Karla Finlay”.

I was surprised; “Ellie’s sister?”

“Yeah. We’re not making a big noise about it, so I’d appreciate it if you kept it to yourselves”.

“Who else knows?”

“Joe and Ellie know; Karla talked to them a couple of days ago”.

“This is a surprise, Glenn”, said Kelly; “I didn’t realize you knew Karla that well”.

“We met at Joe and Ellie’s wedding; we danced a few songs together and we got talking. I liked her, and I found out later that she liked me”.

“She works in a law office, doesn’t she?” I asked.

“Yeah, she does – actually, there are classmates of mine who work in that office. Karla’s their office administrator; apparently she’s pretty good at it, too”.

“So she lives in Saskatoon, then?” asked Kelly.

“Yes, and for now, that’s where we’re dating”.

I took a sip of my tea, cradled the mug on my lap, and said, “You’d rather not do your dating in full view of all the town gossips of Meadowvale?”

He smiled and shook his head. “Don’t get me wrong, I rather like the town gossips of Meadowvale, but I gave them way too much entertainment with the breakup of my marriage, and I’d rather not have the whole town speculating about whether or not this – this whatever it is – between Karla and me is going to work out”.

“Understood”, said Kelly. “But thank you for telling us, Glenn”.

“Well, you guys are in a different category”.

“We appreciate that, and, of course, we’re really glad for you”.

“Thanks. She’s younger than me, of course…”

“What is she now, about twenty-eight?”


“I’m sure you guys will be fine”

He nodded reflectively; “So far, so good”, he replied.

I started to get worried about Kelly toward the middle of April. Like most women, she didn’t immediately revert to her old, trim self after giving birth to Emma; she continued to carry a little extra weight around her middle, and of course her stretch marks were not going anywhere. As the weeks went by, however, she seemed to be losing weight everywhere except her middle; her face was getting thinner, she often had dark circles under her eyes, and she frequently felt sick to her stomach and bloated. She didn’t have much of an appetite and would push her plate aside after only eating half her supper, shaking her head at me and saying, “Sorry – I just can’t eat another bite”.

A couple of weeks later I began to notice her wincing with pain more frequently. “Are you okay, Kelly?” I asked her as we were doing the dishes together after supper one night; “Are you still getting that pain?”

“A little”, she admitted reluctantly.

“You’ve been having it for a while now, haven’t you?”

She bit her lip and nodded, avoiding my gaze.

“Where is it exactly?”

She put her hand on her abdomen; “Here, on my left side”.

“Is that the same side that feels bloated all the time?”


“How bad is it?”

She hesitated, and then said, “It’s actually pretty intense”.

“Is it a sharp pain, or like a dull ache or something?”

She grinned at me; “I’ve trained you well, haven’t I?”

“This conversation’s about you, not me”.

“Right, sorry. It’s a sharp pain; it comes intermittently. Sometimes” – she paused for a moment, bending a little and catching her breath, and I put my hand on her arm; “You’re getting it right now, aren’t you?”

She nodded again, and I put my hand on her forehead. “You’re sweating. We need to get you up to the hospital”.

She shook her head vigorously; “No, Tom, please – I don’t want to leave my baby. Please – I’ll make an appointment to see Doctor Wallace at the clinic. It’s probably nothing”.

“It’s not nothing, Kelly; you’re losing weight, and your abdomen is bloated, and you’re tired all the time, and you’re getting sick to your stomach and you can’t finish a decent meal. And now this pain, too. Is that it, or is there more you’re not telling me?”

She straightened and looked at me, and I saw the tears in her eyes; “I’m having a tough time with a bladder infection, too”, she admitted.

“A bladder infection? Have you been to the clinic about it?”


“When? And why didn’t you tell me?”

“I didn’t want you to worry, Tom”.

I took the towel out of her hand, led her over to the kitchen table, waited while she sat down, and then took my seat across from her, continuing to hold her hand. “Kelly, this isn’t like you – you don’t hide things from me. What’s going on?”

She looked at me in silence for a moment, biting her lip, and I reached across and wiped the tears away from her eyes with my hand. “Come on, my love; tell me”.

“I’m so scared, Tom”, she whispered.

“What are you scared of?”

“I’m scared that I’ll have to go into hospital and they’ll keep Emma away from me; she’s so little, and you’ve got a job to do, and she needs me”.

“Why would you have to go into hospital? What are you suspecting?” I took both her hands in mine and said, “You do suspect something, don’t you? You’re a nurse, and you know about these things. What is it? Come on – stop keeping this from me”.

She shook her head; “At first I thought it might be just an irritable bowel or something, although I’ve never had that before. That would explain the bloated feeling, and some of the pain. But then I started getting the nausea, and the sharp pain, and the bladder infection…”


“It could be diverticulitis – or it might be some kind of a cyst; ovarian cysts are not uncommon”.

“A cyst would need surgery, right?”

“It depends how big it is. If it’s fairly big, it would need to be removed. I’m only really getting pain on the one side, so I think only one side is affected”.

“So that’s two possibilities. Are there others?”

She shook her head; “Not that I can think of. I’m too young for ovarian cancer; it really only starts affecting women in their forties and fifties. Occasionally you hear of cases in younger women, but they’re very, very rare”.

“Diverticulitis wouldn’t need surgery, right?”

“Only if it gets really bad; you usually treat it with diet and antibiotics”.

“Well, that doesn’t sound too bad”.

“No, but a cyst would be more serious”.

“Alright; let’s call the clinic in the morning and make an appointment as soon as possible”.

“But what if they want me to go into hospital? How are we going to look after Emma? How are you going to manage, with your job and everything?”

“Kelly, you’re not thinking straight. If this is bad, and you do nothing, it’ll get worse, and that won’t help Emma at all. If it’s what you suspect it is, and if you have to go into hospital for a while, well, you know as well as I do that the family will all gather around. Whatever it is, we’ll get through it. But we need to know what it is, and we’ll never know unless you go to the clinic and tell Doctor Wallace what’s going on”.

She looked at me for a moment, then nodded and squeezed my hand. “You’re right, of course; I know you are. It’s just that I’ve been so scared; I didn’t want to tell you about it, because…”

“I know”, I replied softly, “and I understand. But honestly, love, it’s best if we’re up front with each other, don’t you think?” I laughed suddenly; “God knows, I never expected to be having this conversation with you, of all people!”

She smiled ruefully at me; “No, I guess not”.

I leaned forward and kissed her on the forehead. “Let’s get these dishes finished, and then you go and lie down for a while; Emma’s napping, and I can see that you’re tired”.

She looked at me for a moment without speaking, and then she said, “You’re so good to me; thank you”.

I shook my head; “No need”, I replied softly.

She called the clinic the next morning, a Friday, and she was able to get an appointment first thing Monday morning. When she called me at school during the lunch hour to tell me about this, I was a little hesitant, and I asked her if she didn’t think she should go up to emergency at the hospital, but she said she wasn’t feeling too bad and she thought Monday would be okay.

On Saturday morning I woke up early; Kelly and Emma were both sound asleep, and I got quietly out of bed, made myself a cup of tea, and went downstairs to the den in the basement, out of earshot of our bedroom. There was a phone extension down there, and I sat down on an old easy chair, picked up the receiver and dialled Owen’s number.

“Fosters”, he said.

“Hey, it’s me”.

“Tom – is everything okay?”

“Maybe, but I’ll tell you in a minute. First, is everything okay with you?”

“Oh yes – I’m busy at work as ever, people seem to keep getting sick, you know!”

I laughed; “Training’s going well?”

“Yes. Hard to believe the end’s in sight; another fourteen months or so, and I’ll be able to go into general practice”.

“How’s Lorraine?”

“Actually, she’s currently enjoying some unexpected success in the artistic world”.

“Tell me more”.

“Well, she’s been showing some of her watercolours at a local gallery, and she’s sold a few for decent prices, so she’s more than a little pleased with herself”.

“I guess so – tell her ‘Well done’ from me”.

“I will. So – what’s going on?”

“I need you to put on your NHS hat for a few minutes, Owen”.

“No doctors in Meadowvale, then?”

“Yes, and Kelly’s got an appointment, but I want to run something by you and get your opinion”.

“Well, I don’t normally do that sort of thing, but…”

“I know, but I’d appreciate it if you’d make an exception”.

“I’m listening”.

I described for him the symptoms I’d noticed in Kelly and the things she had told me. When I was finished, he was quiet for a moment, and then he said, “She may be right; diverticulitis or an ovarian cyst seem like the most likely causes of her symptoms. Her doctor will probably refer her for an ultrasound, and if there are cysts, he’ll probably refer her to a gynaecologist. There are various kinds of growths and cysts and tumours that can attach to the ovaries, and they could well cause bloating by putting pressure on the intestines. They might also cause bladder infections, in the same way”.

“Is there anything else we should consider?”

He didn’t reply, and eventually I said, “What are you thinking?”

“I’m thinking that you rang me because you wanted me to tell you what might be going on, so there’s more I need to tell you”.

“Then tell me – I’d rather know”.

“I don’t think I’d want to use the word ‘know’ at this distance, Tom. But the only thing I want to say is this – and I hesitate to say it, because I know I might be conjuring up a bogeyman that’s not there – but here it is, anyway: don’t dismiss the possibility of ovarian cancer”.

“Kelly said that was extremely rare in women her age”.

“It is, but ‘extremely rare’ doesn’t mean ‘unknown’. There are ovarian cancers that do attack younger women – germ cell cancers, dysgerminomas, and so on. I know, because I saw a case of it last year when I was working in gynaecology. A young woman was referred to us, about twenty-two years old, single, not sexually active or anything, complaining of just the symptoms Kelly talked about. My supervisor thought it sounded like an ovarian cyst, but when he did exploratory surgery, we discovered a cancerous tumour on one of the ovaries. Fortunately, my supervisor knew something about cancers, but he said to me afterwards that it would have been better if our patient had been referred to a gynaecologic oncologist”.

“Tell me more”.

“Ovarian cancers often slip under the radar screen; there’s no screening test, and they tend to present in such a way that people think they’re dealing with something else – like a cyst, or diverticulitis. Early detection is fundamental; if you can catch them at stage one, when the cancer is still confined to one or both ovaries, there’s a very good chance of a full recovery. If it gets past stage one and spreads to other areas, the chances are much lower. So listen, Tom – don’t let Kelly’s doctor dismiss this possibility. Yes, the chances are low, but low isn’t the same as non-existent. Ovarian cancers do attack younger women. If you can, when she gets referred, see if she can see a gynaecologic oncologist, not just a gynaecologist”.

“What should I tell her?”

“She’s brave and she’s honest; you should tell her exactly what I’ve told you”.

“But she’s so terrified of the thought of having to be parted from Emma to go into hospital, and this would be even worse”.

“It’s a worse case scenario, but if it turns out to be true, getting right onto it is the best thing to do”. He paused, and then said, “Our patient was lucky – not all gynaecologists know what to do when they unexpectedly encounter a cancer in the middle of what they thought was a routine surgery to remove a cyst. If she’d gone to one of them, her chances wouldn’t have been so good. So please, make sure that lovely wife of yours gets into the best possible hands”.

For a moment I didn’t reply; my head was spinning as I tried to take in everything he was saying to me. Eventually I said, “Okay. Well, I’d better go up and make sure they’re alright”.

“Give Kelly my love, and tell her Lorraine and I will pray”.

“I will. Thanks, Owen”.

“We’ll pray for you, too”.

“Thank you; I think I’m going to need it”.

In the end it was uncanny how closely Kelly’s case followed Owen’s description.

We saw Doctor Wallace on the Monday; he gave her a full examination, and agreed that there seemed to be some sort of growth in the pelvic area. “Let’s get you in for an ultrasound”, he said, “so we’ve got some idea of what we’re looking for”.

