Summary: Adam had a fall at work, but things got worse until he had to give up his job and move back to the Ponderosa. There he tells his family the news. No one wants to accept it, and they keep trying to find a better answer. A French doctor offers hope, but Adam is reluctant to accept that things will go his way. The ending here is different than that in the story as published elsewhere.
Rating T Word count 16,377
Turn, Turn, Turn
Damn, him, why did he always have to have the last word. Joe stomped through the yard, mounted up on his horse, and rode out to the corrals to supervise the men breaking the horses they needed for the next contract. Their horse business was beginning to rival their cattle business in the amount of profit it brought to the ranch and required far less in the way of resources to accomplish. He couldn’t take a chance that there would be any problems there, and Adam had told him to take some time to think about what he had said before they talked again. Except it hadn’t been much of a talk. It had been more that he had yelled and complained and blasted his brother with all the venom he had stored up for a very long time. He had thought he would feel better about everything once he got it all out. Normally once he vented, he did feel better and it cleared the air. However, Adam had remained calm and not disputed a thing. Then in a few sentences, he had laid a burden of guilt, fear, and sadness on Joe that was so great that he felt worse than when he did when he thought that Hoss had died in that accident. At least that had been over fairly quickly. This news had been delivered quickly but the import was that the pain was going to be anything but easy.
“Don’t tell Pa or Laine anything yet. I have to find a way to explain things to them and although Laine knows some of it, she doesn’t know the worst yet.”
When Joe got to the breaking corrals, he was distracted. Everyone noticed and most assumed it had something to do with Adam. He was the only one of the guests who was at the house because they had seen Ben taking Adam’s wife Laine and daughter Patricia in the carriage for a ride around the ranch. It was clear that Ben was inordinately proud of his granddaughter and doted on her. He and his daughter-in-law got on well too though their personalities didn’t mesh that well. Laine was a free spirited type who liked to try new things and didn’t like being bound by schedules or by doing things the usual way. Some of her unconventional thinking put her father-in-law on edge. However he had no complaints whatsoever on how she was raising his granddaughter. Patsy was quite intelligent but exceptionally well mannered, always well groomed, and respectful in every situation. Ben liked to remark that it was sometimes difficult to believe she was Adam’s daughter. That usually got a roll of the eyes or some other exasperated response from his son, but he knew too that Adam was proud that his father was so pleased with Patsy. She was a remarkable girl and Ben enjoyed being with her. When Adam told him that they planned to stay, he had been overjoyed if surprised and actually quite mystified by Adam’s plans.
When Adam arrived for what Ben and Joe had assumed would be a visit, he told them that he had sold his business in San Francisco and retired from his position with Wells Fargo as well. His home in the city was sold and the furniture and other items were being shipped to Virginia City to be stored until they could decide what to do with everything. Joe had asked if he was going to build a house on the Ponderosa.
“I don’t know. That’s going to be up to Laine and she’s not sure what she wants to do yet.”
That answer had not been at all what they expected either. There were more answers like that which frustrated them and made them wonder what kind of secrets Adam was keeping. Joe had come right out and asked him if he was in some kind of trouble.
“If you’re thinking that I have some kind of legal problems or that the authorities have some interest in me, you can be sure that is not at all the case. I have conducted myself and my affairs well within the law and within ethical and moral standards. There is no one who means to do me harm or harm to my family.”
It would have made more sense to Joe if Adam had said he was in legal trouble or threats had been made against him because this strange behavior was maddening. When their father asked him to help with the ledgers and with the paperwork that sometimes threatened to overwhelm him, Adam had declined. When Joe had tried to get him to help with ranch work even to do some very basic supervision, he had declined. He had not even been to the stable to see his old horse. Granted, Sport wasn’t a working horse any more, but he could still have been used for some rides around the ranch to see changes that had taken place. Instead, Adam stayed in the house or sat on the porch reading or simply talking or sometimes staring off into space. It had become so irritating that after a week, Joe had confronted him about it.
“Why did you ever come back? You won’t help Pa, and God knows, he could use your help. You won’t help me, and I’m so overloaded with work, I don’t have time for anything else. Meanwhile, you loll around the house doing nothing. You don’t even have time to walk out to the corral by the stable to say hello to your old horse who served you faithfully all those years. You don’t seem to care about anyone or anything. I have no idea why you’re even here. When Hoss gets back, are you going to treat him like you’re treating Pa and me: acting like you’re a guest here and not a member of the family? You’re being selfish and lazy and everything we’ve always despised about people who don’t carry their own weight. Why did you come home anyway?”
For a long moment, Adam said nothing. Exhausted emotionally by the speech he had given, Joe was surprised by that too. He had expected an angry response because he had been unkind. Instead, when Adam did speak, it was in calm, measured tones as if he had been practicing this speech and was finally getting to deliver it.
“Laine needs a steady influence in her life. She’s smart and she can plan well, but sometimes she’s like a ship without a tiller. She needs someone to help her guide her way. Patsy needs a strong man or men to show her the kind of man she’ll want to marry one day.”
Suddenly Joe got a premonition of what Adam was going to say next. “No.” He stepped back and then raised a hand as if to ward off the words he was afraid he was going to hear.
“Yes, I came home to die.”
“Is that why you won’t do anything.”
“Can’t do anything is more like it. I can’t help Pa with the books because I can’t read the numbers well enough. I would make too many mistakes. I can read books if I go slowly enough because I can still make out most of the words although that is getting more difficult too. I can’t ride a horse. I would likely fall off. Bright sun hurts my eyes too.”
“There’s something growing in my head. The doctor wasn’t able to give me a definitive answer on how long I have. He said a couple of months, but then said it could be up to six months or even a year. As fast as the problems have been developing, I don’t think the optimistic outlook is to be believed. I know it is terribly unfair to bring this here, but I didn’t want Laine and Patsy to have to deal with it alone.”
“When did it start?”
“About two months ago. I fell backwards off a loading dock and bumped my head. It wasn’t bad, but I started to get these headaches off and on after a day or two. It would go away, and I’d think everything was fine, and then it would be back. I saw the doctor who thought it wasn’t anything serious at first but thought it odd that I bumped the back of my head on a feed sack, but the headache was always in the front. The more he saw me, the more he thought the problem wasn’t from the fall but that there was something else wrong. When I started to have vision problems as well as other problems, other doctors took a look too and he gave me their diagnosis.”
“Adam, I’m so sorry. I don’t know what to say. I am sorry I was mad at you. I didn’t know you were dealing with this.”
“It’s all right, Joe. I understand. I know how it must have looked, but I didn’t want to say anything until I had to. I guess I have to. Take some time and think about how you can help Laine. Don’t say anything to Laine or Pa yet though. I have to find the right words to tell them. Laine knows something is very wrong. She knows it’s serious and knows about the headaches and some of the rest, of course, but she doesn’t know how bad it is. Or maybe she does. She knows it’s a major problem because I’ve sold the business and the house. She’s been very supportive and not challenged me. Maybe she does know.”
“She’s pretty smart.”
“She is, and so is Pa. I suppose I need to tell both of them soon.”
“Hoss is due back too.”
“I’ll tell Laine tonight. Joe, do your best not to look at me like you know I’m dying. Give me time to tell the others first.”
Telling Laine wasn’t nearly the experience that Adam expected it to be.
“What do you mean, you’re dying? You had that kind of news and didn’t tell me? What kind of marriage do we have if you don’t trust me enough to tell me that kind of thing?”
“Laine, I thought you must have guessed. I sold the business and the house. I resigned from Wells Fargo and decided to move here with no plans. You didn’t object at all. I thought you might already know.”
“How could I know? You didn’t tell me enough for me to know. What I did know was that your vision was affected. I knew you couldn’t see numbers well enough. I had to help you with some things because you made mistakes on the calculations mixing up numbers because you couldn’t clearly see them. I knew you couldn’t ride because you were dizzy. I knew you were reading much more slowly because it was hard for you to see the words.”
“What did you think?”
“I thought you were losing your sight! I thought we were coming back here where you could have the support of your family if you were blind. I thought it would be a good thing to do too. You would be better able to cope here than in the city. Damn you, you should have told me the rest. You better tell me now: all of it!”
“When I fell at the job site a few months ago, I started having headaches. They weren’t too bad at first, and would go away for a while. But they always came back, and they would be worse when they came back, and eventually, they never really went away but it was kind of an ebb and flow thing. I saw Doctor Davis.”
“Yes, I remember that. You said he said it would be better in time.”
“He thought it would. He did think it was a bit odd that I landed on my back but the headache was always in the front. However, he didn’t think it was anything much to worry about because there weren’t any other symptoms. Those started to come later.”
“How much later?”
