A Fair Goodnight

Nighttime sometimes is the hardest. You wake, you think of her. Maybe you get up and check her blood, or just feel her shoulder and listen for breathing as you might a newborn. A slight nudge perhaps if you’ve caught her in a long mid-breath. Maybe you lie there in bed thinking and wondering and tossing and turning and watching the clock, waiting for something of a less pathetic hour to just go ahead and get up. There is certainty in waking, and while there’s no justifiable cause for worry, other than her diabetes, you cannot be sure of ever getting back to sleep. If there had been good reason to be concerned we’d have set our alarm and one of us would have been up anyway to check her blood. But when you go to bed thinking all’s well, we licked it today, we managed, there is a feeling of peace that comes over you and the nighttime you think will be restful and spent sleeping.

A few days ago it was just before one in the morning when she woke us. She was standing at the bedroom door, a small dark shape backlit by the nightlight in the hall. She was crying, sputtering through the sobs about a bloody nose. You could just make out in the darkness the little figure with both hands cupped to her face. We were both awake immediately. Franca walked her to the bathroom and in the light we checked her over.

The tiny bowl she’d made with the palms of her hands were pooled with blood, so I ran them beneath the faucet while Franca applied a wad of tissue to her nose to stem the bleeding. After a few seconds, she left to get a damp washcloth, then retrieve the glucose meter from another room, and I sat Lia down on the floor and leaned her back against the tub. The bleeding had stopped and she had stopped crying and the panic in her too had subsided. She closed her eyes and looked ready to fall back asleep. I washed from her face the smears of blood and asked how was she feeling. She knew what I meant and said fine. Franca came back and pierced her toe and checked her blood sugar. And she was.

We put her in our bed and laid next to her. The worry was over but not the response as we both found it difficult to return to the sleep we’d been lost in twenty minutes prior. Was the nose bleed somehow related to her diabetes, a warning sign that we should not take lightly, or was it dryness caused by high pollen? What if the meter was wrong? What if the reading was trending down and if we didn’t do something about it now she’d suffer a low? How much longer should we wait until we tested it again?

Honestly though, it wasn’t even these questions that kept me awake. These were things we asked ourselves everyday, all day long. We work very hard to anticipate and address these questions and are learning ourselves out of necessity to work just as hard on getting rest. You run yourself ragged if you don’t. What kept me awake was the fear that the fright and the hurt and the worry of something going wrong wasn’t ever going to go away. It is something that is with us for good, unlike a newborn which grows and flourishes, the same as a parent’s confidence. What kept me awake was the cruddy and erroneous suggestion that something as commonplace as an allergy-induced bloody nose might forever be connected in Lia’s precious mind to her diabetes, simply because we had tested her blood. The same as we do when she eats, or plays sports, or stays over at a friend’s house, or feels miserable or looks tired or generally acts something other than her usual illuminating self. What kept me awake was the wonder of just where does it all fucking end?

I know the rejoinder, it doesn’t. We’re not strangers to this anymore. I get it, this is the way that it is. But hold in the palm of your own hand this little girl’s life and tell me that that is okay. Tell me that we can control it. Tell me that it gets better. Even peace of mind can prove sinister sometimes in its motives. Lia is catching on to this fact and to some extent that is good, she needs to be burdened with the knowledge that to stay healthy for every decision she makes there is a consequence. But this awareness comes at a cost that as a parent I am saddened to see her pay.

Take for instance, this valuable diabetic lesson: This past weekend she was at a friend’s birthday party. Like before, I had her call and tell me what she was having to eat. She said pizza and ice cream cake, and I dosed her for both. Later, when I picked her up I asked how she liked the cake. She said she didn’t. I said what did you do about it then. She said I ate it. When I asked her why she said because I had to.

Whose Woods These Are

I went away the other weekend. It wasn’t a long away, just an overnight with a friend of mine spent camping in the mountains and fly fishing the next day. Franca had been back from France for a week and with spring and the weather turning I was eager to log some solitary time on a river somewhere. It’s not healthy to never take time for yourself, even if seems requited at the time, and while Franca and I have never treated our relationship with give-and-take reciprocity, we both knew I needed a break all right.

