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Chapter One

Jackie Weaver Stood on a Wall, Jackie Weaver Had a Great Fall...

April, 2009

She took classes at night so she could nanny during the day.

She spent her weekends trying to balance a minimal social life with the mounds of assignments and projects due the next week. It was stressful, but Jackie became a pro at managing it all. She had little more than a year left before she'd earn her degree. There was no one more eager for that day than she was.

She survived on more caffeine than sleep, and eagerly awaited the upcoming summer break. The countdown on her calendar showed just four weeks to go.

There was a family beach vacation with her sister and parents planned in June. Two days after that, she was jumping on a plane with three friends to go to Vegas. Then it was back to work. Honestly, she couldn't have cared less where she was going, so long as none of it included college assignments or work. She had an archaeological field study scheduled for August that was for college credit, but she looked forward to that as more playtime than work.

Jackie glanced up at the clock and saw that it was naptime for the toddler. She quickly cleaned up lunch and carried the child over to the downstairs changing table, to get her face and hands wiped down and her diaper changed. "Halfway through the day, baby girl. Ready for nappy time?"

The one-year-old looking up at her, smiled, and said, "No!"

Jackie tried not to chuckle as she redressed the little girl. "Yes!" she said, now playing their daily game.

"No!" little Sarah said, cooing with delight that she'd gotten the expected response.

"Yes!" Jackie said, picking Sarah up. She gave a glance around the corner into the next room, to make sure the infant was still asleep in her swing, and walked towards the stairs.

As soon as Jackie's foot hit the first step, Sarah realized where the nanny was taking her and immediately began to fuss.

Trying to minimize the toddler's noise, so Sarah wouldn't wake up the infant in the next room, Jackie set the child's feet on the stair and held her hands while the child shifted her attention to trying to walk up the steps herself.

Sarah's parents never allowed her near the stairs and she became immediately taken with this new challenge—for about ten steps. Then she looked up at the top of the stairs, saw her bedroom door, and realized where they were going again. She plopped to her bottom, right there on the stair, her desire to try something new gone in the face of impending naptime.

Jackie sighed and reached down to lift the girl onto her hip, silently lamenting the fact that she wasn't the one on her way for a nap, instead. She shifted her weight to continue up the last few steps.

Sarah's parents owned two cats, and they chose that moment to zip past the top of the stairs, chasing one another. Sarah, eager for any sighting or contact with the furry things, was surprised by them and let out a squeal of delight.

Jackie's mind had just wandered to the long list of lessons she needed to complete that evening, and thought about which one she could start during the toddler’s naptime, before the infant awoke. The cats zooming by hadn't fazed her, but the squeal in her ear startled her out of her thoughts, mid-step.

Before she realized what was about to happen, Jackie drew her head just far enough back, away from the toddler, to tip the scales of balance, and they both fell backwards down the stairs.

Instinct took over and Jackie curled herself around the now clutching toddler, as her backside took the first impact on the wall. Her shoulder broke a railing post and cracked two more on the second impact. Her other shoulder hit a step just before her head hit the next one down. Her body clenched around Sarah as the fall continued. Jackie's head hit another step, the wall, and finally the floor.

Sarah let out a wail in the aftermath of the fall, crying out for Jackie to comfort her. When Jackie didn't respond, the little girl started to squirm. When Jackie still didn't move to get off her, Sarah wiggled in earnest. Her cries gained volume as her frustration grew. She kicked, pinched, and screamed, but Jackie wouldn't let her go. Finally, her emotions overwhelming her as they spiraled out of control, the little girl yanked on Jackie's hair and threw her very first temper tantrum.

It didn't work.

What it did do was wake her little sister, who, at the sound of someone else's distress, did the only thing a three-month-old could do. She started crying and wailing, too.

In solidarity, they cried and screamed louder, longer, and harder than they ever had before. The cats came forward cautiously, and began meowing an alarm, trying to alert any humans to come to the rescue. The sisters, red-faced, tear-streaked, and puffy-eyed, exhausted themselves with the outbursts of energy and both fell asleep, for a lack of anything else they could do.