That’s when Adam had to be a bit embarrassed at his lack of being forthright with his wife. “I didn’t want you to worry. The doctor had said it wasn’t serious, but the dizziness and vision issues started to show up rather quickly although not bad at first. When they got worse, I went back to see him.”
“But you didn’t tell me.”
“There was nothing exactly to tell you. He kept saying he didn’t think it was serious, but then again he seemed concerned about these other symptoms. I was upright and lucid though so that apparently reassured him that it wasn’t from the fall.”
“It’s something else?”
“He had me see his colleagues, and then he gave me the diagnosis. There’s something large that grew up here.” Pointing to his forehead, Adam sighed deeply. “There’s nothing to be done apparently. Doctors don’t know how to operate on a man’s brain.”
“Oh, how can this be true? This cannot be true.” Laine touched his cheek and held her hand against his face willing his expression to change.
Reaching one hand up, Adam covered her hand with his. With his other hand he took a tendril of her hair that had come loose, as it often did, and he tucked it behind her ear and caressed her cheek softly. “I wish I could have met you when I was much younger so we could have had more time together.”
“Not too much younger or I would have been too young to be with a man.” Laine had a half-smile then at her small attempt to lighten the conversation.
“That’s true. I don’t think your parents would have looked kindly on me courting you at a much younger age.”
The tears came then because she couldn’t hold back any longer. Adam held her in his arms as she cried. He knew she cried for both of them. She cried because she was sad that he was going to lose his life, and she cried because she was going to suffer the loss of her husband and best friend. She stifled her tears rather quickly though.
“I don’t want Patricia to see that I’ve been crying. She’ll want to know what’s wrong. Adam, we’re going to have to break this to her gradually. It’s not something you can tell a young child suddenly. Adam, how long? What did the doctor say about how long?”
“That’s the thing that I’m not too sure about. The doctors said a couple of months at least and perhaps as long as six months to a year, but they don’t know. No one can look inside a head to see what is growing and what damage is being done. Unfortunately, I’m worried that because the symptoms got worse so rapidly the few months might be the more accurate assessment, but I have no way to know if I know any better than they do.”
“Do you have any symptoms you haven’t told me? Have you kept any other secrets?”
“No, you know all of that. I have headaches. I get dizzy very easily and without warning, I can start to fall and have to grab for something to steady myself. I try to keep something solid near me at all times. I don’t want to walk across the yard because I’m not sure I can make it. My vision is getting worse and you knew that because you’ve had to help me with things. You know the nausea that I got when we traveled. The only thing that helped was sleeping.”
“Have you told anyone else?”
With a wry look, Adam shook his head almost amazed at the answer he had to give. “Joe is the only one.”
“I’m surprised you confided in Joe.”
“It wasn’t so much confiding in him as he challenged me and the only thing to do was to tell him the truth. It was that or remain silent and take a chance he’d take a swing at me because he was so upset. I couldn’t risk that. I don’t know what would happen if anyone hit me. It’s bad enough now with trying to get through each day when I’m not doing much of anything.”
“My, God, he wouldn’t hit you, would he?”
“He’s under a lot of stress with Hoss gone and with Pa getting older and shifting a lot more of the responsibility to him. He was hoping that I would take up some of the burden and was upset that I was acting more like a guest than a member of the family. I could see his point, but there’s nothing I can do to help him.”
“And now, things are even worse.”
“Yes, now I’ve made things even worse by coming home.”
“No, never think that. You need to be here. We all need to be here. Adam, maybe you need to see a different doctor. Maybe the doctors you saw didn’t know everything there is to know about your condition.”
“Laine, no one operates on the brain. It simply isn’t done.”
Once more, Laine went to Adam’s embrace. They held each other for a long time, and then they went to bed and lay in each other’s arms finding that sleep did not come easily.
Downstairs that evening, Ben Cartwright found that his mind was in turmoil too. First, he had seen how serious Adam had looked when he told Laine that they should go up to their room to talk after they got Patsy to bed. They had not returned. Since Adam’s return, Ben had been very concerned about him because it was clear something was very wrong. His demeanor was off. He was quiet and reserved about everything. Ben had tried to interest him in ranch business, in helping with the ledgers and contracts, and Adam had begged off doing that. It was out of character for a man who had a gift for such things. Adam hadn’t left the house or porch either which also was out of character. Even when Ben had taken Laine and Patsy for a tour of the Ponderosa, Adam had stayed in the house content to be alone and sedentary instead of being with his family. All of it was very odd. Of course even Adam being here like this was odd. Ben had expected some sort of explanation as to why Adam had sold his business and his house as well as why he had resigned from Wells Fargo. Clearly something important had changed in his life. While Ben hoped it meant that Adam had found some kind of business enterprise he could develop close to the Ponderosa, Adam seemed not to have any plans at all. It was so out of character that Ben didn’t know what to think. He couldn’t remember ever seeing Adam like this.
Now this evening, Joe was acting oddly as well. He was as subdued as Ben had ever seen him. There was no teasing of any kind nor any jibes for his oldest brother although those had been numerous until this evening. When Adam and Laine had gone up the stairs, Joe’s eyes had followed them. Several times after that, Joe had moved his stare from the fire in the fireplace to the upstairs as if he wondered what was happening up there. Then at nine, he excused himself to go to his room supposedly to sleep when it was obvious that he was not sleepy at all. When Ben finally retired to his room, he found himself rehashing all the same thoughts and theories as to his sons’ unusual behaviors and still formulating no ideas as to what it could mean. It took hours before he fell into a fitful sleep.
At breakfast the next morning, it was clear that only Patsy had slept well. She was her usual self smiling at everyone and munching on her breakfast with enthusiasm making Hop Sing quite happy. Ben refrained from asking any probing questions with her present, but the looks he gave to Adam and Joe made it clear that he wanted to know what was going on. When Patsy finished her meal, Adam asked her to thank Hop Sing for her breakfast. She did and then smiled at her father who praised her for having such good manners.
“Patsy, did you know that I rode a big chestnut horse here. His name is Sport.”
“What’s a chess nut?”
“It’s chestnut, and it means a reddish brown horse. He has three white socks too.”
Patsy chuckled. “Oh, Papa, horses don’t wear socks.”
“It means that he has white above his hooves on three legs.”
“Does he only have three legs?”
“No, he has four, but the fourth leg has no white on it.”
“Can I see him?”
“Well, I have to talk with your grandfather, but if your Uncle Joe would be willing to show you, you could go see him when Uncle Joe is finished with his breakfast.”
Quickly understanding what Adam wanted and why, Joe said he was done with breakfast and would be happy to show Sport to Patsy. He had spent most of the time with his head down staring at this plate and moving the food around without eating much of anything anyway. He had been angry about the news Adam had given him and then the pain had hit. He wanted to do something and felt helpless. Adam was giving him the chance to help and he jumped at that opportunity, and he added that there were some other animals she had not yet seen that he would be happy to show her. He warned her that it might take an hour or more.
“Is that a long time?”
Adam answered for Joe. “No, Patsy. That is a perfect amount of time. Joe, thank you.”
Ben watched his only grandchild leave and had a premonition that her carefree and happy days were about to end. He could see that Laine had been crying and Joe too looked like tears had been shed. For that to be true, there had to be some terrible news Adam was going to deliver, but when his son explained, it still hit him like a hammer blow. He found it hard to breathe and Adam and Laine were both clearly more concerned with him than with what they had worried about telling him.
“I’ll be all right. It’s you I’m worried about.”
“That can wait. You’re having the problem right now.”
“Maybe if you could help me to my chair.”
Adam had some difficulties but his strength wasn’t diminished. He offered his strong shoulders to his father and helped him walk to the red leather chair. Adam realized that his father though was steadier on his feet than he was so he let his father take the lead and he provided the strength they needed. When Ben was settled in the chair, Adam gratefully sat on the settee next to him.
“Do you need a brandy?”
“It’s an unusual circumstance.”
“Yes, I think a small brandy would be good.”
When Adam made a move to get the brandy though, Ben was surprised when Laine was there at the table first and poured two small brandies and gave one to Adam too. She sat beside him after delivering the two small glasses. Ben cocked an eyebrow at his son as if to ask a question.
“Yes, even that now. I don’t get to do anything like that any more. I guess she thinks the odds of me dropping or spilling are too great.” It was clear that Adam wasn’t happy with being treated as if he couldn’t take care of simple tasks like that. He knew his own limitations and didn’t like that others would now probably start trying to decide for him what he could and couldn’t do. He bottled the feelings up though because he had put Laine through enough already and didn’t want to add any more to that.
“Laine, you kept the secret well. I would never have guessed that you knew.”
There was a change in her demeanor then though. “I didn’t know. I knew something was wrong, and assumed Adam was losing his vision. I thought the headaches were from the fall he took and would go away eventually. It was only last night that he admitted the whole truth to me too.”