I am not a very good fly fisherman, I lack the resources required to give it the attention you need in order to become good at it. Often I go and never even see a trout. They are there, I know, their noses pointed upstream, wavering in the slick dark current, because I see other fisherman catch them or the satisfied angler comes clomping through the brush on the path along the riverbank carrying a string of rainbows, or browns, but mostly rainbows; nodding their head in my direction and raising their catch just high enough to catch my eye. I’ve never been that fisherman, nor that much of a braggart. Whenever I did catch fish, I let them go. It wasn’t for the fish that I went there.

The morning we woke at the campsite was cold. The firewood was damp and only would burn for a while if someone was not there feeding it twigs and blowing it back to life whenever it went out. We made coffee and ate fruit and toasted slices of bread over the stove and ate it with peanut butter while waiting for the sun to peek over the ridgeline and begin to warm things up. Afterwards we cleaned up and broke down the camp except for the tent and got into our waders and readied our fly lines and watched as the daylight slowly crept down the opposing mountainside until it reached the open meadow just to the south of our camp. Then we walked down the hill through the field and followed the sound of the river. We passed through a thin strand of woods and the river was there. It was wide and fast moving and shallow too except for a couple of deep-looking pools. Already several fisherman were scattered standing knee deep in the current in the various poses of fishing, but they paid us no attention as we climbed down the bank and into the river.

I left my friend at a wide open stretch of water where low hanging branches would not interfere with his cast and I walked up along the side current to one of the pools I’d seen. I did not see any trout, but trout like most wild things understand the importance of camouflage while man only knows how to get from one place to another as quickly as possible, so there is no guarantee I would have spotted them if they were there, which they were. I was encouraged nonetheless as I made my way upstream, choosing my step very carefully and keeping to the shallower sections where the brown bottom was clear and the current was slow and the footing on the rocks more reliable.

I stood at the edge of the pool, the water up to my thighs, my feet staggered against the undercurrent driving against my legs. In the pool the water was darker and the sunlight that passed through the glassy surface reflected off the tops of sunken boulders then was swallowed by the depths of the hole. I read the lay of the pool and fed out some line with a few false casts and then laid the fly down in a spot just upstream. The nymph at the end of my fly line lit on the water and sunk and the floating line caught in the current and brought the whole rig floating back towards me and I quickly began stripping line to stay ahead of it, feeling and watching for a strike, of which none came. I cast again. And again, and again.

For five hours I fished the river, hole after hole, bend after bend, one white-capped ripple after another. I stopped only for a bite of lunch and not once did I let my mind wander to think of needles, or of test strips, or of boluses and blood sugars. At one point a river otter passed a few feet away from me on the opposite bank and I watched after it as it went bouncing and bounding over fallen trees and rocks until it disappeared into a rock crevasse and I thought how nice it would have been for Lia and Krista to have seen it too. But mostly I thought of nothing more than just being a part of that river in every moment, letting my mind clear itself of the worry that had been with me the last three months.

Not long before this getaway I was sitting at my desk one workday when Lia called to say she was having a low. I thought about it and I told her what to do and hung up and sat there and thought of my wife and felt a bit of envy for her. How nice it must be to have a job away from home to occupy her attention. Not waiting for the school to call. Not dosing from long distance. Not sitting there wondering if the treatment I’d just given was right. That was foolish thinking of course. Occupation does little to free someone from the worry and stress that is the daily routine with diabetes. There is no such thing as down time.

But that afternoon on the river did something for me that sitting at home at my desk day after day could never do. It gave me permission to play, to take a small break from the worry. To let go. And take something back of myself.

At the end of the afternoon I sat down on the riverbank with my feet still in the current. I took off my hat and my sunglasses and closed my eyes and felt the river’s heartbeat with my own. It felt good. I felt happy.

On this Earth Day 2010 I encourage everyone to get outside and enjoy the peace and pleasure and tranquility that being in nature can bring you. It’s out there, on our planet. Go find it. Get involved.