A couple of weeks later we drove down to Saskatoon for Kelly’s ultrasound. For a few days we heard nothing, then we got a phone call asking us to come back in for a consultation with a gynaecologist. So we went down to the city again, and Dr. Larson, the gynaecologist, told us that there appeared to be growths on both of Kelly’s ovaries. “There are two on your left ovary”, she said, “one of which is quite large; I’m guessing it’s the one that’s causing you the sharp pains in your side. But there’s also one on your right ovary; it looks like a benign cyst to me. In fact, I think they could all turn out to be cysts. But the large one needs attention pretty quick, so I’m going to try to get you in for surgery as quickly as I can”.

As Owen had suggested, I had told Kelly everything he had shared with me, and since then she had been doing a lot of reading and re-reading. We were sitting across the desk from Dr. Larson; I was holding Emma, who was still asleep from the car ride. Kelly leaned forward a little in her chair and said, “What are the chances that these are dysgerminomas?”

“It’s possible, I suppose; we can’t rule that out. Are you a doctor?”

“I’m a nurse, but Tom’s best friend is a doctor in training in the U.K., and he told us about a case like mine”.

“Okay, I’m listening”.

Kelly told her the story Owen had told me, and when she was done, Dr. Larson nodded thoughtfully. “Well, as your friend said, that sort of thing is pretty rare, but he’s right that if, by some slight chance, it does turn out to be ovarian cancer, early detection and treatment is crucial”. She frowned thoughtfully. “I’ll tell you what I’ll do: I’ll schedule you for surgery as soon as I can, and we really can’t know what we’re going to find until we go in. But I’ll do my best to have an oncologist on hand, just in case it does turn out to be cancerous”.

“And if you can’t get an oncologist that day, and it does turn out to be cancerous?”

“Then I won’t touch anything, but I’ll refer you for immediate emergency surgery by an oncologist”.

“And that won’t be the end of it, right?” I asked. “If it does turn out to be cancerous, she’ll need further treatment after surgery?”

“Very likely, but that’s not my area, so I’d rather not comment on it”.

That night we sat up very late in our living room; Kelly nursed Emma to sleep, and then I made a pot of herbal tea and we sat on the couch together, holding hands and sipping from our tea mugs. Since our first conversation about her symptoms she had seemed to regain a bit of her usual courage, and her determination to face reality honestly.

We talked for a long time about the events of the last few weeks. Eventually she fell silent, and after a moment I squeezed her hand and said, “Are you okay?”

She frowned and shook her head, looking away from me. “This could be it for more children, you know”, she said softly.

“Not necessarily”.

“No, not necessarily, but it’s a strong possibility. If those three growths turn out to be cancerous tumours, they’ll probably have to remove both my ovaries, and maybe the uterus as well”.

“We don’t have to think about that right now, though”.

She turned to look at me. “Yes, we do, Tom. If I’m in surgery and Dr. Larson comes out to you and says, ‘It’s cancer and we want to take out her ovaries and her uterus’, you’re going to have to know how to answer that”.

I looked back at her for a moment, and then I said, “I guess you’re right. So, how should I answer it?”

“I think we should be guided by their judgement – hers, and the oncologist’s. If they think that leaving an ovary or a bit of an ovary in is okay, fair enough, but if they think it would be safer to take them all out, I think that’s what they should do”.

I shook my head; “But Kelly, you’ve wanted a tribe of kids since you were a teenager”.

I saw her eyes suddenly swell with tears; “I know, Tom”, she whispered; “Please don’t think I haven’t thought of that”.

I put my arms around her and held her close, kissing her forehead. “This is such a shitty situation”.

“It sure is”.

“You can go from ecstatic happiness to total fear and despair in the space of just a few months”.

“I know”.

I kissed her again, stroking the back of her head with my hand. “I’m sorry; it’s your body, not mine – I’m just the husband. You’re the one that’s going under the knife, and you’re the one that’ll have to go through chemo or radiation if it turns out to be cancer. This is not about me”. I tightened my arms around her; “I love you so much”.

“I love you too. And it’s not just about me; you’re involved, too”.

“Well, maybe a little bit”.

She pulled back and looked up at me, shaking her head. “No, not just a little bit; this is your family we’re talking about too. We both knew we wanted more children – not to mention the fact that we love each other, and we’re using the ‘c’ word here when we’re both twenty-seven years old and we never expected to even have to consider it for decades yet”.

I frowned; “Do you ever wonder where God is in all this?”

“Yeah, but I don’t waste a lot of time with that one”.

“How so?”

“Well, sickness is a problem, but my sickness is no more of a problem than anyone else’s. I never signed up for Christianity on the expectation that God would miraculously shield Christians from sicknesses that non-Christians would get. In fact, if I thought God was like that, I don’t know if I’d want to believe in him”.

“No, I take your point; it’s cancer in general that’s the problem”.

“Yes, but cancer does exist, and you knew that on that day at Myers Lake when you had your experience of the love of God, and you still came out of that believing that God is love and Christ is real”.

“Yes, I did”.

“So it’s a mystery, and we’ve learned to live with it, and I can’t waste time trying to figure it out, Tom. I can’t solve the problem of pain; I need to feel that God’s with me through this pain, giving me what it takes to get through it. So I don’t want to waste time being mad at him – that’s not going to help me at all. I don’t want to rant – I want to pray”.

“You are still an amazing woman, Kelly Ruth”.

“No, really, I’m not”.

“No, really, you are! As usual, you’ve seen right through to the things that matter the most”.

“Maybe, but I’m still a long way from where I want to be”. She put her hand on mine and said, “I’m tired, but I really need to pray before I go to bed”.

“Okay; let’s do it, then”.

She had her surgery at University Hospital in Saskatoon on Monday May 26th, just over a week before Krista received her Ph.D. at the spring convocation. Will and Sally went down to the city with us the day before the surgery so that Sally could look after Emma at Steve and Krista’s house while we were at the hospital. Kelly’s procedure was first thing in the morning, and before taking her into the operating room Dr. Larson came out to meet us and to introduce us to a tall, thin man in his early fifties. “This is Dr. Smith”, she said; “He’s a gynaecologic oncologist, and he’s going to be with me in the operating room”.

We shook hands with Dr. Smith, and he said, “I just want to make sure you both understand that once we get into the surgery, there may be choices we have to make”.

“I’ve signed the forms”, Kelly replied; “I know that you may decide you need to take out one or both ovaries, or more, and I’ve okayed that. Tom and I have talked about this; we want you to do what you think is best”.

Dr. Larson put her hand on Kelly’s shoulder. “You’re a young woman, Kelly”, she said softly; “We’ll do our best for you”.

“I know you will. Thank you”.

She was in surgery for six hours; Will sat with me in the waiting room, and from time to time he went and got coffee for us. At about eleven o’clock Dr. Larson came out to find us, wearing her scrubs. I caught her eye, and Will and I both stood up as she came over to us.

“Do we know anything?” I asked.

She nodded. “I’m afraid your friend was right; it is cancer”.

I let out my breath slowly, feeling the cold hand of fear in the pit of my stomach. “So that means…?”

“All three tumours are malignant. The big one has been causing most of Kelly’s trouble, but the others will be just as dangerous before too long. Dr. Smith thinks they’ve grown very quickly; it’s very unlikely that there was any cancer at all in Kelly’s body when your baby was born”.

“So does everything have to come out?”

“I’m afraid we’ll have to take out both ovaries. At the moment we’re not sure whether anything has spread to the uterus; we’ll know that before too long. I need to go back in and assist Dr. Smith now, but I wanted you to know what was happening”.

“Thanks”. I frowned; “This is a silly question, but is Kelly doing okay?”

“She’s doing fine; she’s in good shape, and we’re taking good care of her”.

“Thank you”.

She nodded, and then turned and slipped out of the waiting room. Will turned to me and put his hand on my shoulder; “Are you okay?” he asked.

I shook my head slowly. “We always knew it was a possibility, but still…”

“I know”.

“Thank God for Owen”.

“That’s for sure. Listen, are you okay if I slip out for a minute? I should call Sally at Krista’s and let her know what’s going on; she’ll be worrying”.

“Go ahead, Will; I’ll be fine”.

At about two o’clock Brenda Nikkel slipped into the waiting room and sat down between Will and me. “Is there any word?” she asked me.

“Yeah, there is; it’s c… it’s cancer”. I felt my throat tightening, and I tried to blink back the tears; she stared at me for a moment, and then leaned over and hugged me. “Is she still in surgery?”


“What are they doing?”

I told her what Doctor Larsen had told me; “If everything’s going as expected, they should be finishing up any time now”.

“Well, at least they’ve got it in time”.


“Do you mind if I sit with you for a while?”

I shook my head; “I’d be glad of your company, Bren. Has Gary got Ryan?”

“No, I left him at Gary’s mom and dad’s; Gary’s at the shop all day”.

At about three o’clock in the afternoon Dr. Larson came back to the waiting room. We stood up to meet her again, and she smiled and said, “Sit down; you must be really tired”.

“Are you just getting out of surgery now?” I asked as we sat down together.

“No, we finished up about an hour ago. Kelly’s in the recovery room now, and she’s starting to come around, but I wanted to tell you what we did before you talk to her”.


“It turned out that we were just in time; this was a very fast moving cancer and it had started to spread to the uterus, so unfortunately we had to do a hysterectomy as well. We’re pretty sure that we got all of it, but we need to make absolutely sure, so that means chemotherapy, starting as soon as she’s had a few weeks to recover from surgery”.

“How long?”

“Dr. Smith will supervise that, and he’ll have a consultation with you as soon as Kelly feels well enough”.

“She’s nursing Emma”.

“I’m afraid she’ll have to stop doing that as soon as she starts chemotherapy”.

“She won’t like that”.

“I understand”.

I looked at her and saw the sympathy in her eyes. “Tom, you and Kelly are strong”, she said; “I saw that when you were in my office that day, and she basically took control of what was going to happen during her surgery. She’s led an active lifestyle, her body’s in good shape apart from the cancer, and you’ve got a strong marriage. You will get through this; I know it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel right now, but it’s there, believe me”.

“Thank you”.

“Would you like to come through now and be with her as she’s coming round?”

“Can you give me a couple of minutes first?”

“Of course. I’ll be over by the door”.

She got up and went over to the other side of the room, and I looked across at Will. “Are you going to call Sally?” I asked.

“Yes; I know she’ll want to come in as soon as she can”.

“I’ll need to check with the doctor on how soon we should bring Emma in; I know that’s the first thing Kelly will ask me”.

He looked at me in silence for a moment, and then he said, “This has hit you hard, hasn’t it?”

“It’s hard to take in”.

“I know”.

“I’m twenty-seven years old, we’ve been married for a year and a half, we’ve celebrated the birth of our first child, and now suddenly we’re talking cancer, and chemotherapy, and bits of Kelly’s body being taken out, and no more children, and no more nursing her baby”. I shook my head, blinking back the tears; “I can’t believe this is happening to us”.

“I know”, he said, and I saw that there were tears in his eyes, too. “You don’t expect to have to watch your kids go through this”.

I swallowed hard, wiped my eyes with the back of my hand, and said, “This’ll be tough for you and Sally, too”.


I took a deep breath; “Well, I’d better go through to Kelly. I’ll come back and tell you both as soon as I know when you can see her”.

“Right; I’ll call Sally and Krista, and then I’ll come right back here”.

Brenda put her hand on my arm; “I’ll just wait here until I hear from you; tell her I love her and that I’m thinking of her and praying for her, but I don’t need to see her unless she feels strong enough”.

“Okay; thanks”.

Doctor Larsen led me to the recovery room; there was a nurse just coming out, and I asked, “Is everything okay?”

“Are you Mr. Masefield?”

“That’s me”.

“She’s fine; she’s waiting for you”.