“I’m sorry, Pa. I told Laine I was sorry too. When I first heard, I didn’t want to believe them. I was angry about it and thought they couldn’t be right. Then as the symptoms got worse, I realized they were right and I felt hopeless. I felt I had failed my family. I know how illogical that must sound, but when you’re facing your own mortality, logic isn’t as reliable, I guess.”
“When did you decide that you had to tell us?”
“That’s when I decided to sell the business and the house, resign my position with Wells Fargo, and move back here. I wanted to tell everyone here. I think I needed the safety of these walls.”
“But it won’t change anything. Did you see any other doctors?”
“Yes, I asked a number of doctors if there was anything else that could be done, and they all said the same thing. There is no treatment. There’s nothing they can do.”
“No, I mean did you see other doctors to see if they agreed with the others on that diagnosis?”
“Pa, when four doctors concur, what is the point of asking more?”
“I never thought my son would give up so easily.”
“You’re where I was when I first found out. You’re angry. You want the diagnosis to be wrong. Pa, what else could it be?”
“That’s why you should see other doctors.”
Laine wrapped an arm around Adam. “Perhaps you should. It couldn’t hurt, could it?”
Although Adam wanted to offer them some hope and offer them some comfort in that they were doing something to help him, he knew too that giving false hope wasn’t going to do much in the long run, and it was going to be very difficult for him emotionally and physically. He couldn’t say no though as he looked from one to the other so he agreed and got small smiles from both. When Joe came in later with his daughter who was bubbling over with news of what she had seen, he saw his father tell Joe the news and get a huge grin from his youngest brother. He listened to his daughter chatter on to Laine about Sport and all the other animals she had seen. He knew he would get the same point-by-point description of her time with Joe as soon as she was done telling her mother. He took some joy in these small moments and the memories he could still create for his daughter. When Patsy finished talked with Laine though, Laine told her she could go to her room to straighten up her things and do some reading. She loved to read and had gotten some new books for the trip. Again Adam was a bit perturbed but bit back anything he was going to say. As Patsy skipped happily up the stairs and Adam watched her go, Laine smiled softly at him as if to say she understood, but in fact, she didn’t understand at all.
The rest of the day was more of the same with his father bringing things to him and Joe hovering about when he was in the house waiting it seemed for the opportunity to do something for his oldest brother. It was at dinner that Adam almost lost his temper but held it in check.
“Adam, tomorrow, we should go to town so you can see Doctor Martin.”
The first thought that Adam had was that a general practitioner and surgeon in Virginia City was unlikely to know more than four doctors in San Francisco. The second thought he had was worse: travel made him dizzy and frequently made him suffer from bouts of nausea. It would be a most unpleasant day if he had to make that trip to town and then back again in a carriage. He did what he usually did in such circumstances though.
“Sure, Pa, we can do that.”
That night, Laine questioned Adam as to why he had not objected to the carriage ride to and from town. “You know how sick it is likely to make you. The only way you made it here was to take a half-dose of your sleeping powder. Your father thought you were exhausted from travel and bored by seeing what you had seen so often before so never questioned you falling asleep, but if you do that tomorrow, he will.”
“I can’t anyway. If I’m to see Paul for his evaluation, I can’t be there and affected by a drug. He needs to see me in as normal a state as possible so he’s evaluating me and not the effects of a sleeping powder.”
“But you’ll get sick.”
“I won’t eat breakfast. I had very little to eat at dinner, and I won’t have much of anything to drink either. Hopefully that will help.”
“Maybe Hop Sing can brew something up that might help.”
“No, anything he gives me will be the same as taking a sleeping powder. It will affect me. and Paul won’t see what I’m like without the help of his potions or some other medication. I’m not hiding anything any more either. If I get sick, Pa gets to see what happens.”
“If we’re going to town, Patsy will want to go along. We’ve shielded her from most of your symptoms, but she will hardly miss that. You on your hands and knees retching into the grass at the side of the road would be terrifying for her. She sees you as very strong and to see you like that would frighten her very much.”
That was a sobering thought for Adam. “Perhaps we can get Joe to take her to the lake or something so she isn’t here when we leave.”
“It’s postponing the inevitable, isn’t it. Maybe she needs to see some of the problems you’re having so that as, well, oh, damn, Adam, I can’t even say things like that.” Laine wrapped her arms around Adam who held her. She wanted more and kissed him, but his response was as tepid as it had been for weeks now. He hugged her, and the embraces were as warm and strong as always, but any attempt she made to be more intimate than that seemed to be met with resistance. She put her hand on his cheek and looked at his eyes seeing them shining in the light from the lamp. “Is there something more happening because of this? Can’t you love me like you did?”
“I do love you as much as ever.”
“No, I mean show me your love. You haven’t even hardly kissed me in weeks. We hug and hold each other, but that’s about it. When will we do more?”
“I’m not sure we should.”
“Why not?” But Laine knew in an instant then what worried him. “You don’t want to leave me with child when you think you won’t be here to help. Adam, please don’t let that stop you. The greatest gift you could give me now would be another child. You could give yourself to me too. I need that, and I think you need it too. As for a baby, it may not happen. We haven’t had a child since I lost the last one early, but there is no reason to fear bringing a child into this world. Please?”
Squeezing his eyes shut, Adam hugged Laine even closer. He wanted so much to indulge her and yet feared exactly what she wanted. He whispered to her. “How can it be fair to bring a child into this world with only one parent?”
“Because you would have given the greatest gift of all. Please, give me your love and give life if you can. Let God decide what will happen. We have a wonderful family. They will make sure that our child will never want for anything including love. You don’t have the pressures of work any more. We only have each other. Let’s make the most of this time. You said the doctor said a year. It could be more. You’re a strong man.”
“But it could be much less.”
“Let’s not think about that now. Right now we have this time. Let it be our time, and not anyone can ever take it away.”
Taking his hands, she placed them on her and held her hands over his. He was close to her and they kissed. It wasn’t the soft kisses she had been getting but the more passionate kisses that said he wanted her as much as she wanted him. Their lovemaking though was as slow as the first time they had been together as they kissed and touched as if to remember each moment. When it was over, she rested her head on his chest to listen to his heart. It beat so strong and he seemed to be so healthy, it was difficult for her to imagine that the doctor’s diagnosis could be correct. She prayed silently that Doctor Martin would have a different opinion. It was her fervent hope, and she wondered if Adam was nursing that same small hope even as he was skeptical that a doctor here would know any more than the doctors in the city.
In the morning, Adam ate and drank very little prompting his father to ask if he was feeling ill. Adam had to admit to him then why he was holding back. He had already asked Joe if he could take Patsy for the day and found out that he couldn’t. Their backup plan was that Laine would get her busy so that Ben and Adam could leave. Patsy though had already picked up on the undercurrents of emotion in the house as well as a few words that worried her. She didn’t want to leave her father’s side finding reason after reason to stay with him begging for a hug, a story, for him to listen to something she had to tell him, and so on until he sat down on a chair and pulled her next to him. Wrapping his arm around her, he looked down at her and tilted her head up to look at him.
“What’s this all about, sweetie?”
“Nothing, I just need you.”
“You seem to need me a lot this morning.”
“I need you a lot always.”
“There are others here who can help you too.”
“But I want you to help me.”
“I did help you.”
“Yes, but I want you to stay and help me.”
“Did you hear that your grandfather and I were going to town? Is that what this is all about?”
“You and Grandpa are going to town? May I go along?”
A bit confused at that point, Adam looked to Laine and then back to Patsy. “If you didn’t know I was going to town, why did you say you wanted me to stay?”
Patsy looked down and when Adam tilted her head up again, there were tears in her eyes. Laine put her hand over her mouth because she was going to cry too seeing her daughter in such obvious distress. Adam had an idea of what might have happened.
“Have you heard something about me that upset you?” Patsy nodded and the tears slipped down her cheeks. “What did you hear?”
“I wasn’t supposed to hear.”
“Tell me what happened, Patsy. I need to know.”
“I thought you and Mama were still downstairs. I wanted to talk with you. I came to the stairs but it was Grandpa and Uncle Joe.”
“What did you hear?”
“They said you were sick. They said you had to see the doctor. They said so maybe you wouldn’t die. You’re not going to die, are you, Papa?”
Taking a deep breath, Adam tried to calm himself. He had so many emotions at that point but the only one he could let out was concern for his daughter. “I am sick, Patsy.”
“I know. I know your tummy gets sick sometimes.”
“Yes, and other things too.”
“Yes, your head hurts too.”
“Yes, it does.”
“Is that why you’re going to see the doctor?”
“Yes, it is.”
“Will he make you better?”
“I’m going to ask him if he can.”
“Good. He’ll make you better. I know he will.”