A Dedication

After the last of the kids started school and we were both working for someone else the money was abundant and so too was the impulse to have the things that money could buy. If you let it money can spoil a perfectly good thing, such as happiness and peace of mind. Some have it backwards, that you cannot be happy or have peace of mind without money, but on those occasions it is the money talking, not the people, and so you can only hope they turn it around before it does all of their thinking for them.

But the idea of both of us earning an income was new to us and for the first time in our lives we could consider making some significant changes: A bigger house. A better car. Nicer furniture. A well-funded retirement. The list of possibilities was long and the obstacles seemed small and insignificant. It was just money after all and with Franca planning to re-enter the workforce after an eight year hiatus to raise children we saw ourselves, finally, having more of it.

Before that time though when we did not have those choices or the pressures that come with them we were happy still and made time for the things we loved, such as writing and the outdoors and spending an active time together. During the week, before I would head off to my workday as a director of supply chain for a major company well known for its skin and personal care products, I would wake at four in the morning and come downstairs in the dark and pour myself a cup of coffee and sit down at my desk and spend the next two hours alone writing. It was a wonderfully quiet and still time of the night and there was little else to do but write, so I learned through the discipline of doing the same thing every day how to focus on the words and the telling of the story and nothing else. For fifteen years this was how I wrote: two novels, a few short stories and several creative non-fiction pieces. In darkness, quiet, solitude. This was the terrain of my apprenticeship and though it was often frustrating to stop to get ready for work, I left my desk knowing that no matter what happened the rest of the day I had pursued my passion.

On weekends I would do the same, but afterwards we would do things together, especially in the spring and fall when the weather in the southeast is the nicest and we might go camping or for a hike or visit with family. We shopped for the things we needed, not for what others owned or what we may have thought for ourselves that we wanted, and in so doing learned to live in sync with our means. This was important because as Franca and I contemplated the opportunities that presented themselves with the possibility of two incomes, we were not accustomed to even wanting to spend great amounts of money on unnecessary things, like new cars (I write this, of course, as two of ours sit in a shop for repairs). As long as we could afford the things we needed, we were fine.

Nonetheless, the mood as Franca prepared to re-enter the workforce was upbeat, I won’t lie. We both were, as I mentioned, thinking of the changes two incomes would have in our lives and for our children. Then something happened that changed everything.

Franca was reading One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez, and because she loved the story and the writing she was moved to learn a bit about the author’s history. Afterwards she came to me and told me of his frustrations first with law school, then journalism and eventually even his fiction writing. Then one day, while he and his family were en route to Acapulco on vacation, inspiration struck and he stopped and turned the car around and went back to his home and put his wife in charge of the family and he wrote, crafting for the next eighteen months the mythical world of Macando around which One Hundred Years of Solitude was centered. When he finished they had sold the car, pawned many of the household items they owned, gone greatly in debt, and in García Márquez’s case, was mentally and physically spent. But he was happy.

I listened to her and I thought about it for the next three days and then sat down with Franca and said that, if I was to become a good writer, I needed to do what García Márquez had done. I needed to remove the obstacles and focus on writing. I had spent all those years toiling at four in the morning, developing the diligence, the discipline, learning how to write, then leaving them two hours later and going off to work, for what? A bigger house. A better car. Nicer Furniture. Those things weren’t important to me, writing was. More importantly, they weren’t important to Franca either and she agreed and for the next year and a half, part of which we were both employed, we set aside thoughts of spending and tucked as much as we could away to provide in the future for our family. Then in the spring, on April 13th, 2007, exactly three years ago today, I left my job and became a full time writer.

Following this dream, I’ll admit, has had it’s share of downside with the upside. I’ve not published a book, though I was recognized with an Arts Council Grant for the opening chapter. Some of the reserves we set aside have been used to pay for costly unseen emergencies, but we have not had to sell any cars or pawn appliances. I am home more with the children, but presence sometimes incites participation and I find it difficult to write when there are more exciting things to do, like jump on the trampoline or ride bikes. Finally, there is the usual constant barrage of commercialism telling us we need new things, better things, more and more stuff. Mostly though, we have all learned how to do with a bit less and none of us are generally bothered by it.