Fiona Ferguson finished with work two hours early that day. The company was trying to avoid paying out overtime and she'd been working through her lunch breaks to get a project done. Her manager had looked over the work, nodded in approval, and promptly sent her home so his boss wouldn't give him grief about the budget again.

Fiona could have gone home, but stepping outside of the stuffy office building and into the sunny, seventy-degree day, she decided to spend the two hours on herself. She went and got a badly needed haircut, splurging on both a manicure and pedicure while she was there. To counteract the twinge of guilt she was feeling over spoiling herself for the first time in months, she stopped by the post office and picked up stamps, then filled the car with gas at the convenience store, and ran inside to get milk. She glanced down at the clock on the car's dash and wrinkled her nose. She sent a quick text to her nanny, that she was running five minutes late, before putting the car into drive to go home.

She pulled into the garage, grabbed the milk and stamps from the passenger seat, got out, and went inside the house.

The kitchen greeted her with silence. This wasn't the normal scene when she got home. Fiona mentally made a note that the nanny hadn't acknowledged her text about being late, but still didn't think too much of it. She was sure that they were just on the back porch, enjoying the gorgeous spring weather.

She moved to the patio doors and looked outside, but didn't see anyone.

She went to slide the glass door aside and saw that it remained locked. She scanned the yard, looking for the trio, wondering if the nanny had locked herself out. Though, if that had happened, wouldn't they have met her in the driveway?

She glanced around the kitchen and eating area, her mommy instincts finally deciding to kick in. "Jackie?" she called out.

The cats came running. One sat just inside the doorway and stared at her. The other started meowing.

"Jackie? Hello!" she called out again, starting to walk towards the living room.

Sarah, who'd awakened by now and was tapping her foot on the floor, the only thing she could do aside from yanking on Jackie's hair, heard her mommy and started grunting and squawking for help.

The baby, picking up on the idea that help was there, started with her regular cry before quickly building up steam and launching into an infant version of a nervous breakdown.

Fiona ran into the living room, took one look at her infant in the corner, covered in her own dried vomit from crying so hard, and plowed toward the opposite doorway, on a mission to do a room-by-room search for the one person that helped her maintain sanity while caring for two children so very young... the nanny.

She only had to round the next corner into the front hall before she found them. Jackie, slumped and limp, lie face down at the bottom of the stairs. One of her legs obviously broken, a puddle of blood spread on the hardwood coming from somewhere under the hair that draped her face from sight, her body hunched over a now screaming Sarah, who was only partially visible from the way Jackie was curled around her.

Fiona looked up at the stairs, taking in the broken banister, the hole in the wall, smears of blood at additional impact points, and her vision began to swim. The hallway seemed to spin around her. It was all she could do not to pass out from the sight of such destruction and blood. She dropped to the floor and put her head between her knees, willing herself not to pass out. She pulled her cell phone out of her pocket and dialed nine-one-one.

It took her three tries to start getting the words out to explain to the operator what it looked like had happened.

The nine-one-one operator asked if Fiona could see any movement in Jackie that showed she was still breathing. Fiona confirmed there was a slight, rhythmic, rise and fall of Jackie's back that looked like breathing to her. The operator then declared it unnecessary to check for a pulse.

When Fiona explained about her daughter, she was instructed not to move little girl. Sarah could have injuries, and to move Jackie even a little could be disastrous. She wasn't to touch anyone.

"Is there anybody else there, Fiona?" the operator asked, trying to give the frazzled and frantic woman something to do while she waited for the ambulance.

"My infant, she's in the swing."

"Did you put her there?"

"No, she was there when I came home."

"Is she crying, too?"

"Yes."

"How about you see if she needs anything?"

"You said not to touch anyone," Fiona said in a small voice.

The operator had trouble hearing her over all the fussing of the two children in the background. "If she wasn't part of the fall down the stairs, then she's okay. Take care of the baby."