“Will you stay here with your mama while I go to see him?”
“Will that help you?”
“Yes, that would help me.”
“Then I will. But, Papa, can I ask one thing?”
“May I ask one thing?”
“Yes, please. Will you bring me some chocolate from town and some for Mama too. We really like chocolate.”
“I think that could be arranged.”
Patsy kissed him on the cheek then almost causing the tears he had been holding back to slip out. Laine did cry a little.
“Mama, why are you crying? Papa is going to see the doctor. The doctor will make him better. You’ll see. Papa is going to bring some chocolates for us.”
“Yes, dear, Papa is very good to us. I’m sure he will. Now let’s go upstairs. I want to do some sewing, and you’re going to help pick out the colors and the threads.”
Once Laine and Patsy were gone, Joe and Ben apologized. “It’s all right. There was no way you could have known Patsy could hear you. From what she said, she knew something was going on and she would have asked some questions soon anyway. I didn’t know how we were going to tell her. I guess we’ve made the first steps now in getting her ready.”
“Maybe she’s right, Adam. Maybe Doc will have a better answer for you.”
“Joe, I wouldn’t count on that.”
Joe held back what he wanted to say knowing it was the wrong time to say it, but sooner or later, he was going to say what he thought. Adam had said to think about what he had heard. Well, he had thought about it, and he was ready to respond. He didn’t think his oldest brother was going to like what he was going to say though.
The ride to town was about as unpleasant as Adam expected it to be. His stomach rebelled at the lurching of the carriage, and it didn’t take long before he had to ask his father to stop. He retched what little there was in his stomach and that allowed him to stay seated in the carriage for the rest of the trip, but the towel he brought along was used several times. His father had not realized that the trip was going to be so difficult and apologized profusely for putting his son through such misery. Even in that state, Adam tried to be positive.
“At least Paul will get the full picture. I’ll be as miserable as I ever am by the time I see him. The symptoms will all be there for him.”
“You’ve got the headache too?”
“I always have one, but this kind of thing makes it a lot worse.”
“By the time we get to his office, I’ll need to lean on your shoulder. I hope we can do it without being too obvious. The gossips will have more fodder.”
“They probably thought I was half drunk the day we arrived. I stumbled a bit and then climbed in the back of the carriage and promptly fell asleep if you recall.”
“Yes, I did wonder about that a bit. I thought you were exhausted.”
“But it was later in the day, and did you wonder if I had been drinking?”
Chagrined, Ben had to admit the thought had crossed his mind. So of course, he knew then that anyone who saw Adam would have probably thought the same. If they didn’t know him as well as he did, they might have put greater weight to the theory that he had been drinking. To see him helped into the doctor’s office unable to walk without assistance would certainly fuel more gossip.
“We could pull the carriage around to the back. It wouldn’t be that unusual for a carriage to go to the back of the office.”
“Thank you. Yes, that would be preferable if we could do that. I don’t think I can walk even a short distance by myself.”
After pulling the carriage around to the back of Doctor Paul Martin’s home which had his office on the first floor, Ben assisted Adam from the carriage. Shielding his eyes from the bright sun, Adam leaned on his father who helped him to the back entrance and then up the stairs to the door. Opening it, he let Adam walk for himself although he stayed close as his son used the doorjamb and then the wall to support himself as he walked in. Paul heard them and came into the hallway. Frowning to see Adam in such a state, he told him to go into the first door. He was there immediately and assisted Adam to the table that was there and had him rest on it. The room was dark and Adam sighed in relief. Paul was going to light a lamp, but Adam asked him to wait while he explained what was wrong first.
“You can do what you have to do later. First, I would appreciate the respite while I tell you why I’m in this state.”
So Adam told him everything he had told his wife and family. Paul asked a few questions along the way but mostly listened to everything Adam had to say and took notes. Adam finished with the details of the difficulties of the trip into town and how he was before and then during that trip. Then it was Paul’s turn, and of course, he wanted to do a physical exam. At the end of that, Paul looked about as forlorn as they had ever seen him look.
“I wish I had something more hopeful to say, but I can’t see any reason to dispute the diagnosis that you have. I do think that when you have to travel, you should sleep. You can’t become nauseated while sleeping. The main reason for that is that your eyes are not able to see the world as a clear and balanced place. It’s the same thing as children spinning about in their games and then falling down. Some of them become ill when they do that. In effect, when you travel, it is like that. You are confusing your eyes and your brain too much. I can give you sleeping powders to help you when you travel. I wish I could do more. I’m sure that Hop Sing can give you teas to help you with the nausea too and to help you sleep.”
Having nursed only the tiniest hope that Paul might give him good news, Adam stoically accepted what the doctor had to say. Ben had been hoping and praying for a much better outcome, and his disappointment was palpable.
“Ben, I will start to do some research. I do subscribe to medical journals. I will begin to scour them looking for anything that I think might help.”
It was a small comfort, but at least it was something. Before they left, Paul thanked Adam again for the Zeiss microscope Adam had been able to get for him from Germany. Although Paul had gotten a Plossl compound microscope only a few years earlier, the quality of the glass in the new one was considerably better.
“Yes, I’m getting older but the microscope is even better so I can see things I never could see before. It’s wonderful and I cannot thank you enough for your help in procuring it. I only wish I could do something for you.”
There was nothing, of course, so Adam left with his father after taking a sleeping powder as Paul suggested. Once they were on their way, Paul opened up a medical journal to do some reading until his next patient arrived. He was going to do research like he hadn’t done in years. He owed that much to his friend.
There was only one seat in the carriage and Adam stayed upright fighting the feeling of vertigo while they were in town. He did have one request.
“Could you stop at the pastry shop and get some chocolates though? I think I’ll be fine for that. It’s not far.”
The stop there was quick and Ben brought out a box of chocolates and light pastries careful to only buy the types of things that Hop Sing did not make. As soon as they reached the edge of town though, Ben halted the carriage and pulled to the side of the road. He reached under the seat for the small blanket stored there and handed it to Adam.
“I’m not cold.”
“No, but I think you could use it for a pillow and prop yourself in the corner there to sleep. I’ll drive slowly and you should be able to sleep comfortably there until we get home.”
“Thank you, Pa. I think that’s a grand idea.”
Arranging the blanket to make a soft resting place, Adam leaned into it until he was comfortable closing his eyes and relaxing. Ben waited a few minutes before pulling out. He drove slowly making the trip take nearly twice as long as usual so it was late afternoon before they arrived home. When they got there, Laine told them that Hoss was back and was with Patsy in the garden behind the house. Ben and Adam walked back there with Laine. Hoss had a big smile when he saw Adam walking toward him and looking reasonably healthy. He had heard from Patsy that his older brother was ill and had been to town to see the doctor, but seeing him there, he thought she must have been mistaken about illness. He moved to slap Adam on the back and welcome him back to the Ponderosa. Ben stepped forward quickly and the blow landed on his shoulder instead of Adam’s and with more force because he intercepted it halfway there. It stunned him a bit.
“Aw, Pa, I’m plumb sorry ’bout that. I only meant to welcome Adam home. I never meant to do that to ya.”
“It’s all right, Hoss. I knew that, but I didn’t want you to do that to Adam.”
“Huh? What Patsy said is true then?”
Quickly Adam changed the subject. “How was your trip? You must have a lot of stories to tell. And what kind of stories have you been telling Patsy while I was gone? I hope you didn’t tell her any scary stories that will make it difficult for her to sleep tonight.”
Getting the hint, Hoss quickly changed his demeanor and smiled. “Nah, I only told her about stampedes and such. She’s a right good listener too. Ain’t ya, my punkin girl?”
“I sure am. Are you going to tell more stories? Oh, I forgot. Papa, did you bring anything for me and Mama?”
“I certainly did. In fact, I believe there’s enough for the whole family. It’s on the seat in the carriage. Why don’t you bring it in to Hop Sing and he can arrange them on a plate to serve. There’s enough that you and Mama can have two each, I believe.”
Once Patsy ran to the front of the house, Laine said she would follow to supervise and make sure there were no accidents. The three men sat on the bench then. Hoss looked at Adam and put a hand on his brother’s knee.
“You gonna tell me what’s going on?”
“What Patsy told you was true. I did go see the doctor because I have a problem. She doesn’t know how serious it is yet, although she does have a better idea than we had thought because she overheard Pa and Joe talking.”
“About as bad as it could be.” Then Adam told Hoss the rest of the story. His stunned reaction was about the same as Joe’s and Ben’s. Adam said they could talk more later after he had a chance to think about it. He knew though that thinking about it wasn’t going to do much good, but it was a way to end a conversation that had nowhere to go. He had done the same with Joe. Everyone wanted to help and to find a way to fight this thing, but there was no hope.