Dr. Larsen put her hand on my shoulder. “I’ll let you go in by yourself; right now she needs to see you more than me. I’ll come back later and check on her”.

“Okay; thank you”.

Kelly was lying on the hospital bed with a couple of IV lines leading into her arms; there were several machines beside the bed, and the curtains at the window were closed. She looked deathly pale, but when she saw me she gave me a weak smile. “Hey”, she said.

I pulled a chair up to the bed, sat down beside her, and took her hand in mine. “How are you feeling?”

“Groggy, and sore. Where’s Emma?”

“Still at Krista’s with your mum”.

“When can I see her? She’s going to be so scared”.

“I don’t know; they haven’t told me that yet. I’ll ask in a few minutes”.

“They haven’t told me anything, Tom”.

“No, I think they want me to do that”.

“Was it bad?”

I nodded. “Owen was right – it was cancer. All three tumours were malignant”.

She was quiet for a moment again, and I could see that she was struggling to take it in. Eventually she said, “Did they take both ovaries?”

“Yes. Dr. Larson said they were just in time; it was a very fast-acting cancer, and it had just begun to spread to the uterus”.

“So both ovaries and the uterus?”

“I’m sorry, Kelly”.

She shook her head; “Well, I’m alive, thanks to Owen”.

“Yeah, I’ve been thinking about that, too”.

“But no more children”.

I shook my head, lifting her hand to my lips. “I’m so sorry”.

I saw her eyes suddenly brimming with tears, and I got up from the chair, sat down on the edge of the bed, and took her in my arms. “I love you. We’ll get through this”.

“I know”, she said in a choking voice, “but I did so much want to have more children”.

“I know; so did I”.

I felt her shaking her head against my shoulder. “I can’t take it in, Tom!” she sobbed; “I just can’t believe this is happening to me”.

“I know”.

“We were so happy…”

“We were”.

“How could this have happened so fast?” She suddenly pulled back from me, and I saw the panic in her eyes. “Emma –  what if she…?”

I shook my head; “Dr. Smith said it was a very fast-acting cancer; he’s almost sure there was nothing there when you were carrying Emma”.

“But we should make sure…”

“I’m sure Dr. Smith will talk to us about that”.

“If he doesn’t, we need to bring it up”.

“I’ll remember it”. I leaned forward again and kissed her on the forehead. “Kelly, my love, I’m afraid there’s more”.


“Dr. Larson said that although they’re almost certain that they got all the cancer, they want to make absolutely sure, so they want you to have a course of chemo”.

She stared at me; “For how long?”

“I don’t know, and she couldn’t say. Apparently you’ll be referred to Dr. Smith and he’ll tell us what the options are”.


“Well, I suppose it’s possible for you to refuse, but…”

She shook her head; “No, you’re right, I know”. I saw the tears in her eyes again; “This means I’ll have to stop nursing Emma, doesn’t it?”

I nodded; “It’s the drugs…”

“I know”, she said bitterly; “I’m a nurse, remember?”

“Of course you are; I’m sorry”.

She reached out and took my hand. “No, I’m sorry; I shouldn’t be taking this out on you”.

“If you have to take it out on me, you go ahead; I’m not the one whose body’s been invaded by a deadly disease. Do whatever you need to do to get through this, Kelly. If the end result is that you’re alive and we have years of marriage ahead of us, I really don’t care what we have to do to get there; the alternative doesn’t bear thinking about”.

“No – you’re right, of course”. She smiled at me through her tears; “This time you’re the one who sees what’s really important”.

“Well, you’re more than a bit groggy right now”.

She nodded. “Can you find out for me when I can see Emma? I’d really like to see her before I go to sleep again tonight”.

“I’ll find out. I also need to let your dad and mum know when they can see you; are you feeling up to it?”

“Of course. How are they taking it?”

“I haven’t seen your mum; she’s still at Krista’s with Emma. Your dad’s been with me here all day long. He’s trying to put a brave face on it to help me, but I know he was pretty shaken by the news”.

“I guess”.

“Bren’s here too. She told me to tell you that she loves you and she’s praying for you, but she doesn’t need to see you unless you feel up to it”.

“I don’t mind if she comes in for a few minutes; I’d be glad to see her”.

“Okay, I’ll tell her that. Right, I’d better go and see what I can find out about bringing Emma in, and then I’ll be back”.


She put her head back down on the pillow, and I leaned forward and kissed her. “I love you”, I said.

“I love you, too. Don’t be too long, okay?”

“I won’t; I promise”.

‘To Care for What We Know…’ (a poem by Wendell Berry)

To care for what we know requires
care for what we don’t, the world’s lives
dark in the soil, dark in the dark.

Forbearance is the first care we give
to what we do not know. We live
by lives we don’t intend, lives
that exceed our thoughts and needs, outlast
our designs, staying by passing through,
surviving again and again the risky passages
from ice to warmth, dark to light.

Rightness of scale is our second care:
the willingness to think and work
within the limits of our competence
to do no permanent wrong to anything
of permanent worth to the earth’s life,
known or unknown, now or ever, never
destroying by knowledge, unknowingly,
what we do not know, so that the world
in its mystery, the known unknown world
will live and thrive while we live.

. . .

And our competence to do no
permanent wrong to the land
is limited by the land’s competence
to suffer our ignorance, our errors,
and – provided the scale
is right – to recover, to be made whole.

(Wendell Berry: A Small Porch, Part I, VIII, 9, p.24)

I know that this is the sustainability creed that Wendell Berry lives by. I feel in my bones that it is the wisest way to live. I don’t live by it myself, but I know I need to work hard at coming closer to it.

The problem is, this way of life is not compatible with the modern economy of Canada, especially of Alberta. Whether the governments are right-wing or left-wing or centrist, they all seem to take for granted that doing violence to the earth is an inevitable part of modern life, and they all close their eyes and ears to the consequences.

It seems to me that if we think in the long term, our refusal to live by the philosophy Wendell Berry outlines in this poem leaves us with a limited number of choices:

Choice #1: As the planet becomes unliveable due to overpopulation and environmental destruction, the human species becomes extinct.

Choice #2: We hope like hell that before we arrive at Choice #1, we’ve found the means to leave the planet so we can go find another one to rape and destroy.

Some Christians would add Choice #3: Before we reach Choice #1, Jesus will come again and rescue us from the consequences of our own stupidity. But since he has taken a lot longer to come again than most people thought he would, and, moreover, since he has had lots of opportunities to rescue us from the consequences of our own stupidity before now, but hasn’t done so, I wouldn’t bet the farm on that one.


Meadowvale (2016 revision) Chapter 17

Link back to chapter 16


In the future, Kelly and I would always look back on that first year and a half of our marriage as an idyllic time. In those eighty-five weeks between October 6th 1984 and May 26th 1986 (the day the sword of Damocles made its first appearance), we enjoyed a relatively normal newlywed life. We were ridiculously happy and fathoms deep in love with each other, and if we thought of our future at all, we saw it stretching out for decades in front of us, through parenthood and grandparenthood and beyond the horizon into old age. We had not yet become property owners, which meant that although we had our monthly rent to pay, we did not have to live with the worry of being in debt to the bank for the next quarter of a century. And to add to the general sense of well-being and optimism, for nine months in the middle of that time Kelly was pregnant with Emma Dawn, our little blond-haired girl, who was born on December 7th 1985.


Krista and Steve got married in Meadowvale on May 18th. Steve’s bird habitat job with the Canadian Wildlife Service had been relatively quiet through the winter, but it had kicked into high gear in late March as the spring migrations began, and they had only been able to book a week’s holiday for their honeymoon, as he needed to be back to co-ordinate the work his team was doing around the province. Krista was still a part-time member of that team, as well as working on her doctoral thesis, but her supervisor, Dr. David Gustafson, was frequently consulted by the Saskatchewan government on wildlife conservation policy issues, and he had begun to get Krista involved in helping him research and write his submissions, as well as giving her opportunities to work as a teaching assistant in a couple of undergraduate courses at the university. Kelly had smiled when her sister had first told her about her work on government policy with Dr. Gustafson; “I had a hunch you might get involved in that kind of thing before too long”, she said; “I didn’t expect it to be this soon, though”.

“It’s not really my scene”, Krista replied; “I’d much rather do field work”.

Kelly shook her head; “I can understand that, but you’ve got an amazing scientific mind, Kris, and you never know – this might turn out to be one of the best ways of doing what you’ve always wanted to do – protecting wildlife”.

To Kelly’s surprise, Krista asked her to be her maid of honour. “I’d always assumed she’d ask Bonnie”, she said to me; “But then, John’s going to be Steve’s best man, so I guess maybe they thought they couldn’t have both the best man and the maid of honour from the Janzen side of the family”.

“Or on the other hand, maybe you were her first choice. It seems to me you’ve been getting much closer over the past couple of years”.

“You’re right, we have; it’s pretty nice, actually”.


Kelly and Joe were both in the wedding party that day, so I sat in the congregation with Ellie and helped her look after my godson. Afterwards Kelly and I danced together at the reception, and I looked at her and saw the joy on her face and said, “Are you sure you don’t want to say anything while all the family’s here? You’re pretty certain, aren’t you?”

She shook her head. “You’re right – I’m bursting to tell people, but I think I should wait until the doctor confirms it”.

The following Tuesday when I got home from school I found her sitting at the kitchen table glowing with happiness; yes, she said, she was pregnant, and the baby was due in early December. Doctor Wallace had given her a thorough examination and told her that all appeared to be well.

Of course, our family members were very happy for us, and we had many notes and phone calls congratulating us and wishing us well. Becca immediately began signing her letters as ‘Auntie Becca’; she had been writing to us regularly since our wedding, and we had gotten into the habit of taking turns replying. Our correspondence with my mother was also something we handled together, as she and Kelly really enjoyed being in regular contact with each other. Owen wrote to us frequently as well, but we very rarely heard from my brother, and my father never wrote at all.

Kelly was four months pregnant by the time we went up to Jasper for three weeks in the second half of July. One of her former nursing colleagues had gone away for a month to summer school and was more than happy to let us use her apartment, so we were spared the expense of finding accommodation for an extended period of time. Kelly had wanted to do a lot of hiking on the more strenuous trails, but after three or four days she admitted she was getting a lot more tired than she had expected. I thought she might be disappointed, but I had reckoned without her absolute commitment to the well-being of our unborn child. “No”, she said when I quizzed her about it at the apartment on our fourth night, “I’m quite okay with taking it a little easier; there’ll be other years when we can do those climbs again”. She put a protective hand over the bulge in her belly; “Got to look after our little person”, she said.

So we spent the rest of our holiday doing easier walks, along with some canoeing at Pyramid Lake and quite a lot of sunbathing and swimming at Lake Annette, near the Jasper townsite. In the evenings when the weather was fine we sat on the balcony and read to each other, or I played guitar and sang for her, letting her choose the songs. Her musical tastes were much wider than mine when it came to recorded music, but when I played for her she almost always asked for traditional songs. “No one does them quite the way you do”, she would say, and when I would protest that Nic Jones and Martin Carthy did a much better job of them than me, she would shake her head and say, “Different, but not better. You have you own voice, and I like it”.

When our holiday was over she went back to work at the Special Care Home, and she continued working until the middle of November, although I noticed that she frequently got quite tired and often went to bed earlier than normal. I asked her a few times if she was okay, and she assured me that she was fine; pregnancy was just sapping a little more of her energy than she had expected. She had regular check-ups and Doctor Wallace seemed quite happy with her progress; he encouraged her to continue to be active, but to get as much rest as she felt she needed.

