Donna knocked and the bedroom door squeaked as she opened it. “Mom, Dad. It’s time for supper. Are you ready to eat?” Although they were her in-laws, Donna treated them like her own blood, addressing them with the same names used by their children. She had returned from work and prepared supper. The smell of pan-fried pork chops filled the air.
She took two steps into her former bedroom to get closer. “Mom, Dad, are you hungry?”
“Huh?” Mom grunted, as she opened her eyes. “I must have fallen asleep…. And look who joined me!” she said with a broad sleepy smile when she felt Dad’s embrace. “Wonders never cease! Mick, wake up. It’s time for supper.”
Mom gently shook Dad’s warm hairy arm, which still hugged her waist. “What?” Dad murmured.
“Mick, it’s time for supper. We need to get up.”
By the time Mom and Dad arrived and took their seats, supper was waiting on the heavy oak table. Walls of windows surrounded them. Dad watched the setting sun but said nothing. Mom was talkative, refreshed, and happy from her nap and the loving hug she’d received while she slept.
“Where’s Tom?” asked Mom.
“He had to run some errands. He’ll eat later,” Donna said.
“Ooh. Those mashed potatoes look good. Are those fresh from your garden?” asked Mom.
Donna rearranged the bowls to make more room as she talked. “No, it’s too early for potatoes, Mom. It’s only the first of June. But Tom planted the new ones already. Here, try this broccoli,” she said, passing a glass bowl heaped with steaming green heads to Mom. “This is from our garden. We got it in early, this year. It’s fresh off the stalk. Dad, do you want a pork chop?”
Donna picked up the platter of pork chops to hand to Dad. He didn’t respond. He stared straight ahead, seemingly lost in thought. Then Donna saw what she had seen only a few times before. Dad’s chin quivered and his lips were pursed tightly shut. His shoulders drooped. She knew tears were likely to follow, as Dad fought back another wave of emotion.
“Dad? Are you okay?”
Donna pushed her chair back, scraping the tiled floor, and walked over to comfort Dad, as his eyes closed and his head dropped to his chest as if he had fallen asleep.
Donna shook his shoulders. “Dad, are you okay?” She got no response, and instinctively checked his pulse in his neck as she had for so many patients she nursed.
“What’s the matter with Mick?” Mom asked. “He didn’t fall asleep at the table, did he? He just woke up from a nap.”
Donna twisted her necklace as she spoke. “Mom, stay right there. Don’t move. I’ll be right back.”
She rushed to the next room out of earshot of Mom and dialed three digits on her phone.
“What’s your emergency?” asked the voice on the other end.