Sitting on the porch that evening, Hoss watched Joe pace back and forth. He had been able to tell that Joe was upset and holding in anger so instead of a game of checkers, he had suggested that they might want to take a walk outside to talk. Instead of talking though, Joe had paced steadily back and forth unwilling it seemed to say what was on his mind. Hoss had tried probing but had gotten nothing much in response. He tried one more time with a more direct question that he thought might hit closer to what might be the issue.
“You mad at Adam for some reason and you don’t want to say anything to him ’cause he’s sick?”
Hoss knew he was there because although Joe said nothing, there was a hitch in his walk. He almost stopped and said something, but somehow he managed to stay quiet.
“He can’t help what’s happening to him.”
Pausing then and facing Hoss, Joe got that stance that resembled a boxer about to take on an opponent. “He could try to fight. He could do something instead of sitting around waiting to die.”
“What would you have me do?”
Standing at the corner of the porch, Adam looked over at his brothers. He had an inkling similar to Hoss’ that Joe was holding in his feelings and that those thoughts were about him. He came outside when they had been gone for about fifteen minutes.
“Something! Sitting around is giving up. You do nothing.”
“You don’t understand. I can’t do much more than what I am.”
“You could at least try. You won’t even try. You won’t even walk across the yard because you’re afraid you might fall down. When did you get so afraid of everything? I didn’t know my oldest brother was such a coward!”
Hanging back, Hoss waited to see what would happen next. He knew Adam’s temper and how it boiled before exploding. He wouldn’t let the two of them fight, but he too wondered at Adam’s attitude. He watched as Adam advanced on Joe who stood his ground even as his taller and more muscular, heavier brother advanced.
“I am no coward. If I was, I would have put a bullet in my brain and ended this torment. Do you think this is easy? Every day I feel that I lose more of what I was. It would be a lot easier to die quickly. I’m doing it piece by piece.”
“You don’t have to give up the pieces so easily.”
Hoss saw Adam’s hands balled into fists at his sides and knew how angry he was. All the frustration and everything else from the last two months was probably welling up inside of him. He had worked so hard to control all those feelings, but they were still there roiling below the surface. Joe saw the fists too.
“C’mon, hit me. I won’t hit you back. I know better. I would never do that, but I’d like to see some fight in you. C’mon. What’s holding you back? You want to. Why don’t you hit me?”
Adam’s jaw worked furiously for a bit and then he shook his head slightly. He would have done more but knew from experience that wasn’t a good idea. Instead he grinned broadly and started to laugh softly causing his brothers to frown completely surprised by his response.
“What’s so funny?”
Backing up, Adam sat in the chair beside Hoss and looked up at Joe. “You’re right. I wanted to hit you. There was one big problem. There are two of you, and I didn’t know which one to hit. It would have been embarrassing to miss after all of that.”
Hoss started to laugh first and that big belly laugh of his got Joe laughing too, and that cackle of his got both older brothers laughing even more. Ben walked outside then to see what had happened because the laughter had been loud enough to hear inside.
“Nothing much, Pa. We’re laughing about what a fool I’ve been. I think I can help you with your work. You’ll have to tell me the numbers and I’ll do the math in my head and give them back to you. You’ll still have to do all the writing. Will that help?”
“That would be a great help. Thank you. Maybe I could read the contracts to you, and you could give me some advice on those too.”
Agreeing to that, Adam mentioned that perhaps they could let the hands know that he had a problem so that if they saw him fall, they could help him get up and to a safe place to sit until he got his equilibrium back.
“Oh, all right, why didn’t you jist say that then. We kin tell the men that. They kin watch out for ya then.”
“I guess I’ll go in and talk with Laine and Patsy then. There are going to be a few changes around here that they’ll have to get used to.”
For Laine, it was bittersweet to have Adam more active on the ranch knowing that it was only for the time he had left. It was made worse when he brought up the subject of where she wanted to live.
“Would you like to continue living in the house here, or would you like a separate house? I could design a small home that could be build close so that you could have some privacy but still be close to the house for safety and for family.”
Unable to answer such a question when it was posed, all she had was tears. Although it was a struggle, Adam began designing a house he thought she and Patsy would like similar to the one where she had grown up in Wyoming with a broad porch all around and fireplaces in every room. He put in a water closet and washroom next to the kitchen thinking they would greatly prefer that to an outdoor necessary especially in cold weather. With the slope of the property, it wouldn’t be difficult to create a drain for both too. It took quite a bit longer for him to draw plans as he had to concentrate so hard and squint so much to try to keep squiggly lines in place and to write the numbers where they needed to go. Often he needed Laine’s help too. There were tears on the plans by the time they were done.
Although bothersome, Adam’s symptoms didn’t seem to be worsening at a pace that alarmed them. A glimmer of hope was there until he started to have more falls. He had to start using a cane to walk outside because to try to take a walk meant the odds of falling were too great. Inside he moved from one solid piece of furniture to another and always had a firm grip on the railing when he used the stairs. Ben wanted to suggest he and Laine might want to move to the downstairs bedroom but couldn’t bring himself to even voice that option because it would make the reality of what was happening hit that much harder for all of them. Patsy made all of them face reality though with the innocence of childhood questions so similar to how Adam had been at that age with his questions about all that he saw around him.
“Papa, are you getting sicker?”
After leaving the dining table, Adam had fallen against the credenza and had been unable to catch himself taking a hard landing on the floor. Hoss helped him up and to the settee where he held his head with a headache that was suddenly much worse. He was resting there when his daughter answered the question. He didn’t have a chance to answer before there was a knock on the door. Joe answered the door to admit Doctor Martin. He saw Adam and the look of pain he had and immediately moved to his side.
“Is there anything I can do?”
“I wish there was.”
“Adam, maybe there is. I was reading in my journals and newsletters, and I came across a notice that a doctor from France gave a symposium in St. Louis last month on brain diseases and disorders.”
“Uh, Paul, how does that help?”
“Oh, that part doesn’t help, but it said that before he was going to return to France, he was going to take a tour of the west. I’ve been searching for him, and I found him. I corresponded briefly with him. At first, he wouldn’t consent to come to a ‘cow town’ as he called it. But I told him I had his uncle’s book and that you translated it for me. Well, it turns out that it’s his cousin not his uncle, but close enough.”
“That book Mental Maladies?”
“Yes, that’s the one. Doctor Esquirol will come here to see you. He asked what other works I had, and I mentioned that I had treatises by Fritsch, Hitzig, and Hering as well as Winslow’s book. He said those ‘barbarians’ in the audience in St. Louis did not know these men.”
“He certainly sounds haughty enough to be a French doctor.” Adam was smiling though forgetting for the moment the pain in his head. “Do you think he might help?”
“They’re doing far more work in Europe on brain diseases and disorders than what is happening here. I hope so, but only he will be able to tell us.”
“When will he be here?”
“As soon as he can make the connections from Sacramento. I did promise him that you had a superior cook so he will expect something special from Hop Sing. I knew that we could count on him not to disappoint.”
There was some noise from the kitchen then but none of the kind that showed displeasure. Certainly the doctor’s words had sent the right message.
“He’ll expect special treatment as a guest too, but I know you have had difficult guests before so I trust your family can handle it.”
As expected, Doctor Jean Esquirol arrived with a load of luggage and attitude. He was disdainful of almost everything including the fine pastry shop in town. However he did like the scenery on the ride to the Ponderosa, and on arrival, he was charmed by Patsy who said he looked like Jesus.
“I think you probably can do miracles too. Papa says you probably can. He said French doctors are the best. I think that’s what he said.”
It wasn’t exactly the way that Adam had said it, but it was good that Patsy didn’t understand nor appreciate sarcasm because what she said endeared the doctor to her and to her father. It was a good opening for them.
Knowing better than to try to outdo French chefs and cooks at French cooking, Hop Sing instead made the best Chinese and American dishes that he knew how to make. The result was a feast that even the doctor with his refined European tastes appreciated. His room was quite nice with amenities he had not expected so far from town where he had thought he would be ‘roughing it’ as Americans called it, and he appreciated too the efforts that had been made to make him as comfortable as possible. The meal topped the list though and made him appreciate even more the graciousness of his hosts. He thanked Ben but had been staring at Adam for most of the meal. He stood after dessert and touched Adam on the right side of his forehead near the hairline.
“What is this scar, monsieur?”
Adam looked down a bit embarrassed to have the exam begin at the dining room table in front of the whole family it seemed. At least Patsy was with Hop Sing in the kitchen having asked to be excused to go there to watch him work, which she liked to do so she could chatter away with him.
“A bullet creased my head once.”
“It knocked me out briefly, but all I had afterwards was a terrible headache. Oh, and I was sick to my stomach for a few days and dizzy, but that passed with no ill effects.”