That summer I noticed the Reimer clan drawing even closer to each other than before. Joe and Ellie, Will and Sally, and Kelly and I all lived within a ten minute walk of each other; Ellie was still on maternity leave with Jake, and she and Kelly seemed to be together a lot of the time. Will and Sally often invited us round for meals; at least once a week Sally would call and say, “Feel like a break from cooking? Will’s barbecuing tonight”. Of course, we were always happy to accept their invitation, and more often than not we would find Joe and Ellie and little Jake there as well. Usually I would take my guitar along, and Ellie would have her fiddle, and after supper we would play music with Will while Sally or Kelly looked after Jake, which they were always glad to do.

Krista and Steve were both busy at work, but they often came up on weekends to join our family gatherings. They usually stayed with Will and Sally or with Steve’s parents, but occasionally they stayed at our place, and then Kelly and Krista would sit up late, and often if I got up at one or one-thirty for a glass of water I would find them still talking out on the deck, with the citronella candles burning and a pot of herbal tea on the picnic table between them.

Kelly’s cousin Brenda came up from time to time as well, with her little boy Ryan who was almost two now; we would usually go out to Hugo and Millie’s farm to visit with her. She and Gary tended to come to Meadowvale separately, as they were joint owners of a Tim Horton’s franchise in Saskatoon, and it was better if one of them was available to deal with any problems that came up at the business. As a teenager Brenda had been eager to get away from the farm, but lately, to Kelly’s surprise, she had been taking more of an interest in it. Through the late summer and early Fall, when she came for a visit, she and Kelly often went for a gentle ride together, while I gave Hugo a hand with the farm chores and Millie played with her grandson.

Will and Ellie and I were of course still playing music regularly at church, but our wider musical circle also continued to grow and flourish. We had continued to hold singarounds once every couple of months or so, either at Joe and Ellie’s or, after our wedding, at our house. Usually we had eight or ten musicians, with the core group being Ellie, Will, Rob Neufeld and me. Whenever we discovered another person in town who played an instrument we invited them to the next singaround, and so we continued to experience a wide variety of musical styles. Some people came once or twice, discovered it wasn’t really to their taste, and dropped out; others stuck with us and became part of a regular group of about twelve to fifteen who were in the habit of attending, even if they didn’t make it every time.


And so the summer turned to Fall, and the Fall to winter. The snow came early in November and we had some very cold days. Kelly’s due date was Tuesday December 10th, but to my surprise, a week beforehand she said to me, “We should do another singaround Friday night”.

We were sitting together on the couch in our living room, and I grinned and put my hand on her baby bump; “Are you sure about that, Momma Masefield?” I asked with a grin.

She laughed; “I know, anything could happen, but it’s been a few weeks since the last one and we can’t just put everything on hold because the baby might come early. It’s been cold and snowy and I think everyone needs a little cheering up. And Friday’s only the 6th, so we should be okay”.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, I think so”.

“Okay, I’ll make a few phone calls and see who’s available”.


As it turned out, several people were available on December 6th, including the regular core group: Will and Sally, Joe and Ellie and Jake, and Rob and Mandy Neufeld. By the time the day rolled around the weather had warmed up slightly, and there were about fifteen people squeezed into our living room, sitting on chairs or stools or down on the floor with their backs against the walls. Rob had learned a couple of new bluegrass tunes that he shared with us, and I had been putting together some guitar arrangements of Christmas carols; even in my non-churchgoing days I had always had a soft spot for traditional Christmas music. Kelly had already put up a few Christmas decorations (“I’d better not wait until later in the month”, she said to me with a grin; “you never know what might happen!”), and the room was lit by two standing lamps and a few candles she had scattered around on coffee tables and shelves.

We played songs around the circle almost non-stop until about ten, and then Kelly pulled herself to her feet beside me and said, “Shall I make some more tea and coffee?”

Joe, who was sitting on a hard-backed chair across the room from us, immediately got up and said, “Sit down, very pregnant lady; I’ll make the tea and coffee”.

She wagged her finger at him defiantly; “This is my house, big brother, so you’re not going to start telling me what I can and can’t do!”

I reached up and took her hand. “Let him do it; he knows where everything is”.

She looked down at me in mock horror; “Are you ganging up on me?”

“Apparently so!”

She lowered herself carefully down again into the armchair beside my stool. “Deflated!” she said to everyone.

“And so you should be”, Rob replied mischievously; “I think you’d better get used to it”.

Joe slipped out to the kitchen, and I heard him running water into the kettle. “Who’s turn is it to play?” asked Will.

“Mine, I think”, I replied. I glanced at Kelly; “Your choice”.

She smiled at me; “Master Kilby”.

I nodded, returning her smile, knowing that she was thinking of our wedding day and the first dance at the reception. Across the room from me Ellie was already putting her fiddle to her shoulder; I adjusted the tuning on my guitar, grinned at her and said, “Key of F”.

We began to play the introduction, but we had only made it through the first two bars when Kelly’s hand suddenly shot out and grabbed my arm. “Something’s happening”, she said anxiously.

The room immediately went quiet, and Sally said, “Are you okay?”

“Yes, but I think my water just broke!”

Will laughed; “In the middle of a singaround? This baby obviously wants to come out and join in!”

Everyone laughed, and Kelly looked at me with a sheepish grin; “I think we’d better go up to the hospital”.

“Right”. I put my guitar down and got to my feet; “I’ll start the car and warm it up. Sorry everyone, but I think we’re done!”

Joe had come back in from the kitchen; “Don’t worry about cleanup”, he said to me. “We’ll look after it; you two just get on up to the hospital”.

“Thanks; we’re on our way”.


Our little Emma Dawn made her appearance the next day at about five in the afternoon; she weighed in at seven pounds eight ounces, and she registered her disapproval at the whole uncomfortable process of birth in no uncertain terms from the moment she took her first breath of air. Kelly was exhausted, but as soon as the baby was cleaned up she insisted on holding her and nursing her. “Just for a few minutes”, Dr. Wallace warned; “You need to rest, Kelly; you won’t be any use to your baby if you’re tired out”.

“I agree with that”, I said; “I’m here anyway, so I can keep an eye on her”.

“But you’re as tired as I am!” Kelly protested.

“I doubt it; I haven’t been working as hard as you and I’m not sore like you are. Well, except maybe for my hand!” I added with a grin, flexing the fingers of the hand that she had been holding during her contractions.

“Well, I’ll leave you”, said the doctor, “but no more than fifteen minutes, please, and then the baby has to go to the nursery while Kelly gets some sleep”. He stood in the doorway of the room for a moment, smiled at us, and said, “Does this little girl have a name yet?”

“Emma Dawn”, Kelly replied with a smile; “That’s been her name since before she was conceived”.

“Emma Dawn; that’s lovely. Right, I’ll see you later”.

He turned and slipped out of the room, and I pulled my chair a little closer to the bed. Kelly had a blanket over her shoulder as she nursed Emma; I reached under it to stroke my little girl’s head with its thin covering of blond hair, and whispered, “Welcome to the world, little one”.

Kelly nodded, bending and kissing Emma’s forehead; “Welcome, my little girl”, she whispered.

  “I think we did pretty well, Mrs. Masefield”.

“I think we did extremely well, Mr. Masefield!”

“You know, I think your mum and dad might be sitting out in the waiting room”.


“Yes; I should probably go and tell them the news. And then maybe while you’re resting I’ll go home and make a few phone calls”.

She put her head back on the pillow; “Are you going to come back soon?”

“Do you want me too?”

“I think so, if that’s okay with you. Doctor Wallace was right; I’m really tired. Of course I want to see Mom and Dad, but I don’t think I can handle long visits from every relative in Meadowvale tonight. Do you mind hanging around for a while and heading them off?”

I laughed softly; “Of course not. Once Emma’s asleep we’ll put her in the nursery and I’ll point everyone in the direction of the nursery window; that should keep them distracted!”

She smiled; “Sounds like a plan”.


Will and Sally were sitting together in the waiting room, and I was surprised to see Krista with them. “When did you get here?” I asked.

“I was talking to Mom and Dad this morning and they told me Kelly was in labour, so I sweet-talked myself out of doing any work today and came up. Is there any news?”

“There is; we have a little girl”.

Will and Sally both hugged me, and Sally said, “Are they both okay?”

“They’re fine; Kelly’s pretty tired, though”.

“What time did the baby arrive?” asked Krista.

“Just after five”.

“Nineteen hour labour”, said Will; “I guess she’s tired, all right. Does this little girl have a name?”

“Emma Dawn. Seven pounds eight ounces, born at 5.03 p.m.”.

“Is it okay if we go in and see her?” asked Sally.

“I think she’d be okay for a short visit, but she really needs some rest, so I’d say, don’t stay too long. She was nursing Emma when I left her; I’m just going home to make a few phone calls, and then I’ll be back”.

“Maybe I’ll wait out here”, said  Krista to Will and Sally; “When you guys are done, you can let me know if I should go in, or wait until later”.

“Good idea”, said Will.

“I do want to see the baby though”.

“I kinda thought you might”, Will replied with a grin.

“Emma Dawn”, said Sally; “that’s a lovely name. How did you pick it?”

I was surprised; “Kelly didn’t tell you?”


“Well – I guess the girl who lives her whole life out loud does keep a few things to herself!”

“That’s hard to believe!” said Will.

“I know! The thing is, Kelly’s actually been dreaming for years about having a little blond-haired girl called Emma. She told me she had no memory of picking the name; it just came to her in the dreams, and that’s what it’s always been. She told me about it before we were even engaged”.

Will smiled; “So you didn’t get any choice in the matter, then?”

“I actually rather liked the name – it made me think of Emma Woodhouse, in Jane Austen’s novel. But I chose ‘Dawn’ – I’ve always liked it, and I thought it went well with ‘Emma’”.

“You’re right”, said Sally, “It does”.


When I got home I called Joe and Ellie; I told them to pass the word around to the Reimer and Weins cousins, and I asked Joe to call his grandparents and let them know.

“What about my aunts and uncles?” he asked.

“We’ve got to leave your mum someone to call!”

“Yeah, I guess that’s true! You know, I was half wondering whether you’d name the baby after that girl in ‘Master Kilby’ – what’s her name?”

I laughed; “‘In the arms of my dear Nancy’? Now there’s a thought! But no, this name’s been picked for a while”.

“Well, we’ll pass it on, and you give her a big hug from us, Tom. I guess we should leave her alone until at least tomorrow morning, right?”

“It’s not that she doesn’t want to see you…”.

“No, I understand; she probably feels like she’s been run over by a bus. Just give her our love and tell her we’ll come up tomorrow some time”.

“Thanks, Joe; I will”.


I spent another hour and a half at the hospital that night, then went home and slept for ten hours straight. I got up at eight the next morning, went for a brief walk, made myself some coffee and then settled down on the couch in the living room to call my mother before going to church.

To my surprise it was my father who answered. “Dad, it’s Tom”, I said; “I’ve got some news”.

“Just a minute”, he replied, and I heard him cover the phone with his hand and call out, “Irene!”

“Dad, I can tell you…”

But he was already handing the phone over to my mother. “Tom”, she said, “Is everything all right?”

“It certainly is, Grandma Masefield!”

She laughed; “Tell me!”

“Little girl, Emma Dawn, born yesterday at 5.03 p.m. our time, seven pounds eight ounces. Mum and baby are both well”.

“Congratulations! Labour went alright, then?”

“Yes, although at nineteen hours it was a bit long”

“That is on the long side, although you might recall that I went twenty-two hours with Becca”.

“No, I didn’t recall that – I don’t know if I’ve ever been told that, actually”.

“Will and Sally must be pleased”.

“Yes, they’re quite into this grandparenting thing, especially Sally, although Will’s pretty good at it too. He becomes even more teddy bear like when he’s with Jake, and I’m sure it’ll be that way with Emma, too”.

“You’ll send us some pictures as soon as you can, I hope?”

“I will, although she looks a bit scrawny right now!”

“Ah – I’m sure she’s very beautiful!”

“Yeah, she is”.