The operator stayed on the line as Fiona tended to the infant. Fiona didn't know which problem to address first, the baby needed everything. The operator suggested she deal with cleaning her up first. Fiona picked up the crying baby and carried her over to the changing table. She took off the shirt that was covered in dried vomit and discovered that her pants were soiled by an overly full diaper that had leaked through. The baby's bottom was bright red from irritation.

"She looks like she's been sitting in this diaper for hours!" Fiona croaked out before she started hyperventilating.

"Fiona, take slow, deep breaths for me. We're going to take care of it. Help is on the way, that's what's most important right now. Slow your breathing down and focus on the baby. Wipe her down with a couple wipes, put some rash cream on her bottom, and get a new diaper on her."

Fiona nodded, forced herself to get her breathing under control, and fumbled her way through the wipe down and diaper change.

"Help is only two minutes away, Fiona. They’re almost there."

She grabbed a nearby spare onesie and put it on the baby. Then she picked up the infant, hugged her baby close, and made her way to the kitchen to make a bottle.

She was feeding the baby when she met the EMTs at the door. Once they were inside, Fiona seemed to calm down and come back to her senses. She hung up with the operator and texted her husband to leave work and meet her at the hospital, no questions asked.

A police officer came through the door next. He was there to make sure the accident was, in fact, an accident. Coming home and finding someone at the bottom of the stairs may look like a case of bad luck, but authorities wanted to make sure there was no evidence of foul play.

The EMTs were of the opinion that if the toddler had done damage to her spine or neck, she'd have done additional damage with all her thrashing and struggling to get loose. But, procedures being what they were, they still had to strap her down on a backboard to stabilize her movements. Fiona wanted to get her a clean diaper and a bottle, but they wouldn't allow her to do either. A diaper would require her to move the toddler. Giving her a bottle was a no-go, in case she had any internal injuries that might require immediate surgery. They started an IV to get fluids back into the toddler, and Fiona went to get a pacifier for the child who'd never taken one before in her short life.

Sarah, who was so overwhelmed, deprived, scared, and mad, all at the same time, over being trapped and now strapped down, was crying so hard she was sweating and hoarse from the effort. She latched onto the pacifier as though it were a lifeline, sucking on it for all she was worth, between short gulps of air, as her little body tried to quell the storm.

A second ambulance arrived amidst the chaos. The second team worked to stabilize Jackie as they ran vitals and assessed her. The looks they exchanged were so grim, and they spoke so low to one another, it deepened Fiona's horror.

Gawking neighbors lined the driveway and watched as they loaded Jackie and Sarah into the ambulances. Fiona quickly put the infant in her carrier and grabbed both her and Jackie's purses, along with the big diaper bag, before heading outside to the rigs. She spotted Jackie's cell phone on the kitchen table, grabbed it on her way outside, and climbed into Sarah's ambulance.

Sarah’s EMTs were calm. Sarah was quiet, but loudly sucking on the pacifier as her eyes kept looking at all the things around her. The baby was asleep now that all the crises in her little world were over.

Fiona slid the keyboard open on Jackie's phone and pushed the button to bring up the list of contacts. She started tapping on the keys to send identical texts to both contacts labeled 'Mom' and 'Dad'. 'This is Fiona Ferguson. There's been an accident. It’s bad. Get to the hospital.' She then powered off the phone to preserve the battery, in case there was anything on it Jackie or her parents might need before they could get it plugged into a charger.

She gave one more worried glance at her daughters, then put her head in her hands and cried.

Chapter Two

All the Great Doctors and All the Great Men Couldn't Put Miss Weaver Back Together Again

Jack Junior and Elaine Weaver couldn't even begin to process the words the doctors had said to them. Their eldest daughter, so goal-driven, so hardworking and well behaved, was now in a coma. They sat in a silence broken only by the low sounds of the monitors and machines now hooked up to Jackie.

Jack Junior couldn't stop staring at Jackie’s face. Her expressions were always so animated. Ever since she was little, he'd been able to gauge her mood, her level of honesty, and level of stress, by the myriad looks that played across her face.

Now her face held nothing but emptiness. She'd never appeared so unanimated in her life.