“Hm, and this scar here below that? It is less distinct but still visible.”
“Some deserters from the Army attacked me, and one hit me in the head with his chain or a manacle. I’m not sure which. It stunned me.”
Feeling then around Adam’s head, the doctor found another noticeable scar. “Yes, every scar tells a story. And this one?”
“Oh that one was from when a temporary sheriff hit me with the butt of his pistol. Knocked me out cold. I ended up on the doctor’s couch with that one. Tell you the truth, I don’t remember much about those couple of days except what I’ve been told about them.”
“Out cold must mean unconscious, no? Have you been hit in the head any other times when you were, as you say, stunned or out cold?”
Looking a bit embarrassed to have to say it, Adam looked at Hoss and then stated it as succinctly as he could. “I’ve been punched pretty hard a couple of times.”
Hoss hung his head knowing how his blows had probably affected his brother. Once he had hit him because of Helen Layton and then more furiously because of Regan Miller. Both times he had sent Adam flying across the room with the blows to his head. Ben intervened with another account before the doctor could query Adam more about those blows making Hoss feel any worse.
“He was knocked out in the Paiute War too and taken hostage.”
Joe added in more. “Yeah, and once when the two of us were on a posse, he got hit on the head and knocked silly for a while. Oh, and that time he tried to teach history and they didn’t want him to and sent those men to beat him up at the schoolhouse.”
“Knocked silly is also to be stunned?”
“Dadburnit, I think he done got hurt in the head up there on that Mountain of the Dead that time. And didn’t them fellers knock him on the head that time he helped the Kaufmanns too?”
“Thank you. I think I know enough. I am sure now that I may know what the problem may be. Monsieur Cartwright, I do not think that you have a tumor in your brain. I have learned your story from Doctor Paul and from you. Your symptoms came on so suddenly and with the coincidence of the accident, it is not probable. Your history of head injuries to me suggests another answer. You have been hit in the head so much, your brain is moving in there with each subsequent blow. When you fell, your brain moved forward violently and then back, and then perhaps again and maybe again. I believe that you have a large blood clot at the front of your skull pressing on your brain and another probably smaller one at the base of your skull pressing there too. The bleeding in your brain probably continued for days after the accident. You have compression of your brain as a result.”
Doctor Martin frowned. “Wouldn’t a blood clot dissolve?”
“In the brain, many do not. Many times, we have found, in autopsies, many blood clots in the brain especially the very large ones.”
Everyone was quiet until Adam asked the one question all probably wanted to know. “Can anything be done?”
“I should like to talk with you first and then with you, your wife, and Doctor Martin privately, I think, rather than having a group discussion about that. There is much to consider.”
As Adam walked to the downstairs guest room with the doctor, Joe sighed. “I guess he never was a Yankee granite head.”
It was a sobering thought to realize that a history of head injuries may have been what had led to this. In the bedroom, the doctor pushed the door closed and motioned for Adam to sit.
“I think that I can relieve the pressure and remove most if not all of the clot at the front of your brain. It is a process called trepanning. With the release of the blood that has collected there, all or most of your symptoms could be gone and you could live a very long life.”
“You called me in here to speak privately for a reason. I assume there are some major risks involved with this process.”
“Yes, even though the procedure usually is quite successful and there is no complication, if there is a complication, it is always serious. It could be brain fever, apoplexy, asthenia or debility, catalepsy or palsy, falling sickness, paraplegia, lethargy, or dementia, or any combination of those. I suppose I should explain what each of those entails.”
“You don’t need to explain them. I translated that book for Doctor Martin and learned quite a lot when I did. What you’re saying is that I could lose my mind and be crazy as a loon or have fits and palsies that make people think I am. Or I could keep my mind and end up in bed or in a wheelchair unable to do anything for myself. Those are the worst things that could happen?”
“No, monsieur, the worst that could happen is that you would die.”
“No, compared to those things, dying is not the worst thing. I’m already facing that. To me, those things are worse. What is more probable?”
“Ah, that I cannot say. Such procedures are uncommon so there is no evidence to support any conclusion I could say. What I can say is that I think you will die without some intervention. The pressure at the back of your brain is too much.”
“But you’re not planning to do anything there?”
“Not at this time. I think if we relieve the pressure at the front, it will help what is at the back and perhaps in time, that will help dissolve that clot at least partially. It is more risky to try this procedure there.”
“And what if you’re wrong?”
“We will know as soon as we try. If I drill the hole and get old blood, then I know that I am right and I continue until no more old blood comes out with the procedure. If I am wrong, there will only be new blood and there will be no relief of the pressure.”
“How do you do the procedure?”
“I will lift a small flap of skin. Then I will drill a small hole through your skull. Using special tools, I will then begin to suction out the old blood. Doctor Martin will assist me. I would like to have a team of surgeons to help, but there is no one here that I trust to be on such a team. Him, I trust.”
“All right, let’s get my wife and Doctor Martin in here and convince them. Then we’ll convince my family.”
“You agree so easily?”
“I’m facing my own grave. I don’t have a lot of time to debate things. This is the best hope, and in fact, the only hope I have.”
It took most of the rest of the evening to explain what was going to happen and what could happen as a result. When everyone was done asking questions, it was dark and Ben suggested that Paul spend the night. He agreed. Doctor Esquirol wasn’t quite done with them yet though. He made a plan once all were on board with the decision.
“We will do the surgery here. He will get sick going so far to the town, and then who knows what other illness is in the air there. It is clean here. We will bring what we need here and do the procedure here. Doctor Martin, we will need a microscope. Do you have a microscope?”
“I have a Plossl compound microscope, and recently Adam helped me get a Zeiss microscope but I haven’t figured out quite how to use it yet.”
“Ah, I love you. You are a hidden treasure in this wilderness.” Jean kissed Paul on both cheeks then embracing the doctor and embarrassing him. “You will bring those and anything else we will need. I know that I can trust you. This big man, a brother, no? He can go with you and help.”
Both Laine and Adam had the same worry at that point though and nearly said it at the same time. They didn’t want Patsy at the house or anywhere near it when the surgery occurred.
“Son, perhaps someone could take her to Joe’s cottage to stay. It would be like camping out, an adventure.”
“That’s a good idea, Pa, but who will go with her?” Adam looked to his wife. “Laine, it should be you. She’ll need you there to reassure her.”
“No, I should be with you.”
“I’m going to be sedated during and after the procedure. I won’t know whether you’re here or not. Patsy will be well aware though that she’s alone if both of us are absent. The cottage isn’t far.”
“I’ll want to see you before you’re sedated.”
“I’m sure that can be worked out.”
With that, it was settled. Hoss and Joe would take turns bringing news to the cottage and making sure that Laine and Patsy were fine and had what they needed. It would take the next day to get everything from town and bring it to the house and to set up the downstairs guest room for Adam and set up an area to be used as a surgery. The actual procedure was to be done the day after that. There was about thirty-six hours for everyone to say what they had to say to Adam before the procedure. That night, every member of his family except Patsy was thinking about that instead of sleeping soundly.
( The procedure the doctor discussed with Adam was used during the American Civil War and this is a page with some examples of it. Sometimes it was successful and sometimes not.
For nearly two months, Adam Cartwright had been facing his own mortality. He had been thinking of what to do and how to do it to prepare for the inevitable end of his life. There were things he thought he needed to do for Laine and Patsy to better prepare them for their life after he was gone. There were things to say to his father and brothers. There were things to write especially messages that he wanted others to have if the surgery was not successful. Now he had one day and couldn’t do nearly the things he wanted to do. He began to think about what he could do in that time because he might not be around after that procedure or he might be around and unable to do any of those things he wanted so much to do. He lay awake staring at the shifting shadows on the ceiling cast by the moonlight filtering through the branches of the tree outside the window.
“Are you awake?”
The question from Laine wasn’t unexpected. She had been shifting around so much that her sleep had to have been the most restless ever or she was awake and unable to find a comfortable position in which to fall asleep because she too had so many things on her mind. Saying nothing at first, Adam rolled on his side to face her.
“I think we should tell Patsy that I am going to have an operation.”
“Because she’s going to know that there’s something happening, and we would have to lie to her otherwise. She would likely know it. We’re going to be tense, and she’ll notice that too. She will worry, and I don’t mean to be too sure of myself here, but you will be likely upset while the procedure is being done, and she will notice that too.”
“But then she will be so worried and upset while we wait for word.”
“And you can be honest with her and say you are doing things to take your minds from it and pass the time. She is resilient. She’ll adapt to that better than she will to knowing you are worried but won’t tell her what’s wrong. She has quite an imagination. She may think of things worse than what is actually happening.”
“I suppose you’re right. She’s seen you fall or nearly fall, and have trouble walking as well as with your eyes. We can tell her the doctor is going to try to fix that, but that it’s dangerous and something could go wrong and make things worse instead of better.”
