Right then I made several decisions.
• I would never let Gil know what I had learned—and I would make sure no one else ever learned about it, either.
• I would work as hard as I could to make sure that Gil got to see Niagara Falls.
• I would spend as much time as I could with him. Starting now and lasting until … well, until he didn’t want me to.
Father was sitting alone in his study later that night. He was in his usual reading chair—a big stuffed comfortable wing-back that we’d found in a Goodwill store after the tornado had destroyed most of our furniture. The chair was so comfortable that I sometimes found Father asleep in it, an open book in his lap—or lying on the floor beside him, its covers spread like the wings of a fallen bird.
Although he had a book open in his lap, he was not asleep this time. He was staring at his bookshelves.
His eyes drifted over to me. “Vickie.” His eyes were wet. “You’re feeling better?”
“I’ll never feel better.”
He smiled, but I could see his eyes mist even more. “No,” he said, “I don’t suppose you ever will.”
I slumped into a chair across the room from him. “Did you want to talk?” he asked.
“Not really,” I said. “I just wanted to ask you a favor.”
“I think I know what it is.”
“Sure,” he said. “You want to ask me not to run that article about … about Gil.”
“Well, I’ve already decided not to,” he said. “My instincts as a journalist tell me that I should print the story …”
“But you decided not to.”
“Yes,” he said. “I made a serious mistake.”
“Yes. I imagined what it would feel like to have that story written about my family. Journalists shouldn’t do that, you know—put themselves in the place of the people they’re writing about.”
He looked over at me and went on. “But I did. I wondered what it would feel like to read in the newspaper about my own dying child.”
“Gil’s not going to die!” I cried, leaping to my feet. “Don’t you ever say he’s going to die!” And I ran from the room. Somewhere, I’m sure, Death was laughing.