Elaine kept staring at her daughter's hands. They'd never been so still before. She'd sit to watch a movie and Elaine would become amused by watching Jackie's thumb rub against her index finger, or across the knuckles of a loose fist. Even when Jackie had let them sit idle, she was one of those people who'd be tapping a foot or bouncing a leg. Jackie even tended to move in her sleep.

The fact that Jackie was motionless, for perhaps the first time in her life, was unnerving. If not but for the gentle rise and fall of her chest, as the machines breathed for her, she'd looked the same laying in that bed as she would in a coffin.

While Jackie had been breathing on her own when she'd first arrived at the hospital, her respirations had slowed to the point where doctors intervened and put her on a ventilator. That act alone had stabilized her vitals enough for them to focus on everything else that she’d damaged in the fall.

Her other injuries were now tended to, nearly all being orthopedic. They'd taken her into surgery to set and pin compound fractures to both her left leg and her collarbone. Doctors removed large splinters embedded in her right shoulder, from crashing into the railing posts. Her dislocated left shoulder had been relocated. She’d pulled or torn all the ligaments and tendons around her left ankle, and doctors repaired as much damage as they could before casting the foot for stability while it healed. She had bruised ribs and kidneys, but her instinctive efforts to protect the child managed to cushion her other organs as well, so no major damage there. She was bruised, scraped, pinned, casted, and stitched, but all that would heal.

The big problem was in how much battering her brain had withstood inside her cracked skull.

She wasn'tbrain-dead—the doctors went out of their way to assure them of that several times— but she was in a coma, and no one knew how long it would last. She might wake up and make a full recovery, she might wake up and have brain damage, or she might never wake up. If she did wake up, they didn't know if it would happen in an hour, a week, a month, a year, ten years, or twenty. There was absolutely no way to tell.

Jack Junior and Elaine, along with their younger daughter Lisa, their parents, siblings, and adult nieces and nephews all took turns in six-hour shifts, sitting with Jackie for a solid month, just in case she woke up for even a moment. Each person jumped at every alarm, watched the monitors for any changes, read articles on what to expect. They'd stare at her hands, her eyelids, the contours of her face, looking for any sign of life. Sometimes someone looked and watched so hard that their eyes played tricks on them and caused them to either hold their breath and watch for the next sign, or jump straight to calling out a false alarm.

They prayed and they begged her to come back to them, but every shift led to depressing disappointment.

Thirty days into the coma, doctors approached Jack Junior and Elaine about taking Jackie off the ventilator.

Jack Junior and Elaine had known this would be coming, and had discussed it from every angle possible. They didn't want to force life into her body selfishly, giving her no choice but to stay, when their beliefs said she'd be better off in Heaven. On the other hand, maybe she'd still have a chance at a life, a meaningful life, if they simply held their patience for months, maybe years.

Wasn't that something worth fighting for? Wasn't it their job to fight for that on her behalf? But then again, maybe she'd be impaired, and they questioned if letting her go now wouldn't be a better option.

They didn't know what to do.

Together, they'd managed to come to two mutual conclusions. One, there was no right answer. And two, this was Jackie's life. It was their job as parents to advocate for her, but it was up to her how hard she wanted to fight for herself. They were going to let Jackie decide if she wanted to stay or not.

They instructed the doctors to try weaning her off the ventilation instead. Doctors agreed, saying that her brain had had a month to heal, and with any luck, may have made enough progress to be able to relearn how to send the signals to breathe again. They began that night.

Jack Junior and Elaine sat on either side of Jackie's bed and calmly explained to her what they were going to do, hoping that on some level, she could hear them. If she wanted to fight, if she wanted them to continue to fight for her, now was her chance to let them know. As with everything else in her life, they asked her to do her best, and that would be good enough for them. However, if she was done, if she was too tired to keep fighting, she was free to let go. Tearfully, they told her they'd see her again someday, on the other side.