“That’s it. That’s it exactly. Tell her but not in detail but enough so she understands the tension and why there are changes taking place here as well as why you’re going to the cottage.”
Wrapping his arms around his wife, Adam didn’t know how much to admit and finally decided the whole truth was best. “So am I. I love you so much, and you and Patsy are in my heart. I can’t bear the thought of leaving you, and yet, I have that fear. Things simply haven’t worked out well for me sometimes, and they’ve been so good now for so many years, I guess I was waiting for something bad to happen. It seemed like it was hanging there and then it came crashing down.”
“Maybe we’re good luck to you, and it will hold for this.”
“I hope that’s true. There’s so much I want for us yet.”
“The doctor seems very sure about all of this.”
“He is.” But Adam knew the doctor could be confident in his diagnosis and about the procedure because all the risks belonged to Adam.
With some things resolved, they were able to finally fall asleep. In the morning, they had that talk with Patsy who had some questions, but they kept the answers simple. She didn’t need to know the details, and after a short time, she seemed satisfied.
“I know the doctor will fix you up right proper, Papa.”
“Fix me up right proper? Patsy, you have been spending a lot of time with Hoss, haven’t you?”
Patsy nodded her head enthusiastically, and when Adam looked at Laine, he had to smile. “She’s right. The doctor has to fix me up right proper or our daughter will soon be talking like a cowhand.”
In her best Hoss imitation, Laine replied. “Dadburnit, Adam, ah think yur plumb right ’bout that.”
Patsy laughed too. “Mama sounds just like Uncle Hoss.”
“Can you talk like your Uncle Hoss too?”
“Sure Papa. Listen. Dagnabit, let’s go get us some of that there breakfast. How was that?”
At the breakfast table, that continued with the three of them saying dadburnit and dagnabit several times and then breaking into laughter. It was infectious causing Joe and Ben to join in too. Hoss was smiling but had a question.
“Why is talkin’ like me funny, anyways?”
Adam looked at Hoss and realized he might be hurt by what was going on so he had to explain. “Our daughter has started talking like you. It sounded funny to hear your words coming from such a little one and a girl too. We all started talking like you and it sort of just caught on and made us start being silly. We meant no harm by it.”
Pausing for a moment to absorb what Adam had said, Hoss grinned. “Don’t that cap all. Dadburnit, ya coulda jist said that first. Now I feel like I’m the biggest toad in the puddle. I kin do what yur doin’ but I kin do it a whole lot better. Buck up ’cause I’m the boss of this here way of speakin’ and by hook or by crook, I kin teach ya a whole caboodle of new words ifn you was a mind ta learnin’ some.”
Adam threw back his head and laughed as Hoss had intended. The whole table erupted in laughter for the first time in weeks. Their guest had not yet shown or he would likely have been completely amazed at the conversation.
Later that morning, Doctor Martin and Hoss went to town with the large buckboard and returned in the afternoon with a surgical table, boxes of other items including the valuable microscopes, and reflecting screens for lamps to provide better light for the doctors to work. The center of the great room had been cleared and the table was placed there. The rest would be put in place the next morning. There was nothing left to do then except to wait. Joe took Laine and Patsy to the cottage in the late afternoon after a tearful goodbye with Adam. After that, he soaked in a bath the doctor had ordered him to take telling him to shave and to wash his hair thoroughly. Adam had been allowed only very light food and for dinner was going to get only broth and noodles. Doctor Esquirol told Adam he was going to have to use a sleeping powder that night because the doctor wanted to be sure he was well rested and doubted he would sleep much otherwise. Adam wanted to argue but couldn’t.
During the day, Adam thanked his father and brothers for what they had done for him, and they knew it was for more than they had done on that day. They offered their own quiet words of encouragement to him. There were no lengthy exchanges or philosophical musings. A kind word, a touch on the arm, or a hand on the shoulder were the preferred methods of communication and there were a lot of those. Ben did ask Adam how he was feeling about everything that was happening and so suddenly.
“At this point, I guess I’m kind of numb. For the last few months, I’ve tried not to be angry about things because there was no point to it and it would only upset my family. I tried to make do as best I could. I tried to accept what I thought was inevitable. Now, maybe it isn’t, but I’m afraid to hope. I’m afraid I’ll wake up and see the doctor looking at me like all the other doctors have with that same sad look that says they can’t do anything for me and they feel like a failure because of it. I know it’s wrong to feel that way. I know I should be hoping for the best, and I should be praying for a good outcome, but it’s hard to put faith in the unknown.”
“I understand. Know that we will all be praying for you though. He’s got to hear them because there’s a lot of praying going on.”
They were interrupted by Hoss walking by with Adam’s robe, nightshirts, shaving kit and anything else Adam might need for the next couple of weeks. Adam was going to be using the downstairs guest bedroom after the surgery because the doctor had suggested that so his things were being moved there. That at least was a hopeful sign because the doctors anticipated he would be recuperating there where he could rest because it was quiet and convenient for his care.
“Well, we ain’t getting’ this room ready for nothin. You’re gonna be in here gettin’ better after the doc gets done cleaning out yer head, ya hear.”
Agreeing with his father and Hoss that he would try to hope for the best, Adam observed all the preparations and went to the guest bedroom to sleep after his light dinner and after ingesting the sleeping powder. The others sat quietly by the fireplace and talked for only a short time before all of them went to bed as well knowing the next day was going to be taxing. In the morning, Ben, Hoss, and Joe set up the items for the surgery as Doctor Martin directed. After a light breakfast, the dining table was cleared and the microscopes were set up there. Adam was sitting in his blue chair dressed in a nightshirt and robe. When Doctor Esquirol said it was time, Hoss helped him to the table where Adam shed the robe and laid on the table. The two doctors then told the family they had to leave. Adam was anesthetized and Doctor Esquirol cut a small flap of skin in Adam’s scalp and took out the trepanning drill. This part was actually the trickiest stage of the procedure. He had to remove the button sized section of skull but could go no deeper without risk of damage that could be debilitating or deadly. Paul Martin realized he had been holding his breath when that part was done and Doctor Esquirol removed the small piece of bone from the drill and set it aside. Then he began the process of removing what he believed to be a large hematoma. He took a sample and handed some to Doctor Martin and asked him to look at it under the microscope. Doctor Martin did so as Doctor Esquirol waited for the report.
“It’s blood, old blood and nothing else.”
“Very good. Now we continue. I will give you samples, and you will give me good news. I hope that is how this will go.”
It did continue that way for nearly twenty minutes until Doctor Esquirol thought that he had most of the hematoma and didn’t want to risk any contact with brain tissue or to have the brain open to infection any longer. He told Doctor Martin he was done and would seal the wound. He replaced the button of bone and stitched the small flap of skin back in place. Then he put a thick pad over the area and wrapped a bandage around Adam’s head to hold it in place.
“Now we wait. This is the hard part. The surgery only seems like the hard part, but this is it. We wait to see what happens next. Sometimes, I think I have done things successfully and the patient dies. Other times they live. I have never been able to determine why one is different than the other.”
“When do we tell the family?”
“When he wakes.” And then more ominously, he added more. “If he does. After that, rest and quiet will be the prescription, and then we wait once more. In a few days, we will know. Any patient who is well after two to three days, usually walks away cured.”
It didn’t take much longer for Adam to begin stirring. He had a doctor on each side of him when he awoke and opened his eyes. Still a bit groggy, he looked from one to the other. Doctor Esquirol asked him how he felt.
“My head is sore here.” Adam raised his hand to where the bandage covered the spot where the hole had been drilled. He smiled however. “But I can see you clearly and there’s only one of each of you. And the headache is gone.”
Doctor Esquirol looked over to Doctor Martin. “You can tell the family now, but remind them that quiet is important for the next two days at least.”
Soon Adam was surrounded by five smiling men. He had a request. “Would someone please go get my wife and my girl?”
Joe was heading out the door before Adam finished asking. He already had the carriage hitched up and ready to go.
At the cottage, Laine was almost ready to start hiking back to the main house. It was only a few miles. When she heard a carriage approaching, she told Patsy to pack up her things, and she almost ran outside to hear what the news was before Patsy could hear. Joe’s smile though was all she needed to see. She burst into tears and Joe had to get out of the carriage and comfort her while giving her the news.
“He’s awake and smiling. The headache is gone and he can see just fine.”
“Oh, my God, Joe, I was so worried when no one came for so long.”
“I drove over here within a couple of minutes of them saying he was good. I had the carriage ready to go. Now, the docs say he can have visitors, and he asked for the two of you.”
“Patsy’s getting her things and we’ll go.”