“I think Becca’s around somewhere; do you want to talk to her?”


“I’ll call her. Give our love to Kelly and Emma, Tom, and give them both hugs from me”.

“I will; thanks, Mum”.

“Just a minute”. I heard her put the phone down on the telephone table and call my sister’s name, and a moment later I heard the sound of footsteps and then Becca’s voice: “Tommy! Did she have the baby?”

“Yes she did, Auntie Becca”.

I heard my sister give a squeal of delight; “Boy or girl?”

I gave her all the information, and she said, “Right, I’ve got a few little things I’ve been saving here, waiting to see if it was a boy or a girl, so I’ll send them off tomorrow after I get home from school. You’re going to send pictures, right?”

“As soon as I take them and get them developed”.

“Take them today, Tommy, and get them developed tomorrow!”

I laughed; “Just for you, Becs, I’ll make sure to do that”.

She lowered her voice; “I don’t know what Mum’s planning, but I’m going to come over in the summer. I’m already saving up, and if I have to scrub floors or wash plates for weeks to earn the money, I will!”

“Hold your horses, Small One; we might try to get over there, too”.

“You’re coming over again?” she cried.

“Keep your voice down, we’ve got no plans at the moment, but it’s definitely a possibility”.

“Well, one way or another…”

“Yes – if we don’t get over there ourselves, we can help you with the fare”.

“Did I ever tell you what a fantastic brother you are?”

“Not lately, so you keep it up”.

She laughed out loud; “Okay then!”

“Listen Becs, on another subject, can you do me a favour?”

“Of course – what’s that, then?”

“Can you give Owen a ring and pass the word on to him? I’ve got to go to church now, and then I’ll probably go back up to the hospital for a while. Tell him I’ll talk to him later on today, okay?”

“Right, I think Mum’s got his number somewhere”.

“Yes, she has”.

“Okay, well, don’t forget the pictures!”

“I won’t”.

“And make sure to give Kelly and Emma big hugs from me”.

“I will”.

“Tell Emma the hug comes from her Auntie Becca!”

“I’ll be sure to do that”.

Link to Chapter 18

Making a Commitment to Generosity (‘Helping My Church to Grow’ sermon #5)

In the past few weeks I’ve been preaching a series of sermons on the topic ‘Helping My Church to Grow’. We’ve been thinking about the subject of ‘growth’ in the widest possible sense: not just numerical growth – although that’s important too – but also our own individual growth as followers of Jesus, our growth in love as a community of disciples, and our growth in influence on the world around us. I’ve been identifying some things that every single one of us can do to help this growth happen in our church. So far we’ve mentioned making a commitment to our own growth as disciples of Jesus, making a commitment to welcoming newcomers to our church as if they were the guests of Jesus – which they are – and making a commitment to ministry. Today I want to go on to the fourth thing we can do to help our church grow: making a commitment to generosity.

Let me start by pointing out to you three aspects of our call as Christians.

First, I believe that God is calling us to the joy of stewardship. What is stewardship? Stewardship is the idea that we don’t own anything; everything that exists belongs to God, and he has entrusted it to us to use according to his will. Psalm 24 says,

‘The earth is the LORD’s and all that is in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he has founded it upon the seas, and established it on the rivers’ (Psalm 24:1-2).

That seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it? If I make something on my own time, using my own materials, it belongs to me unless I sell it or give it away. God made the earth and everything in it – including me, my body, my gifts and talents, and every second of my life. He hasn’t sold it or given it away, so it all belongs to him.

This principle runs counter to the way most of us see money and possessions, or even our time and talents. I tend to think of my life and everything in it as belonging to me. It’s mine to do with as I choose. But that’s the creed of a rebel, not a worshipper of the one Creator God. My house, my books, my guitars, my life and everything in it – it all belongs to God. I’m not an owner; I’m a steward.

Stewards manage resources for the true owners. In medieval Europe, when the lord of a manor went away on a journey, he would commit the care of his estate to his steward. The steward would be charged with running everything in his master’s absence, and when the master returned, the steward would be asked to give account for his stewardship. In the same way, God has entrusted his possessions to our care, and one day we will be asked to give account for our stewardship. Christians know this. More than that: Christians rejoice in this. We have been called by God into partnership; we’ve been called to use God’s possessions to do God’s good will in the world. That’s an awesome privilege, and an awesome responsibility.

So we’re called to the joy of stewardship. Secondly, we’re called to the joy of contentment. In 1 Timothy 6 Paul says,

‘Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it, but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction’ (1 Timothy 6:6-9).

Again, Paul’s words here run counter to the way our society teaches us to live: never to be content with what we have, but always wanting ‘more’. But if we stop for a moment, most of us will have to admit that the ‘more’ we’ve gained so far hasn’t taken away the itch we feel to get even more ‘more’ in the future. There’s this empty hole inside, and all the possessions in the world don’t seem to be able to fill it.

Jesus loves us, and so he calls us to kick this addiction to ‘more’. He knows that contentment is the way of true joy. So he tells us ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also’ (Matthew 6:19-21).

Do we believe him? After all, we call ourselves Christians, and we think of Jesus as our Lord. Well, our Lord tells us that the way of joy is not the way of acquiring more and bigger and better; it’s the way of having only a little, and being content with what we have. Are we willing to trust that he knows what he’s talking about?

So we’re called to the joy of stewardship, and the joy of contentment. Thirdly, we’re called to the joy of generosity. Listen to the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 8:9:

‘For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich’.

Jesus’ whole life was a life of generosity. He was probably the one person in the world who had the right to say “mine” about anything at all, and yet he was willing to leave his glory behind, to become a human being, to serve those in need, and to give himself to death, even death on a Cross, as a free gift for us. Jesus’ whole life was an act of generosity. And what does this tell us about the nature of God? It tells us that God loves to give. God knows that selfishness destroys life, but generosity is life-giving.

So we’re told in the Bible over and over again to give generously, because that is the way of true joy. Psalm 37:21 says, ‘The wicked borrow, and do not pay back, but the righteous are generous and keep giving’. Jesus says, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get” (Luke 6:38). I don’t think we should understand Jesus to mean literally that if we give a hundred dollars we’ll get a thousand back. He means that the true treasure in heaven – the joy of discovering the life we were designed for – will be ours, and it will be more than enough for us.

I think that when we’re talking about generosity we really need to focus on this joy. Sometimes we’re told ‘Give until it hurts’, but I don’t think that’s true Christian giving. If it is true that all we can feel when we give is pain, then our hands may be giving but our hearts aren’t really in it yet. We need to pray for an inner transformation as well – a growth to the point where the greatest joy of our lives is to be generous, to bring blessing to others. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians, ‘Each of you must give as you have made up your own mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver’ (2 Corinthians 9:7). And of course I know that in this congregation many of you have experienced this for yourselves; you’ve demonstrated over and over again that you are well aware of the joy of true generosity.

So here are three aspects of our call as Christian disciples: we’re called to the joy of stewardship, the joy of contentment, and the joy of generosity. This is a big part of the journey that we’re on as followers of Jesus.

Alright, you say, I accept that I’m called to conversion from a life of selfishness to a life of generosity. But what should I be generous to? What should be the direction of my giving? Does the Bible give us any guidance about this? Yes, it does. It encourages us to give in two directions: to care for the poor and needy, and to support the work of the Church.

Caring for the poor and needy is a theme which runs throughout the Bible, as we’ve already seen. Today, of course, the needs are very great, and there are many avenues for generous giving. In terms of international aid there are organizations like the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, World Vision, Doctors without Borders and so on. There are also local organizations like the Mustard Seed, Hope Mission, the Bissell Centre, and Habitat for Humanity. All of these organizations have a good reputation for using money well to meet the needs of the people they serve. Many of them need our practical help too; they couldn’t do their work without legions of committed volunteers who give selflessly of their time and talents to be a blessing to others. So it’s up to us to do our research, find an organization we can believe in, and then do all we can to get behind it.

The second avenue for our generosity is supporting the work of the church. Of course, the earliest Christians in New Testament times had no church buildings, so their expenses in that way were very low. There was also considerable variety in how their pastors and workers were supported. But Paul’s instruction on the subject is clear; in 1 Corinthians 9:14 he says ‘In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel’.


If the work of the Church is to continue it needs to be financed. Whether we are talking about paying staff, upkeep of buildings, or support for programs, the need is always there. And this is true not just at the local level; the Church is a family, and in that family the richer parts ought to help the poorer. When I was the pastor of a small church in the far north I was very grateful that I was part of the Anglican Church of Canada, in which money given by people in larger and wealthier churches down south could be used to help support our ministry. If it had not been for that support our church could not have survived financially. It’s tempting to think only of the needs of our own congregation, but we should resist that temptation.

We’ve talked about our call to the joy of stewardship, the joy of contentment, and the joy of generosity. We’ve talked about two possible avenues for our generosity: the care of the poor and needy, and the support of the work of the Church. Now, lastly, let’s think about the steps that most people go through as they learn to embrace a life of Christian generosity.

Years ago a friend of mine who had recently become a churchgoer told me that on the first Sunday he came to church, he was alarmed because his wife put a two-dollar bill in the offering plate (in those days we still had two-dollar bills!). To him, that was extravagant giving! After he had been a member for a while he gained a greater understanding of the needs of the congregation and the way it was financed, and then his giving became more realistic. Eventually, he got to the point of adopting the Old Testament standard for his giving: ten percent of his income.

When it comes to giving, sometimes dollar amounts can be misleading. In the Gospels Jesus watched a poor widow putting two silver coins into the collection boxes in the Temple. He told his followers that she had given more than all the rich people who threw in enormous amounts of money, because they had only given their leftovers, but she had given all she had to live on. You might say that the message of that story is that the amount we give isn’t as significant to God as the amount we keep for ourselves.

I think there are three steps we tend to go through as we grow in our understanding of giving. We start with casual giving, like my friend who thought that two dollars was generous. Let’s be frank; when we start out in the Christian life, giving in church is rather like tipping the waiter in a restaurant. If the service has been good, we might leave a more generous tip, but it’s never going to amount to much.

If we start to get involved in the congregation, eventually we get a better understanding of its finances, its income and its expenses. We look around us on a Sunday, get some idea of how many people attend church, do a bit of math in our heads and figure out what a reasonable offering on our part might be. I call this kind of approach responsible giving; I’m trying to do my bit as a responsible member of the church. Responsible giving is a big improvement over ‘Jesus tipping’, but it still falls short of the Christian ideal in one thing: it’s based on the need of the church to receive so that it can survive, rather than on my need to give in order that I can grow into a loving and generous person.

The third step is called proportionate giving. At this stage, the amount I give has nothing to do with the needs of the organization; it has to do with my level of income. I don’t care what percentage you choose – five, ten, fifteen – proportionate givers choose a level and build their budget around it.

How do I choose my level of giving? That’s something each of us has to decide for ourselves. But let me warn you against one thing. Some Christians say “Right now my income is low and my expenses are high, so I can’t give very much, but once things get under control I’ll be able to give more”. I tell you honestly: that’s a myth. What happens in practice is that the more my income increases, the more my lifestyle expands, and I still won’t have enough. If I wait to give until I think I can can afford it, I’m never going to start. What’s happening is that the false god of wealth is quietly wrapping his chains around my heart, and the richer I get, the more surely I’m going to be hooked.

The truth is that if I don’t give generously when I’m poor, I won’t give generously when I’m rich either. Jesus said, “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much” (Luke 16:10). So the time to learn generosity is always now.

Let me finish by coming back to our starting point. We’re talking about things that all of us can do to help our church grow in the widest possible sense. This topic of generosity is very relevant here. If we’re thinking of our own individual growth as disciples of Jesus, then this transformation from selfishness to generosity is a central part of that. The long and the short of it is that we’re going to be happier and holier disciples of Jesus as we learn the joy of generosity.