The doctor, also believing in explaining procedures to coma patients, explained exactly how it was going to work. He'd learned that some coma patients, upon awakening, could recite or paraphrase entire conversations. If Jackie could hear them, or even if saying it aloud turned it into prayer, he'd feel justified. He was also making it clear exactly what he was looking for, for the benefit of everyone in the room.

The doctor notated the time, pressed buttons on the ventilator, and everyone held their breath as they watched the girl on the bed. Seconds passed by in silence before they saw her chest slowly rise and fall. More seconds ticked by and her chest rose and fell again.

And again. And then again.

She made ten minutes their first try.

The weaning process took two weeks, but she did it. Jackie wasn't awake, but her brain was successfully sending signals out to breathe, and her body was responding. She did suffer from periods of apnea, but then her breathing would resume before anyone had to intervene.

The family took it as a sign that Jackie wanted a chance to fight. And if their girl wanted a chance, then by God, they were going to make sure she got it.

The staff of onlookers agreed that while the idea of Miss Jacqueline Weaver making progress might be true to some extent, the idea of her waking up anytime soon wasn't looking promising.

The number of family members willing and able to take shifts began to shrink as the weeks passed, most having to return to their homes and jobs. Hope still thrived among them, though, as whispered prayers passed through their lips each day.

Staff members scheduled a meeting with Jack Junior and Elaine, to discuss available options for moving forward. They said that her other injuries were healed enough for her to be released from the hospital. At the incredulous looks on Mr. and Mrs. Weaver's faces, the administrator had to reiterate that the hospital was only set up to provide short-term care. It was time to discuss and make long-term care arrangements. The staff went on to suggest that there was an excellent neurological health facility on the outskirts of Chicago, just about an hour away from their Springfield, Indiana home.

Once more, Jack Junior and Elaine sat in silence, mystified as to how they had ended up in this position. Stuff like this wasn't supposed to happen to people like them. This had never been part of any plan. And the financial costs of care! They'd thought that having two kids in college, come the fall, would be a burden. That would have been a sunny walk in the park compared to the money they were going to have to put out for Jackie's care, despite their insurance and her workers' compensation claim.

They moved her into Fostering Long Term Care Facility the same day her friends boarded the plane to Vegas.

Most of their extended family members viewed the move as a permanent setup, making the idea of having someone sitting with Jackie unnecessary. As sad as it was, the family had begun to accept that this would be the new normal.

Shifts dwindled from around the clock to a few hours a day. Jack Junior, Elaine, Lisa, two of the grandparents, and two aunts each took a day of the week to be responsible for paying a visit and talking to Jackie. They checked to make sure she wasn't getting bedsores, that no tube entry points started to become infected, and they made sure to exercise her ankle, with all the ligament and tendon damage, according to physical therapy instructions. In short, they made sure the staff was doing their job and not letting the silent, sleeping patient fall by the wayside.

Weeks melted into months, and the months into years. Eventually, they were doing well just to get someone in there every other day.

People grew older, grayer, as time passed outside the off-white, sterile walls of Jackie's room.

Lisa not only graduated from high school, but also college. She met a loving man and married him, leaving the maid of honor space in front of the alter empty, in honor of her slumbering sister. About a year later, Lisa pinned an ultrasound picture to the bulletin board in Jackie's room, sharing the news of her pregnancy in the only tangible way she could.

Tragedy touched the small room as well. Ida Weaver, Jackie's paternal grandmother, visited her the day after Lisa's wedding and confessed to her a secret she'd been hiding for weeks. She had stage-four colon cancer. She'd kept silent about it, at first in order to absorb what it all meant, and then it was to let Lisa have her wedding without a terminal diagnosis overshadowing the whole event. She told Jackie first, hoping that saying it aloud to someone who couldn't react might be easier than telling it to someone who would cry.

Lisa and Grandma Ida weren't the only ones to come in and share their joys and sorrows. Any fly on the wall would know all the Weaver family gossip. Elaine walked in and chattered nonstop the entire time she was there. It was her own way of putting forth an effort to keep her daughter in the loop, and a way for her to verbalize and process all that life threw at her. She jokingly said that talking to Jackie was her therapy.