There are moments though when not having more freedom financially causes me to second guess my decision. Lia’s diagnosis with diabetes is one of those. I worry about our ability to give her what she needs. I worry that we will not be able to afford the newest technology, the best treatment, the most effective care. And I worry that the stories I wanted to write about and which inspired me to leave my job are not worthy anymore of attention. Reality now occupies me; it, more than imagination, primes my writing.

So it is that Without Envy is my story too, one that has been in the works for much longer than any archive or calendar can give credit to, but one I won’t ever regret. It has been a wonderful experience and though in a way I have Gabo to thank, I know the great writer would understand if instead my dedication read: To Franca, of course.

The First Measurable Visit

The first three month endocrinologist check up started and ended with the same question from Lia: Why did my pancreas stop producing insulin? She asked it of me and her mother as we were entering the building and again later of the PA near the end of the exam. All of us of course said we didn’t know, but there are many things in life we don’t know and while admitting to that can sting a little when it’s your child asking the questions, it is an answer that parents, especially, and probably doctors too, grow accustomed to giving their charges. Besides, though this is one matter that deserves some clarity, the purpose of our visit on this day was not to explore the origin of Lia’s diabetes, but to measure its evolution.

Measuring things is an act that adults do very well, or very poorly depending on how you think about it. There are those who would say that you cannot even be considered grown-up unless you measure and can be measured, so the training starts at a very young age. We measure baby’s weight, their foot size, their length. We measure their social skills as they get older, and track their performance against other toddlers. In school we measure their aptitude, their athletic ability, the likelihood that they will succeed and at what occupation they are best suited for. As we get older we are measured by the car we drive, the size of the house we live in, how much money we have to spend on clothes, vacations, and appearances. We measure so much that quite often the values of those assessments grow and grow until they become bigger than ourselves and more important than any of the things that really matter, like playing pretend and running barefoot. Again, there are those who would argue this is the very price of becoming an adult, making true the words of the astronomer in The Little Prince that grown-ups cannot know a thing without having some means of measuring it. Only then can they know it.

Then you or someone you love becomes chronically ill and there are some things you thought you might like to know that just don’t matter anymore or you can’t find the energy to devote to them or you have difficulty elevating them in priority over other things. These things you may rarely talk about because they were once very important to you and losing a thing of importance is a very sad and difficult thing to accept. It is even harder to talk about. Plus, the illness itself brings a whole new set of measurements that take precedence and must be taken into consideration. Blood glucose levels, carbohydrate counts, basal doses, sensitivity factors, conversion rates, A1C, pattern management, logbooks, glycemic loads, prescriptions, medical supply orders, doctor’s appointments, pump classes, and the list goes on and on. It is this way with diabetes; you become preoccupied with measurements. And that is also very sad.

When you are a little girl who still ranks favorite things in terms of color, not cost, not prestige, not whether or not it is coveted by others, measuring something as strange as glycated hemoglobin is hard to comprehend, and while it is true that it must be measured to truly know the quality of her treatment, the concept itself is too grown-up, too alien. The plasma glucose concentration on red blood cells over prolonged periods of time is not something her mind should want or even need to assess. But someone must.

I accept that one day it will be her adult-self worrying over these figures, but will that day come sooner because of all the talk, all the focus, of all the three month interval doctor’s visits; and with its arrival will her days of playing pretend come to an end sooner than they would otherwise?

I hope not, but diabetes is a nasty, grown-up thing to measure and we are very new students to this and nothing is straightforward with it, not the carb counting, nor the dosage, nor the effects of exercise, nor sleepovers or visiting family or the answer to what should be a simple question.