It’s also relevant to our church’s growth in numbers, and in influence on the world around us. Churches full of generous Christians are churches that can make an incredible difference. It’s not just they can support paid staff who can do more outreach work in the community. It’s not even just that they can partner with organizations like World Vision to save lives around the world. Both of these statements are true, but beyond that, churches full of generous Christians have a joy and optimism about them. They don’t feel drab and dark and stingy; they feel like fun places to be around! There’s an excitement, a ‘can-do’ attitude, and a sense of expectancy about what God is going to do among the people of this congregation. There’s a buzz in the air, and it’s tremendously attractive to people who are looking for a church home to belong to!

Paul said, ‘For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich’ (2 Corinthians 8:9). May you and I follow in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ and continue to grow in the joy of true generosity. In the name of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit; Amen.

Meadowvale (2016 revision) Chapter 16

Link back to Chapter 15


And so we were married, and very quickly it became difficult to remember what it had been like not to be married. When I thought about it, I realized that getting married seemed to have been a gradual process for us, one that had been going on ever since the previous October, when Kelly had moved into her rented house, three blocks down the street from my old place. For the past twelve months we had been in and out of each other’s houses all the time; we had shared meals, talked for hours, prayed and read the Bible together, gone cross country skiing and walking at Myers Lake and riding the horses at Hugo’s farm. She liked to listen to me play guitar and sing traditional folk songs, and I liked to listen to her read aloud from one of her favourite poets. I knew that she liked coffee but preferred tea, and she knew that I liked tea and coffee equally well. I knew that she would put off getting out of bed in the morning until the last minute, and she knew that I liked to get up early enough to go for a walk before getting into the busyness of the day. I knew that when she got home from work she liked to put something loud and lively on the record player, and she knew that when I got home from school I tended to make myself a cup of tea, sit down in my chair, and then fall asleep for half an hour.

These were things we already knew about each other before we got married. But for us, getting married also meant that we were now living in the same house, sleeping in the same bed, and learning how to be lovers, and these were big changes. If we had lived together before we were married, even these things would have come gradually, not abruptly, but for us they were wonderful new experiences. For me it was a wonderful thing to fall asleep with the warmth of her body next to mine, and to wake up in the morning and find her still there in bed with me. To get up early in the morning, go for a solitary walk, and then come home and make her a cup of tea to wake up with was a delight for me; it had not yet become a routine, as it did later on in our marriage. Of course, the routines had their pleasures too – they were the links that tied us to each other in hundreds of different ways – but in those early days things like that still seemed new and fresh and unspeakably delightful.


A few days after our wedding the unseasonably warm weather turned suddenly cold: we had an unexpected Fall blizzard that dumped twelve inches of snow on the ground, with high winds and freezing temperatures. In the days that followed much of the snow melted, but by the end of October there was still some left, and the temperatures remained cool.

On the last Friday of the month I got home a few minutes before Kelly, so I put the kettle on to make a pot of tea, changed into my jeans, and started preparing vegetables for our supper. The days were getting shorter now, and as I stood at the kitchen sink peeling potatoes, I could look out over our back yard and see that the sun was already getting low in the sky.

At about five twenty I heard the back door open and close, and I heard Kelly’s cheerful greeting from the bottom of the stair well: “Anyone home at the ranch?”

“I’m here; I just put the vegetables on”.
She came up the stairs from the back door in her blue nursing scrubs and socked feet, her hair tied back in a loose pony tail. “There’s my favourite Englishman!” she said with a smile; “How was your day?”

“It was fine”, I replied as she came over and stretched up to kiss me. I put my arms around her and we held each other close for a few minutes, neither of us feeling the need to say anything. Eventually I kissed her on the top of her head, and she said, “You are exactly the right  height for me, Thomas Edwin”.

“Am I?”

“Yes. When we hold each other like this, the top of my head fits exactly under your chin”.

I chuckled; “So it does!”

“You’ve never noticed that before?”

“I probably have, but now that you’ve mentioned it, I’ll notice it every time”.

“I’m glad to hear it!”

  “Would you like me to pour you a cup of tea?”

“I’m not done hugging you yet”.

I laughed softly; “You like this marriage business, don’t you?”

“You’d better believe it”.

“I do believe it; I like it too”.

“Good to know”.

“What was your day like?”

“Mrs. Robinson came in to visit Elsie Redl this afternoon; she told me she’s looking forward to seeing us tomorrow morning”.

“Right; what time is that again?”

She stepped back a little and smiled up at me; “Around ten is what we said”.

“So you’ll be up before nine-forty-five, then?”

“I guess I’ll make an effort! But speaking of sleeping, I expected to find you asleep in the armchair with a cup of cold tea at your elbow!”

“Well, I thought I should be a good husband and get the vegetables going”.

“Very good. Just let me change out of my scrubs and I’ll finish the cooking, if you want to have a quick snooze”.

“I’m not feeling too sleepy right now; let me pour you some tea”.

“Alright. Mind if I put some music on?”

“I was expecting it. Fleetwood Mac tonight?”

“I was thinking of Billy Joel, actually”.

“Alright then!”


Later that night as we were lying in bed together, our room lit by the dim light of a single bedside lamp, I kissed her on the forehead and said, “Do you sometimes feel like we’re just pretending?”


“Pretending to be married”.

“How do you mean?”

“I mean there are times when I feel like I’m still your fiancée, or even your boyfriend. And when we go out together as husband and wife – I don’t know how to explain it, but I sometimes feel as if we’re pulling a fast one on everyone!”

She pushed herself up on her elbow, her hair tumbling down around her face, and grinned at me; “You can still be my boyfriend if you want”.

I ran my fingers softly down her naked back. “No thanks”, I said quietly; “I rather like being your husband”.

“Mmm”, she said sensuously, arching her back; “Well, when you put it like that…”.

“It seems like we waited a long time for it”.

“I guess so. I know people who had longer engagements, but a year was more than long enough for me”.

“Me too”

“Did you dream about being married when we were engaged?”

“Real dreams in my sleep, you mean?”


I smiled and kissed her on the lips; “I certainly remember a few dreams about making love with you”.

“I hope the reality isn’t disappointing you”, she said with a twinkle in her eye.

“The reality”, I replied softly, “is far beyond anything I could possibly have imagined”.

She kissed me again and laid her head back down on my shoulder. “You keep on saying the nicest things”, she whispered.

“I like waking up in the night and finding you in bed with me; sometimes I still can’t get over that”.

“Mmm”. She shifted her body slightly and kissed my neck; “That is rather wonderful”.

We were quiet for a moment, and then I said, “It does seem strange sometimes, though, doesn’t it?”

“What does?”

“Well, three years ago we didn’t even know each other. I was in my last year at Oxford, student teaching, and studying, and playing live music with Owen and Wendy, and trying to figure out how I was going to avoid having the rest of my life managed by my dad”.

“And I was in my first year nursing in Jasper, still getting used to the job, and still a bit sore from being dumped by Mike Sorenson”.

“That’s what I mean; neither of us even knew the other existed. What were the odds of me moving to a place I’d never even heard of in the middle of rural Saskatchewan, falling in love with an absolutely beautiful Mennonite nurse, and getting married to her?”

“About the same as the odds of me marrying a genuine guitar-playing English hippy, I guess!”

I laughed softly, kissed her on the forehead again, and said, “I feel so lucky”.

“I’m the lucky one”.

“I don’t think so”.

She pushed herself up on her elbow again, looked down at me with a mischievous grin, and said, “Are you seriously trying to win another argument with me?”

“What on earth was I thinking?”

“That’s better!”

“Maybe we’ve both been very lucky”.

She looked at me in silence for a moment, and then sighed, laid her head on my shoulder again, and said, “Yeah, I can go along with that”.


Kelly had told me before our wedding that our house was only two blocks down the street from the neat little bungalow where old Joanna Robinson lived. I had seen Joanna around town a few times since our first meeting at the Co-op deli, and now and again she had reminded me of her invitation to come over and have a cup of tea with her, but somehow I had never gotten around to it. However, I discovered soon after we were married that this was not a state of affairs Kelly was going to allow to continue. “We’ll have to go over and have a visit with her”, she said to me; “I’ll set it up”.

And so it was that on that Saturday morning in late October we went over and spent an hour sitting with the old lady in her living room, drinking strong tea out of proper china tea cups. The house was crowded with old fashioned furniture, with family photographs on the wall, including some of Joanna and her husband in their early days in Canada. I noticed, however, that there were no pictures of any extended family in England or anywhere else, and when I asked her about her life before they came to Canada she was very evasive in her reply. “As I told you before, my husband was a farm labourer”, she said, “and he’d also worked as a groom on a large estate. But it was difficult for him to find permanent employment, so we decided to come to Canada”.

“You’re right”, Kelly said to me later on while we were back home making sandwiches for our lunch; “She’s quite secretive about their life before they came here. I’ll have to ask Don and Ruth if they know anything, but I sort of think they don’t”.

“I’d leave it alone if I were you”.

“How come?”

“How old is she? Eighty?”

“She must be pretty close to that”.

“And you’ve never heard any of her children or grandchildren talking about her life before she and her husband came to Canada?”


“Then I suspect she hasn’t told them about it. And if you start asking questions about it, they might start asking her, and she may not welcome that”.

Kelly grinned at me; “Nice thinking, Sherlock! Sometimes it’s helpful to have an introvert in the family!”

“It’s not just because I’m an introvert”. I was spreading egg salad onto a slice of brown bread, but I stopped for a moment, my knife poised in my hand. “I don’t especially like it if people ask me about my family back home, because sooner or later they’re going to ask why I decided to come here, and it’s hard to answer that question honestly without dredging up all kinds of family conflict that I’d rather not talk about”.

“You think it might be like that for her too?”

“I really have no idea, but I know there could be all kinds of reasons why she might prefer not to talk about it, and personally, I’m okay with that”.

She looked at me for a moment without speaking, and then reached up and kissed me on the cheek. “You’re a very wise man, Tom Masefield”, she said softly.

“Well, I don’t know about that”.

“Oh, I do, and I think you are”.


One thing Kelly and I gradually came to realize was that we lived closer to old Joanna than any of her family members.

Ruth and John Janzen lived with their children on an acreage just south of town; Ruth was a little older than Kelly, but they were very good friends. Toward the end of November she called Kelly one night and asked her if she’d mind running up the street to see if her grandma was okay. “I’ve called her three times in the last half hour”, she said, “and she’s not answering her phone”. So Kelly put her parka and tuque on and went over to Joanna’s place to check up on her. A few minutes later she came back with a grin; “She needs a new battery for her hearing aid”, she said.

“She can’t hear the phone without her hearing aid? She must be deafer than I thought”.

“That’s not it. She couldn’t hear the TV, so she had it turned up so loud she couldn’t hear anything else. I just about had to break the door down to get her attention!”

I laughed; “That’s hilarious! Was she surprised to see you?”

“Yeah, she was, but when I explained to her what it was all about, she thought it was pretty funny too. She called Ruth right back and apologized, and she apologized to me too, for making me come out on a cold night like this”.

“I expect it won’t be the last time”.

“How do you mean?”

“Well, it looks like Ruth’s figured out how close we live to her grandma”.

“I guess that’s right, isn’t it?”


Jacob William, the firstborn son of Joe and Ellie Reimer and first grandchild for Will and Sally, made his entrance into the world just before noon on Wednesday December 10th. Ellie went into labour at about eleven o’clock Tuesday night, and Sally called us at about six in the morning to let us know what was going on, and to assure us that everything was fine. So we went to work as usual; Sally was at the hospital, but Will was at the school, and I knew that he would get a call if anything happened, and he would let me know right away.