Knowing it was possible that Jackie could hear, gave Elaine nightmares. All she could imagine was what it might be like, to lie in a body that wouldn't respond, no matter what she tried, trapped forever with no way to communicate. Anything happening in anybody's life that Elaine had found out about, she told it to Jackie during her weekly visit, hoping that if Jackie were somehow aware, she'd at least feel included to some degree.

Jack Junior had a hard time accepting the sight of his daughter in such a near state of suspended animation. Despite looking like someone had hit the pause button on her life, Jackie was starting to age. It was slight, but it was there. Lines had formed around the outer edges of her eyes, a couple at the corners of her mouth, the furrow of her forehead deepening, the glow of her youth fading away, right before their eyes.

And he was powerless to stop it.

He couldn't manage weekly visits, could barely manage biweekly visits. All he could picture, over and over again, was a nurse placing Jackie in his arms the day she was born, and his promising to protect her. He'd been paranoid about strangers and men from that day onward. He'd never given a thought to protect her from stairs after she'd graduated from toddlerhood. Unreasonable or not, it was a guilt he'd carry to the grave.

When he did come to visit, he could hardly look at her. It was too painful. He’d come in, lean against the wall in a corner, and stare at the floor.

Despite the familial visits, spaced out every two to three days, much of Jackie's silence met with more empty silence.

Chapter Three

Catalyst of Change

Ida Weaver, 85, died peacefully, surrounded by her family, on Monday, March 21, 2016. She was a retired nurse practitioner, and an avid 4H member. She is survived by her husband Jack Senior, and their three children; Jack Junior (Elaine), Seth (Jennifer), and daughter Melanie (Frank Boydd). She was preceded in death by parents Sebastian and Amelia Wyatt, and son Blake. She was greatly loved by her seven grandchildren; Joshua, Jacqueline, Peter, Trinity, Lisa, Amy, and Tristan. She was also a great-grandmother to Molly, Jessica, Flynn, Erika, and baby Madelyne.

Family members recall her as a feisty woman. Upon her diagnosis of colon cancer, doctors gave her up to six months to live. She survived for twenty-three. She viewed her medication and treatments as the price she paid for those stolen months. She spent her last months with family and friends. Outings and daytrips with each member became a part of her weekly routine, with her camera in tow. When her body would no longer allow her to seat a horse, she took up scrapbooking, leaving behind for each family member photo albums of their outings together.

Services will be held on Thursday, March 24 at 1 o'clock, at Harris Funeral Home on Main Street. In lieu of flowers, Ida left a request that friends and family donate audio books, in Jacqueline Weaver's name, to the Fostering Long-Term Care Facility. It is there that Ida spent every Wednesday afternoon, reading to her incapacitated granddaughter. Anticipating her death, Ida made arrangements with staff members to play an audio book on her behalf, every Wednesday.

Jack Weaver Senior crushed the newspaper between two fists. As if the whole nightmare of the last year and a half hadn't been hard enough, now he was burdened with mourning the loss of her. Seeing her name in print just served to make the stabbing pain in his soul even worse. He'd read far too many obituaries in his days. He'd survived the horrors of WWII, having sent so many bodies of his wartime buddies back to The States that he'd lost count. Then he'd returned home at the end of that nightmare, only to bury his father two months later. Then his mother, and eventually all three of his older brothers followed suit. He'd even gone to funerals, in his brothers' stead, to bury nieces and nephews. Even worse, twelve years ago, horror of horrors, he'd had to bury his own son Blake, the victim of a terrible automobile accident.

He'd outlived them all, and now he'd outlived her. Staring around his house, that held nothing but memories of her, he'd never felt so alone. He couldn't understand why his lot in life seemed to be to outlive everyone around him.

He'd survived an aneurysm, his own bout of cancer, and a heart attack. Nothing seemed to keep him down for long. However, this blow just might do him in. Without Ida, he just didn't know if there was much of anything worth getting out of bed for anymore. He was mentally, soulfully, exhausted.

