Four years earlier
“You wanted to see me dad.” said my son as he walked into the study. I put down the medical journal I was reading to look at the son I thought I’d lost over thirty years ago.
I’d accomplish many amazing things in my life, but Justin Connors Jnr, or as everyone called him Jace, was the greatest joy of my life. He had blossomed into a man any father would be proud to call his own.
He’d just come in from a rugby game as splatters of mud stained the front of his jersey.
“Did we win?” I asked. Although he was Senior Vice President at Conson’s, he still found it important to be a part of the company’s team participating in the corporate rugby league. He was just as competitive on the field as he was in the boardroom and for the last three years, we were the defending title holders.
“Naturally,” he grinned causing a pair of dimples to appear. The over-confidence was an inherited trait. If Lupa hadn’t tempered his —hubris—from early on, he would have been as arrogant (and as lonely) as me at his age.
I was silent for an extended period. As a trained doctor, I delivered bad news to countless amounts of people before. However, today doing so, was especially hard.
The door opened and my wife Lupa ushered in my newly pregnant daughter Annabelle. Anna sat beside Jace on the sofa and he pulled her hair as a form of greeting.
“Stop it, you might hurt the baby.” she said swatting his hand.
“I might not be the doctor in this family, but I am hundred percent sure that isn’t how it works.” said Jace.
While they bickered, my wife slipped into my lap. That very instant, the heaviness in my chest lightened and I was able to breathe. It was hard to fathom that there was ever a time in my life that I lived without this amazing woman at my side. Swatches of silver ringlets were mixed in with her dark hair and new wrinkles lined her forehead, but to me, she was still the most beautiful woman I’d ever laid eyes on.
Her brown eyes searched mine and they were questioning.
Did you already tell him? She asked telepathically.
I shook my head in response. I don’t know where to start.
She squeezed closer and kissed me on the forehead. Want me to do it?
Please. I nodded.
She took in a deep breath. “So, your father has something she wants to tell you both.” she started as she held my hand in her lap. I squeezed it tighter drawing strength from her.
“Don’t tell me that mum is pregnant too?” said Jace in mock horror.
“Very funny meat head.” laughed Anna.
I cleared my throat. “I’ve discussed it with the board and if you accept, Jace you are no longer Senior Vice President of Conson’s, but the Chief Executive Officer.”
“Really! I wasn’t expecting this...I did...but... at least five or ten years down the line.” he sputtered.
“They were very impressed with your performance this year. Both your grandfather and I think that you are more than capable of taking over the company.” I said proudly.
“Great, something else to inflate his already massive ego.” said Anna as she rolled her eyes playfully.
“Massive ego to match my massive...” he started.
“Eeeww, I’ve just gotten over my morning sickness, please don’t gross me out.” she replied.
“But why are you retiring so early? You have years ahead if gramps is anything to go by.” he said suddenly turning serious. Both my children eyed me curiously.
I paused and looked at Lupa. I didn’t have it in me.
“That’s because he’s ill. He did some blood tests and they revealed that he has cancer.” her voice dipped low at the end.
“Cancer?” said both my children in unison.
“Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. Has an excellent prognosis in children. For people my age not so much. Which is why I am retiring early as I intend to fight this thing with everything I’ve got.” I said sounding much braver than I felt. “I’ve contacted an oncologist, Dr Walters, he has a promising experimental trial that I want to get enrolled in.”
Annabelle started crying and claimed my other leg as she climbed into my lap, embracing her mother and me.
With Jace, the change in him was instantaneous. The light in his eyes dimmed and his entire body went rigid.
Over the next few months that followed, the sicker I got, the more I saw the son I knew disappearing.
I tried to tell him that it was alright and that I was not afraid to die. I’d lived a wonderful life, filled with no regrets. But my words fell on deaf ears.
I finally accepted that I was powerless to bring him out of the darkness that he’d buried himself in. A father’s love had its limits.
Only that one person—his ten — could save Jace now.