Still, I found it difficult to concentrate on my lessons that morning; my thoughts kept straying away to Joe and Ellie and their baby, and to Kelly and me as well. I knew that Kelly was longing to get pregnant; “I’m already twenty-six”, she had said to me, “and I want to have lots of kids, so do you mind if we get started as soon as possible?”

“Of course not”, I had replied with a grin; “I’m kind of looking forward to it myself!”

In fact, this was not entirely true. Of course, I wanted to have children, but I was haunted by a secret fear that I would not be a good father, a fear I found so threatening I had not even talked to Kelly about it. I knew that I did not want to be an absentee parent like my own father, but I had never experienced anything different and I had no idea how to go about it. And so a part of me wanted to have children as soon as possible, but another, secret part wanted to wait until I had at least some idea of what being a better father might look like.

Kelly, however, seemed to have no fears at all about the idea of parenthood, or at least none that she had shared with me. I also knew that she was looking forward to the birth of Joe and Ellie’s baby and that she wanted very much for us to be involved in his life as his aunt and uncle – a desire Joe and Ellie shared. We had grown much closer to them since their wedding nineteen months ago. The four of us had gotten into the habit of having Sunday suppers together once or twice a month, and it was not uncommon for those supper time conversations to go on late into the night, until eventually one of us would say, “Okay, folks, it’s going to be a sleepy day tomorrow!” and we would reluctantly bring the evening to a close.


It was Will who slipped into my classroom at the start of the lunch break on that December day to give me the news that Ellie had had a baby boy, and that mother and child were both well. I congratulated him and asked him whether he was going straight up to the hospital.

“No, not for a couple of hours yet”, he replied; “Sally says they’re still cleaning up, and of course Ellie’s really tired and they want her to sleep for a couple of hours if she can. I was thinking I might go up around three-thirty; what about you?”

“I expect we’ll go up after supper; you know how excited Kelly is about this baby!”

He nodded and smiled; “She’s been talking about being a mom since she was about fourteen. But hopefully, before too long…?” he added with a mischievous grin.

“Getting greedy for more grandchildren, are you, Will?” I replied, punching him lightly on the arm. “Don’t you need a few months to get used to this one first?”


It was just after seven o’clock when Kelly and I went up to the hospital to meet our new nephew. When we got there Joe and Ellie were alone with the baby; they were in a single room with the lighting dimmed; there was an easy chair at the foot of the bed, and a couple of hardback chairs that had obviously been brought in for earlier visitors. Ellie looked tired but happy as she lay in the hospital bed with her son in her arms; Kelly stooped to kiss her, and I gave Joe a bear hug and said, “Congratulations, Papa Reimer. Does this young fellow have a name yet?”

Joe glanced at Ellie, and she smiled at me and said, “Jacob William”.

“Is he gonna be a Jake?” Kelly asked with a grin.

“Oh, I’m sure he will be”, Ellie replied. “Do you want to hold him?”

I laughed; “She’s been wanting to hold him since the moment she heard he’d been born!”

Kelly bent over and gently took the tiny bundle from his mother; she cradled him, kissed him lightly on his wizened-looking forehead, and showed him to me. “Meet your Uncle Tom, little Jake”, she whispered.

“He’s pretty tiny”, I said.

“Seven pounds four ounces”, Joe replied; “Here, Kelly, take the easy chair”.

Kelly sat down in the armchair at the foot of the bed, holding the baby close and kissing him again on the forehead. I looked at her, dressed as usual in jeans and a sweater with her hair hanging loose down her back, my young wife holding a newborn baby, and suddenly I found myself blinking back the tears. Joe saw it, and immediately knew what it was about. He put his hand on my arm, not saying anything, but I saw in his eyes that he understood, and I nodded gratefully.

“My mom and dad are coming up in the morning”, Ellie said; “They would have come earlier, but Dad was on a work trip and only got home a couple of hours ago”.

Kelly nodded; “Are they going to stay with you guys?”

“Yeah, they will”, Joe replied. “Dr. Wallace says that if things stay good, Ellie should be able to come home in a couple of days. And I was talking to Krista a couple of hours ago; she’s going to come up on the weekend”.

Joe and I sat down on the hard backed chairs, Joe beside Ellie and me nearer to where Kelly was sitting. For a moment none of us spoke; we were all watching Kelly holding the baby close. He was awake, but he didn’t seem to be restless or upset about anything. He was wrapped up tight in a white hospital blanket, and he was wearing a hood on his head that made him look like a little old man in her arms.

“You’re a natural”, Joe said to Kelly.

“Thanks”, she replied with a warm smile; “I’m looking forward to lots of Auntie Kelly time!”

Joe glanced at Ellie, and then said, “Actually, there’s something we wanted to ask you two about”.

“What is it?” I said.

Ellie reached out and took Joe’s hand. “Well, you know I was raised in the United Church, where we baptized babies. But now I’m a Mennonite, and of course we’re going to have Jacob dedicated, not baptized, because that’s what Joe and I believe in”.

“Her mom and dad are a little disappointed about that, I think”, Joe added.

“Yeah, but they’ll be okay”, said Ellie; “We’ve talked about it a lot, and they understand that this is what we believe in. But there is one thing I really liked about infant baptism, and that’s godparents. My godparents are a couple who were really good friends with my mom and dad when they were first married, and they’ve been really conscientious about keeping in touch with me over the years. They’re actually Catholic, and I know they pray for me, and they really take the godparent thing seriously”.

I frowned; “Do Mennonites not have godparents?”

“It’s not common”, Joe replied. “I’ve talked to Rob about it, and he said that it’s been happening occasionally over the past few years – mainly because of the influence of the infant baptism customs. But historically, Mennonites didn’t have godparents for their babies”.

“But we want to”, said Ellie; “Joe and I have talked about it, and he’s agreed to it. My godparents have been such a special part of my life, and I want my children to have that experience too”.

“We’ve checked with Rob”, Joe added, “and he’s said he’s okay with it”.

“So”, said Ellie, “we were really hoping that you two would be Jake’s godparents”.

Kelly and I looked at each other, and I saw that it was her turn to be blinking back the tears. “I think it’s a yes”, I said to Ellie, “although my sweetheart seems to be a little overcome at the moment”.

Kelly nodded, the tears brimming over in her eyes. “Thank you”, she said to Joe and Ellie; “Thank you so much”.

“I would like you to be sure about it, though”, I added. “Since the tradition comes from your side, Ellie, wouldn’t you rather have someone from your family – your sister, maybe?”

Ellie shook her head; “Karla doesn’t go to church, and anyway, we want people who go to our own church and believe what we believe about Christian discipleship. The fact that you guys are relatives is an added extra, but it wasn’t our main criteria”.

“And we’re closer to you than anyone else”, Joe added; “That’s just a fact”.

“I agree”, said Ellie; “I feel I know you guys better than anyone else in our church”.

“And what we want you to do more than anything else is pray for our son and help us raise him as a Christian”, said Joe, “and I know you guys are going to do that anyway, so it seems natural that you should be the ones we ask. You’re going to be the godparents in reality, whether we ask you or not!”

Kelly and I both laughed, and she wiped the tears from her eyes and said, “I guess that’s true”. She glanced at me. “Tom and I haven’t really talked about what we would do when we have children of our own. I’ve never thought about the godparent thing – it was never a part of my life. What about you?” she asked me.

I shook my head. “I was christened as a baby, of course, and Auntie Brenda and Uncle Roy were my godparents, but I don’t think they ever really functioned in that way, as far as I can remember. Auntie Brenda’s my mum’s sister”, I explained to Joe and Ellie. “We saw a lot more of them when we were growing up than my dad’s siblings, because they live in Oxford, but I always thought of them as just an aunt and uncle, not as godparents. Of course”, I added, “the fact that I wasn’t really raised in the Christian faith probably didn’t help”.

“Were there no churchgoers in your family at all?” Ellie asked.

“Oh yeah; Mum went to church when she was younger, before she met my dad, and Brenda and Roy are churchgoers. My grandpa Campion – my mum’s father – was actually a church organist; he taught the organ at university level in Oxford, and when he was younger he played the organ at his college chapel. He was still playing for his parish church until the year he died”.

“When was that?” Joe asked.

“The year before I moved to Canada”.

“So that’s where your mom got her musical interests, then?”

“Yes, although she’s never been an organist; the piano was always her instrument. And as for churchgoing – well, I’ve always suspected that she would have liked to have gone to church while we were growing up, but with Dad being an atheist and so strident about it, I’m guessing it just wasn’t worth all the arguments it would have caused”.

“It’s good to make our own choices about the way we want to raise our kids, though, isn’t it?” said Ellie. “I’ve got good parents, and there are lots of things I like about the way they raised me, but I sure don’t want to be a carbon copy of them”.

“Same for me”, Kelly replied. “I’ve got no complaints at all about the way Joe and Krista and I were raised…”

“Well, maybe our parents were a little too protective of us when we got to be young adults…”, said Joe.

Kelly laughed softly, giving me a mischievous glance. “Yeah, I guess that’s true!”

The baby in her arms stirred and gave a little sigh. “Is he okay?” Ellie asked.

“Yeah, he’s fallen asleep. Do you want to take him?”

“No, he’s fine with you, Auntie Kelly”.

Kelly smiled; “Thanks”.

“So”, Joe said to her, “you were talking about children of your own. If you don’t mind me asking, are you guys trying?”

Kelly glanced at me; I gave her a little nod, and she said, “Yeah, I’m twenty-six and I want a few of them, so I didn’t really want to wait too long to get started”.

“That’s how I felt, too”, Ellie replied.

“But like I said”, Kelly added, “we haven’t even thought about the idea of godparents”.

“We’ll definitely be discussing it”, I said; “Personally, the way you’ve explained it, I like it”.

“Me too”, Kelly agreed.

Joe laughed; “Looks like you just discussed it!”

“I guess we have!” Kelly replied with a grin.


And so Kelly and I stood with Joe and Ellie at the front of the church on the last Sunday in January for Jacob’s dedication – or, I should say, for Jake’s dedication, because that was the name by which he was already universally known in the Reimer family. Kelly and I had gone away for a few days between Christmas and New Year’s; her parents had bought us a skiing holiday package in Jasper. I had watched Kelly do some of her downhill runs, and taken a few beginners’ lessons myself, and we had done some cross country skiing, as well as enjoying some time to ourselves in a nice hotel room. We had not gone away for a honeymoon right after our wedding, with it being the middle of the school year, but Will and Sally had referred to the Jasper trip as ‘your late honeymoon’ when they had told us about it, and that was the way we always thought about it afterwards.

A couple of weeks later Kelly was working a rare Saturday shift, and I had the day to myself. I had cleaned up the place, done some laundry and worked on some schoolwork, and was just thinking of making myself a late lunch when Joe called; he had to do an emergency run out to a farm south of town, and wondered if I’d like to go along for the ride. I immediately agreed, and he picked me up in his truck a few minutes later. It was a fine early February afternoon, with the temperature sitting at about minus twenty and the sun shining out of a clear blue sky, turning the wide snow-covered fields a brilliant white. We spent the next hour or so with a cow that was having respiratory problems; I watched as Joe did a thorough examination, talked with the farmer for a long time about how the problem had developed, and then gave him some medications and some instructions about what to do. It was about three o’clock by the time we got back to town, and I invited Joe in for a coffee.

“I’d better just check with Ellie and make sure everything’s okay”, he said.

So he came into our house and called Ellie, and then he and I sat at the kitchen table for half an hour or so, drinking coffee and talking about anything that came into our heads.

“So how’s it going, this baby-raising business?” I asked at one point.

“Oh well, you know, at the moment there’s not much to it. He basically eats, sleeps, and poops, and in between he waves his arms and legs a lot and gurgles. I get involved in the arm waving and the gurgling and the poop cleanup, and Ellie handles the eating and the sleeping!”

“So she gets up with him during the night?”