The Part of the Pancreas

Most people don’t think much about the pancreas. Most of them of course don’t have to think about it at all. But there are a few who, because of events that have occurred outside of their control, must spend a great deal of thought deliberating exactly what it means to act like a pancreas. In drama, when actors do this they may create in themselves the thoughts and emotions of the character they are playing in an effort to develop a lifelike performance. It is called method acting. I like that. I like thinking in terms of practicality, theory and emotion. They are concepts very much suited for nailing the part of the pancreas.

The event that brought about this purpose in us happened last December, or actually sometime before, though we don’t know how long before and anyway it was December when we finally found out about it so there was no casting call, no audition, no understudying. This role was simply and crudely handed over to us. Nor, because of the sudden dismissal of the prior performer, was there any time alloted for rehearsal, though we were given the benefit of learning our part in the relative comfort of our home stage, with only one major exception. Nonetheless, if we are to believe our tutors, our training has gone rather well.

On opening night our hopes were high. The stage was set, our lines committed to memory, and the mood, as the audience was seated, was positively electric.

Characters

Lia, a happy, energetic young girl

Dad, a worrisome father

Pancreas, a Patton-esque figure suffering from an identity crisis, but still wants to be in charge.

Setting: Home and Little Friend’s House who is hosting an overnight birthday party. The time is Morning, Noon, and Night.

Scene I

Breakfast. That morning. Lia is sitting at the kitchen table, in theory testing her blood glucose level, but in reality farting around with paper and magic markers. Dad is at the refrigerator preparing her breakfast.

DAD. Can you please check your blood, sweetheart? (There is no answer from Lia). Lia?

LIA. What?

DAD. Can you please check your blood? (Lia puts down the marker and takes up the lancet device and pricks her finger, then touches the test strip to the droplet of blood.) What’s it say?

LIA. (Reading the meter) 276.

DAD. Really? (Lia holds the meter up from him to see for himself. He walks over to the white board and rights the number down. To the right of it he scribbles a calculation, and beneath that he adds up the carbs of her english muffin and banana).

LIA. How much?

DAD. Well, it comes out to 5H, but…

PANCREAS. 5 units is way too high.

DAD. Why’s that?

PANCREAS. It just is.

DAD. Could you be a little more specific?

PANCREAS. (Sighs with exaggerated exasperation.) Well, Mr. Amateur, for starters, she had pasta last night. You know the effect pasta has on her blood sugar.

DAD. Yes, but that was thirteen hours ago.

PANCREAS. (Ignores Dad’s comment.) Secondly, she has a party tonight and that means she’ll be running around, playing, yelling and screaming like her and her young friends do whenever they get together, generally making it hard for anyone else to think much less–

DAD. Can you just skip to the point?

PANCREAS. There’s no reason to get snippy.

DAD. There would be no reason for this conversation at all if you’d just do what you are supposed to.

PANCREAS. It’s not my fault.

DAD. Whose is it then?

PANCREAS. Blame those little white blood-sucking cells. They’re the ones gunking things up.

DAD. Whatever. I still hold you responsible. This is your job and you’re not doing it.

PANCREAS. You can’t talk to me like that.

DAD. I can and I will, now back to her breakfast. Why not a 5H?

PANCREAS. Because, if we want her to be a little high tonight so you don’t lose any beauty sleep worrying your balding head over her suffering a low, then you have to factor in the carbs she’ll use burning up all that energy.

DAD. It won’t matter, I won’t sleep anyway. But okay, what do you suggest?

PANCREAS. 3H.

DAD. (Looking skeptical.) 3H?

PANCREAS. That’s right. That should just about hold her steady at 125. Then this afternoon we can back off a little bit.

DAD. 3H seems low.

PANCREAS. It isn’t.

DAD. Why not 4?

PANCREAS. Because 4 is too much.

LIA. (Holding the insulin pen and looking a little peeved that she isn’t eating now that he made her put away her drawing things.) What’s the dose, Dad?

DAD. (Dad studies the calculations a moment, then looks over at Lia.) 4H.

LIA. (Lia sets the dose and gives herself the shot in the stomach.) Can I eat now?

DAD. Go ahead. (He walks over to the sink and stares out the window at the garden.)