“She should leave her things. Doctor Esquirol said Adam needs rest and quiet for a few days. We talked it over and thought Patsy could stay here. I’ll stay with her and Hoss will help out. We’ll take her over to visit with Adam, but she can be here to have fun and make noise like a little girl should.”
Laine kissed Joe on the cheek and called Patsy to come and not worry about her things. That was fine with the little girl who ran to the carriage and was hoisted up to the seat by Joe. It didn’t take long to get them to the house where Laine had a short talk with Patsy telling her that her father needed her to be very quiet.
“He’s had something called surgery on his head. The doctors don’t want noise or anything to upset him until he has a chance to get better. He’ll be laying down. You need to speak softly and ask before you hug or do anything else. All right?”
“Papa’s not going to die, is he?”
“No, but sometimes doctors have to do things to help you get better. Now let’s go see your papa.”
Inside, Adam was asleep on the surgical table with Doctor Martin at his side. As long as he was on that table, someone would be with him. When Paul saw Laine and Patsy, he gently moved Adam’s shoulder and called his name to wake him. Blinking his eyes, Adam looked up at the doctor wondering why he had been awakened, and Paul inclined his head toward Laine and Patsy. When they got close to the table, Adam smiled at Laine who leaned down to kiss him softly.
“Hi, there, cowboy. I am so overjoyed to see you smiling. Our daughter would like to greet you as well.”
Hoss came over then to lift Patsy up so she could see her father better and he could see her. She looked a bit worried at the bandage that was around her father’s head. Adam reached up to touch it.
“It’s where the doctor took the bad stuff out of my head. I can see you clearly now. I’ll be able to read to you again, sweetie.”
Patsy whispered to him so softly, he almost couldn’t hear her. “Doesn’t your head hurt?”
“You can talk to me. Talk softly like this though, and no, my head doesn’t hardly hurt at all. The headaches are gone. The little hole hurts a little bit, but that will go away.”
“You have a hole in your head?”
“I did. They needed to do that to get the bad stuff out. Now it will heal, and the doctor said there will be a little bump there, and that’s all.”
“Can I touch the bump?”
“When it heals, you can. Right now, it is a little bit sore.”
“All right. And Papa, I’m glad the doctor got the bad stuff out.”
Hoss took Patsy to the kitchen then for a treat from Hop Sing and so he and Joe could tell her the special plans they had for the few days her father was going to be recuperating. At least Hoss prayed that was what it was going to be. Hoss guessed that Adam and the doctors would be giving the rest of the news to Laine about that time, and there was no need for Patsy to hear it. Joe didn’t know either, but Hoss could tell him later.
“What do you mean, we’re about two-thirds of the way there?”
“The surgery was successful and the patient woke with no ill effects and the symptoms of the compression are gone.”
“So, what is it that you aren’t telling me?”
Ben thought perhaps it would be best if he said the rest. He put his arm around Laine and reminded her to remain as calm and quiet as she could for Adam’s benefit. “With any surgery as with any wound, there is always the risk of infection. There is no way to know if that will happen. Both doctors saw no evidence that there was any sign of infection anywhere. There was no pus nor any tissue showing such signs, but there is no guarantee. The next day or two are the test. If Adam continues to improve and there is no fever or recurrence of symptoms, then there is no infection.”
“Yes, he needs rest and quiet now to give his body the best chance to heal itself. It is all up to him now.”
Ben had an addendum. “And the Lord. We can pray for his benevolence.”
“In an hour or so, when Adam feels he is ready, we will move him to the bed to rest.”
“I think I’m ready now.”
“Then as soon as your large brother is here to help, he and your father can help you walk there. You may not need the assistance, but I want them there if you do.” Looking at Laine, Doctor Esquirol had another request. “Perhaps you could get the bed ready. For now, only one pillow for his head. As he feels better, we can add more. Have a bucket or basin ready too. After the anesthesia and this procedure, that is sometimes necessary when a patient is first upright.”
Things went well, and Adam managed a small dinner that evening. He fell asleep and slept the night through but was probably the only one who did. Laine was in his room in a chair all night. The doctors checked in periodically as did Ben who stayed downstairs in his red leather chair not wanting to be too far from his son at this point. At dawn, Doctor Esquirol was downstairs and dressed for the day, which was in itself a small miracle. He waited anxiously with the others for Adam to awake. They had coffee but each declined Hop Sing’s offer of breakfast postponing it not wanting anything in stomachs beset with butterflies. It must have been the smell of that food though that slowly dragged Adam from his peaceful slumber. He began to stir and then his eyelids fluttered a bit before he opened his eyes slowly only to see five pairs of eyes watching him wake. It was rather a shock and not something he had expected.
“Is something wrong?”
The irony of that was not lost on them and caused a few smiles. Doctor Esquirol spoke for them.
“No, we are all so anxious to know how you are feeling.”
“I can tell you that little spot is certainly quite sore. It feels just like someone took a drill to my head. Now though when someone tells me I must have a hole in my head, I can tell them that yes, in fact, I do, and it was put there by a fine French doctor.”
Doctor Esquirol grinned and looked at the others. Only Doctor Martin smiled back. The others did not know why they were smiling so Doctor Martin explained. “If there was infection, there would be fluid such as pus which would likely already be causing pain. For Adam to talk like Adam like that, he isn’t distracted by any pain. His symptoms have not returned nor does he have any new symptoms. It appears that there is no infection at all.”
Seeing that his family members weren’t completely convinced yet, Adam couldn’t resist. “Dadburnit, ain’t I jist the biggest toad in the puddle? Dadblamed docs punched a hole in ma head, an’ don’t it jist beat all, it’s fixin’ to make me feel as good as a bear what’s found five honey jars.”
Despite the doctor’s admonition that Adam needed quiet, they all broke into laughter except Doctor Esquirol who was mystified at his patient’s sudden loss of ability to speak coherently. Doctor Martin told him it was play-acting. He smiled then but still had a frown, although everyone else knew then that Adam was going to be fine. Hoss planned to take that news to Joe as soon as he could. Doctor Esquirol got an explanation of Adam’s strange behavior from Ben while they sat at breakfast.
With apparently no worries about Adam, Doctor Esquirol departed to continue his trip home with some fond memories of America. He did say that there was still a concern that there could be bleeding or that pus could accumulate because of an infection, but that he didn’t think either was likely. Doctor Martin went home with a wagonload of his equipment and newfound knowledge of how to treat patients with head injuries. Adam had a good day without headaches and without the vision problems that had plagued him. However by the next day, Adam had no appetite for food and didn’t want to talk or even have anyone visit with him. He was lethargic and groggy. Laine and Ben were especially worried and had Joe ride to town to summon Doctor Martin. When he arrived, he was worried too. The next week was terribly difficult for all of them.
The man rode tall in the saddle on his chestnut horse with an ease that Ben Cartwright envied as he watched him. He wished he could ride like that. Laine came up beside him with Patsy walking beside her. Hoss and Joe were leaning on the pasture fence next to their father. When the man drew near, his hazel eyes sparkled with the joy of life. He grinned and that dimple showed prominently.
“Thank you for the horse. He is perfect. I can’t imagine a better birthday present than getting a horse sired by Sport.”
“Well, it was Sport II actually. And we was wondrin’ ifn ya wanted to name this one Sport too.”
“Oh, I do. I want to call him that. I want to ride over to Mary Lynn’s if you don’t mind and show her my new horse.”
“Go on, now, Adam, but be back by dinner.”
“All right, Mama, and thank you.” He wheeled the horse expertly and rode off to the southeast.
“He’s going by Adam now and not AC?”
“Yes, Joe, he said he was proud to have his father’s name and wanted to use it if it wouldn’t bother anyone too much. I said I thought that by now, everyone would be fine with that. He’s eighteen years old. It’s time he had a man’s name and not a nickname if that’s what he wants.”
“He looks so much like his father. Laine, I am so happy that my son left that gift for us before he died.” Ben paused because even so many years later, it was hard to say that. He had never gotten over having to bury a son. He wrapped an arm around Patsy’s shoulders then too. She was wide with child. “And he gave us this treasure too. I am so blessed.”
“I need to get back to the house though if someone would help me back up into the carriage. I seem to be able to get down so much better than I can get up into it.”
Soon Patsy was headed back to the house Adam had designed for Laine. Laine had lived there with her children until Patsy had married. Then Laine and Adam had moved back to the main house giving her house to Patsy and her husband. Adam was going to college in California in the fall so Laine didn’t need a big house all to herself. Ben could use someone there to help him too so it worked out for all of them.
“My Adam didn’t want to leave me with child. He was afraid to have a child who wouldn’t have a father, but I told him that this was such a loving family that it wouldn’t matter. At the time, I assumed he would be around. I never could accept that he would be gone until he was.”
“And yet, he isn’t really gone. He’s here in so many ways yet.”