* * * * * * * * * *

Jack Senior buried his wife on a sunny, Thursday afternoon, and watched as they lowered the coffin into the grave. In no hurry to get to the reception at Jack Junior's house, he hung around after everyone else left, wanting to see the job completed. He'd stood by as they began to fill in the hole with dirt, the workers operating in respectful silence.

The moment the workers had finished, the old man's grief engulfed and overwhelmed him. He let go of his tight grip of control, gave in, and collapsed to the ground.

Seth had volunteered to stay behind, waiting by the car, to drive his dad to his brother's house. He had no desire to watch as they lowered his mother into the ground and covered her casket, but the entire family was worried about his dad, so he'd stayed to keep an eye on him.

Seth shielded his eyes against the sun, as he scanned the area, trying to spot his father again. What he saw instead were grounds crewmen waving and shouting at him, as he realized his dad was nowhere in sight. Seth took off up the hill, figuring that grief had struck his old man enough to bring him to his knees. Unfortunately, nothing had prepared him to see his father lying unconscious next to his mother's fresh grave.

An ambulance ride and several texts out to the family later, the Weavers were once again gathered at the hospital.

Jack Junior was so sick of the hospital's small conference room. He’d first been brought in years ago for his daughter, a few times over the last year for his mother, and now he was sitting there for his father.

He nodded at the doctors' words and sat back in his chair, taking a deep breath as he glanced around the room. It disgusted him that merely looking at the fake, wood-grain table and cheap, red, desk chairs sitting around it was enough to raise his anxiety. If he ever had a panic attack, he was sure this room would be what induced it.

His father hadn't merely given into his grief. Jack Senior had suffered a debilitating stroke. The left side of his body was displaying paralysis, his speech was slurred, and his vision was severely affected. The eighty-nine-year-old was stable, but recovery was going to be a long process. And the level of functionality he'd recuperate to was unknown.

Again, Jack Junior listened as neurologists were discussing options for long-term care. Silence descended around him, just as it always seemed to at some point in this room. Seated around the table, his siblings didn't look to be faring any better than he was. This event, in the wake of their mother's death, not only left the trio silent but also numb from the inside out.

Jack Junior quietly cleared his throat. "I wonder what you two would think about putting him in Fostering."

"With Jackie?" Melanie asked.

Jack Junior shrugged. "From a selfish standpoint, it'd be easier for Elaine and me to see him. We can take care of both of them in one trip. Besides that, I'm familiar with them and their policies and procedures. I know some of the staff, Elaine knows even more. I think the wing for stroke rehab is even on the same floor as Jackie."

"Dad might feel a little better if he can still go sit with Jackie. I know he planned on continuing Mom's weekly trips in her stead," Melanie said.

"Don't you think Fostering is a bit more than Dad requires?" Seth asked. "I mean, therapy for a stroke is a pretty common thing. Do we really need to send him to a specialty place?"

"Where do you want to send him?" Jack Junior asked.

"I don't know," Seth answered. "What about the nursing home right outside of town? They do rehab."

"That place is a hole," Melanie told him. "Frank's grandmother is there. No way am I okay with Dad going there. The place smells like urine and the food is glorified cardboard."

"The rehab portion is supposed to be excellent," Seth countered.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Nanny by day, mom by evening, and author by night. I've turned my daydream musings into eight solo novels, and have co-written three more. Welcome to my ninth solo story, one thought up while in the company of my tiny, daytime companions.

Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
A.
So many things. The kids and pets I surround myself with. A show on television about people finding their birth parents. 20/20 interviews. The passing of my grandfather and a contemplation of all the events he lived through. And months of 'letting it sit' while my mind slowly spun it all together.
Q. Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
A.
Determination can take you far. Love and devotion will take you farther. And a long journey is best taken together with someone who refuses to give up on you.
Q. Which writers inspire you?
A.
Julie Garwood's historical romance novels gave me my love of reading. Janet Chapman gave me a willingness to read a different genre. Karen Marie Moning began a desire in me to write. But Stephanie Meyer taught me how to do it. -Laugh if you must.

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