PANCREAS. You’re welcome, but I think you’re making a mis–

DAD. Shut up.

Scene II

Lunch. Lia is sitting at the kitchen table before a plate of graham crackers, yogurt and a cheese quesadilla. In her hand she holds the blood glucose meter, which reads 89. Dad is standing over her looking perplexed.

PANCREAS. Told you so.

DAD. Spare me the attitude.

PANCREAS. Well, maybe you’ll listen to me next time.

DAD. Maybe I’ll have you replaced with one that works.

PANCREAS. Good luck with that.

LIA. I’m hungry, Dad. Can I eat?

DAD. (He looks at Lia.) Not yet. (He studies the white board where all the data has been collected.) What do you think? (Pancreas doesn’t answer. Dad sighs.) All right, I’m sorry. Yes, I should have listened to you.

PANCREAS. There, that wasn’t too much to ask, was it? My theory is we cut her bolus by half a unit and give a 2H.

DAD. Half a unit?

PANCREAS. You’re already factoring in her low sugar level. You don’t need to go overboard cutting the dose to match the carbs. This is lunchtime, remember. Her body converts energy differently than at other times of the day, but she still needs insulin.

DAD. Yeah, but cutting only half a unit doesn’t make sense, not with her sitting at 89.

PANCREAS. It will when you see the result.

DAD. And if not? This isn’t some lab rat were testing your half-baked theories on, this is my daughter.

PANCREAS. I know who it is, and my theories are not half-baked. They are based on millions of years of complex, fine tuning. Listen, just trust me, trust yourself. Together we’ll get her through this.

Scene III

In the truck, on the drive over to Little Friend’s house. Lia is sitting with her diabetes kit open in her lap and waiting for the meter to give her the blood glucose reading. After it beeps, she reads it and looks at him.

LIA. 241.

DAD. 241?

LIA. Yeah.

DAD. What time did we eat lunch?

LIA. I don’t know. Twelve o’clock.

DAD. (They come to a stop sign. Dad waves a pickup through the intersection. Lia is occupied putting her kit away.) What’s that all about?

PANCREAS. What’s what all about?

DAD. 241?

PANCREAS. Could be anything. Leftover carbs from lunch, excitement at going to the party. Could be the little cold she’s been fighting, or she’s growing, or–

DAD. Or maybe the dose wasn’t enough.

PANCREAS. It wasn’t the bolus.

DAD. Then what is it?

PANCREAS. I don’t know.

DAD. You’re a lot of help, you know that.

PANCREAS. Be patient. You’ll see.

Scene IV

Dad is home working on the computer when the phone rings. He answers it.

LIA. Hi Dad, my number is 122.

DAD. 122, really?

LIA. Yeah, and I’m having two pieces of pizza and ice cream with Oreo cookies.

DAD. I can do the pizza, but is it ice cream and a cookie, or Oreo cookie ice cream?

LIA. (Talking to someone in the background.) How much is 21 grams of ice cream, Dad?

DAD. (Dad walks over to the freezer and pulls out a container of ice cream and reads the nutrition information.) 21 grams is half a cup. That’s about two scoops, honey.

LIA. Okay. (Dad holds the phone in the crook of his neck and walks over to the white board to work over the figures.)

PANCREAS. What’s that?

DAD. I didn’t say anything.

PANCREAS. Oh, I thought I heard you say something.

DAD. I didn’t say anything because I don’t want her at 122. I want her at the higher end of her range like 170 or 180 before she goes to bed.

PANCREAS. Is she going to bed now?

DAD. No.

PANCREAS. Then back off.

DAD. All right, smart ass. What should I dose to get her to 180?

PANCREAS. How many carbs?

DAD. 58 grams.

PANCREAS. 1 unit.

DAD (Talking into the phone.) 1H, honey.

LIA. All right, Daddy. See you later.

PANCREAS. Just like that? No argument?

DAD. Do you want one? Cause you and I got plenty of other things still to talk about. (There is no response from the pancreas.)