“Well she’s nursing, of course, so she’s the one who gets up if he cries and gives him what he’s asking for. If she has a hard time getting him back to sleep, I get up with him and walk him around for a while. We’ve had a few Jake and Daddy hours like that at three or four in the morning. Usually he’s pretty good at falling back to sleep, but now and then he’s not interested. I think he enjoys the fact that he has our full attention in the middle of the night, you know!”

We were quiet for a moment, and then I said, “Can I ask you something?”


“When Ellie was pregnant, were you nervous about becoming a dad?”

“Of course – isn’t everyone?”

“I suppose so”.

He cradled his coffee mug in his hands and looked across the table at me. “Something on your mind?”

I hesitated, and then said, “Yes”.

“Are you nervous?”

“Very nervous”.

“How so?”

I shook my head. “It’s not that I don’t want to have children – I really do, and I’m right with Kelly in wanting to get started as soon as we can. But…”

“There’s another voice inside your head?”

“Yes”. I gave a heavy sigh and said, “The thing is, Joe, you had a fantastic father”.

“Ah!” he replied with a nod of understanding.

“Yes. I haven’t got the slightest idea how to be a good father. I never had a good father myself; my dad was the absentee parent throughout my childhood, and when I got into my teens he spent a lot of time arguing with me and criticizing me and yelling at me”.

“But what about Owen’s dad? You often talk about him”.

“Yes, of course, when I started hanging around with Owen I got a different vision of what a father-son relationship could be like. But I was already eleven at that point. How does a good father raise a small child? I haven’t got a clue”.

He frowned; “Is that really true?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, what’s your secret to being a good big brother to Becca? She obviously loves you like crazy and looks up to you. How did you make that happen?”

I shook my head; “I don’t think I ever really had a plan. And I wasn’t the one ultimately responsible for her – my mum was”.

“Agreed, but didn’t your mom say that you were the one who basically taught Becca to talk?”

I smiled; “Yeah, she does say that. I suppose it might be true; I spent a lot of time with her when she was a baby and a toddler”.

“Why did you do that?”

“Because I liked her. I’d always wanted to have a sister, and it seemed like the most natural thing in the world to do things with her and help my mum look after her”.

“And you knew how to have fun with her, too”.

“I suppose I did”.

He sat back in his seat with a smile; “Well, I agree it’s not exactly the same situation, but I wouldn’t say you were entirely without child-raising talents”.

“I’ve never thought of that before”.

“Think about it. And meanwhile – have you talked to Kelly about it?”

“No; she’s so intent on having kids, and I was afraid it would really freak her out if I told her how scared I was”.

He shook his head slowly; “Tom Masefield, you are a slow learner”.

“How do you mean?”

“Haven’t you figured out by now that there’s one sure-fire way to upset my sister, and that’s to not be entirely up-front with her?”

I gave him a wry grin; “Yes, I know that”.

“Well, then…?”

“You’re right, of course – I need to talk to her about it”.


I thought about it for a couple more days, and then I psyched myself up to raise the subject with Kelly. It was after supper on the Tuesday evening; we had finished clearing up and doing the dishes, I had made a pot of herbal tea and we had taken our cups into the living room. We were sitting side by side on the couch with our feet up on the coffee table, and I took her hand and said, “There’s something I need to talk to you about”.

“What is it?”

“This is going to sound really weird, but I have to say it anyway: please don’t freak out or get upset with me until I’ve finished explaining, alright?”

She shifted her posture slightly so that she was angled toward me; “What is it?” she asked again.

“Well, a few weeks ago you asked me if I minded getting started on having children right away, and I said, ‘Of course not’”.

“I remember”, she said warily.

“Well, that was true, but it wasn’t the whole truth”.

“So now you’re telling me you want to wait? What’s brought this on?”

“Kelly, I’m not done yet. And no, I don’t want to wait”.

Her eyes searched mine in silence for a moment, and then she nodded and said, “Okay, I’m sorry, and I’m listening”.

“Of course I want to have children”, I said, “and I feel as you do, that we’re both twenty-six and we need to get going as soon as we can, so that we can enjoy them and keep up with them while we’re still young. That’s the loudest voice in my head, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s still the plan. But I’ve not been completely open with you about how scared I am; I haven’t talked to you about it, because I’ve been afraid to upset you”.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you’ve got this huge advantage over me: you’ve got an excellent father and mother, so you’ve got great role models. But honestly, I haven’t got the faintest idea how to be a good father to a small child, and I’m really, really scared that I won’t be a good father – that I’ll feel inadequate, and withdraw, and end up an absentee father, like my dad”.

She reached out and touched my cheek with the palm of her hand. “Tom”, she said softly, “You’re warm and compassionate, and you’re wise, and you love to have fun. You’re going to be a great father; I know it”.

I shook my head slowly; “I know that’s sometimes the truth about me, but not always. And I’m not very patient, Kelly, and I know that with small kids, you’ve got to be patient”.

“Well, I think maybe I should check with Becca on that subject; she seems to think that you were great with her when she was a little girl”.

I grinned; “You’re the second person to mention that to me”.

She frowned; “You already talked to someone else about this? Before you talked to me?”

“Yeah, and I knew you’d be upset about that, too”. I hesitated for a moment and then said, “Kelly, I wish I could make you understand just how scared I’ve been – not just scared of turning out to be a bad father, but scared of upsetting you by telling you about that fear. I know how much you want to be a mum, and I didn’t want to hurt you”.

“Well”, she replied with a note of exasperation in her voice, “the best way to hurt me is always to keep things from me. I thought we’d agreed that that wasn’t the sort of marriage we wanted?”

“I know, and I feel really bad about it. I know I shouldn’t have kept it from you, and I’m sorry. The only thing I can say is that it was all about my own fears, that’s all”.

She looked at me in silence again for a moment, and then she reached out and put her arms around me. “I love you, Tom Masefield”, she whispered, “fears and shyness and all. I’m sorry I get impatient with you sometimes”.

“You’ve got nothing to apologize for; I’m the one that keeps messing up on this”.

I felt her shaking her head. “No, I mess up too; I’m constantly discounting the fact that you have to work a lot harder at being open than I do”. She drew back, took both my hands in hers and looked into my eyes again. “Is it a fear that I won’t love you if you tell me the truth?”

It was my turn to shake my head; “No – I know that you love me. It’s more a fear of disappointing you, I think”.

“Disappointing me?” She smiled; “Shall I tell you something that might surprise you?”

“What’s that?”

“I’ve been thinking over the past couple of days about the curious fact that I fell in love with you – you, who’ve always been more than a little shy and reserved, and me, the one who’s always been totally up front and open. And I’ve come to the strange conclusion that your shyness was a big part of it”.

“I find that very hard to believe; it looks to me as if I frustrate you more than anything else”.

“Yes, sometimes you do. But then I think about what you just said – that you’ve been afraid to talk to me about this, because you didn’t want to hurt me. I tend to forget about that sort of thing – I just blurt out exactly what I’m thinking and feeling, at any time, without stopping to think how it’s going to affect people, or how they’re going to feel about it”.

“And I love that about you. I wish I could be more like that”.

“No, Tom”, she said softly; “I don’t want you to be more like me. I want you to teach me to be more like you sometimes. After all, it was your love for me that made you slow to speak about this – the fact that you didn’t want to hurt me”.

“Now I’m confused. Didn’t you just say a moment ago that the best way to hurt you was to keep things from you?”

“Yes, and that’s true, and I know that you’ll try harder in the future not to do that – because you’ll still be thinking about my feelings, which you already do, and you’ll just be wiser about the way you do it. Your method may have been wrong, but your motivation was right on. But my motivation isn’t always right on; I could use to stop sometimes and think about what I’m going to say, and how it’s going to touch people’s hearts, rather than just blurting it out, like I tend to do”.

I looked at her for a moment, and then I smiled and said, “Say what you like, Kelly, you are an amazing woman”.

“Not as amazing as you”.

We were both smiling now, and she said, “So, just for the record, who was it that you were discussing the inner workings of our marriage with?”


“Ah”, she said with a mischievous grin, “you guys were having a little male bonding time, were you, talking about your problems with the women back home?”

“It wasn’t like that, Kelly. To be quite honest with you, I can’t even remember how it came up, but he got the truth out of me, because he’s good at that”.

“Yeah, he is”. She thought for a minute, and then said, “Do you remember when we started writing to each other, and you used to talk about how you were totally turned off by your dad’s devotion to success and material wealth? How was it you said it? It was ‘soul-destroying and barren’, and it made you want to find a better way of living”.

“I remember; that’s still true”.

“It was like your dissatisfaction with your dad’s way of doing things gave you the boost you needed to look for a better alternative. And it worked, didn’t it? You’ve found what you were looking for”.

“I guess so. I’m not all the way there yet, but I’m certainly happier and more content now than I’ve ever been”.

“Well, then, maybe it’s good that you’re afraid you’ll turn out to be the sort of father your dad was. Maybe that fear will keep you motivated to find a better way. Maybe you can make that fear your friend”.

“But didn’t we just read the other night that perfect love casts out fear?”

“Yeah, but I’m not sure either of us has reached perfection yet, have we?”

I shook my head; “No, I suppose we haven’t”.

She leaned forward, picked up her mug from the table, and took a sip of tea. “So Joe was the one who talked to you about Becca?”

“Yeah – he told me that I seemed to have done a great job in being a big brother to her, and that she loves me and looks up to me, which I know is true – especially since we got over our troubles”.

“And I’ll bet you didn’t go into that relationship with some great master plan of how to be a good brother. Haven’t you always told me that when she was first born, all you were thinking of was that you’d always wanted a sister, and now you had one, and you just wanted to love her and enjoy her?”

“Yeah, that just about sums it up”.

“Well then, your instincts turned out to be pretty good, didn’t they?”

“I suppose they did”.

“So why don’t you try trusting yourself a little more? Don’t worry about it right now – I’m not even pregnant yet. When the time comes, trust your love for our child. And don’t be afraid to just enjoy him – or her”.

“Her, remember? Emma Dawn?”

“Right”, she replied with a sudden smile of delight; “Emma Dawn”.

“Can I ask you something?” I said, and then I stopped and shook my head; “Okay, silly question, I know!”

“What is it?”

“Are you ever scared about the thought of becoming a parent?”

“Sometimes I’m terrified”.

“Wow – that’s a strong word”.

“Honestly, Tom, when I look at Jake, and how totally dependent he is on Ellie and Joe – I mean, they wouldn’t have to do very much neglecting for that little guy to die, would they?”

“No, I suppose not”.

“That’s a terrifying thought – the idea that I’m going to have a child who will be just as dependent on me. I’m honestly not sure I’m up to that level of responsibility”.

“Come on, Kelly – you’re going to be an excellent mother. You’ve been dreaming about it for nearly half your life”.

“Yeah, I know, that’s what I keep telling myself, and most of the time, I believe that. But that other voice never completely goes away either”.

“I never realized you had that other voice, too”.

She inclined her head a little and looked at me with a bemused expression on her face. “So I guess I haven’t been completely honest with you either, have I?”

“That’s hard to believe”.

“It’s true, though”. She smiled; “Time for me to listen to my own advice here, I guess”.

“One day our kids will look up to us and think we’re adults, but inside we’re still going to feel like kids”.

She gave me a wry grin; “Isn’t that the truth?”

Link to Chapter 17

Jim Moray: ‘Lord Douglas’

This is Jim Moray’s take on the old folk song ‘Earl Brand’. He has combined elements from several versions of the song and added some verses of his own as well. I think it’s a brilliant piece of music and a wonderful example of how to take an old song and use it as the basis for something new.

More information about the song is at ‘Mainly Norfolk‘, ‘Wikipedia‘, and ‘Contemplator‘.

This song is taken from Jim Moray’s album ‘Skulk‘. Jim’s website is here.