Scene V

Dad is standing outside Little Friend’s house. It’s 8:30 at night. He rings the bell and Little Friend’s mother answers and leads him inside. He finds Lia sitting on the sofa with Little Friend and a group of other young girls. A movie is just starting to play on the television.

LIA. Daddy! (Lia jumps up and runs over and hugs him. She has changed into pajamas. Dad picks her up and holds her in his arms.)

DAD. How’s the party?

LIA. Great. Can I have popcorn with the movie?

DAD. Of course. (Dad sets her on the floor and finds her diabetes bag leaning against the wall in the corner and picks it up and takes it over to where Lia has settled back on the couch.)

DAD. Do you want to do this here? (Lia nods and jumps up and takes charge of testing her blood.)

LIA. Everybody watch. (The other girls follow her movements as she pricks her big toe and squeezes the blood a little too hard. She takes what she needs for the test strip and then pulls the foot to her mouth and licks the big toe clean.)

DAD. Nice.

LIA. (Shrugs.) What?

DAD. Nothing. Where do you want your Lantus? (Lia pulls up her sleeve. The meter beeps and they read it together. Dad stands then and fixes her bedtime dose and gives her the shot in the arm but winces as he pulls the needle out. A small dot of insulin appears on the surface of her skin. Lia winces too but she looks at her friends watching her and the look quickly disappears. Dad hugs her and whispers something in her ear. The scene then cuts to him back in the truck driving away.)

PANCREAS. What did you say to her back there? (Dad doesn’t say anything.) You don’t have to tell me, I was just wondering.

DAD. (Finally answers after a minute passes.) I told her she was the bravest little girl in this entire world.

Scene VI

Dad is sitting alone on the sofa with his feet propped up and a glass of red wine on the table beside him. The computer is on his lap and the television on. The phone rings and he answers it right away.

DAD. Hi Sweetheart!

LIA. Hi Daddy.

DAD. You getting ready for bed?

LIA. Yes.

DAD. You sound tired.

LIA. I’m not. We’re going to go to bed but we’re going to talk some.

DAD. That sounds fun. What’s your number?

LIA. 181.

DAD. That’s great, honey.

LIA. Ok. Goodnight Daddy.

DAD. Goodnight sweetheart. I love you. Call me in the morning. (Dad hangs up the phone. He looks out into the room at nothing in particular with a contented look on his face.)

PANCREAS. You did it. 180, just like you wanted. (Dad sits quietly.) You should feel good about that.

DAD. I’ll feel good when this night is over and she’s back home.

Scene VII

Dad is sleeping in bed beneath the covers, breathing heavily. The room is dark. Something startles him and he wakes suddenly. He leans over and reaches for the phone.

PANCREAS. What is it?

DAD. Was that the phone?

PANCREAS. I don’t think so.

DAD. (He listens but no one is there, just a dial tone. He sets it back down.) I thought I heard it ring.

PANCREAS. I didn’t hear anything.

DAD. Just a minute. (He gets up out of the bed and turns on the light and looks at the display on the phone, then he sets it back in the cradle and goes down the stairs and turns on the light in his office and picks up that phone and reads the display there and then sets it back down too. He runs a hand along the back of his head and walks slowly back upstairs and lays back down in the bed.)

PANCREAS. Everything okay?

DAD. I thought I heard the phone.

PANCREAS. She’s fine. We did everything just right.

DAD. I know.

PANCREAS. What time is it?

DAD. One-thirty.

PANCREAS. You told her to call when she gets up?

DAD. Yes.

PANCREAS. Then go back to sleep.

DAD. (Closing his eyes, whispering to himself.) She’s fine. She’s fine. She’s fine. She’s fine.

Scene VIII

Dad, looking tired and still dressed in his pajamas, is sitting at his desk looking at pictures posted online of his wife’s trip to France. Every now and then he glances at the telephone sitting on the desk, or at the clock in the corner of the monitor screen, or out the window. He is on his third cup of coffee when the telephone rings. He looks at the caller ID and smiles and brings the handset up to his ear.